Sony ILCE-QX1 Review

September 24, 2014 | Amy Davies | Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


Sony’s QX range of cameras offers something pretty distinct in the marketplace at the moment. While we’ve been able to use cameras with smartphones and tablets for some time, it’s not often that you find a camera that relies entirely on another device for operation.

Although the ICLE-QX1 looks a lot like a standard lens, it is in fact something rather extraordinary. Inside it is housed a 20.1 million pixel APS-C sized sensor - the same size as found on many DSLRs - and it also features an E mount, meaning it can accept interchangeable lenses from Sony’s range - it will also accept A mount lenses via an adaptor.

Other specifications include a Bionz X processor, a battery life of 440 shots, full HD video recording and a built-in flash. There’s no LCD screen though, instead it is controlled via the PlayMemories app installed on your smartphone or tablet - from which you can control a number of different settings and fire off the shutter release. To facilitate this, the Sony ICLE-QX1 is equipped with Wi-Fi and NFC.

The Sony ICLE-QX1 is available in black for £249 / $398 body-only.

Ease of Use

With a spherical body, it would be easy to assume that the Sony ICLE-QX1 isn’t even a camera. The camera unit itself is barely smaller than the supplied 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens (you can also buy it body only if you already have some E mount lenses you wish to use with the unit).

Buttons on the body of the camera are sparse. You’ll only find shutter release button, a zoom switch and a button to activate the pop-up flash. The operation of the first two of these buttons can be achieved via the PlayMemories app, but you must use the physical button for the flash, and for the on/off button.

Front of the Sony ICLE-QX1

A very small panel on the side of the Sony ICLE-QX1 indicates how much battery is remaining, while an icon depicting a memory card with a line through it will let you know if you’ve not got a memory card in the camera. You don’t need to use a memory card as images can transfer straight across to the phone - but you will need one if you wish you to save in raw format.

There are a few different ways you could hold the Sony ICLE-QX1 to compose your images. It comes supplied with a bayonet mount with two rubber coated plastic arms (to prevent scuffs to your device) which stretch to allow it to fit a variety of different smartphones - it’s not big enough to fit onto a tablet though. It comfortably fit both an iPhone and a Sony Xperia Z2. during this test. Alternatively, you can hold it with one hand, controlling it via your device with the other. Finally, thanks to a tripod thread, you can mount the camera to a tripod and control it via your device from another area.

The Sony ICLE-QX1 attached to a smartphone

Using the Sony ICLE-QX1 while it is attached to your smartphone can be a little bit uncomfortable - it’s quite a large unit with any kind of lens attached, and without the standard grip of a normal camera, a flat smartphone makes it a little fiddly to use.

 As you don’t have an LCD screen to use on board the camera, you’ll first need to hook it up to your smartphone or tablet before you use it. In fact, you can autofocus and release the shutter independently, but of course you won’t be able to see what you’re photographing.

The Sony ICLE-QX1 previewed through a smartphone

If you have an NFC enabled device, pairing the two is very simple. All you need to do is tap the two together at the relevant points on each device and a connection will automatically begin without the need to enter a password. If you have Sony’s Playmemories app already installed on your phone, it will load  straightaway, but if you don’t, you’ll be prompted to download it from the Google Play store. If you have an iPhone or other Wi-Fi only device, you’ll need to enter the password which is found under the battery slot flap. Although a little more fiddly, once you’ve done it once it becomes easier.

Whichever method you use to connect, there will always be a delay of at least a couple of seconds, making this a slower option than a standalone camera if you’re trying to photograph something quick.

Top of the Sony ICLE-QX1

Once you’re into the app, you’ll find a number of options presented to you. In the top left hand corner of the screen you can tap to choose between the different exposure modes available. There a couple of automatic options, along with program, aperture priority and shutter priority modes. There’s no completely manual mode.

At the bottom of the screen you’ll see a tools icon which allows you to make changes to other important settings, such as white balance or focus mode. One glaring omission from this selection is the ability to set the metering mode.

Using the Sony ICLE-QX1 with the app loaded is a little bit like using either a phone camera, or a camera whereby every aspect of operation is carried out via the screen. For instance, if you want to set the autofocus point, simply tap the relevant point on the screen you wish to focus on.

Memory Card Slot

When you want to change aperture, tap on the aperture value displayed on the bottom of the screen (if you are shooting in aperture priority) and then using the sliding display, drag your finger across the screen to make an alteration. Changing ISO (sensitivity) and exposure compensation requires you to follow the same process. It can be a little fiddly changing these, but you do get used to it with practice.

