I’ve taken hundreds of photos of my kids just in the last couple months. And almost every single one was taken with my phone. Even though I have a nice DSLR camera, it’s so heavy, it’s just not practical to lug it with me everywhere. Especially considering I’m just an avid amateur who likes getting great shots of her kids. So I’m really excited about the cool innovations of the DxO One camera that’s making it possible for me to take DSLR-quality photos with my phone.

When I first heard about this, I was pretty intrigued and was thrilled we received a review unit to try out.

Now, I’m hooked.

Related: Cool gifts for photographers: 2015 Tech Gift Guide

How it works: The DxO One camera is a wildly portable, lightweight, and convenient add-on lens to your existing iOS device. It simply plugs into any Apple device’s lightning port, using your phone or tablet screen as the display screen for the camera. The tilt function allows you to get all kinds of great angles, and it’s easy to pop off when you don’t need quite so much camera.

Size, as in, not much of it at all: The entire thing is tiny — the size of a couple of tubes of lipstick. Pretty great! And with a 1″ sensor, f/1.8 max aperture, and 20.2 megapixels, the pictures and videos you get are absolutely as good as those from more expensive DSLR cameras. Not bad for something you can stick in your pocket.

Tilt your screen to see what you're shooting when your taking photos up high or down low on the DxO One.

The tiny DxO One camera is the size of two tubes of lipstick, but takes amazing high-quality photos.

 

 

 

The app: The free DxO One app controls everything easily — the app even opens automatically when you launch the camera, provided you’re on your homescreen.

The app allows you to adjust the camera settings the same way you would with a DSLR camera — only you get a much bigger display than you would on most cameras, especially if you’re pairing it with a iPhone 6+ or iPad.

Also, because the settings are integrated with the app instead of the hardware, the company can easily upgrade them along the way. In other words, your camera will constantly evolve and improve, which is an important aspect for me, considering this is a hefty investment.

Related: The Sony Smart Lens. Whoa.

 

The DxO One app has the same features you'd find on a DSLR camera.
Choose from pre-sets, or adjust your settings manually in the DxO One app.

 

Photo sharing: Sharing photos is more convenient with the DxO One too, because your photos can be set to automatically save to your iPhone camera roll. No more hassle of uploading them from a memory card, if you’re doing that with a DSLR. Although you do still have that option too, if you know you’re taking dozens of photos at any one time.

Photo quality, especially in low light: As for the photos themselves, I’m impressed. The DxO One has become my go-to for special moments, and I find it does a fantastic job with portraits, and especially shooting in low-light situations — that iPad picture below is amazing! This to me is a huge, huge selling point, since we all know that low-light is the bane of any iPhonographer. (You’re not still trying to use that flash, right?)

Related: 5 tips for taking better photos with your iPhone

DxO One photos taken with iOS devices. Amazing

Amazing photos taken with the DxO One and an iPhone

The DxO One’s ability to capture light is far superior to the iPhone 6, thanks to a sensor that’s 6.6 times faster than the iPhone 6 camera. It eliminates that orangey-look you sometimes get with iPhone photos in lower light, and it’s able to capture amazing shots in low-light situations like restaurants or, this week, around the Christmas tree. That photo above of the girl sleeping in the tent is pretty impressive.

Selfies are a snap — literally, since the device rotates and allows you to point your phone lens in either direction. There’s even an impressive setting that lets you use the iPhone screen display as a natural fill light, so no more blurry, orange, pixilated pics of you and your besties.

Also, if you like to edit or manipulate your photos, or print them in larger sizes, you’ll appreciate the RAW photo format you can get through DxO One.

 

The DxO One captures amazing low-light images.

Photo taken with DxO One in low light

Amazing software, free:  It’s a little buried on the site, but when you buy the lens, you’re getting about $300 worth of really fantastic, free software. That means more than 120 film packs (like Hipstamatic offers) including nearly 30 for black and white analog alone. You get Optix Pro software to optimize your RAW photo files. And most importantly for serious photographers, DxO Connect lets you preview and import photos to your desktop, and even send them directly to Optix Pro or the Film Pack for instant editing.

So basically, this really is a system that’s far beyond a nifty lens for your iPhone.

 

There are some negatives, however, that are worth mentioning before you invest in a nearly $600 DxO device.

Getting used to it: As with all new photo technology, the actual process of taking the photos will take a little getting used to. Because the DxO One is so small, which I love overall, handling it can be a little awkward at first, especially when you’re used to supporting large, sturdy camera in your hand. My own first shots were shaky and blurred because I was still trying to figure out the best way to steady the camera as I click the springy shutter.

I also had to get used to a relatively slower auto-focus. The focus is quite sharp, and the shutter speed is wildly fast — up to 1/200000 of a second — so you can get amazingly crisp action shots. But it if you’re using auto focus for say your kid’s fast-moving soccer game you might find that a hinderance.

The case conundrum: I go for a bit more protection for my phone when it comes to cases, because, three kids. Unless you’re using one of Apple’s own cases, which is cut out around the Lightning port, you’ll likely have to take your case off to connect the DxO One. That will be kind of annoying if you’re trying to capture a quick, in-the-moment shot.

Two hands, please: Once it’s plugged in, I find the connection is pretty secure, but not so much that I feel comfortable just holding onto the camera and letting my phone (and definitely not my iPad) hang there. So, this is a two-handed process. However the tilt feature on the camera (photo at very top) does make it easy to see what you’re shooting, if you’re holding the camera up high or down low to achieve an interesting angle.

Charging: The battery does run down quickly, and unfortunately so. You’ll definitely want to keep your phone charger nearby in your photo kit. Worst case scenario, you can take shots with the DxO One even when it’s not connected to your phone — as with the Sony Smart Lens (which we still like a lot), you just can’t see what you’re shooting in that case. Then again, think of it as that old-timey excitement of getting photos back from the developer when we were kids.

Price: Ultimately, the biggest hurdle for most of us is going to be the price. Now the lens is the exact same that you’d find in a Sony RX100 III, which is an $800 camera.  That said, this is a $500+ accessory that definitely feels like an accessory. You have to decide whether the convenience factor of optimizing your iPhone — should that be your main photography source — is plus enough for you.

In all, I think if you’re considering this then you have to look at the DxO One as an alternative to a bulky DSLR, when a mere iPhone camera isn’t quite enough for special moments.

The size is my number one reason to switch to the DxO One over a traditional DSLR — and of course the quality of the photographs that it yields. As a busy mom with a big family, I realize my DSLR is getting left at home too often because it’s just too bulky to carry around all the time. However the DxO One has been in my handbag since I got it — and I don’t plan on taking it out any time soon.

Admittedly  I’ll still use my iPhone camera most of the time (it’s why I upgraded to the 6 anyway), but the DxO One is light enough to keep in my handbag all the time to have it on hand for when I need it. This makes it especially great for travel. Any parent who’s spent a day at DisneyWorld lugging a full-size DSLR around your neck and panicking about checking it on a locker for the big rides, knows how quickly that gets old.

 

You can find the DxO One camera currently on sale at our affiliate Amazon with free Prime shipping in time for Christmas! It’s also available at the Apple Store or find more info at the DxO One website. The company offers a  free 30-day return.

If you’re a beginner photographer, you can also take advantage of free tutorials fron DxO and even live chat support (Mon-Sat, 6 am – 7 pm PST) as you’re out shooting.

Thank you, DxO One, for providing CMT with a sample unit for review consideration

 

 

 

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