Update on November 24, 2015: DxO is pushing a new software update that adds several features to the DxO One app. Available in early December as a free download, Version 1.2 includes “new ways to view and interact with advanced photo info, and provides more control over the entire photo and video capture process including via a companion Apple Watch app,” according to DxO.
Describing the new features in-depth, DxO says “the way you interact with the DxO One is even better, thanks to new features that let users get instant access to advanced capture parameters and photo information with a simple swipe. Continuous shooting offers users the ability to shoot several photos in a row by simply depressing the shutter button. The manual focus mode now provides one tap access to hyper-focal distance, and the ability to reposition the magnification loupe for critical focusing. At the request of pro photographers, the shutter speed range has been expanded for capturing even faster motion (1/20000) and longer low-light exposures (30s). Users can now capture high quality video with full manual control of aperture, ISO, white balance and more. DxO ONE selfies are now available in every capture setting and mode, including the ability to record high quality video selfies, ready to share with the world. There’s even a new companion app that lets users remotely trigger a DxO One camera with their Apple Watch.”
Original article: DSLRs shoot great images for the price, but they’ve become impractical for the kind of spontaneous, dilettante photography practiced by most casual shooters — unless you’re willing to lug a shoulder bag everywhere you travel, the bulky camera and lenses won’t appeal. Point-and-shoot cameras occupy the opposite end of the spectrum, offering compactness but often at the cost of visual fidelity.
Sitting somewhere in-between is a relatively new category of self-contained smartphone accessories like the Sony QX-series, which purports to marry the two aforementioned form-factors into a camera with the drawbacks of neither. None so far have really delivered, but imaging company DxO Labs believes its One camera for iPhone does, and thereby stands apart.
The One is DxO’s first camera. That’s not exactly reassuring until you learn that the company’s been making photography tools for years. It publishes the long-running Optics Pro on desktop and embeds image-processing software in popular third-party cameras, and also performs quality control on hundreds of image sensors and lenses.
That industry expertise played an obvious role in the company’s design choices for the One, which has a spec sheet that reads like a photographer’s dream. It uses Sony’s well-regarded 1-inch, 20.2-megapixel back-illuminated sensor that’s also found in the RX100 Mark III and QX100, has a fixed 11.9mm wide lens (32mm in 35-equivalent terms) with a minimum focusing distance of 7.8 inches and aperture range of f/1.8 to f/11, a top shutter speed of 1/8000, and a 51,200 maximum ISO (expanded).
And it’s all the more impressive when you consider the diminutive package in which it’s housed — a body that weighs a mere 3.8 ounces and measures less than 2.7 inches in height.
The One may be a smartphone peripheral, but it’s designed to operate well in the hand. DxO opted for a high-grade, solid aluminum exterior on the One. The camera module sits on a solid swivel that moves up to 60 degrees forward and backward — causing it to resemble many devices from the early days of digital cameras. A two-staged shutter button and capacitive menu allow for quick switching between modes. And the One uses MicroSD or a Lightning-connector iPhone or iPad for storage.
Hardware is nothing without software to match, of course, and DxO seems to have delivered here as well. The One has advanced shooting (PASM) and autofocusing modes, shoots videos at 1080p/30 frames per second (fps) and at 720p/120 fps, and its photo capabilities are above and beyond those found in many within its product category — it can shoot in RAW (saved to card only) or JPEG (saved to the card or phone) and features what DxO calls “SuperRaw,” a mode that captures four RAW images in rapid succession and congeals (with the help of DxO’s desktop software) them together to reduce sensor noise.
Based on DxO’s tests, the One achieves a sensor score of 70, which puts it alongside older full-frame DSLRs (newest models achieve around 90), although it’s obviously not a full-frame camera.
Plugging the One into an iPhone or iPad’s Lightning port automatically launches DxO’s app, which employs the smart device as a viewfinder and as the platform where you can adjust the settings (though the One lacks a display of its own, it can function independently, like an action cam). Thanks to the Lightning link, DxO says file transfers and response times are “up to 10 times faster” than wireless solutions. It’s also easier and faster to connect than the method Sony employed with its QX-series.
DxO One is taking preorders now, and plans to ship the One in September, bundled with a few of the company’s desktop editing programs, for $599. That’s a high tag to swallow, especially considering the traditional, larger-sensor cameras you could purchase at the same price instead.
But the One accomplishes the rare feat of taking much better pictures (see samples above, provided by DxO) than your smartphone’s camera, and does so in a tiny, pocketable package. To some people, such as photographers looking for a secondary or backup camera to use during a shoot, that might be worth the premium, but for many, the iPhone’s camera is already good enough, since it is one of the best smartphone cameras you can buy.
From our experience with the RX100 III and QX100, the sensor is capable of capturing great image quality, but a sensor alone won’t equate to a great camera. The One is also limited to iOS devices with Lightning connectors, which could affect any hopes of widespread adoption.
(This article was originally published on June 19, 2015.)