We often say, that the best camera you have is the one you have with you all the time; your smartphone. In many cases that's true, allowing us to quickly capture those priceless snaps that otherwise may never be. I've been spending a lot of time with mobile cameras in recent days and weeks, particularly the Nokia Lumia 925 – results coming soon – and I'm really starting to believe in that.
But, no matter how good smartphone cameras have become, at least for now, they still aren't the same as a dedicated camera. Some OEM's are looking to change that though, including Nokia and Samsung, and if rumors are to be believed, Sony might just be about to take it one step further. They could change the way we look at mobile photography.
The rumor is, that in two weeks time at their IFA 2013 press conference in Berlin, Germany, Sony will be unveiling their 'Lens Camera.' What this is believed to be from leaks thus far, is an Android and iOS compatible mobile camera that hooks onto your smartphone. The phone then becomes a viewfinder and presumably a receptacle for the images from the camera, which is entirely housed within a lens. The high end model is reported to contain the same optics as Sony's class leading compact, the RX100 Mark II.
Why not concentrate on integrating a good camera into a smartphone?
Competing OEM's such as Samsung and Nokia have already taken a different tactic towards trying to produce camera quality photos with a smartphone. Nokia has the colossal 41MP Pureview camera on the Lumia 1020, and Samsung has the somewhat awkwardly designed Galaxy S4 Zoom. Both pack camera quality cameras onto the back of a smartphone, but you're of course limited to that phone.
Sony's offering would take the mobile camera away from the smartphone. Since the rumors have suggested iOS and Android compatibility for this, whatever it may be called, it gives you both portability and flexibility. After all, it's not like you'll be trying to carry a DSLR lens around with you, is it? An actual, physical zoom lens gives you much better performance than digital zoom of course, and no matter how good smartphone camera optics are, they're not going to match those from a high-end compact camera. At least, not yet anyway.
So, we're excited then.
Simply put; yes. There's a whole lot we don't know at this point, like price, availability, battery life, basically any formal details. But if you've thought about investing in a premium compact camera, you should be interested. The idea of a connected camera is a good one, but so far the implementation has always been flawed. Samsung's Android cameras are too expensive, Nikon made a decent camera but sucked at the Android part, and WiFi smart-cameras are OK, but you need to use propriatory apps, and they're not always that great.
Sony appears, at least, to be laying it all on the camera, and leaving your smartphone to do the rest. You'll be connected to use the viewfinder, so importing, manipulating and exporting images should all be at your finger tips. And, without worrying about cellular connectivity, or a honking big touchscreen display on the back, the cost of manufacture can be directed more to where it matters; the optics.
But, Sony. Shouldn't we want this from Apple?
Apple puts good cameras into the iPhone, for sure. But they don't make stand-alone cameras, at least, not anymore. It's a specialized market, and Samsung proved with the first Galaxy Camera that you can't just slap a big screen and a mobile OS on any old camera and call it a good job. Samsung knocked it out of the park with the software side of things but the optics weren't nearly good enough for the price.
So, where now?
We're live at a Sony press conference on September 4 in Berlin at the annual IFA show with Android Central. Besides Android phones, TVs, Laptops and the like, there's also a chance we may see this curious camera attachment. We'll know more then, but it's an exciting proposition that we're keen to get our hands on.
How does something like this grab you? Would you be interested in a premium grade point-and-shoot camera that clipped onto your iPhone or iPad in this way? What does or doesn't attract you? Sound off in the comments!