Sony's "lens-camera" actually sounds like a good idea

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from Kansas City, MO
Published: August 14, 2013

If you've been keeping up with the rumors and leaks coming out this week, you might have already heard about Sony's newest possible accessory for some smartphones, the "lens-camera". This smartphone accessory is rumored to be a magnetic lens that attaches onto the back of Android and iOS devices. The accessory doesn't have an LCD screen or any camera controls of its own, but rather works through your smartphone with NFC or Wi-Fi. Personally, I think the idea itself is brilliant.

The pressure for phones to have better cameras is becoming more important with each new phone launch. However, even as rapidly as technology improves, there's only so much we can include within our smartphone's shell - even the big ones. The space within the phones needs to be shared between camera, processor, battery and radios within the phone. You can have a big camera if you want, but you're going to be sacrificing other components in order to get it. In the end it usually boils down to this: would you rather have a beastly phone or a beastly camera?

You also have to take into consideration that as it stands right now, if you want a phone that was truly optimized for good camera performance your best bet would be to go with a Nokia Lumia. The Lumia 920 series features an 8-megapixel camera, which was the norm last year but has since moved over for other flagships, like the Galaxy S4 or the Xperia Z, that are coming at 13-megapixel cameras. So what makes the 920 series still relevant? To answer that question, we look at the PureView technology that Nokia implements in its cameras. PureView technology gives "very high resolution image sensors with on-chip image processors performing image scaling with oversampling giving lossless (optical) zoom". Sounds pretty awesome, so what's the problem with that? The problem is that a lot of people, even though they might want a nice camera on their phone and are willing to give up some performance features in order to have that, don't want to give up other ecosystems they've already immersed themselves in. In order to get these nice cameras, people have to make the switch to Windows Phone 8.

Not to say that Windows Phone 8 is a bad platform - it's not - but as it currently stands most people are much more interested in iOS and Android. Nokia's efforts with the PureView phones haven't gone unnoticed though, and other companies are trying hard to be able to compare to Nokia and PureView. Phones like the Galaxy S4 and the Xperia Z opted to move for a higher megapixel count in their devices; the HTC One made a bold move by choosing their 4-megapixel "UltraPixel" camera. Alas, even when these cameras are compared to the Lumia's, most of the time you'll find that the Lumia is the winner of any photo quality comparisons.

The best attempt so far, at least in my opinion, comes from Samsung and the Galaxy S4 Zoom. It's a clunky device that I even questioned whether it had a place in this market or not, but as it stands, if somebody truly values the performance of a camera over the performance of a phone and must have the two together, then the Galaxy S4 Zoom isn't a bad choice with a 16-megapixel camera with 10x optical zoom. But once again, soon after the Zoom is announced the Nokia comes up with something equally unheard of with the Nokia Lumia 1020, the phone with the 41-megapixel camera. But Samsung and Nokia aren't the only two trying to win the photographer's heart over; now Sony wants to play too.

The aforementioned lens-camera is seemingly a perfect solution, albeit it isn't anything new. iPhones have already had accessories out that serve as an extension to our phone’s camera. What makes the Sony lens-camera different is that it is rumored to work on both iOS and Android devices, which makes this a very versatile and interesting product. Although many have already expressed that they would rather not have to carry around such a large lens with them when it comes to taking pictures with their smartphones, it's a perfect solution for people who weren't interested in the Zoom for opposite reason - which is simply not having reason enough to have such a large lens available at all times. I'll admit that I have had times where the camera already on my phone was perfectly suitable for taking pictures, but there are other times where I wish I had something better on hand. You might think, "Well, why not just carry a digital camera with you?" which is a good point, but for me sharing photos with friends and social networks is ten times easier to do through a smartphone than by uploading the images from a digital camera to a computer. The lens-camera would allow me to do all the work through my smartphone.

It's a good idea in theory. The Sony lens-camera seems like a good all-in-one solution for phones that don't specialize in photo quality, but for users who would still find the accessory useful on certain occasions. I think the popularity of this device will largely depend on affordability and, of course, finding out if the rumors are true or not.

What about you, readers? Do you think Sony's lens-camera is something you would like to try out on your smartphone? Is this the solution you've been looking for when it comes to using your smartphone as your main camera? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Images via SonyAlphaRumors