Sony claims that the battery life of the QX1 is good for around 440 shots. While that seems to be about right, it’s also worth remembering that you’re essentially tied to the battery life of whichever device is controlling it, too.

It’s not recommended that you use a camera like this if you’re concerned with speed. Aside from the reasonably slow start-up time already mentioned, shot-to-shot time is very slow. Although the camera has a Bionz X processor, you are limited to whichever device the camera is hooked up to. During this review, I attached the camera to both an iPhone 5S and a Sony Xperia Z2, and while the Z2 fared a little better (connected via NFC), you will find yourself waiting a few seconds in between each shot. When shooting a long exposure, such as 30 seconds, you can expect to wait well over a minute before pressing the shot and the final image being ready to view on your phone.

Battery Compartment

When you want to view the images taken on the Sony ICLE-QX1, you can either tap the display in the corner of the screen (much like you would when using a smartphone’s camera) and scroll through the most recent pictures, or you can tap an icon which will bring up all of the photos taken on the camera, sorted by date, on one screen. What’s useful here is that even if you swap the camera between devices, if you’re using a memory card, you’ll be able to view the images taken on the camera. Similarly, swapping the camera between devices retains the settings you last used on the camera, not the settings last used on the app.

You can’t use the Sony ICLE-QX1 through other apps, such as Instagram, but as each image will be saved to your smartphone (unless you set it otherwise), shots will be ready to edit immediately without having to send them over first such as you might with other wi-fi enabled cameras.

Image Quality

All of the images in this review were shot at the 20.1 million pixel RAW + JPEG setting, which gives an average file size for JPEG files of around 5Mb, and for raw files around 20Mb.

Straight from the Sony ILCE-QX1, JPEG images display a good level of saturation, while the large sensor handles detail extremely well.

Automatic white balance is good in the majority of conditions, with a tendency towards warm colours under some artificial lights. The multi-segment (all-purpose) metering also copes well to produce accurate exposures - it would be nice to be able to change this though when photographing something with high contrast.

Low light performance is very good, with images appearing pretty noise free at the lower end of the sensitivity run (ISO 100-800), while even those shot at ISO 3200 give a great overall impression of detail.

Chromatic aberration doesn’t seem to be a problem and the supplied 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens is a great all-round performer producing detailed shots in a range of conditions. You can of course choose to use other lenses if you have them. There’s no dedicated macro mode here, but you could purchase a macro lens to use with the system if you want to photograph a lot of close-ups.

The built-in flash produces natural results, with no red-eye noticeable. With shutter priority an option here, you can set an exposure length of up to 30 seconds - there’s no bulb mode though, so this is a good camera to use with your phone if you want to capture some interesting night scenes - you will need to invest in a tripod though, or find something sturdy to rest the Sony ILCE-QX1 on.


There are 9 ISO settings available on the Sony ILCE-QX1. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting for both JPEG and Raw formats.


ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso100raw.jpg

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso200raw.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso400raw.jpg

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso800.jpg iso800raw.jpg

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso1600raw.jpg

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso3200.jpg iso3200raw.jpg

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

iso6400.jpg iso6400raw.jpg

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

ISO 12800 (100% Crop)

iso12800.jpg iso12800raw.jpg

ISO 16000 (100% Crop)

ISO 16000 (100% Crop)

iso16000.jpg iso16000raw.jpg

Focal Range

The 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens offers a fairly versatile focal range, as illustrated by these examples:



focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg


Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are just a little soft and ideally benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. Alternatively you can change the in-camera sharpening level.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

File Quality

The Sony ILCE-QX1 has 3 different image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

Fine (3.53Mb) (100% Crop) Standard (2.26Mb) (100% Crop)
quality_fine.jpg quality_standard.jpg
RAW (19.6Mb) (100% Crop)  

Chromatic Aberrations

The Sony ILCE-QX1 handled chromatic aberrations very well during the review, with a little purple fringing present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)



The flash settings on the Sony ILCE-QX1 are Auto, Forced Flash, Slow Syncro, No Flash, with a Red-eye Reduction option in the Main menu. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Suppressed Flash - Wide Angle (16mm)

Forced Flash - Wide Angle (16mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Suppressed Flash - Telephoto (50mm)

Forced Flash - Telephoto (50mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here is a portrait shot. As you can see, there isn't any amount of red-eye.

Forced Flash

Forced Flash (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg


The Sony ILCE-QX1's maximum shutter speed is 30 seconds, which is excellent news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 30 seconds at ISO 100.


