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DxO One | Initial Thoughts On The Tiny & Disruptive Powerhouse

By Kishore Sawh on October 27th 2015

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I’ve said before that when we in the camera world think of DxO Labs, it’s almost entirely sensor testing and software that comes to mind. Our mind’s eye conjures up images of geeky test runners with inch-thick spectacles and voices suggesting adenoids; the type who keep linear charts under their mattress, and have their significant others listed in their phones as QT3.14, finely examining each new camera and sensor. This could be wrong, but I doubt it. DxO would like us to think otherwise, however.

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Earlier this year DxO announced a large jump from the world of software developer and hardware tester to camera manufacturer with the release of the DxO ONE, a camera that nestles into your palm and is controlled via smartphone to give you ‘DSLR quality’ images. That was the promise, and we were eager to see for ourselves. Last week, B&H Photo sent us to PhotoPlus #PPE in NYC where DxO proudly held floor square footage to show off this new offering. We spoke to them with them and saw the DXO ONE in person. Furthermore, I’ve taken one away with me to put through the ringer, to see how it stacks up against the competition, and makes good on its claims.

[REWIND: Sony RX100 M4 | Initial Thoughts & G7X Comparison]

Why It’s Particularly Interesting

It should be understood that this camera is mainly interesting for two reasons: its size to power ratio, and possibly more so, its name. The mere fact it’s a DxO product meant that from the onset it was going to pique the interest of a group that isn’t typically attracted to phone cameras (and by that I mean proper shooters). Shooters who are used to the quality of a DSLR and who want as close to that as possible for more casual shooting, without the size and fuss.

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Because DxO is generally the benchmark testing ground for camera sensors at a scientific level, the expectations for this were always going to be high. This is both good and bad for DxO, because it will and has gained a high level of interest, but will be put under higher than usual scrutiny.

Initial Thoughts

Let’s get the obvious out of the way here and address the size because the thing is small, yet large enough that when it’s attached to the camera, it makes the whole set-up feel more substantial. The ergonomics are actually decent at first try, especially for something with this form factor. It’s weighty enough to feel like it’s not cheap (which it isn’t) and light enough for easy holding. And it’s a breeze to hold and keep in even a breast pocket; honestly a fear I would have is it getting lost.

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There’s more than that you may think, because apart from its size, this is not meant to be kept on the phone for long periods of time without use, as you’ll burn through the battery. So because you’re constantly taking it on and off, it seems more prone to being left somewhere. That said, I wouldn’t trade the size for anything because it’s really nice to have.

It’s also hard to imagine how they managed to fit that 32mm equivalent f/1.8 aspherical lens into this little body, complete with 6 blade diaphragm. It’s only 2 and a half inches tall and weighs under 4 oz, and somehow with all of that it manages to fit in a 1 inch 20.2-megapixel back-side illuminated sensor from Sony, making this a creature of almost all brain, and no body. Stephen Hawking, if you will. And somewhat like the wheeled genius, it needs a little help for us to see what it can produce, and for that it uses your smartphone – your iPhone to be precise.

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That’s right, it’s to be used with an Apple device, and DxO has worked closely with Apple to make for a seamless experience, an experience I hope to tell you more about in the full review. I will say this right now, however, that so far it’s treated me quite well. Upon connecting the device to the phone, the prompt to download the App is quick, as is the download, and set-up is done in moments; it’s a very ‘Apple-esque’ experience, and that’s not a bad thing.

The only shortcoming of the experience I can think of thus far is the connector itself. It’s small, and its size is is prohibitive of using pretty much any sort of case on your iPhone. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it’s not working in its favor. There have been rumors of overheating problems which I plan to get to the bottom of also, and will see how much of a hinderance it is to have this be a fixed focal length camera.

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So what is in its favor? Right away I can tell you its form factor, and initial image quality is good, very good. Color management is impressive, and that’s the DxO blood running strong there. Clarity is high, and even at 800 ISO, it seemed to handle low light better than a Generation 1 RX100.  In fact, I was still expecting this to fall short on the image side, but comparing it to something like the RX100 series, the quality of the rendering is pretty much on par; that’s impressive since I’ve long said the Rx100 is THE portable camera to buy.

The DxO One also should get about 200 shots (stored on a micro SD) per charge, and charges rather quickly. It’s these attributes why it becomes easy to see why some BBC field journalists are using these now during travel.  It also white balances quicker than my RX100, and even if that were a problem, the $300 worth of DxO software included should make easy work of that. The camera also comes with the necessary charging and connecting cables to have you up and running quickly. It’s nice that the cables are easily bought for pennies should yours be lost or destroyed – nothing really proprietary.

