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Sony has never been afraid to get a little crazy. Over the years, the company has made OLED displays you wear on your face, Luke Skywalker binoculars that record 3-D video, tablets that fold up into burritos, and car stereos that transform into Walkmen. At its most interesting, Sony makes products born out of a Willy Wonka/Dr. Seuss/The Jetsons brainstorm, except these products have names like WDX-RLXT1B instead of The Electrick Fizzlefozz.
And now, like a gift from a parallel universe, there’s a new Sony product with pure sass coursing through its veins. The Sony ILCE-QX1 is a follow-up to last year’s QX10 and QX100 smartphone-mountable cameras, and this one has—get this—an interchangeable lens mount, a 20-megapixel APS-C sensor, and a pop-up flash.
Like its fixed-lens predecessors, the QX1 comes with spring-loaded arms that latch onto the sides of your smartphone, connects to a mobile device via Wi-Fi, and has an NFC-pairing option. From there, you control it with the PlayMemories Mobile app for iOS and Android, and the phone acts as your live-view viewfinder as well. Once you shoot, the QX1 automatically saves lower-resolution copies of each picture to your phone. From there, you can opt to save a full-resolution copy to your phone or just store photos to the QX1’s MicroSD card slot.
The mount accepts Sony’s E-Mount lenses, which means you can use the QX1 with any lens built for the company’s mirrorless cameras. The QX1 has a focal-length multiplier of 1.5X. Aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and RAW shooting modes are accessible for the QX1 through the mobile app.
As with previous models in the QX series, controlling the camera through the app will be mission-critical. The QX1 doesn’t appear to have any physical controls beyond its shutter button, which limits your options when using it as a standalone camera. The pop-up flash on the top of it is a new feature, as is the beefier removable battery tucked under the door on the back of the QX1.
In Sony’s product photos, the QX1 looks lens-heavy when it’s attached to a phone; you’ll probably need to shoot with one hand under the lens and the other tapping controls on a touchscreen. That said, one of the QX lineup’s strengths—perhaps even its best use case entirely—involved detaching the gadgets from the phone and using them as disembodied camera lenses. Their small sizes, flat bases, and tripod mounts are great for creative shot compositions. The QX1’s larger sensor and lens mount should offer a boost in image quality.
If you’re thinking of a really good reason to buy a QX1 instead of a Wi-Fi-equipped interchangeable-lens camera, the price might be one of them. Slated to ship by the end of September, the QX1 will cost around $400 for the body only.