Sony Xperia 1 II evaluation: For telephone filmmakers, these cameras can be onerous to beat

The tall slim squared-off exterior of the Sony Xperia 1 II hides a slew of filmmaking and images options for creatives.


Patrick Holland/CNET

After I instructed somebody in regards to the Sony Xperia 1 II, their first response was “Sony nonetheless makes telephones?!” Granted, this telephone is not aimed on the plenty like an iPhone 11 Professional or a Samsung Galaxy S20. Sony is after inventive sorts who need extra management over their pictures and movies. That is why the corporate packed the $1,200 Xperia with controls and instruments from its standard Alpha line of full-frame mirrorless cameras, and that is what I will be completely on this piece.

On paper, the Xperia 1 II looks as if most different Android flagship telephones powered by a Snapdragon 865 processor. It has a 6.5-inch 4K OLED display screen, 5G (exterior of the US) and on the again is a large angle foremost digicam, an ultrawide-angle digicam and a telephoto digicam — all of which have a 12-megapixel sensor. 

However there are issues that set this telephone aside. As an illustration, the telephoto lens has the full-frame equivalency of a 70mm lens — that means it is truly a telephoto lens! (Usually, when firms say their telephones have telephoto lenses, they’re actually someplace between 52 and 56mm.) There’s additionally a bodily shutter button on the telephone which is kind of useful in-use. There are additionally three preloaded apps that take full benefit of the digicam. One is the essential Xperia Android digicam app. The opposite two are Picture Professional and Cinema Professional, which offer you detailed controls over each facet of your telephone’s photograph and video seize.

To my delight these apps permit the Xperia 1 II to function extra like a digicam than a telephone. This made me surprise how good these cameras truly have been, particularly at video seize. To seek out out, I made a brief movie with the telephone and I used to be very impressed.

I made a movie with the Cinema Professional app

One of the best ways to speak about and check the Xperia 1 II’s video high quality and the Cinema Professional app was to undergo the method of creating a movie. So I wrote, shot and starred within the 4-minute movie referred to as I, Robber, which you’ll watch beneath. Each shot was captured utilizing the Xperia’s Cinema Professional app and I had a blast utilizing it.

Whereas taking pictures my movie, the bodily shutter button on the Xperia 1 II made it straightforward to document myself even after I could not see the display screen. The Xperia 1 can also be small when in comparison with mirrorless cameras, and it permits me to place it in several places for distinctive photographs and views. For instance, for one scene I taped the telephone to the within of a cupboard door.

The left aspect of the telephone has no buttons and is comparatively flat that means that the telephone can stand by itself… principally.

In contrast to different apps that supply video centric controls, Cinema Professional has an in depth but approachable format. Its minimal menus are very simple and all main settings can be found at a look. Issues like shutter angle, ISO, guide focusing are easy to regulate and you may automate a spotlight pull between two topics — which is such a pleasure to observe.

Movies are recorded in an H.265 codec with 10-bit coloration. 4K video out of the Cinema Professional app is sharp, particularly off the primary 24mm digicam. Decision and body charges prime out at 4K 60fps or HD at 120fps. I ought to be aware that since Cinema Professional movies have a 2.39:1 facet ratio, it would not truly document at full 4K UHD. As a substitute, it’s important to use the native Xperia digicam app to seize true UHD in a 16:9 facet ratio.

However Sony can add enhancements to the Xperia 1 II that might make it extra useful. For one factor, I want there was extra “professional,” within the Cinema Professional app. It might be nice to zoom in on the viewfinder to guide focus or have focus peaking. A real flat video profile could be good, too.

For those who’re filming outside, you want a impartial density filter with the intention to hold from getting overexposed movies. For the reason that aperture is mounted, the one option to modify publicity is by altering the ISO and shutter angle. On a very vibrant day, I usually bottomed out each the ISO and shutter angle and nonetheless had an overexposed picture. One hack I discovered was to shoot at 4K 60fps (or HD 120fps), which exposes every body shorter than filming at 24fps. It is not ideally suited, however typically it might carry the publicity to a manageable place.

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The bodily shutter button made filming myself for a brief movie straightforward. After urgent the button I used to be assured my efficiency was being recorded.


Patrick Holland/CNET

There are occasions I went to reshoot a scene and needed to guess what my settings have been for the unique take. Entry to ISO and shutter velocity metadata for clips I already shot, even when it’s only out there within the mission file, could be one other useful gizmo. Including a histogram to the Cinema Professional app (as an alternative of simply the Picture Professional app), and extra instruments like a waveform and zebras would all be useful, too. 

