Sony packs 1-inch CMOS image sensor into latest Xperia smartphone

As we regularly see, today’s smartphone cameras are capable of taking amazing photos, even though their image sensors can’t match those of DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Now Sony is closing the gap by packing a 1-inch Exmor sensor into the upcoming Xperia Pro-I handset.

Essentially, the main camera of the three-camera array uses a modified version of the 1-inch, 20-megapixel stacked Exmor RS CMOS sensor from Sony’s RX100 VII compact camera. But the company sacrificed some of the available sensor area when optimizing it for smartphone use, as the output is limited to 12MP.

As with 2019’s RX100 VII camera, the sensor works with a Bionz X processing engine and offers 315 high-speed phase-detection autofocus points covering 90% of the frame, up to 20fps with autofocus and autoexposure, 12-bit RAW shooting capabilities, “outstanding low-light performance” and 4K video up to 120fps (a smartphone first, Sony says). Real-time Eye AF and real-time subject tracking are also available for stills and video, and the 24mm Zeiss Tessar dual-aperture optics are up top.

Of course, the Pro-I isn’t the first smartphone we’ve seen to use a 1-inch type image sensor. We got acquainted with Panasonic’s chunky CM1 back in 2015, Sharp launched the Aquos R6 earlier this year, and Leica used that handset as a model for the Leitz Phone 1 in July. But Sony has squeezed the large sensor into a triple-camera array and squeezed it all into a fairly slim handset that’s just 8.9mm thick.

The triple array’s three cameras reach 12 megapixels, they all use digital image stabilization, but the main and telephoto units can also use optical image stabilization


The other two 12 MP cameras on the back of the Pro-I come in the form of an ultra-wide 16mm F2.2 paired with a 1/2.5-inch Exmor RS image sensor and a 50 telephoto lens. mm F2.4 with a 1/2.9 inch Exmor RS sensor. All three lenses here benefit from Zeiss T* anti-reflective coating, a 3D iToF sensor and digital image stabilization – although the main and telephoto modules also benefit from optical image stabilization.

The phone has a dedicated shutter button on the side that toggles the same switch module as the RX100 cameras, and users can long-press it to launch a “Pro Photography” mode to access advanced camera settings. .

Vloggers and mobile filmmakers can tap into creative settings via the new Videography Pro feature, while Cinematography Pro offers eight different color settings that use the Venice digital cinema camera as a muse. There’s a mono mic next to the main camera that can focus on capturing clear speech, which supplements the handset’s stereo microphones, and Sony has incorporated its audio separation technology to filter out wind noise from all audio recordings.

Sony has also launched an external monitor for the smartphone, allowing vloggers to see themselves while using the main camera in selfie mode. It magnetically mounts to a metal bracket attached to the handset, has a 3.5-inch 1280 x 720 LCD screen, a 3.5mm microphone jack for external microphones, and is powered by the 4500 mAh battery of the Pro-I via USB-C. The Vlog Monitor accessory is available from December as an option for US$200.

An optional 3.5-inch Vlog monitor can be mounted on the back of the Pro-I, so its main camera can be used for vlogging
An optional 3.5-inch Vlog monitor can be mounted on the back of the Pro-I, so its main camera can be used for vlogging


Elsewhere, the new Xperia handset features a 6.5-inch 4K HDR OLED display with adjustable color, 120Hz refresh rate and 240Hz motion blur reduction. 100% of the DCI-P3 color gamut, as well as the ITU-R BT.2020 color space, but not full support for the latter.

The phone features a Snapdragon 888 5G processing brain supported by 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, with microSD expansion. It runs Android 11, comes with Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 is also built-in with support for high-resolution wireless audio playback through LDAC and aptX HD codecs. Music lovers can also take advantage of Sony’s immersive 360 ​​Reality Audio and 360 Spatial Audio, and this handset comes with a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Pre-orders for the unlocked Xperia Pro-I begin October 28 for $1,799.99, with availability set for December.

Product sheet: Xperia Pro-I

Michael C. Garrison