Smartphones make for crappy, crappy cameras, but Sony wants to fix it. With a “lens camera”.
It’s not the fault of smartphones, per se, that they stink for taking photos. It’s just the high pixel count combined with the tiny sensor and lens means noisy, messy shots, unless you are a master photographer or really lucky. There have been many, many solutions proposed for this, ranging from lenses you can clip on the back to, you know, using it just for snapshots and getting a real camera for the important stuff, which is a surprisingly popular option if DSLR sales are any indication.
The “lens camera”, though, is a little different. It’s essentially a free-standing lens with everything built into it; it’ll have its own battery, NFC, WiFi, sensor, it’s basically everything you need from a camera except a viewfinder and controls.
That’s where your smartphone comes in. This lens camera is designed to pair with, and be mounted on, multiple brands of smartphone. So, if you want to take a picture that’s a bit more than just “Hey I’m with my friends, Facebook!”, you clip the lens onto the front of the camera, press a button, adjust the lens, and shoot.
It may sound kind of silly on paper but in truth, there’s a lot of value to it. DSLRs are rising rapidly in popularity as people discover that interchangeable lenses and real control over your image is, like, awesome. It also will probably be of use to journalists, art photographers, and others looking for better images and more portability. And it will probably help Sony recapture some revenue; point-and-shoot cameras have been tanking, since they’re just as terrible as smartphone cameras in many respects.
This is just a rumor for now, but expect it to be announced soon; most Sony watchers think it’ll hit before summer is out.