Sony’s Xperia Pro-I Is a Ridiculous Camera That’s Also a Phone

Sony’s Xperia Pro-I Is a Ridiculous Camera That’s Also a Phone
Image: Sony

After leaks surfaced yesterday, Sony has officially announced its Xperia Pro-I, a smartphone with a wild camera — or a wild camera that’s also a smartphone, depending on how you look at it.

The Pro-I features the world’s first 1-inch camera sensor with PDAF in a phone. Due to their size constraints, putting big image sensors in phones is quite expensive, from both a cost and engineering perspective. Sony’s latest high-end camera phone is no exception, with a starting price of $US1,800 (A$2,400). The Xperia Pro-I (which, just to clarify, Sony says is a capital “I” and not a lower case “l” or the roman numeral for 1), comes with a variety of sophisticated camera features for those really into mobile photography or vlogging.

In addition to that huge 12-MP 1-inch sensor, which Sony says is the same sensor used in the RX100 VII, the Xperia-I’s main camera sensor also supports super-fast phase-detect autofocus with 315 AF points that cover 90% of the frame and 12-bit RAW shooting. And similar to Sony’s more expensive mirrorless cameras, the Xperia-I also supports real-time Eye AF and real-time tracking while shooting photos and videos, to help keep your subject sharp even as they move around.

Image: Sony Image: Sony

The other unusual feature Sony included on the Xperia-I is support for variable apertures that allow the phone’s main cam to switch between f/2.0 and f/4.0 with the touch of a button, something that Sony says should help increase dynamic range and improve bokeh (though I’m a little sceptical on the last claim). The last time we saw a phone with a variable aperture camera was on the Samsung Galaxy S9, and while there were some small benefits to being able to flip between physical f-stops, the overall impact was still rather subtle.

Alongside its main 24mm-equivalent camera, the Xperia-I also sports a 16mm ultra-wide cam and a 50mm telephoto cam, with a bonus 3D time-of-flight sensor to help with autofocus and depth sensing.

The Xperia-I's Vlog Monitor even comes with an accessory shoe for holding even more attachments. (Photo: Sony) The Xperia-I’s Vlog Monitor even comes with an accessory shoe for holding even more attachments. (Photo: Sony)

Sony also claims the Xperia Pro-I is the world’s first smartphone that supports 4K recording at 120 fps, while the phone’s three mics (two stereo mics and a third monaural mic next to the rear camera module) allow the Pro-I to capture high-quality audio while also filtering out annoying background noises. Sony even created a new Videography Pro mode that makes it easy to adjust your settings or check your levels, while Sony’s Cinematography Pro feature borrows eight pro-grade colours settings from Sony’s high-end Venice digital cinema cams.

The Xperia Pro-I is powered by a Snapdragon 888 processor with a healthy 12GB of RAM, 512GB of onboard storage, and a microSD card slot in case you need even more room for pics and videos. The Xperia-I also features a 6.5-inch 4K OLED display made from Gorilla Glass Victus, an IP 65/68 rating for dust and water resistance, a fingerprint sensor, and like all good Xperia phones, a dedicated shutter button on the side.

Image: Sony Image: Sony

But the coolest thing about the Xperia Pro-I might not be the phone itself, but its optional $US200 ($267) Vlog Monitor, which is a 3.5-inch LCD display that attaches to the back of the phone, so you can monitor your footage or better compose your shots, while still being able to record yourself with the Pro-I’s big main sensor. Sony says you can attach its GP-VPT2BT grip or other third-party grips so you can hit record without needing to flip the phone around, while the Vlog Monitor’s built-in 3.5mm audio jack and built-in accessory shoe make it easy to connect a wired mic or other add-ons.

Still, with a starting price of $US1,800 (A$2,400), the Xperia Pro-I is going to be a hard sell for all but the most hardcore mobile photo and video enthusiasts. But if you really want one, preorders start at 10 a.m. ET on Oct. 28, with official sales slated for sometime in December.


Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.