Sony's new Xperia Pro-I 5G smartphone crams in 1.0-type image sensor

Sony Xperia Pro-I.
PHOTO: Sony

Earlier on (Oct 26, 2021), Sony dropped an online keynote to introduce its new for-photographers 5G smartphone, the Sony Xperia Pro-I. 

What makes this mobile phone special is the image sensor inside - which Sony said is “ the same” 1.0-type Exmor RS sensor used in Sony’s RX100 VII premium compact camera.

PHOTO: Sony

Sony also said that the Xperia Pro-I was the world’s first phone to have a 1.0-type image sensor packing PDAF (phase detection autofocus), possibly because there are already at least two known phones that also have a 1.0-type camera sensor within: the 2014/2015 Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1, and the Japan-only Sharp Aquos R6 launched earlier this year.

If it wasn’t clear that this 5G handset isn’t for casuals, Sony added that the “I” in the new phone’s name represents imaging.

1.0-type sensor and all its features

PHOTO: Sony

The Japanese electronics firm piled on a ton of pro-grade imaging and videography features borrowed from Sony’s extensive experience in making such products to make the Xperia Pro-I stand out from the pack.

The phone has a dedicated Bionz X mobile imaging processor, and the sensor has 315 detection points for autofocusing (AF), covering 90 per cent of the frame. Also included are real-time Eye AF for human and animal subjects, real-time tracking, 20 FPS burst shooting (AF/AE), and the main lens uses a 24mm ZEISS Tessar T* Optics.

It’s further complemented with one 16mm and one 50mm lens, and a 3D indirect Time of Flight (iToF) sensor.

PHOTO: Sony

The Xperia Pro-I supports 12-bit RAW stills and manual controls through its proprietary Photography Pro app, while Cinematography Pro pulls features from Sony’s professional video camera technologies. New to the app bunch is Videography Pro, tailored for broadcasters, journalists, and vloggers who prioritise fast filming and easier controls.

PHOTO: Sony

Sweetening the deal is Sony’s inclusion of a dedicated shutter button using the same switch module as Sony’s RX100 compact cameras. It replicates the same tactile feedback for operation (half-press for AF, full-press for shutter release). Long-pressing the shutter button launches Photography Pro, even when the phone is in standby mode.

It’s still a 5G phone

PHOTO: Sony

Let’s not forget that the Xperia Pro-I is still a 5G-capable, 8.9mm-thick mobile handset despite all the RX100-like features built in.

The phone packs a 6.5-inch, 4K resolution HDR OLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate tuned for accurate colour reproduction. Inside is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 mobile chipset, making it a true 2021 flagship device.

In the audio department comes Dolby Atmos compatibility, a port for 3.5mm audio jack, along with support for 360 Reality Audio, 360 Spatial Sound, Hi-Res Audio, Hi-Res Audio Wireless via LDAC, and DSEE Ultimate.

It also packs IP65/68 water resistance, a microSD card slot (up to 1TB), Wi-Fi 6 support, a USB 3.2 Gen 2 port, and a 4,500mAh battery along with an included 30W fast-charger (XZQ-UC1) while using zero plastic packaging.

Interestingly, Sony did not mention wireless charging capabilities on the Xperia Pro-I at launch.

In short, the specs alone tell us that the Xperia Pro-I was not built on compromise, even if it’s a little late to the party.

Availability and pricing

PHOTO: Sony

Sony said that the Xperia Pro-I is slated to launch in Japan and “some regions” by the end of this year (2021), with other markets getting it in 2022. According to its press statement, the official retail price sits at €1,799 (S$3,340).

This article was first published in Hardware Zone.