The Xperia Pro-I is a game changer. Sony's new phone camera sports a 1 inch sensor and all sorts of great tech that will take phone photography to a whole new level. In this post I'm going to break down why it's such a game changer and what all of this stuff means to the average consumer who just wants to take really nice photos with their phone.
Sony's isn't the first phone to ship with a 1 inch camera sensor. Leica's Leitz Phone 1 was announced earlier this year. It also sports a 1 inch camera sensor. However the Xperia Pro-I is packed with a lot of other features and tech that take it to a whole other level. Does this point to a phone camera arms race? I hope so as that would great news for phone photographers, vloggers, and the average consumer. Bigger sensors mean better photos and with phone cameras dominating the consumer camera market better cameras are absolutely a good thing.
Specifications and Features
Let's talk about the specifications and features in Sony's new phone camera. Then I'll break down how they help phone photographers and the average phone owner. Sony's Xperia Pro-I not only has a 1 inch sensor but it also features beautiful glass from Carl Zeiss. Like Leica's Leitz Phone 1 Sony recognizes that a giant phone camera sensor needs an appropriately sharp lens. Sony doesn't stop there even as Leica seems to.
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Sony has added a mechanical adjustable aperture allowing you to stop down or open up controlling your depth of field and the amount of light allowed in mechanically rather than relying on digital trickery (that often fails) like what the iPhone does in portrait mode. If you care about bokeh then you're going to love this phone. While there are only two stops that functionally doubles the amount of control you have over your exposure from all other phone cameras which have fixed apertures.
The sensor is engineered for great low-light photography. This is very important for two reasons. One the flash on phone cameras is generally terrible (and technically not actually even really a flash in the traditional sense of the word) and because everyone, especially the average consumer ends up taking photos when there isn't enough light. Sony's done some incredible stuff for low-light photography here. I won't get into the technical details which you can read on their website but it all means less noise, a higher dynamic range, and better looking low-light photographs.
I'll again avoid getting into overly technical stuff here because it's written about elsewhere but the advanced autofocus that the Sony Xperia Pro-I includes is leaps and bounds beyond what Leica or any other currently available camera phone has. As a still photographer these features might not seem that advanced but if you're a vlogger or shoot video you will really notice how much better Sony's autofocus system is.
I'm a still photographer so I don't want to get into video features too much but if you're a vlogger or into shooting video on your phone be sure to check out the incredible features that the Xperia Pro-I has when it comes to video. This is a camera built for vlogging. For more on this read Tech Radar's article about it. Also know there are a bunch of accessories including a plug and play monitor available for this phone. Also it has stereo microphones and face/eye tracking that makes it an absolute dream phone if video is your thing. Even if video isn't your thing, the average consumer will appriciate a camera that will track their cat or their grandkid's erratic movements.
Need For Speed
Thanks to the big aperture and wide lenses if you've got a need for speed you'll find it here. Keeping up with phone photographers and videographers Sony has also added fast capture capabilities that should prevent rolling shutter issues that even some large mirrorless camera systems struggle with. If you're looking to take photos of action, people, animals, or objects in motion or to drag your shutter Sony is promising to give you photos without the oblong and funky issues that the average iPhone or Android user suffers from.
What It All Means
If you're still wondering what it all means and if you should shell out nearly $2k USD on this phone then let me try to clear some of that up for you. The truth is this isn't a phone for the average user. If you're older and love your iPhone and how easy it is to use please stick with Apple. While this shouldn't be a hard phone or camera to use it also probably won't provide that much more for you in the way of photography to make it worth it. If you're serious about the photos you do take then by all means this camera should be in your wish-list.
Twice The Light Control
The adjustable aperture will give you twice as much control over your photos when compared to a phone without one. That said, it only has two aperture choices which I find annoying as they could have provided at least 3 or 4. If you're going to add a mechanical aperture why not give it more stops so photographers have even more control over their exposure?
Great Low Light Features
The low light features are in fact impressive but without a doubt the average consumer will still find areas that are too dark to take good photos in. Still if you take a lot of photos at night, inside, or do video or vlogging after dark or inside this camera could make your videos look a whole lot better. The fact that it comes with a headphone jack and not just a USB-C or HDMI is big news because you can add lights, mics, monitors, etc. which can really make your nighttime video shooting come alive.
The autofocus is likewise a great advance that everyone will benefit from but of course those who will benefit the most are people who vlog or do other phone video shoots. This all makes this phone ideal for vloggers. After all if you're a serious still photographer you'll want a bigger camera with interchangeable lenses but if you've got money to spare maybe you'll make the switch from your iPhone to this Sony, especially if you're already a Sony mirrorless camera owner and want to have some brand consistency or something.
Who Is It For
So if you're still asking who is it for then the answer is probably not for you. On the other hand, if you're really excited by all of these specifications and features and you know that Sony has introduced a real game changer of a phone camera here then you're the target audience for sure. If you're a vlogger, someone who needs the versatility and compact size that a phone offers but want to take great photos or shoot great video then this might be the phone for you.
As for the rest of us, myself included, I'm really excited about this phone because it means my Samsung and your iPhone cameras are likely to get better in order to not lose market-share to Sony. That makes the Xperia Pro-I a game changing camera for all of us.
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