Sony’s latest professional-grade smartphone, the Xperia Pro-I is the first to feature a 1-inch sensor. This is a long-awaited rationale for Sony fans. This is the first real example of the Japanese smartphone maker navigating its mobile range with the gravitas imagery it has with its camera division.

While the original Sony Xperia Pro was a very expensive external monitor with the right camera setup, the Pro-I is a high-end photography phone, confirming it as the best Sony phone to date. It has three cameras, a 16mm ultra wide-angle, a 24mm wide (which is supported by this huge sensor) and a 50mm portrait lens; all of its cameras have 12MP resolution sensors.

At $ 1,799 / £ 1,599, while not as expensive as the Xperia Pro $ 2,499 / £ 2,299, it’s still an expensive phone. Given that the Xperia 1 III’s periscope lens and wireless charging are missing, has Sony crippled its latest smartphone or can its main camera make it compelling to photographers?

Sony Xperia Pro-I design and display

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

Clearly a Sony phone, the Xperia Pro-I features the same long design, flat sides, and flat front and back we’ve come to expect from the Xperia 1 family. It also brings back the headphone jack, just like the Xperia 1 III. , and sports a USB-C port at the bottom.

The bezel is flat, yet textured, with a deep striation that envelops the entire phone, giving the phone a ribbed effect. Installed in the matt sandblasted aluminum frame of the Xperia Pro-I, it is very easy to keep in hand. There is a grip achieved without a rubberized finish which would compromise the finish.

With IP68 dust and water resistance and a Gorilla Glass Victure front and Gorilla Glass 6 back, it’s sturdy, and despite its giant camera sensor, it’s not too thick – 8.9mm thick – slightly thicker than the iPhone 13 Pro.

As for the camera part of the phone, its main camera is centrally aligned in the top quarter of the phone and vertically closed by the telephoto and ultra-wide cameras. It also sports the Zeiss branding, and there is a time-of-flight (ToF) camera in the mix too.

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

While the Xperia Pro’s chassis was plastic, the Xperia Pro-I is glass and metal, so it feels a lot richer. It’s also more compact, and its camera button is nothing short of a shutter release revelation.

On the right side of the phone is a dedicated old-fashioned two-stage trigger key. When we read what would be on the phone, we weren’t too surprised – Sony is the only brand that has latched onto a dedicated trigger on its flagships – but the Xperia Pro-I’s is better.

For starters, the trigger is big and textured, so it’s very easy to grope and control. Being in two steps, it is also intuitive for photographers, and a long press opens the camera app. If you want to launch the video app, there’s a handy shortcut button next to the shutter key that gets the job done.

As for the screen, it’s a 10-bit OLED with a refresh rate of 120Hz, with support for HDR and BT.2020 color space. Its 4K resolution gives it an unmatched pixel density of 643 pixels per inch, which is overkill, but the screen mostly operates at a virtual resolution of 1096 x 2560.

As for size, its screen is 6.5 inches, and with an aspect ratio of 21: 9, the Pro-I is long and narrow, making the entire phone easy to tie up. Related to Google pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, it’s classic and clean, and the fact that it doesn’t have a notch or a hole-punch camera is also refreshing. Instead, the bezels above and below the screen are a bit heavier to accommodate this 8MP front camera.

Sony Xperia Pro-I Camera Specifications

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

The Xperia Pro-I’s main camera has a massive 1-inch sensor that makes headlines – or does it?

Before we talk more about the Xperia Pro-I, let’s walk down the memory path and take a look at the great smartphone sensors of yore. The OG Nokia Pureview 808 is the first camera that comes to mind. This has a 41.3 megapixel 1 / 1.2 inch FSI CMOS image sensor and was released in 2012.

Equipped with a xenon flash, the 808 Pureview was a true pioneer of the smartphone, but its archaic operating system, Symbian, allowed it to never beat the Android and iOS competition that would follow. As for his photos, they were untouchable until computer photography took photo processing to new heights and produced more natural HDR shots and long exposure night modes.

What would the 2012 Pureview sensor look like with 2021 photo processing? Fast forward to 2021 and from a hardware standpoint the Xiaomi mi 11 ultra shares some similarities. Although it increases the resolution to 50MP, it features the same 1 / 1.2 sensor size. While Xiaomi’s camera phone isn’t perfect, its clustered pixels offer a combined pixel size of 2.8m, and the resulting depth of field it can capture is amazing.

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

If you think these two smartphones pale in comparison to the Xperia Pro-I, think again. The 1.0-type Exmore RS sensor’s 1-inch sensor on the Xperia Pro-I has been cropped to 12 MP to fit the back of a slim phone, making it actually smaller than an inch. However, it does offer a pixel size of 2.4 µm. This is still huge for smartphones, and although it lags behind the pixel-grouped pixel size created by the oversampled sensors of the Pureview 808 and Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, matching that of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and its 108MP sensor.

Sony doesn’t just pack a large sensor with its Xperia Pro-I, it also loads the lens with a variable aperture – f / 2 or f / 4, and it matches the main camera with two main lenses. well specified. additions – a 12MP, 1 / 2.5in, f / 2.2, 16mm ultra-wide lens and a 12MP, 1 / 2.9in, f / 2.4, 50mm portrait lens. Both the main camera and the portrait lens come with OIS, and what really helps these lenses make the cameras look like photography tools compared to the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra and the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra. ‘other non-Sony smartphones.

Sony also loads not one, but three camera apps. The basic camera app, Photo Pro, is aimed at photography and shares the same basic user interface as Sony’s compact cameras. It records video, however, there are also two separate video applications. The first, Cinema Pro was introduced over the original Sony Xperia 1, and the second, Video Pro is a new addition, with a more accessible user interface, reminiscent of mirrorless cameras rather than cinema cameras.

Sony Xperia Pro-I Specifications

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

What also helps the Sony Xperia Pro-I stand out alongside the Xperia Pro is its guts. The power for the experience is not a latest generation Snapdragon 865 chipset, but a 2021 quality Snapdragon 888. It also has a larger battery clocked at 4500mAh against 4000mAh on the original Pro, and the battery is charge faster – 30W versus 21W.

With all of this information, however, the proof isn’t in the specs, it’s in the pictures, and we’ve had some time to take a few with the Xperia Pro-I. Until we do a thorough analysis of the side-by-side photos taken on the Pro-I and its main competitors, you can see a few examples below and decide for yourself how it will evolve.

Sony Xperia Pro-I: sample images

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

Sony Xperia Pro-I: First verdict

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

First impressions are that the Xperia Pro-I takes over Sony’s natural image processing as found on the Xperia 1 III, but pairs it with a fundamentally better quality sensor. The Xperia Pro-I doesn’t try as hard to accentuate shadows, increase exposure in dark scenes, or elevate vibrancy and saturation as much as other phones. It also decreases sharpness, which is more noticeable when you zoom in on photos.

We’re spending a week with the Xperia Pro as we type, so we’ll update this review with more samples and comparisons with some of the top competitors including the Google Pixel 6 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, and Xiaomi Mi. 11 Ultra. Only then can we place the Xperia Pro-I on our best camera phones of the 2021 podium.

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