(iPhone 5 (black, camera closeup 001)

Sony already supplies the main eight-megapixel iSight camera module on the back of your iPhone 5 and is likely to provide a thirteen-megapixel camera upgrade for the upcoming iPhone 5S, the rumor has it. There’s a very good reason why Apple shops for iOS device cameras from Sony: the Japanese giant produces arguably the best CMOS sensors out there.

Case in point: a rumored lens camera accessories reportedly being worked on by Sony’s engineers. These things will latch onto your iPhone or Android smartphone and provide your smartphone with a standalone sensor featuring Carl Zeiss optics, the same used by the Nikon 1 system…

Paired with a Sony-made dedicated app, the solution would bypass your iOS device’s camera completely and allow for photographs ranging from eighteen to twenty megapixels, nearly three times the resolution of your iPhone 5. Put simply, it’s literally a way better camera for your iPhone, where the iPhone itself pretty much gets dumb-ified to an oversized viewfinder.

SonyAlphaRumors first caught wind of the rumor back in July, but this tim around the publication has dug up press shots of the upcoming Lens Cameras accessories, have a look.

Sony Lens Cameras (image 001)

Crazy, no?

It attaches magnetically, in case you were wondering.

Unlike existing camera attachments such as Will.i.am’s fourteen-megapixel accessory dubbed i.am+, Sony’s accessory packs in full-on hardware, including a dedicated Bionz processing chip and much better lenses. Some may also include built-in Wi-Fi and an SD card slot for both wireless and memory card photo transfer.

SonyAlphaRumors claims the Japanese giant is prepping two Lens Camera models, the DSC-QX10 and DSC-QX100 lenses.

Sony Lens Cameras (image 002)

The former is believed to sport an eighteen-megapixel CMOS sensor with a 10x zoom lens, which is basically the same sensor and lens of Sony’s $400 WX150 Cyber-shot camera.

As for the other, it apparently comes outfitted with a one-inch 20.2-megapixel Exmor R sensor with a 2/1.8 Carl Zeiss lens. It’s the same sensor-lens pairing  from the Sony RX100 point-and-shoot camera, which is the most praised sensor for high-end compact cameras.

The “Lens-camera” with RX100MII sensor and Zeiss lens. On the pictures it is the bigger lens. As you know the RX100 is the most praised high end compact camera and features a large 1 inch sensor which is the same used by the Nikon 1 system. Now you can have that kind of Image Quality on your iPhone or Android Smartphone!

Something tells me these things could be prohibitively expensive (hint: $500+ category).

Sony Lens Cameras (image 003)
BTW, this press shot apparently depicts Sony’s new Honami i1 smartpone.

I just can’t imagine having a Cybershot-grade camera hardware on my iPhone without being asked to drop a few hundred bucks on it, but boy do I know a few professional photographers, field editors and designers who’d gladly pay through the nose for this.

It certainly won’t be for mainstream users who don’t want to carry another bulky gizmo on their person.

Be that as it may, these things (hopefully) won’t command a higher price than comparable digital cameras.

Anyone interested?

Shout out in the comments.

  • Falk M.

    If they bring RAW to iPhone photography, I’m on board as soon as they go in the 200€ range, otherwise I’d just get a beefier compact camera. That’d cost more, but I’d get an independent device in return.

    • SimonReidy

      I’m no camera expert, so correct me if I’m wrong, but several Appstore apps like PureShot and KitCam already have the option to save in “D-RAW” TIFF format (file size comes in at about 20MB). From personal experience saving in TIFF allows much better post-processing as there is no JPEG compression so no image-degradation takes place. Isn’t that essentially the same thing as RAW format? Or is true RAW stored a different file format than TIFF?

      • Falk M.

        RAW is COMPLETELY different.
        RAW, technically speaking, isn’t even a picture but a raw dump of the photo sensor’s data.
        Processing in-between can happen, but it doesn’t create an image.

      • SimonReidy

        Thanks for the info. I thought there might be more to it. Is the file extension literally .raw? If not, what lossless file format is the image stored in? (with what file extension?)