Night (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Sony ILCE-QX1 camera, which were all taken using the 20 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample RAW Images

The Sony ILCE-QX1 enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files. We've provided some Sony RAW (ARW) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative).

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample video from the Sony ILCE-QX1 camera at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 20 second movie is 39.4Mb in size.

Product Images


Front of the Sony ILCE-QX1


Side of the Sony ILCE-QX1


Side of the Sony ILCE-QX1


Front of the Sony ILCE-QX1


Front of the Sony ILCE-QX1 / Turned On


Front of the Sony ILCE-QX1 / Pop-up Flash


Rear of the Sony ILCE-QX1 / Live Preview


Rear of the Sony ILCE-QX1 / Settings Menu


Rear of the Sony ILCE-QX1



Top of the Sony ILCE-QX1


Top of the Sony ILCE-QX1


Bottom of the Sony ILCE-QX1


Bottom of the Sony ILCE-QX1


Side of the Sony ILCE-QX1


Side of the Sony ILCE-QX1


Side of the Sony ILCE-QX1


Front of the Sony ILCE-QX1


Front of the Sony ILCE-QX1


Memory Card Slot


Battery Compartment


Once again, Sony has produced something innovative and interesting for the camera market with the ILCE-QX1. But it might be a case of solving a problem that doesn’t really exist.

While it is great that you can interchangeable lenses with your smartphone, the Sony ILCE-QX1 is fairly unwieldy to use when attached to a phone itself, and having to attach it and set it all up is a bit of a faff that sometimes ultimately leads you to not to bother.

Where it is more fun, and you can see it being more widely used, is when used remotely - whether that’s for selfies or when attached to a smartphone. Here you can experiment a bit more widely with the Sony ILCE-QX1 and really get the best from it - that said, it’s quite an expensive gimmick for doing such a thing with.

Although battery life is good, ultimately you’re relying on your smartphone’s battery life also - which can be a lot less reliable, especially if you’re using it as, well, a phone.

It’s nice to see the addition of raw format shooting for this camera, compared with the other cameras in the QX range. This gives you more scope in post-production, for instance you can alter the amount of noise reduction is applied to your images.

It’s hard to know who the audience for the ILCE-QX1 is. Sony has made something which accepts interchangeable lenses, so perhaps it is those who already own a Sony compact system camera - but those people are likely to get very quickly frustrated with the drawbacks of not having an actual body. For those that are mainly interested in better smartphone photographs, it seems unlikely that they’ll end up purchasing additional lenses for a camera like this - so it will be interesting to see if it takes off.

It would also be good to see it become possible to use the camera with other popular apps, such as Instagram or Facebook to make it a more integrated experience.

Putting all that aside and concentrating solely on image quality though and we have here a good performer. Images display great colour, and detail reproduction is also high - low light, high sensitivity shooting is particularly impressive. Bearing in mind that the Sony ILCE-QX1 is a lot cheaper than some of the current Sony compact system cameras, it could be a good option for those that can't quite stretch to the full system at the moment.

3.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 3
Ease-of-use 3
Image quality 4
Value for money 3

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Sony ILCE-QX1.

Google Nexus 5

The new Google Nexus 5 is one of the cheapest flagship smartphones on the market, but also one of the most powerful and full-featured too, running the latest KitKat version of Android. But what kind of experience does it offer photographers? Read our Google Nexus 5 review to find out...

HTC One (M8)

The HTC One (M8) is a new flagship smartphone with not one, but two cameras, using the second one as a depth sensor that allows you to change the point of focus after taking a photo and achieve DSLR-like shallow depth-of field effects. Does this make the HTC One (M8) the best smartphone for avid photographers? Read our HTC One (M8) review to find out..

Nokia Lumia 1020

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is a new 41-megapixel smartphone - yes, you read that right, 41 megapixels. The Lumia 1020 also offers built-in optical image stabilisation, a 3x loss-less zoom for stills and 6x for movies, a 26mm fixed lens with fast f/2.2 aperture, and 1080p video at 30fps with stereo sound. Read our Nokia Lumia 1020 review to find out if it can replace a compact camera.

Samsung Galaxy Camera 2

The new Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 is half travel-zoom camera, half smartphone. Using the latest Android 4.3 operating system, the Galaxy Camera 2 also offers wi-fi and NFC connectivity along with a 16 megapixel sensor and 21x zoom lens. Read our Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 review, complete with full-size sample images and video...

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Introducing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom. Is it a camera? Is it a phone? No, the Galaxy S4 Zoom is Samsung's attempt to bring both together in one device - but have they succeeded? Read our Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review to find out...

