Sony has revealed its latest premium camera phone offering: the Xperia PRO-I (‘I’ for ‘Imaging’). Positioned alongside the flagship Xperia PRO and above the Xperia 1 III, it’s designed to be a more conventional flagship device than the existing, rather more niche Xperia PRO.
PRO-I combines many of the PRO’s professional-grade features with an even more impressive camera set-up, and for a lower price. ‘Lower’, however, translates to £1,599, which though significantly less than the eye-wateringly expensive PRO, is still a huge outlay and makes the likes of a 512GB iPhone 13 Pro Max look almost a bargain!
Arguably the centrepiece of the Xperia PRO-I is its new 1-inch Exmor RS sensor used for the primary rear-facing camera, apparently taken from the RX100 VII compact camera. Sony is claiming this to be the “the World’s First Smartphone to Include a 1.0-type image Sensor with Phase Detection Autofocus”. Sony can’t quite claim the title of simply being the first to use a 1-inch sensor in a phone, as Sharp already managed that feat with its Aquos R6.
This 24mm-equivlaent camera boasts Zeiss Tessar Optics with an f/2.0 max aperture, but ‘only’ a 12-megapixel resolution. This does however mean each pixel is exceptionally large for a phone camera, at 2.4µm. Consequently Sony is claiming exceptional low light performance, along with huge dynamic range, helped by the phone’s ability to shoot in 12-bit RAW. Sony is using its BIONZ X for mobile image processor in the Xperia PRO-I, which is said to deliver “unprecedented speed and improved image quality in a wide range of scenes”.
The other two rear-facing cameras in the PRO-I are a 16mm ultrawide f/2.2 module, and a 50mm f/2.4 telephoto camera, giving an equivalent 2x ‘zoom’. Both cameras shoot at 12MP, so all three rear-facing cameras will output images of the same image size. Naturally, the image sensors used for the ultrawide and telephoto cameras are of a much smaller size than the 1-inch primary camera, so don’t expect image quality to be the same across all three cameras.
Pro-grade video capabilities
Video has long been a key focus of Sony’s high-end Xperia offerings, and the PRO-I is no exception. Sony claims this is the “world’s first smartphone to enable the user to shoot high quality video in 4K 120fps”, allowing slow-motion video at up to 5x. Optical SteadyShot with FlawlessEye helps ensure smooth and reliable object tracking during video shooting.
The Xperia PRO-I also includes Sony’s new Videography Pro feature which groups creative settings in a single location. Users can intuitively and accurately adjust settings such as focus, exposure and white balance even while shooting a movie, to fit to the shooting environment. In addition, Xperia PRO-I adopts a high-precision Level meter that has been individually calibrated at the factory. By assigning the “Videography Pro” application to the “shortcut key” on the side of the body, it’s possible to start shooting video immediately like a dedicated camera. You can also assign other applications or features to the shortcut key.
For filmmaking, the Cinematography Pro feature takes its inspiration from Sony’s professional video camera technology to easily create a cinematic look with eight different colour settings inspired by Sony’s VENICE digital cinema camera, along with a 21:9 video aspect ratio.
Sony has designed the Xperia PRO-I firmly with vlogging in mind. It can be connected directly to the new Vlog Monitor accessory to allow you to record using the rear-facing camera while still maintaining a visible video preview when the main phone screen is facing away from you. This 16:9 secondary add-on display is a 3.5-inch LCD monitor with a 1280 x 720 resolution, housed in a metal holder. It features an easy magnetic attachment system, as well as a 3.5mm 3-pole microphone jack which enables the connection of an external microphone, mounted on the accessory shoe on the top of the screen holder.
Display, exterior and other hardware
As you’d expect for a premium phone at this price point, Sony has equipped the Xperia PRO-I with a suitably high-end display. The 6.5” 4K HDR OLED display can run at a silky-smooth 120Hz refresh rate and it’s capable of 240Hz motion blur reduction so that fast-moving objects are rendered clearly for a smoother gaming experience.
Despite packing such a huge primary image sensor, the Xperia PRO-I is just 8.9mm thick, while being 166mm long and 72mm wide. Though undeniably thin, the ridged edges of the handset should help make the PRO-I easier to hold than many other flagship camera phones, while the long-travel physical shutter release button is designed to give a more ergonomic camera shooting experience. The PRO-I is water and dust resistant with an IP65/68 rating, and its display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass Victus.
Pricing and availability
The Sony Xperia PRO-I will be available in early December, priced at $1,800 / £1,599. The optional Vlog Monitor will be available for $200 / £169.