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Sony Xperia Pro-I review: a phone designed for photographers

Eric Chan / Engadget

Sony cameras dominate the consumer and professional markets. Most of the cameras themselves and CMOS cameras used in mobile phones are produced by them. Therefore, Sony is not afraid of the trend that the camera market will be gradually replaced by smartphones. But even with the advantage of being close to the water, the shooting performance on Sony’s own mobile phone has not been optimistic, which is really incomprehensible. Well, under the strategy of One Sony, the technology of the Alpha camera department has been continuously instilled into Xperia mobile phones in recent years. In the latest move, it is more straightforward to transplant the CMOS of the black card small camera RX100 VII and bring Xperia Pro-I , The first smartphone with PDAF function and 1 inch CMOS.

Such a strong cooperation should be worthy of everyone’s expectations, but after the finished product came out, it attracted a lot of attention. So has Xperia Pro-I become a model for mobile phone products in camera development? Or is it thunder and rain again? The editor also came to try it out for everyone.

Appearance

Sony Xperia Pro-I review

Eric Chan / Engadget

Xperia Pro-I belongs to the Pro series for professionals, so the design style is more robust than the consumer-oriented Xperia 1 series. In addition to the all-black color scheme, the middle frame has also become a little thicker to add some pits that can increase the holding stability and heat dissipation. So even if the Pro-I’s screen is the same 6.5-inch 21:9 4K HDR OLED 120Hz refresh rate display as the Xperia 1 III, the grip feel is completely different-it has a more presence, wider feel, and practical It is also 30g heavier (211g vs 186g), so comparing the relatively thin and slender feel of the Xperia 1 III has become a very obvious and interesting comparison.

Sony Xperia Pro-I review

Eric Chan / Engadget

In addition to the difference in size, Xperia Pro-I also introduces some of the characteristics of a “camera”, including a hanging hole, a larger shutter button, and a custom shortcut key, making this phone closer in operability Some cameras. Of course, the camera design on the back of the camera is different. The strip-shaped camera module returns to the center position. The 24mm wide-angle camera with 1 inch CMOS is particularly conspicuous in the middle, and the 16mm ultra-wide-angle and 50mm telephoto cameras are also prominent. Yes, as I said in the hands-on game before, Xperia Pro-I sacrifices a 70mm periscope camera due to the size limitation. However, in the previous Xperia 1 III evaluation, the editor did not feel particularly easy to use, so the price Not big.

Although the USB-C port on the bottom of the machine looks ordinary, Sony has ingeniously upgraded to the USB 3.2 Gen 2 interface, which transfers data at a high speed of 10Gbps close to Thunderbolt 4, which is convenient for users to instantly return video works to on the computer. Of course, this also requires everyone’s computer and cables to support it, but photographers who often deal with large files probably already have relevant tools.

Shoot

Sony Xperia Pro-I review

Eric Chan / Engadget

The selling point of Xperia Pro-I is its camera, so this time the evaluation will also go directly to the photographing part. In terms of specifications, Sony emphasizes that it is directly in this phone, using the 1 inch Exmor RS CMOS from the Black Card 7 / RX100 VII, with a large 2.4μm pixel, and the focus is on the introduction of the phase detection autofocus PDAF capability . Although the camera of the mobile phone has a variety of advanced focusing systems, when it comes to the larger 1-inch CMOS, everything has been overthrown, so Sony can apply existing technology, which is really the best interpretation near the water.

Although looking at the application of 1-inch CMOS on mobile phones alone, Sony is not the first person, but they are the one that controls the overall thickness the best, only 8.9mm. The Sharp Aquos R6, which was released a few months earlier than Sony, is also equipped with a large 1-inch CMOS, but the thickness of the body is still 9.5mm after deducting the protrusion of the camera, and the weight is also 207g. If you look a little farther, the CM1 launched by Panasonic in 2015 is even more amazing 21.1mm / 203g. So Xperia Pro-I can be said to be more able to maintain a good figure.

Sony Xperia Pro-I review

Eric Chan / Engadget

Of course, if you compare it with other 1-inch CMOS phones, you will already know that the effective pixel 12MP of Sony Xperia Pro-I is much lower than other manufacturers, even the original 20MP of RX100 VII. This part of Sony has confirmed on other occasions, they only use 60% of the area of ​​the entire CMOS. Is this still a 1-inch model? Some will question Sony’s approach, but they also emphasize that this is the result of controlling the phone size and image quality. If you have friends with the lens changer, this situation is actually similar to inserting an APS-C lens on a full-frame model. The image quality comes out through the CMOS, and the operation is also on that body. So everyone will argue that this is the work of the FF camera? Of course, the use of APS-C lens in FF lens changer will cause problems such as black angle and focal length, which Xperia Pro-I will not have.

