While we’re still seeing Sony’s “Best of Sony in a smartphone” ads around Australia, Sony has moved on internationally with the recent additions to their flagship Xperia Z sub-brand – the enormous 6.4-inch Xperia Z Ultra and the Xperia Z1, which looks set to take the Xperia Z’s place as Sony’s premier offering. We’ve also seen rumours, leaks and finally confirmation of Sony’s new “lens” cameras, the QX10 and QX100 in recent months.
The Z1 has launched in the UK, where local carrier O2 offered a pre-order bonus in the form of the QX10 lens camera (worth £180), and had in-store demo units available for curious customers (and visiting Ausdroid staff, like me) to check out.
Unfortunately, those demo units were pretty well locked-down as you can see above. This limited the options available for picking up and holding both devices, although the store had a mock unit for the Z1 allowing me to get a feel for the device.
Sony’s paid attention to the negatives raised about the Xperia Z’s physical form. While it’s hard to quantify the screen in a brightly lit shop environment, it does seem more vibrant and with better viewing angles than the Z and is said to have working touch functionality when fully submerged in water. Sony’s also abandoned the Z’s flaps over its ports and instead applied a similar waterproofing technique as seen on recent Motorola devices.
Importantly for anyone who’s held an Xperia Z before, the sharp edges that made the device unpleasant to hold for long periods are gone. The Z1’s metallic body has those chamfered edges that are currently all the rage in smartphone body design, making it far more pleasant to hold than its forebear.
Finally, there’s an extra hardware button on the body of the device – the Z1 has a dedicated camera button, a most welcome addition.
On the software front, Sony’s evolved their Android UI and made some smart changes in a number of places. The app drawer now has a Navigation-Drawer-like slide-out menu, and the notification shade has additional space dedicated to quick settings buttons – perhaps a sign that Sony (like other manufacturers) isn’t looking to embrace Google’s own Quick Settings area any time soon. It all hums along rather nicely, which you’d expect given the hardware on offer inside the device.
The Z1 should be a solid performer for Sony when it hits our shores. Sony’s Australian site currently lists the Z1 as available for pre-order with a price of $779 and an expected delivery date of October. You can also pre-order from Optus or Telstra.
QX10 “Lens-style” Camera
With the assistance of family members distracting sales assistants (I think my sister wants a Z Ultra now), I managed to nab a couple of snaps while the sales team were looking the other way – you can see the results below, and click on them to go larger:
We noted good shadow detail and an overall evenness of exposure in the images, something that’s especially notable in the photo looking into the depths of the store – an encouraging sign for the lower specced QX10 lens.
The main differences moving up from the QX10 to the QX100 are the F1.8 Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens and an SLR-style control ring on the QX100, although Sony’s own G-Lens on the QX10 will give you 10x optical zoom to the QX100’s 3.6x. The QX100 also packs slightly more megapixels – 20.2 to the QX10’s 18.2. Both feature Exmor RTM CMOS sensors.
Notably, the QX10 seems a little bulkier than I’d hoped it would be, and the QX100 seems to be larger again. As you might guess, the camera itself doesn’t need to be attached to the back of your phone to function – you can just tap it there and use NFC to launch Sony’s app to connect to the camera. Sony’s been one of the biggest proponents of using NFC taps to connect devices, and this is a nice touch.
From your phone, the camera is controlled by Sony’s awkwardly-named PlayMemories Mobile app, available now in Google Play and on iOS which means you can use the lens with other, non-Sony devices – a pleasing lean towards interoperability, and the sales assistant demonstrated it working with an iPhone 5.
Once the app is up and running, data transfer (the viewfinder output and the photos taken by the camera) is done over a wifi connection with the camera, so you can move away from your phone and get a bit of range out of it. The camera handles well on its own considering its small handheld nature, and you can put the camera into small spaces that you wouldn’t fit your phone or proper DSLR.
One concern I had while using the device was the amount of time it takes to copy each photo from the camera to your device after the photo is taken, though this behaviour is configurable. You can also use the lens completely independently of your phone as it has its own memory card slot and power source, but you’ll have to trust it to focus on the appropriate subject as there’s no screen.
O2 couldn’t help with queries regarding the QX100, but pointed out that it could be bought online directly from Sony, who now have a promotion page on their UK site that allows you to order both lenses – the same URL on Sony’s Australian site currently leads to an error, although the
Xperia Z Ultra
While we’ve yet to see launch details of the Xperia Z Ultra, Sony’s Australian site lists it for preorder, with a price tag of $799 and an expected delivery date of October. You can also pre-order from Optus.
The Z Ultra is currently the subject of a heavy marketing push in Hong Kong (seen above), which is reminiscent of the ads we saw here for the Xperia Z. Hong Kong is also yet to see the Z1 launch, which might indicate a staggered launch is on the cards for Australia.
Ausdroid is hopeful Sony will officially lift the veil on some or all of these products for Australian launch soon – October isn’t far away, after all – and we’re also hoping for a similar phone + lens camera bundle deal for Australian customers when the new Xperia devices come up for launch.
Are you interested in Sony’s new Xperia devices, or the QX cameras? Let us know which products and why in the comments below!