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This is the kind of device you pick up and you want it to work, and work well because really we don’t want to lug around a large camera all the time, or even a compact point and shoot that bulges pockets. But we aren’t satisfied with our phone camera, and this is like adding a supercharger to your phone’s camera, allowing you to shoot in RAW and share immediately anywhere.

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So, as a concept, DxO really hit the nail on the head, fitting in the manual controls for shutter speed, aperture, exposure comp, and so on, and initial quality we want in a size we dream of. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be testing it out to see if their execution of the concept materializes the promises and answering questions like the following: Does it really take photos as good as it claims and in what conditions? How reliable is it? What are its main uses? For whom would it be good for? At this price, does it make sense to get this over a Rx100 MKIII, and more…

Note: These things are selling out fast, everywhere even with their $599 price tag, with B&H selling out in a day at PPE, and the floor stall also selling out on the first day. You can, however, still order yours from B&H here to be one of the first to get one when they come in.

A big thank you to our sponsors, B&H Photo for making this trip to Photo Plus Expo 2015 possible!

 

About

Kishore is, among other things, the Editor-In-Chief at SLR Lounge. A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

9 Comments

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  1. Peter Nord

    The way I see it this thing is a early attempt at mixing camera functions from a camera with computer functions from a phone. A camera needs a high speed controller function for picture taking, and a general purpose cpu for the rest. Make a camera with only the high speed controller with a slot to slide in your iPhone for video display and programable control of everything else. The camera makers make good cameras with terrible menus. The phone makers make good computers with terrible cameras. Just put the good parts together. Not for everyone, but think of what could be done with the programability of a phone mixed with your 5Dm3 or D810. How cool would that be.

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  2. Peter McWade

    I watched the video presented over at DXO about this camera. The quality of the video was just junk. The images shown were good. I did not read much on the video abilities of the little box.

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  3. Peter McWade

    Why when the iPhone has a kick ass camera on it already. I’d be concerned that I would break the mount, bent the plug or damage the phone in some way if I happened to drop the whole thing or smacked it against a wall or something. I see no wrist strap and the iPhone 6 family is real smooth and has little grip for holding such awkward things. It’s enough to not let it slip out of your hand if you don’t have a rubberized case on the phone. I do love the phone and I will for now just continue using my iPhone camera. Works for me.

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  4. adam sanford

    Kishore, thanks for the review! So many questions:

    1) Early previewers reported a terrifying concern this thing falling off from the phone when you don’t want it to. Was that your experience? Ever had a drop or close call?

    2) This kind of product has been done before, albeit in a different form factor. How is this better/worse than the various products like the DSC-QX lens+sensor combos?

    3) How on earth can a company as maligned with its test methods as DXO *be trusted to grade its own product*? Keep in mind that this is the same DXO that published their own multi-shot composite format as outperforming some FF Sensors, which is smoke and mirrors at best. (Consider: other companies’ composite hi-res formats are mysteriously not reported in DXO’s testing…). I’m sure there’s a fine sensor in there, but their initial press information on this product was laughed out of the room for such misleading shenanigans.

    4) Also, a 32mm f/1.8 lens isn’t particularly noteworthy, is it? Most cell phones run on or around those specs. *One that stops down* like a standard lens, however, is pretty cool. (Most cell phone cameras only shoot wide open, if memory serves.)

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Adam, that’s a loaded set of questions, and good ones at that. This was really just a primer on the full review to come, and hopefully I will be able to provide you with the answers. I can tell you now that you are able to stop the lens down, and that makes a difference, but not a major one, given it’s so wide anyway DOF doesn’t change much. I assume you’d live at 1.8 anyway.

      Unlike the DSC-Qx this doesn’t relay what it sees live to the screen when not attached, so you use this really only when on phone, even though technically it can be used without, but it’s like shooting blind.

      I can say so far I haven’t had much fear of it falling off, BUT, the concern is somewhat there, but it should be said here that this is not something you’d use one handed. You truly must use both hands when operating it with your phone. If anything My concern was more dropping the whole rig, since the phone must be used without a case. But, I will get into more detail soon. Anything else you want to know just drop me a line.

      Cheers

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    • adam sanford

      Thanks, Kishore.

      Quite the contrary on ‘living at f/1.8’ — my iPhone already has an f/2.2 fixed aperture lens, but as I can’t stop it down, I can’t generate any meaningful DOF with it.

      I see the DXO One as a chance to shoot a proper landscape with my phone for a change, or even a decent tourist snap with a close foreground subject and far off vista behind. No cell phone on the planet can do that!

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  5. Nick Viton

    not everyone has an iPhone

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    • John Cavan

      Enough do have an iPhone for DxO to make a metric crap-ton of money, if there is money to be made in this space, especially amongst a crowd that has historically shown a much greater willingness to spend than the alternatives.

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  6. Joseph Cha

    nice

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