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Sony Xperia PRO-I Announced with 1-inch Camera Sensor, Eye AF and Object Tracking During Filming

October 26th, 2021 Jump to Comment Section 8
Sony Xperia PRO-I Announced with 1-inch Camera Sensor, Eye AF and Object Tracking During Filming

Sony has just announced their new smartphone with a big 1-inch camera sensor in it – the Sony Xperia PRO-I. Is this the new flagship phone?

Cameras within phones came a long way, right? Especially when it comes to professionals, a lot of companies tried to appeal to us with “DSLR-like” image quality. Motorola tried this with the Hasselblad module for their Moto Z cameras (spoiler, it was not good), RED with their Helium smartphone, and Xiaomi as well. A lot of people actually end up using iPhones due to their ease of use and high-quality images.

Sony has been working on smartphones, focussing on image quality as well. Back in 2019, we have reviewed the original Sony Xperia 1, wrote about its predecessor the Xperia 1 III, and of course, mentioned the Xperia PRO, as this device promised to do even more, just at a much higher price. Now comes the Sony Xperia PRO-I with a big 1-inch camera sensor in it, Eye Autofocus, and object tracking in video mode. Before continuing, just to clarify: the Xperia PRO-I is targeting a different group of users and therefore, HDMI input can not be found. Now that this is out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the new phone.

1-Inch sensor. Credit: Sony

Real bokeh on a smartphone

Sony has stepped it up a notch: with their new Sony Xperia PRO-I, there’s now a phone with a built-in 1-inch sensor WITH Phase Detection Autofocus. According to Sony, this is a first within smartphones (most smartphones are equipped with much smaller sensors – iPhone 12 Pro: 0.39 inch, iPhone 13 Pro: 0.52 inch, Huawei P40: 0.78 inch, for example). True, the Sharp Aquos R6 and its identical sibling the LEITZ PHONE 1 were there before with a 1-inch sensor size, yet WITHOUT the Phase Detection Autofocus capability.

The sensor used in the PRO-I is taken from the Sony RX100 VII, which already is a compact, capable camera. The same BIONZ-X engine is now to be found in the Xperia PRO-I, for fast image capture and processing.

Shallow depth of field was always something smartphones weren’t good at. Some manufacturers tried to compensate by using AI-driven bokeh filters to create the feeling of bigger sensors – with limited success (if you are a proud owner of the new iPhone 13 Pro and using “Cinematic Mode”, let us know what you think about its AI-driven bokeh in video mode).

Sony on the other hand chose the “optical way”, having a sensor this big and a Zeiss Tessar 24mm F2.0 lens, so real and pleasing bokeh should be doable.

This phone’s camera could also potentially shine while shooting at night, as big sensors usually produce much cleaner images in low-light.

If you decide you want to reduce the amount of light coming in, you can step the aperture down to F4.0 on the 24mm lens (only).

All lenses on the back of the camera. Credit: Sony

Sony additionally added two more lenses, 16mm and a 50mm, that use much smaller sensors. An additional 3D iToF sensor supports the autofocus with fast distance measurements.

Autofocus should be really good with 315 phase-detection AF points, real-time eye AF and more, which trickled down from previous Sony cameras.

4K 120fps, three microphones and more video goodness

This is a video-focused site, so what can we expect in these terms?

The new phone will be able to shoot 4K in up to 120fps, which according to Sony, has not been seen before in a smartphone. Optical SteadyShot with FlawlessEye built-in for smooth camera movement is also available.

Audio-wise, in addition to the stereo microphones, there is a “monaural” built-in one next to the main camera, enabling the user to focus on recording speech clearly while other sounds remain in the background.

Compared to their previous models, Sony seems to improve the camera user interface for easy and fast operation. Next to the familiar “Cinematography Pro” mode, there now is a “Videography Pro” mode for “quick and easy video recording and vlogging. According to Sony, users can intuitively and accurately adjust settings such as focus, exposure, and white balance. In addition, the Xperia PRO-I adopts a high-precision Level meter that has been calibrated one-by-one at the factory.

The dedicated shutter and shortcut buttons. Credit: Sony

There is a dedicated shutter button, which also has a half-press focus function. Long pressing the button opens the camera app, even if the display is off. Another shortcut key can be user-defined and used for e.g. instantly starting to record a video.

What hasn’t changed (unfortunately), are the previously available “8 looks” (so, still no S-Log picture profile), and the codec/bit rate. To our understanding, those have stayed and did not improve.

Vlogging accessory for Sony Xperia PRO-I

An optional addition for the new phone is the vlog monitor. It’s a 720p 3.5″ display that gets magnetically mounted on a holder behind the phone. With the accessory attached, you can attach a 3.5mm jack microphone to your system on the shoe mount on the top of the holder. There is also an optional Bluetooth shooting grip for controlling the phone without touching it.

A compact vlogging (or live streaming) setup? Credit: Sony
New for Xperia PRO-I, Vlogging accessories. Credit: Sony

When it comes to photos, the phone doesn’t lack specs, either. Photos with up to 12-bit RAW and 20fps photo bursts with autofocus. Even though they use the 20.1MP Sony RX100 VII Sensor, the photo resolution is claimed to be only 12MP.

On the consumer side of things, it also looks good. A 6.5″ 4K HDR OLED 120Hz display with “professional-level colour reproduction” ensures nicely reproduced images. The screen can also be adjusted to either monitor or print colors. It includes Dolby Atmos for immersive audio, 360 Reality, 360 spatial sound AND an actual 3.5mm audio jack.

On the phone side of things

As expected from their latest offering, Sony equipped the new Xperia PRO-I with a Snapdragon 888 processor with 5G, a 4500mAh battery (non-removable, of course), 12GB RAM, 512GB internal storage, and a micro SDXC slot accepting up to 1TB cards. The USB 3.2 Gen 2 port supports fast data transfer. As it has become kind of the norm, this phone is IP65/68 rated (30min underwater in 1.5m depth).

Sony Xperia PRO-I Phone. Credit: Sony

Despite the big sensor, it’s only marginally thicker than an iPhone 13 (7.65mm) at 8.9mm.

As a side-fact: to achieve Sony’s “Green Management 2025” goal, no plastic is being used in the packaging for this phone.

Sony Xperia PRO-I Pricing and Availability

The phone will be available in early December with an MSRP of €1,799. The Vlog Monitor will cost €199.

Of course, this is not cheap, especially when comparing it with other flagship phones, but if you look at it as a professional tool for videography, the price might be justified, depending on the type of work you do and your style of shooting. If portability and fast workflows are priorities, this could fit your use case.

Can this phone shine? Maybe, especially when it comes to social media, where a professional-grade camera might make the workflow worse, not better. But I’ll reserve my final opinion till the time we get to put this device through its paces, hopefully soon.

You can find more information about the phone on Sony’s product page: Sony

What do you think? Would you consider purchasing such a phone for yourself? Let us know in the comments.

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