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

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

Patrick Holland/CNET

Once I instructed somebody concerning the Sony Xperia 1 II, their first response was “Sony nonetheless makes telephones?!” Granted, this telephone is not aimed on the lots like an iPhone 11 Professional or a Samsung Galaxy S20. Sony is after artistic sorts who need extra management over their photographs and movies. That is why the corporate packed the $1,200 Xperia with controls and instruments from its widespread Alpha line of full-frame mirrorless cameras, and that is what I will be taking a look at solely 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 (outdoors of the US) and on the again is a large angle primary digital camera, an ultrawide-angle digital camera and a telephoto digital camera — all of which have a 12-megapixel sensor. 

However there are issues that set this telephone aside. For example, the telephoto lens has the full-frame equivalency of a 70mm lens — which means it is really 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 helpful in-use. There are additionally three preloaded apps that take full benefit of the digital camera. One is the essential Xperia Android digital camera app. The opposite two are Photograph Professional and Cinema Professional, which provide you with detailed controls over each facet of your telephone’s photograph and video seize.

To my delight these apps enable the Xperia 1 II to function extra like a digital camera than a telephone. This made me marvel how good these cameras really have been, particularly at video seize. To search 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

The easiest way to speak about and check the Xperia 1 II’s video high quality and the Cinema Professional app was to undergo the method of constructing a movie. So I wrote, shot and starred within the 4-minute movie referred to as I, Robber, which you’ll be able to 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 simple to report myself even after I could not see the display screen. The Xperia 1 can be small when in comparison with mirrorless cameras, and it permits me to place it in several places for distinctive pictures and views. For instance, for one scene I taped the telephone to the within of a cupboard door.

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

Not like different apps that provide video centric controls, Cinema Professional has an in depth but approachable structure. Its minimal menus are very easy and all main settings can be found at a look. Issues like shutter angle, ISO, guide focusing are easy to regulate and you’ll 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 colour. 4K video out of the Cinema Professional app is sharp, particularly off the principle 24mm digital camera. Decision and body charges prime out at 4K 60fps or HD at 120fps. I ought to notice that since Cinema Professional movies have a 2.39:1 facet ratio, it does not really report at full 4K UHD. As a substitute, you need to use the native Xperia digital camera app to seize true UHD in a 16:9 facet ratio.

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

For those who’re filming outside, you want a impartial density filter as a way to preserve from getting overexposed movies. Because the aperture is fastened, the one strategy to regulate publicity is by altering the ISO and shutter angle. On a very shiny day, I usually bottomed out each the ISO and shutter angle and nonetheless had an overexposed picture. One hack I realized was to shoot at 4K 60fps (or HD 120fps), which exposes every body shorter than filming at 24fps. It is not splendid, however generally it will carry the publicity to a manageable place.


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

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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 pace metadata for clips I already shot, even when it’s only out there within the venture file, can be one other useful gizmo. Including a histogram to the Cinema Professional app (as an alternative of simply the Photograph Professional app), and extra instruments like a waveform and zebras would all be useful, too. 

I notice my wishlist really sounds just like the function listing of the third celebration video app Filmic Professional. Whereas added instruments to Cinema Professional can be nice, I do perceive that Cinema Professional and Filmic Professional are two essentially completely different apps and a part of what I like concerning 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 affords a stable place to get my ft moist and get what’s in my head captured as video.

Photograph Professional app and Eye AF remodel the Xperia 1 II right into a mirrorless digital camera 

Once we take into consideration telephones that take nice photographs, 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 potential. After you faucet the shutter button the telephone’s computational pictures chops does the remainder. For many individuals, that is all they ever need out of a telephone digital camera.

However for folks like me who need extra artistic 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 digital camera.

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


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

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One of the best function is Eye AF which is an autofocus software borrowed from the $3,500 Sony A9 digital camera. Eye AF can establish a face in your body after which lock in in your topic’s eye. It’s jaw-dropping how properly this works on the Xperia. 

This function can be alleged 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 received 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 photographs are nice

Whether or not I used to be utilizing the default Xperia digital camera app or Photograph Professional, I used to be capable of seize persistently good photographs with the Sony Xperia 1 II. Photos had plenty of element, great colours and correct focus.


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

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The Xperia 1 II was capable of seize this tough photograph with fog in it. I actually love the colours.

James Phelan/CNET

The ultrawide-angle digital camera 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 photographs 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 shiny areas and closely shadowed ones. Cheddar’s fur has great element and his white fur highlights aren’t blown out.


This indoor blended lighting photograph of Cheddar the cat reveals off how properly the Xperia 1 II can deal with medium gentle environments.

Patrick Holland/CNET

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

Patrick Holland/CNET

There’s not a devoted evening mode. Fairly, the telephone can take low-light pictures like this with the principle digital camera app.

Patrick Holland/CNET

The one place I am dissatisfied is with the selfie digital camera, which takes solely average-quality photographs. Picture high quality is a giant step down in comparison with the rear digital camera and there’s a magnificence mode that smooths the pores and skin and enlarges eyes to a degree that’s too excessive. Some folks may choose this, however I am not one.


Magnificence mode made me appear and feel like one other individual.

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The Xperia 1 II prices $1,200

In the end the Xperia 1 II’s triple-rear digital camera and preloaded digital camera apps are instruments that made my pursuit of filmmaking and pictures really feel extra reputable 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 digital camera ecosystem then the Xperia 1 II is unquestionably value contemplating, particularly you probably have the finances. Sony has a preorder deal the place in case you purchase the telephone it comes bundled with a pair of Sony WF1000XM3 wi-fi headphones that value usually $230. In case you are within the Xperia, I would undoubtedly benefit from that.

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

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