        Even though D-RAW TIFFs arent “true raw” as I suspected, there are still clear advantages over using lossy JPEG, so its still a good feature to use. Even if you aren’t technically getting access to a fully unprocessed picture – the lack of JPEG compression at least means better fine detail and more ability to fine tune the pic in post-processing. It’s one of the main reasons I use the PureShot app if I know I will be altering the picture a lot later.

        True RAW with an image dump straight from the sensor obviously sounds even better, so hopefully we see that ability in the future.

      • Falk M.

        The file extensions vary. Usually every camera manufacturer has at least one that they use.

        Canon for example use .CR2 and yes I think there is .RAW and there is also a manufacturer-independent one (.DNG, which stands for digital negative) which is sometimes used to archive RAW files in an agnostic format that might be more accessible and is at least more on the independent side of things.

        Since manufacturers use different sensors, different processing algorithms (for things like sharpening, smoothing, image noise reduction, etc) the formats do vary and are maintained by their prospective owners. (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Hasselblad, …)

        The advantages of RAW over anything processed (like JPEG, PNG, TIFF, or anything else really that’s actually an image file format) are that things like white balance, image sharping, picture profiles, noise reduction, …. can all be altered after taking the photo without losing quality compared to a photo taken with the altered settings straight away and everything mechanical and optical being the same.

        (Obviously you cannot change the aperture and focal length later on or at which distance the photo was taken.
        Also the ISO setting is something the sensor is set to for the picture taking process, it’s not changeable as it isn’t a post-processing step, it’s a step involved in the image sensor reading the information it gets through the lens)

        TIFFs are a lot better than JPEG, but compared to RAWs opportunities JPEG and TIFF aren’t that much apart.
        It does however make a huge difference if you aren’t able to take RAW shots and you need that bit more wiggle room in post or want a clearer image maybe for print or crops.
        I always set my camera apps on iPhone to whatever I’m allowed to go for.
        I hate developers who are simply too lazy to provide at least the full resolution at regularly compressed JPEG. That should be the absolute base standard. Sadly it is not as soon as you get some “fun photography” apps (like photo sticker apps which can be loads of fun together with friends)

        I doubt Apple will give us true RAW in near future, but they might sometime later on as capacities of iPhone get bigger and RAW definitely can make your life a lot simpler.
        As for Sony and this lens, well, I would greatly welcome it.

      • SimonReidy

        Thanks again for the comprehensive info. Very interesting.

  • Tim

    It’s hard to justify honestly If you’re a photographer or just keen and want to get into photography I can’t imagine that this would be cheap enough. Even if it was cheapER, if size is not an issue for you id say it would be better to just save the extra money and get a full fledged dslr. I’d rather have an entry level dslr than pay $500 for this.

    • Falk M.

      Most photographers have and CARRY (not always, but considerably often… varies of course) more than one camera.
      There is not ONE camera for every job.
      Sometimes a photographer will travel, because you know, not everything is studio work or work in walking distance.

      So when they pack their bags, they often carry a second or n-th camera on them so they can take those spontaneous pictures.

      Also, compact cameras are way better for a lot of occasions, for example it’d be damn inappropriate to do street photography with people with a big clunky DSLR.
      A compact and unobtrusive camera is definitely a much better choice here.

      • Tim

        Still not worth it. For a bit more money you could buy a compact system camera or even get one of eBay or something for the same price which isn’t that bad.

      • Falk M.

        The worthiness will also depend a lot on potential benefits over compact cameras. Think 3rd party photography applications taking advantage, etc etc…

        Basically a small, almost fully programmable computer is attached to the lens and the capturing process.

        I wouldn’t say this hasn’t got potential to get interesting just yet, but I feel where you’re coming from and my sentiments are the same for now.

      • SimonReidy

        Agreed. I’ve found all your photography comments on this article to be helpful and well-informed. Cheers for sharing.

      • Falk M.

        Thanks for the kind words, photography is my passion so naturally I’ve read and experienced a bit, I’m always glad to help others out or if welcome, simply throw in my 2 cents. Even if they are Euro cents. 😉 😛

  • Taf Khan

    Sony lens tech is awesome. I have the Sony A37 DSLR, for the price is kicks ass, far better than many more expensive models.

    Apple should have a nice cam in the next phone for sure.