Inside the svelte understated body of the new Sony Xperia 1 IV phone is a telephoto camera lens with tiny elements that can freely move back and forth to zoom in and out. No other phone can do this. Last year’s Xperia 1 III had a similar lens, but those tiny lens elements were restricted to one of two positions. And as insanely innovative as the Xperia 1 III’s dual-telephoto lens was, in use it didn’t provide any real advantage over other phones like the Galaxy S22 Ultra that uses two separate telephoto cameras to achieve something similar.
The Xperia 1 IV is the world’s first phone to have a true optical zoom lens. And yet, most people would be surprised to learn that Sony still makes phones. If you’re a creative type, photographer, filmmaker, gamer or audiophile, Sony and its Xperia line of phones are after your heart, creativity and wallet. After all, the Sony Xperia 1 IV costs $1,600, which converts roughly to £1,295, AU$2,300, and makes the new phone one of the most expensive sold today.
The Xperia 1 IV represents an ideal that Sony has chased since 2019. The Tokyo-based company isn’t looking to compete with the mainstream phones like the iPhone 13, Samsung Galaxy S22 or Google Pixel 6 Pro. Instead, with the Xperia 1 IV, Sony has carved out its own corner of the sandbox and it turns out they’re making some impressive sand castles.
Let’s go back to that $1,600 price tag. Sticker shock aside, you get a phone that not only has a cutting edge zoom lens, but one with a 4K high-refresh rate display (which no other phone has aside from Sony), a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, a 5,000mAh battery, Gorilla Glass Victus as well as beloved Android features of yesteryear like a headphone jack, a slot for expandable storage and an LED notification light on the front.
For the majority of people (myself included) the Xperia 1 IV is out of their budget. For $1,600, I’m more inclined to buy a dedicated camera. But for a certain person who can afford the price, and who wants a phone that is both cutting edge and wonderfully steeped in the intricate process of photography and filmmaking, the Xperia 1 IV is waiting for you and all of your creative pursuits.
The Xperia 1 IV will be out in the US on September 1 and is available to preorder today. Sony has a limited time deal where you can buy an Xperia 1 IV and get a free pair of Sony WVF1000XM4 true wireless earbuds which have a $280 value. I wish Sony had offered to bundle the Xperia 1 IV with its shooting grip/remote controller and its tiny magnetic vlogging monitor that lets you film yourself using the rear cameras.
Sony Xperia 1 IV and the missing Music Pro app
Sony lent me a pre-production sample of the Xperia 1 IV. The software isn’t final and some features didn’t work fully or were completely absent. One missing app is Sony’s Music Pro app which can provide studio tuning for vocals. In a video Sony shared, a singer on a windy beach records her vocal track with the Xperia 1 IV and the Music Pro app.
Music Pro essentially applies a combination of noise reduction, deReveb and studio mic simulations to remove the noise from the wind and make her voice sound more present and full. I found the demo impressive.
Sadly, the new app wasn’t ready for me to try. Next to the cameras, Music Pro could be the biggest new feature on the Xperia 1 IV.
Sony Xperia 1 IV gets all new cameras
You could write a book with the number of details Sony shared about the cameras on the Xperia 1 IV. And the photography nerd in me loves that. But I’ll keep things concise.
All of the cameras on the Xperia 1 IV have new faster sensors meaning they can do multiple calculations and processing within fractions of a second. You can shoot bursts of 20 photos per second with auto exposure and autofocus enabled using any camera on the phone.
Rear cameras on the Xperia 1 IV
|Aperture||Focal length equivalent||OIS||Megapixels|
Let’s go back to that telephoto camera. Between 85mm and 125mm, or 3.5x – 5.2x magnification, it’s all optical zoom all of the time. There isn’t any digital zooming or cropping happening unless you zoom past 5.2x or are shooting between 1.1x and 3.4x magnification. Meaning if you can zoom optically, the image quality won’t degrade like it does with digital zoom.
I got to use the Xperia 1 IV for a week and a half and I was impressed with the new cameras. Take a look below at some of my favorite photos that I took with the Sony Xperia 1 IV.
The Xperia 1 IV vs. the iPhone 13 Pro, Google Pixel 6 Pro
The iPhone 13 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro are two of the best phones you can buy today for photography. Apple and Google use a combination of solid hardware and computational photography to make photos and videos look the best they can. Sony focuses more on the hardware to achieve great photos. The Xperia’s lack of computational magic gives the iPhone and Pixel the edge when comparing the phones.
Under good light, and even medium lighting, all three phones are capable of excellent photos. Look at the photos below that I took of a vase of flowers indoors. The photo from the iPhone looks the sharpest. But I love the way the Xperia captures the colors.
Below are some shots of motorcycles parked outdoors. The Xperia’s photo has the most contrast and the Pixel’s photo the least. The iPhone’s photo lands right in-between the two.
When things get dark where you can see the biggest difference between the phones. The Xperia 1 IV doesn’t have a night mode. It can take an OK low-light shot like the photo below of a cocktail in a dark bar.
But look at these photos of a street that I shot handheld. The photos from the iPhone and Pixel, which both used Night mode, look so much better. The Sony’s photo looks soft and the details are muddy. Notice all the noise reduction going on in the sky and with the telephone wires.
For video clips from the Xperia 1 IV including some that I compare with clips from the iPhone and Pixel check out the video below.
Photo Pro, Video Pro and Cinema Pro
The Xperia 1 IV has three apps focused on taking photos and videos: Photo Pro, Video Pro and Cinema Pro. Photo Pro mimics the interface of Sony’s line of Alpha mirrorless cameras. Cinema Pro is aimed at filmmakers and draws inspiration from Sony’s Venice line of cinema cameras.
Video Pro is a less fussy app to use for recording videos compared to the Cinema Pro app. Video Pro offers a bunch of manual controls but there’s an auto mode that leaves everything up the the Xperia. Video Pro is starting to become one of my favorite ways to capture video on a phone.
While image quality is extremely important, I do think these three apps help Sony standout compared to the iPhone, Pixel or Galaxy S22 Ultra.
Consider me impressed, but I’m reserving my judgement
I had the prototype Sony lent me for 10 days. And while that would be normally more than enough time to review the phone, the fact of the matter is that the early software I used was a little rough.
But if you want more of my impressions about the Sony Xperia 1 IV, check out my in-depth hands-on video.