What’s interesting is that Sony suddenly introduced a dual-aperture design to the main camera of Xperia Pro-I. This was a feature that appeared on the Samsung Galaxy S9+ / S10+ a few years ago, but here is a relatively small f/2.0 and f/4.0 Two aperture options. This feature was actually quite practical on Samsung mobile phones back then, because the background of small CMOS is too blurred and the image circle is too small, which will make the close-up image blurry, so it can be achieved by using a smaller aperture. Help make imaging more realistic. As for the dual aperture on the Sony Xperia Pro-I… Maybe it is to increase the handling closer to the camera. Because I didn’t find the background of the photo to be excessively blurred, and the degree of softening was quite natural, I didn’t even switch the aperture value deliberately. If you are interested in checking and comparing, you can go back and play with the article.

So arguing is useless, let’s look at the imaging more practical. After all, there is still a large CMOS on the hardware, and the pixel points are larger than those commonly used in mobile phones, so Xperia Pro-I can directly benefit from shooting in low-light environments. The editor shot their lighting in a dimly lit restaurant. Only ISO 800 was used, but the outline of the object was clearly restored, and the noise problem was not too big. In another photo of the fried chicken tower, you can see that the fried chicken has a clear three-dimensional effect, and it will not be flat due to low exposure. Then there are a bunch of photos of cats hiding in the dark. Xperia Pro-I can capture clear hair well, and the exposure has not been violently elevated, which can better retain the feeling of the scene. On the whole, compared with the general smartphone shooting experience, Xperia Pro-I’s orientation is closer to the camera’s “preservation”, rather than using algorithms to compensate for the weaknesses of the mobile phone camera itself. So if you want to produce beautiful, exaggerated, toned online photos, this phone is not your favorite, but friends who are used to using a camera for photography will find it very familiar.

Sony Xperia Pro-I review

Eric Chan / Engadget

Sony has recently been very fond of designing new apps for cameras. After Photo Pro successfully replaced the native camera app, they created a video recording app called Video Pro. Functionally, it is similar to the Cinema Pro that was pre-loaded on the Xperia 1 series of phones a few years ago. It is also designed in a more specialized orientation, but the interface is significantly simplified! Except that the parameters will still be displayed, only the focus ruler and zoom lever are kept on the main interface. It is more suitable for ordinary people to use the recording tools that are closer to the general. However, Photo Pro actually has a recording function, so three different native recording tools are pre-loaded in a mobile phone… Sony just likes to repeat and repeat.

Xperia Pro-I video app comparison

In view of the fact that the RX series is also developing in the direction of vlog to some extent, such as the new ZV series, Xperia Pro-I, which now uses the same CMOS, will naturally follow up. The first part is that Sony has developed an external screen accessory for Xperia Pro-I, so that users can make better use of this 1-inch CMOS wide-angle camera for self-photographing. Unfortunately, this review was not available at the same time. You can Refer to our hands-on play article. The second part is that Sony finally added a microphone for vocal reception to the back of the Xperia Pro-I, so that it can increase the audio performance of the vlog. However, this approach is not new. Many mobile phones from other manufacturers have organic back microphone designs, but Sony has found a grand-sounding use to package them. But if the radio quality is really required, then of course it is to make good use of the 3.5mm headphone jack still left on the Xperia phone to connect a high-performance wireless or pointing microphone!

Summarize

Sony Xperia Pro-I review

Eric Chan / Engadget

Regarding this Sony Xperia Pro-I, everyone’s first and only curiosity about it is the so-called 1-inch CMOS, because without this part, it is actually just an Xperia 1 phone. In terms of specifications, Sony has repeatedly emphasized that it uses a 1-inch CMOS equivalent to the RX100 VII. This is an indisputable fact. But on the other side, the Xperia Pro-I camera did not fully use this piece of CMOS, and only used about 60% of the area, which is also officially confirmed. So is Xperia Pro-I still a smartphone with 1 inch CMOS? This may be a philosophical issue, a product description issue, a consumer expectation management issue, and a marketing method issue at the same time.

Anyway, based on the performance of Sony Xperia Pro-I alone, its shooting ability is obviously improved, especially the weak low-light photography of Sony mobile phones in the past, but it has also changed because of the substantial increase in pixel size. It’s finally qualified. Of course, if you insist on comparing apples with apples, and bananas with bananas, you have to find out where you can get Sharp and Panasonic mobile phones (but it is said that the performance is not influential). However, if the comparison is based on shooting imaging and user experience, the editor thinks that Xperia Pro-I is indeed a smart phone that makes photographers very familiar and comfortable to use.

For some friends who will choose between Xperia 1 III and Xperia Pro-I, the editor will recommend buying new ones, or buying old ones with discounts. Because in the part of the smart phone, the two models are exactly the same, the only difference is the camera and color matching. In addition to photography enthusiasts who really want to have the taste of Alpha cameras on their phones, or creators who hope to start with vlog screen accessories, most people will probably look to the money more, and the Xperia will be launched earlier. 1 III Naturally, there is a greater chance of getting a discount.

What is intriguing is that Sony, as a manufacturer of 1-inch CMOS, has also come to get a mobile phone of this kind. Is it to be used as a demonstration, so that 1-inch CMOS can have a new way out? It seems that everyone can also expect that more smart phones will be equipped with larger format CMOS, which will further erode the small camera market. And the final winner was Sony.

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