Sony Xperia 1 II review: I shot an entire short film with this phone

Xperia 1 II overview: Sony packed this $1,200 telephone with digital camera options

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


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After 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 plenty like an iPhone 11 Professional or a Samsung Galaxy S20. Sony is after inventive varieties who need extra management over their images and movies. That is why the corporate packed the $1,200 (£1,099) 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 like most different Android flagship telephones powered by a Snapdragon 865 processor. It has a 6.5-inch 4K OLED display, 5G (exterior of the US) and on the again is a wide-angle essential 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. As an illustration, the telephoto lens has the full-frame equivalency of a 70mm lens — which means it is really a telephoto lens! (Usually, when corporations say their telephones have telephoto lenses, they’re actually someplace between 52 and 56mm.) There is a bodily shutter button on the telephone, which is sort of helpful. 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 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 digital camera than a telephone. This made me surprise 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

One of the simplest 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 in a 4-minute movie known 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 once I could not see the display. The Xperia 1 can also be small when in comparison with mirrorless cameras, and it permits me to place it in numerous areas 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 which means that the telephone can stand by itself… principally.

Not like different apps that supply video-centric controls, Cinema Professional has an in depth but approachable structure. Its minimal menus are very simple and all main settings can be found at a look. Issues like shutter angle, ISO and 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 primary 24mm digital camera. Decision and body charges prime out at 4K at 60 frames per second or HD at 120 fps. I ought to word that since Cinema Professional movies have a 2.39:1 facet ratio, it does not really report at full 4K. As an alternative, it’s a must to use the native Xperia digital camera app to seize true 4K 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.

When you’re filming open air, you want a impartial density filter as a way to preserve from getting overexposed movies. Because the aperture is mounted, the one approach to modify publicity is by altering the ISO and shutter angle. On a extremely shiny 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 60 fps (or HD 120 fps), which exposes every body shorter than filming at 24 fps. It is not splendid, however typically it could convey the publicity to a manageable place.

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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.


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-speed metadata for clips I already shot, even when it is solely out there within the venture file, could be one other useful gizmo. Including a histogram to the Cinema Professional app (as a substitute of simply the Picture Professional app), and extra instruments like a waveform and zebras would all be useful, too. 

I understand my wishlist really sounds just like the characteristic checklist of the third-party 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 completely different apps and a part of what I like concerning the former is that it is fairly easy. If I used Filmic Professional once I was a younger scrappy filmmaker I might be overwhelmed. Whereas Cinema Professional presents a stable place to get my ft moist and get what’s in my head captured as video.

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

After we take into consideration telephones that take nice images, such because the iPhone 11 Professional or Google Pixel 4, they stand out as a result of they will seize a second, course of it and optimize it to create a single image that appears as excellent as doable. After you faucet the shutter button, the telephone’s computational images does the remainder. For many individuals, that is all they ever need out of a telephone digital camera.

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 an everyday digital camera.

When you’re already into the Sony Alpha digital camera ecosystem, the Picture Professional app will instantly look acquainted, as a result of it basically 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 stage.

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


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The very best characteristic 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 nicely this works on the Xperia. 

This characteristic can also be presupposed to work on animals, which sounds enjoyable and it was one thing I used to be trying ahead to. Sadly, regardless of quite a few tries, I by no means bought 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 images are nice

Whether or not I used to be utilizing the default Xperia digital camera app or Picture Professional, I used to be capable of seize constantly good images with the Sony Xperia 1 II. Photos had a number of element, fantastic colours and correct focus.

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


James Phelan/CNET
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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
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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-light conditions, the Xperia 1 II produces images with low picture noise that look pure. Have a look beneath on the photograph of Cheddar. The kitchen has a mixture of heat and funky lighting, in addition to shiny areas and closely shadowed ones. Cheddar’s fur has fantastic element and his white fur highlights aren’t blown out.

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This indoor combined lighting photograph of Cheddar reveals off how nicely the Xperia 1 II can deal with medium-light environments.


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


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There may be not a devoted night time mode. Quite, the telephone can take low-light photographs like this with the primary digital camera app.


Patrick Holland/CNET

The one place I am disenchanted is with the selfie digital camera, which takes solely average-quality images. Picture high quality is an enormous 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 individuals may choose this, however I am not one.

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Magnificence mode made me appear and feel 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 digital camera and preloaded digital camera apps are instruments that made my pursuit of filmmaking and images really feel extra official 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. When you’re deep within the Sony Alpha digital camera ecosystem then the Xperia 1 II is unquestionably value contemplating, particularly if in case you have the funds. Sony has a preorder deal the place if you happen to purchase the telephone it comes bundled with a pair of Sony WF-1000XM3 wi-fi headphones that value usually $230. When you’re within the Xperia, I might undoubtedly reap the benefits 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 amazing 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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