The iPhone becomes an almost-pro-level camera for almost-pro-level cash
You have to answer two questions in a review: ‘is this thing good?’ and ‘should you buy it?’. With the DxO One – a palm-sized camera with a 1-inch sensor and good optics – the answer to the first is easy: yes. It works stand-alone or can be plugged into a Lightning port so it can use the iOS device’s screen as a viewfinder and for control. The second question is a bit more complicated.
Classically, a major advantage of a big sensor is better performance in low light; less noise and truer colours. Unsurprisingly that proves to be the case here. Pit the DxO One against even the well-regarded rear camera in the iPhone 6 in a dim room (the 6s wasn’t used in this test), and the former completely trounces the latter. In well-lit scenes, the gap narrows, though the One’s shots are still significantly better – with greater dynamic range – even before you take into consideration the extra creative flexibility the DxO One’s higher resolution and wider aperture gives you.
What’s more, serious photographers will love that it can shoot in raw (DNG), giving you even more creative control once you copy the pictures to your Mac. (Photos and video are saved to a notincluded microSD card, and optionally also to the iPhone.) Indeed, it can shoot in a proprietary format which takes four raw shots at once; the included Mac software uses these to process an image which has even less noise. It really works, too.
The JPEG that the camera itself processes from its raw shot is good, but you get the best results when you copy the raws to your Mac and let it process them, even if you make zero tweaks. (This is a CPU-heavy task, but it’s multi-threaded.) Which brings us to a problem.
The camera is good, with the companion iPhone app’s P/A/S/M modes giving you welcome pro control, and being able to shoot with the One and immediately edit and share from your iPhone is fantastic; that lack of friction sets it apart from even a modern Wi-Fiequipped CSC/EVIL camera. Yet since you get even better results by processing the images on your Mac, you then wonder if you’d be better off with a Wi-Fi-equipped CSC/EVIL camera; that would let you change lenses (the One has no zoom, though Olloclip-style add-ons should be possible), and would be more comfortable to use, since the One’s ergonomics are awkward – and you’d still be able to squirt occasional shots to your iPhone for quick sharing.
We do love the One, though, and DxO plans to unlock plenty of additional features in software – and even in the hardware. And it might not seem it, but it’s well priced given its specs and the quality of the photographs it produces.
If you are looking to buy a great camera and lean a little more towards ‘social’ and ‘apps’ than ‘traditional photography’, then buy this rather than a normal one. Just be aware that even for an enthusiastic amateur, never mind a pro, regular cameras still offer more flexibility, with different lenses and accessories (mounting on a tripod!), and so in the right hands will take better pictures. Christopher Phin
The DxO One is about the size of a hotel soap, so is easy to slip into your pocket as you head out the door.