Four-years ago, two very interesting cameras hit the market — the Leica Q and the DXO One. I talked about them with excitement back in June of 2015. The Leica was way more than I wanted to spend and I figured the radical DXO One would fall in price over time. At $600, it was seven times more affordable than the Leica but still more than I wanted to spend.
I’ve waited for four years, but I finally bought the DXO One. It was used, in excellent condition, and on sale at KEH.com for $80. Sold. Incidentally, the $4250 Leica Q is currently selling for about $3000 on eBay. I’m a patient person — sometimes — and willing to wait long-term for non-critical “toys”.
At eighty bucks, I wasn’t taking a big risk; a fun toy and a rather unique camera to add to my collection. Reviews of the camera were mixed. The sales were never spectacular. DXO, the company that took a risk developing this, which I applaud, retreated back to selling just software. I’m sure, without much of a future, the price of the DXO One fell even more. It’s a shame, really. Because the camera is actually quite spectacular under specific use cases.
What makes the camera unique? It’s ultra-compact, with a 1-inch sensor, and a 32mm equivalent f1.8 prime lens. It connects to the iPhone via the Lightning connector and uses the phone’s display as a viewfinder and for changing controls.
Both Sony and Olympus made cameras that connected to smartphones, but those used Wifi and were slow. The One’s physical connection to the phone makes it usably snappy. The One can also be used standalone, without being connected to the iPhone. Its low-res OLED display was “hacked” to give a grainy approximation for rough framing.
Those who have subscribed to my free newsletter might recognize this photo. I featured it a month ago when I introduced the DXO One. It’s from 6th Street in Austin, my place to test low-light photography with urban color — both architectural and societal. The DXO features vibrant color when the RAW is processed in Capture One. I’m really impressed with the way this ISO 1000 image looks.
As you know, I’ve used the Canon G7X Mark II compact camera quite a bit in the last year. Both the G7X Mark II and the DXO One feature a 1-inch sensor by Sony. Except, the DXO actually has better low-light performance than the Canon. Either DXO has a better processing engine, or Canon got an older sensor. I’m told the DXO One uses the same exact sensor as the Sony RX100 Mark III. Imagine getting the image quality of an RX100 MIII (currently selling for $650) for $80.
Color and image quality wise, I prefer the Canon JPEGs over DXO, which doesn’t look very good. However, I much prefer DXO’s RAWs over Canon’s, which in turn doesn’t look very good (at least with Capture One). The handling on the Canon is superior for faster shooting. However, it’s hard to beat the large iPhone retina display as a viewfinder for the DXO.
The Lightning connection between the DXO and iPhone seems rather iffy, so I hold both when shooting landscape, a rather unwieldily setup. In portrait orientation, however, I keep the DXO One at the top and have confidence that the Lightning connection will hold. Understandably, I prefer the portrait orientation with this camera and shoot more this way, which is different from my usual landscape bias. I like that his camera gets me shooting differently. It forces me to see the world in another way.
Tomorrow, I’ll feature more brilliant photos that I made with the DXO One on 6th Street. I think you will agree it’s a very able camera with a very unique set of features.
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