Walkaround: Hands-On with the DxO One

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The DxO One is small! Yet, it has a large 1-inch BSI CMOS sensor and an f/1.8 prime lens.

Out of the box, the diminutive DxO One feels great. DxO made a big deal about the high-quality aluminum construction and design, and the material choices here really paid off. The device itself is shockingly small, considering we basically have a screen-less version of an RX100 III with a prime lens. And despite the small size of the One, there's a pleasing, solid heft to it. The two-toned aluminum and lightly-textured polycarbonate design is sleek-looking and the camera feels comfortable in the hand. It's not "heavy" by any means, but it's certainly not "plastic-y" and cheap-feeling; it definitely feels high-quality and well-made.

Being such a small device, it's no wonder there's hardly any external controls. However, on the "top" deck of the camera, as I'm calling it, the One does have a large, two-stage shutter release button. Like a typical camera, a half-press will autofocus and a full-press will capture the image. Given this physical control, the camera's built-in battery and card slot, the DxO One can be used as a standalone camera, without being attached to a smartphone. The 32mm-eq. lens is decently wide enough, there's face detection AF, and the sensor has sufficient enough resolution to compensate for some cropping, that stealthy, shooting-from-the-hip, viewfinder-less operation is possible and probably a rather fun, unique way to use the camera.

One the back of the camera, there is a small, OLED touchscreen that will display various shooting mode settings, similar to what's indicated on the top-deck LCD of larger DSLR cameras. The touchscreen does provide for limited settings adjustment by swiping left or right to scroll through various options. Our cosmetic sample unit did not come with a functioning memory card slot and powering on the camera displayed a constant warning about the lack of an SD card, so we couldn't try out the touchscreen or the in-camera menu system.

Below the little OLED screen is the small door covering the Micro USB port and microSD slot, and further down is a small pass-through lug for a wrist strap.

Moving around to the front, we have the multi-function lens cap/on-off switch/Lightning connector pop-up toggle. The cover slides down, with a satisfying snap, to reveal the small 11.9mm f/1.8 aspherical lens and simultaneously power on the camera. Simply slide the covering upward and it snaps into its closed position, which also powers off the device. When slid into the 'on' position, a further "toggle" downwards releases the pop-out Lightning connector on left side of the camera.

You also need to slide the cover all the way downward and hold it down in order to fold the Lightning connector back in when not in use. I didn't find this very method very intuitive, though. I would most likely be inclined to simply move the slider upward to power off the camera, and then remove the camera from my phone. I would subsequently need to move the slider all the way down -- powering on the camera as I went -- and then hold the slider down as I fold the connector away, before turning the camera off again. Not a big time-waster in the grand scheme of things, by any means, but still a little odd.

The Lightning connector itself felt rather robust and connected snuggly to a handful of iPhones -- both old and new -- we had around the office. The three-way swivel also feels nice and sturdy, with a substantial click as it rotates between +/- 60-degree and the middle zero-mark. I did notice a bit of wiggle and looseness when I attached a device to the Lightning connector, especially along the longitudinal axis of the thin Lightning connector. It was a little disconcerting, to be honest. However, I found it did take a good amount of downward force to shake the camera loose from my phone (and into my hand), so perhaps I'm worrying over nothing. Still though, the Lightning connector seems like an awfully small connection interface given the masses of the two connected devices.

All in all, DxO's first foray into the world of camera hardware looks to be a very ambitious, very interesting endeavor. Although we don’t know anything about the imaging processor inside the One, given that it shares the same sensor as the much-loved Sony RX100 III and has an f/1.8 lens, plus given DxO's imaging software prowess, we're very excited to get a fully-working version of this camera and see the image quality first-hand, especially the higher ISOs!

One has to wonder, though, will people who find the convenience of a smartphone camera, especially one as well-regarded as the iPhone's, be willing to carry around a secondary device who's sole functionally is almost entirely dependent on said smartphone? Only time will tell. But if DxO can deliver their claimed "DSLR image quality" with a super-small device that pairs with the always-connected convenience of a smartphone, they may have a winner on their hands.



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