Samsung Galaxy S5

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is the latest edition of one of the most popular flagship smartphones of all time. Find out what it has to offer photographers by reading our Samsung Galaxy S5 review, complete with full-size sample photos, test shots, videos and more...

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-QX10

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-QX10 is a completely new type of device that adds a 10x zoom lens and 18 megapixel sensor to your smartphone. Priced at around £179 / $250, read our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-QX10 review to find out if it's what every smartphone user has been waiting for...


Dimensions (W x H x D)

  • 74 x 69.5 x 52.5 mm


  • 158g (Body Only) / 216 g (with battery and media)

Lens Mount

  • Sony E-mount lenses

Lens Compatibility

  • Sony E-mount lenses

Sensor Type

  • APS-C type (23.2 x 15.4mm) Exmor™ CMOS sensor

Sensor Type

  • APS-C

Effective Pixels

  • 20.1MP

Number of Pixels (total)

  • Approx. 20.4 megapixels

Image Sensor Aspect Ratio

  • 3:2

Digital zoom (Still Image)

  • M:Approx. 1.4x S:Approx. 2x

Digital zoom (Movie)

  • M:Approx. 1.4x S:Approx. 2x

Recording Format (Still images)

  • JPEG (DCF Ver. 2.0, Exif Ver.2.3, MPF Baseline compliant), RAW (Sony ARW 2.3 format)

Image Size (pixels), 3:2

  • L: 5456 x 3632(20M)
  • M: 3872×2576(10M)
  • S: 2736x1824(5.0M)

Image Size (pixels), 16:9

  • L: 5456x3064(17M)
  • M: 3872x2176(8.4M)
  • S:2736x1536(4.2M)

Image Quality Modes

  • JPEG Fine
  • JPEG Standard

Dynamic Range Functions

  • EV-1 to EV20 (ISO100 equivalent with F2.0 lens attached)

Recording Format (Movie)

  • MP4

Video Compression

  • MP4: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264

Audio Recording Format

  • MP4: MPEG-4 AAC-LC 2ch

Face Detection

  • YES

Clear Image Zoom

  • Approx. 2x

Lens Compensation


Lens Compensation

  • Chromatic Aberration
  • Distortion
  • Peripheral Shading

Touch Shutter

  • Yes

Compatible Recording Media

  • Memory Stick Micro, Memory Stick Micro (Mark2), microSD Memory Card, microSDHC Memory Card, microSDXC Memory Card

White Balance Modes

  • Auto
  • Cloudy
  • Color Temperature (2500 to 9900K)
  • Daylight
  • Flash
  • Fluorescent (Warm White / Cool White / Day White / Daylight)
  • Incandescent
  • Shade

Focus Type

  • Contrast-detection AF

Focus Sensor

  • "Exmor" CMOS sensor

Focus Point

  • 25 points (contrast-detection AF)

Focus Mode

  • Autofocus, Manual Focus

AF Mode

  • AF-S (Single-shot AF)

Focus Area

  • Wide (25 points(contrast-detection AF))

Other Features

  • Focus lock

Metering Sensor

  • "Exmor" CMOS sensor

Metering Mode

  • Multi-segment

AE Lock

  • Locked when shutter button is pressed halfway. (Auto)

ISO Sensitivity

  • ISO 100–16000

Shutter Type

  • Electronically-controlled, vertical-traverse, focal-plane type

Shutter Speed

  • Movies: AUTO mode (up to 1/30)
  • Still images:1/4000 to 30 sec

Flash Sync. Speed

  • 1/160 sec.

Electronic Front Shutter Curtain

  • Yes


  • Not supported (image stabilization supported on lens)

Drive Modes

  • Continuous shooting
  • Self-timer (10/2 sec delay selectable)
  • Single Shooting
  • Speed Priority Continuous shooting

Continuous Shooting

  • 3.5 fps (for up to 15 shots)

View on Smartphone

  • Yes


  • Yes (NFC forum Type 3 Tag compatible)


  • Built-in stereo microphone


  • Built-in speaker
  • monaural

Supplied Battery

  • NP-FW50 W-series Rechargeable Battery Pack

Battery Life (CIPA, Still Images)

  • Up to 440 shots

Battery Life (CIPA, Movies)

  • Up to 150 minutes

External Power

  • AC Adaptor AC-PW20 (sold separately)

What's In The Box

  • Wrist strap
  • Smartphone Attachment
  • Rechargeable Battery NP-FW50
  • Micro USB cable
  • SELP1650
  • Lens cap
  • ADP-FSK1

Your Comments

Loading comments…