Feature Design

DSC-QX100 /

Photo of the DSC-QX100 / DSC-QX10

Beyond the bounds of
camera conventions

Ready to shoot via Wi-Fi from a smartphone,
Sony QX cameras are shaped
like interchangeable lenses.
They may defy traditional
notions of cameras,
but behind the novelty lies quite
a solid product concept.


〈 DSC-QX100 / DSC-QX10 〉

Breaking the mold
in camera design

Now that smartphones have made photo-sharing so enjoyable, people are shooting more than ever. Although smartphone cameras are also more advanced than ever, they can’t quite match the performance of dedicated cameras in zooming or low light. Isn’t it time for a new category—cameras designed to be used with smartphones? This thinking inspired several ideas at Sony. As we explored them, we found ourselves diverging from traditional camera shapes, on a path never taken in camera design.

Shaped by user scenarios

To say the format would be innovative was an understatement. This product had never existed before. How would this kind of smartphone companion be used? We had to imagine everyday scenes. Designers participated from the planning stage by turning our thoughts about the user experience into concrete images. Soon, we were considering scenes with people shooting on trips, at cafés, and at parties, as we 3D-printed mock-ups and discussed what format would suit these real-world situations. Ultimately, the most compelling form for the camera resembled a kind of interchangeable lens for smartphones. People would intuitively want to attach a lens-shaped camera to their phone, and immediately knowing how to use this new product was important to us.

Tearing down

People look to Sony to create products they’ve never seen before. In a market now flooded with classically styled cameras, the QX series embodies a new concept that defies pre-conceptions. We’re grateful that as a result, the series has captured more attention than we expected. We’d also enjoy seeing people discover new ways to use the QX series, which is quite possible because the camera can be used apart from a smartphone, at angles un-matched by most cameras or smartphones.

Yamada, chief art director

Industrial Design

〈 DSC-QX100 / DSC-QX10 〉

A suitable mount takes shape

Another task remained—deciding how this cylindrical, lens-like body should attach to phones. Smartphones come in all shapes and sizes. A square mount or big clips would help it fit many phones but would stick out awkwardly from the round camera body. A mount that didn’t match the cylindrical camera would undermine the image we sought. Through trial and error and many refinements to the attachment mechanism, we perfected a cylindrical mount that forms a lens-like shape with the camera.

Clear reminders of lens quality

The QX series may be a revolutionary format, but it also pays homage to classic camera styling. We made sure the camera gave the right impression—that it’s capable of great shots—by applying considerable expertise in lens design. Knowing that the slightest difference in reflections on the lens radically alters the lens appearance, we made adjustments on a level of hundredths of a millimeter. The smooth lens surfaces recall high-quality Sony G and Carl Zeiss lenses. And to avoid complexity next to the straightforward shape of smartphones, we eliminated any needless structural elements. In this shape so closely resembling a camera lens, lens quality is clear.

Intuitively SLR-like

On a smartphone, the camera should seem natural to use for those familiar with SLRs. This goal revealed the most convenient positions for buttons when you’re holding the camera to shoot. You may also notice a resemblance to SLRs in the position of the Sony logo, atop the mount where a pentaprism would be. We even sought a sleek-looking format on the go, so the folding mount merges seamlessly with the compact, cylindrical camera body. The lens-style camera twists on and off the mount, just as interchangeable lenses are used with SLRs. In this way, the design is quite practical and reminiscent of SLR design in many details.

that adds potential

Complete in itself, the camera also takes on new dimensions when used with other devices. For us, the simplicity of this shape teased our imagination and tempted us to try all kinds of permutations and design ideas. For users, a screenless camera is not a disadvantage but an advantage. You have more freedom when connecting it to other devices, and it invites you to imagine new ways to shoot. The QX series is a rare example of how subtracting features actually adds to the product.

Tsuge, designer