I notice my wishlist truly sounds just like the characteristic listing of the third get together video app Filmic Professional. Whereas added instruments to Cinema Professional could be nice, I do perceive that Cinema Professional and Filmic Professional are two essentially totally different apps and a part of what I like in regards to the former is that it is fairly easy. If I used Filmic Professional after I was a younger scrappy filmmaker I would be overwhelmed. Whereas Cinema Professional gives a stable place to get my toes moist and get what’s in my head captured as video.

Picture Professional app and Eye AF rework the Xperia 1 II right into a mirrorless digicam 

Once we take into consideration telephones that take nice pictures, just like the iPhone 11 Professional or Google Pixel 4, they stand out as a result of they’ll seize a second, course of it and optimize it to create a single image that appears as excellent as attainable. After you faucet the shutter button the telephone’s computational images chops does the remainder. For many individuals, that is all they ever need out of a telephone digicam.

However for individuals like me who need extra inventive management, the Xperia 1 II is an actual rattling deal with. I get entry to superior controls and might work together with them like a daily digicam.

In case you are already into the Sony Alpha digicam ecosystem the Picture Professional app will instantly look acquainted as a result of it primarily mimics a Sony Alpha digicam. There are controls for metering, focus, publicity compensation and extra. I can dial in shutter velocity and ISO and there is even an onscreen histogram and horizon degree.

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The Picture Professional app copies the onscreen controls and dials discovered on Sony’s Alpha line of mirrorless cameras.


James Phelan/CNET

One of the best characteristic is Eye AF which is an autofocus device borrowed from the $3,500 Sony A9 digicam. Eye AF can determine a face in your body after which lock in in your topic’s eye. It’s jaw-dropping how nicely this works on the Xperia. 

This characteristic can also be imagined to work on animals, which sounds enjoyable and it was one thing I used to be wanting ahead to. Sadly, regardless of quite a few tries, I by no means acquired the attention focus field to pop up for my roommate’s cat Cheddar. My video producer tried it on his canine Max and the inexperienced field did not pop up on his eyes both. I am working with Sony to determine precisely what is going on on.

Xperia 1 II pictures are nice

Whether or not I used to be utilizing the default Xperia digicam app or Picture Professional, I used to be in a position to seize persistently good pictures with the Sony Xperia 1 II. Photos had plenty of element, great colours and correct focus.

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This photograph of Sutro Tower has numerous element and does nicely balancing highlights within the clouds and shadows.


James Phelan/CNET
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The Xperia 1 II was in a position to seize this difficult photograph with fog in it. I actually love the colours.


James Phelan/CNET
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The ultrawide-angle digicam is a blast to make use of. There’s even a setting to maintain or take away distortion.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Even indoors and in medium and low gentle conditions, the Xperia 1 II produces pictures with low picture noise that look pure. Have a look beneath on the photograph of Cheddar the cat. The kitchen has a mixture of heat and funky lighting in addition to vibrant areas and closely shadowed ones. Cheddar’s fur has great element and his white fur highlights aren’t blown out.

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This indoor combined lighting photograph of Cheddar the cat exhibits off how nicely the Xperia 1 II can deal with medium gentle environments.


Patrick Holland/CNET
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This tree actually pushes the Sony Xperia 1 II’s dynamic vary to the boundaries.


Patrick Holland/CNET
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There’s not a devoted night time mode. Slightly, the telephone can take low-light photographs like this with the primary digicam app.


Patrick Holland/CNET

The one place I am dissatisfied is with the selfie digicam, which takes solely average-quality pictures. Picture high quality is an enormous step down in comparison with the rear digicam and there’s a magnificence mode that smooths the pores and skin and enlarges eyes to a degree that’s too excessive. Some individuals may favor this, however I am not one.

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Magnificence mode made me feel and appear like one other particular person.


Patrick Holland/CNET

The Xperia 1 II prices $1,200

In the end the Xperia 1 II’s triple-rear digicam and preloaded digicam apps are instruments that made my pursuit of filmmaking and images really feel extra reliable on a telephone than the LG V60 and even the iPhone 11 Professional.

However the telephone’s $1,200 price ticket is definitely not for everyone. In case you are deep within the Sony Alpha digicam ecosystem then the Xperia 1 II is unquestionably price contemplating, particularly if in case you have the funds. Sony has a preorder deal the place for those who purchase the telephone it comes bundled with a pair of Sony WF1000XM3 wi-fi headphones that price usually $230. In case you are within the Xperia, I would undoubtedly make the most of that.

As a journalist and scrappy quick filmmaker, the telephone prices an excessive amount of for me and I think about for lots of different individuals too. Nonetheless, utilizing this telephone was an ideal expertise and maybe Sony can port over these nice digicam methods into cheaper telephone fashions within the close to future.


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