QX, VR, and more: hands-on with Sony’s new toys

Sony has held a neato event this week, giving journos not fortunate enough to head overseas in Germany the opportunity to play with products heading to stores later this year, and wow, some of them were awesome.

First up, we took a look at Sony’s answer to the evolution of digital cameras, whereby the company is removing the body from the camera body and making it all about the lens.

Sony’s QX concept is to put all the necessary mechanics inside a section that looks just like a lens, complete with the sensor, zoom motor, image processing, storage slot, and the technology needed to connect it to another device.

That other connecting device will act as the viewfinder, similar to what the company tried to do in its GoPro competitor, the Sony ActionCam. Working with the QX, your smartphone or tablet will connect to the lens-modelled camera over wireless and act as an electronic viewfinder, with the controls working through the touchscreen, saving an image to both the storage in the camera and in the phone.

While these QX models are a new concept, the early hands-on revealed a reasonably mature concept, with a camera-in-a-lens that could not only be attached to phones not made by Sony – an iPhone, for instance – but also be used while holding it up.

That last one is quite exciting, and means that if you’re at a concert or sporting event, you could essentially hold these small lenses up and control what you’re seeing using a smartphone.

It’s an intriguing concept, that’s for sure, and with the QX cameras saving a big file to the microSD inside the lens and a smaller image to your smartphone, it will be easy enough to share online quickly.

Also, the QX cameras will be usable without the smartphone, with both a zoom trigger and shutter button on the bodies, in case you’re happy relying on the camera without seeing what exactly you’re looking at.

Pricing has yet to be confirmed for the range, but specs have been, with the QX10 being the lower model of the two, featuring an 18.2 megapixel sensor, 10x optical (25-250mm), and ISO 100-3200, while the QX100 will feature a 20 megapixel sensor, 3.6x optical (28-100mm), and support for ISO160-6400.

Compatibility will be there for iOS and Android, with availability slated for October this year.

Next up is the sequel to Sony’s HMZ-T1 headset, now called the T3 which, given the number on the end, is actually the third generation of this technology.

We took a look at the original when it was released last year, and while there was a bump in the tech last year in the T2, this year is seeing a proper refresh, which is more than just a number change and now features a new lighter design that also lets you remove yourself from the wall power.

Inside the headset, Sony is keeping with two OLED screens that simulate a 750 inch cinema screen with 3D imagery, perfect for the movies, but now the redesigned headset feels less like it’s placing stress on your nose and pushes back against the forehead.

Even though we didn’t wear it for anywhere near as long, this test was much more comfortable, and told us Sony really had rethought the design, which was something we wanted in the original.

Also useful is the battery box, which sits off to the site and not only allows you to power your headset, but also recharge your smartphone or tablet while you use the headset.

Another thing of note is the MHL port on the battery pack, which means you can plug in any MHL-compatible smartphone – including those made by Sony, Samsung, LG, and HTC – and send video straight to the headset.

When you go back home, you can plug into HDMI and grab video from a home entertainment system or gaming device.

One other thing we’re pleased to see is the replacement of the headphones, and in this incarnation, you can actually bring your own headphones to replace the ear pieces on offer.

Like the QX, there’s no price here, though if it’s anything like the original HMZ Sony released, expect to pay close to a grand when this comes out in November.

Finally, we played with a sprinkling of the audio devices Sony is eyeing off, with the company focusing more on Near-Field Communication compatible speakers and headphones.

Two particular devices stood out for us, with the Bluetooth BTS50 portable speaker being one of them. Similar to the UE Boom, this speaker features a water-resistant coating and some neat 360 degree sound dispersion technology, with the latter of these switching on when the speaker detects that it’s lying on its back.

When you aim the speaker at you, however, it switches into a more directional mode, sending the audio to one direction (but not the band, unless you’re playing that band.)

This speaker does have a price, with stores seeing it in October from $179 RRP.

The other sound device that stood out for us is a neat new pair of headphones that feature their own separate MP3 player, capable of – when playback is paused and the headphones are wrapped around your neck – sending the audio through a pair of speakers mounted to the band of the headphones.

This idea means you can walk through a park with your headphones off and still listen to music, with the small speakers directing the sound specifically to your ears.

Outside of your headspace, people can still hear that you’re listening to something, but the sound is lower and closer to what they might hear if you turned up your headphones all the way from listening to excess headphone noise.

Sony’s idea on these headphones are neat, but the one catch in this design is that in order to make these speakers work, you need to be using the MP3 player on the headphones and not the one built inside your preferred smartphone or media player.

We’re not sure how many people will find a reason to use these headphones over the interface of their preferred smartphone or tablet, but they’ll probably find this feature neat if they ever get to use it.