Sony unveils camera smartphone with huge one-inch sensor

A lack of space poses challenges for smartphone manufacturers when it comes to building the camera. Most manufacturers try to master these with software tricks. Sony is now taking a different approach.

Is it a smartphone or a camera? The answer is both. Sony has introduced the Xperia Pro-I, a smartphone that uses a very large one-inch sensor for the main camera with variable aperture (f/2.0 and f/4.0). Nevertheless, the smartphone is only 8.9 millimeters thick and remains sufficiently light at 211 grams.

Smartphone with professional camera

The sensor otherwise does its duty in Sony’s RX100 VII vlogging camera and has been adapted for smartphone use: Sony has reduced the resolution from 20 to 12 megapixels. In return, the individual pixels are quite large with 2.4 micrometers, which promises advantages in low light. The main camera is supported by an ultra-wide-angle camera and a telephoto camera with a dual optical zoom, both of which also have a resolution of 12 MP.

Xperia Pro-I: Sony redefines the camera smartphone
A grippy metal frame and a large, grooved shutter button should convey camera qualities. Photo: dpa picture alliance

Photographers will be happy about the physical shutter button as well as the possibility to shoot photos in 12-bit RAW format. The phase detection autofocus (PDAF) with 315 measuring points reportedly works with software from Sony’s large Alpha cameras and is supported by a time-of-flight sensor.

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Xperia Pro-I as a film camera

Those who film will be more interested in the Xperia Pro-I’s ability to record 4K videos at up to 120 frames per second (FPS). That is twice as fast as on the video pro iPhone 13 Pro Max. It was only recently that expensive, professional film cameras even gained the ability to shoot in 4K with that many FPS. There is also a dedicated physical button on the case frame for video recording. What’s also special is the professional camera software that Sony has included with the Xperia Pro-I delivered. It gives manual control over almost all settings, such as manual focus and variable aperture. It also enables real-time eye tracking for people and animals.

The 6.5-inch OLED display in Xperia’s signature 21:9 cinema format offers 4K resolution (3840 by 1644 pixels), HDR support and 120 hertz refresh rate.┬áThe combination of 4K resolution and 120 hertz is the first of its kind in a smartphone. Sony also offers a Vlog monitor (199 Euros) for the smartphone’s back as an accessory, which can be attached to the casing’s bezel and has a mount for a tripod or Bluetooth handle. A 3.5 mm jack is also available, which filmmakers can use to connect external microphones.

Xperia Pro-I: Sony redefines the camera smartphone
A man’s handbag: If you have spent 1799 Euros for the Sony Xperia Pro-I, you will use the frame eyelet including the safety wrist strap as much as possible. Photo: dpa picture alliance

Powerful image processor

The Xperia Pro-I uses Sony’s own Bionz-X image processor, which is usually found in professional cameras. The smartphone also has other high-end hardware: Qualcomm’s 5G-capable Snapdragon 888, which has 12 gigabytes (GB) of working memory (RAM). There is 512 GB of storage available for photos, videos and so on. This is expandable with micro-SD cards up to a terabyte (TB) size.

As usual for Xperia smartphones, the Pro-I also has an IP rating. In this case, IP65 and IP68, which means that it is not only protected against dust and splashing water, but also against submersion. There is also an eyelet for a carrying strap on the casing’s grippy metal frame. Because if the smartphone lands on the floor, it would be a small drama considering Sony’s called price of 1799 Euros (from December).

With material from dpa