DxO is a software company, but now they're venturing into hardware with their second version of the DxO One. The DxO One attaches to an iPhone or iPad using the lightning port, unlike other cameras like the Sony QX line that communicates via wi-fi. Plugged in, the smartphone serves as the screen and control center while the DxO One offers better hardware than the built-in camera.
The DxO One uses a 20 megapixel on inch sensor that's backlit -- the manufacturer says it's the smallest 1" sensor camera yet since it's under 3" tall and weighs less than an iPhone. That's paired with a bright f/1.8 lens, though unfortunately optical zoom isn't included. The camera is capable of using manual modes as well as automated options.
The lightning port connection will likely make the DxO One faster than any of the other smartphone attachable cameras on the market. Our biggest complaint with the Sony QX series is the lag time between pressing the button and actually taking the photo, since the smartphone has to communicate with the camera wirelessly. The physical connection should help prevent such a noticeable delay.
Unlike others in this odd but new and growing category, the DxO One sits at the side of the camera, instead of the front. A swivel allows the smartphone to be used at different angles, helpful for awkward compositions, shooting in bright sunlight or taking a selfie.
Along with using a much larger sensor than a smartphone and a brighter lens, the camera also allows for longer exposures, up to 30 seconds. Using the app gives users some of the same perks to shooting with a smartphone, including the touchscreen interface and instant sharing on social media.
The DxO One offers more resolution than a smartphone camera and better low light shots, and it should also perform faster than wi-fi connected options. At the $499 price point, however, we'd like to see more than just the larger sensor and brighter lens -- mainly, an optical zoom. The Sony QX30 offers a 30x zoom, the QX1 and the Olympus Air 1 the ability to use mirrorless lenses. If speed matters, the DxO One's physical connection is the answer, but be aware that the camera doesn't do anything about the limitations of a smartphone's lack of optical zoom.