HomeTechNewsThe $1,800 Sony Xperia Pro-I phone has a one-inch camera sensor and...

The $1,800 Sony Xperia Pro-I phone has a one-inch camera sensor and a dual-aperture


The Sony Xperia Pro-I isn’t the first phone to have a one-inch camera sensor. But it’s the first to put the one-inch sensor from the popular Sony RX100 VII camera into a phone. Lucky for us, Sony didn’t stop there and added a mechanical dual-aperture, a new 50-millimeter lens, EyeAF support to video and a new app called Video Pro. The price for all of this is $1,800 which converts roughly to £1,300, AU$2,400.

If you are obsessed with finding the best cameras on a phone, the past month has been a generous one. Apple released the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro. Google launched Pixel 6 and 6 Pro. And now there is the Sony Xperia Pro-I. The I stands for imaging. At least, that’s what Sony told me.

For years, many of us have hoped for a phone with a truly amazing camera built around a large image sensor. In 2018, cinema camera maker Red got our hopes up with the Hydrogen One phone which ended up having a mid-tier Android camera system that could shoot 3D photos and videos. 

Now don’t get me wrong, what Apple, Google, Huawei and Samsung have been able to do with tiny image sensors and computational photography is absolutely amazing. But you have to wonder: What if the iPhone, instead of having an image sensor that was 0.6 inches, had one that was one-inch? And that’s where Sony enters the conversation with the Xperia Pro-I. It’s basically a Sony Xperia 1 III phone with the sensor from a Sony RX100 VII camera.

Sony Xperia Pro-I

The middle camera with the large lens opening has a one-inch image sensor.


Patrick Holland/CNET

What’s amazing is that Sony was able to fit a one-inch sensor into a phone body that is roughly the same thickness as an iPhone 13 Pro Max. A larger sensor means a wider dynamic range and improved low-light performance for both photos and videos. But it turns out, that one-inch image sensor might not be fully used. The camera review website DPReview points out that just 60% of the Xperia Pro-I’s one-inch sensor is used for photos and videos. That means instead of taking 20-megapixel photos like the Sony RX100 VII, the Xperia Pro-I takes 12-megapixel photos. That’s not necessarily a dealbreaker, but it’s a definite bummer.

Sony sent me a pre-production sample of the Xperia Pro-I to try. Photos and videos look good. Check out the hands-on video attached to this article to see video clips I shot using the Xperia Pro-I. I still have more testing and will do a full in-depth review once I can get a final production sample. All photos and videos I shot were taken with the main camera and its 24-millimeter lens or the ultrawide camera with its 16-millimeter lens. The 50-millimeter camera was disabled on the pre-production prototype.

Sony Xperia Pro-I

I like the way the Xperia Pro-I handles highlights and shadows in this photo of a trio of good doggies.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Sony Xperia Pro-I

The Xperia Pro-I doesn’t apply too much sharpening.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Sony Xperia Pro-I

This isn’t a great way to take a photo, but I wanted to test the Xperia Pro-I against some harsh backlighting and it did a decent job of protecting the details and highlights in skin tones.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Sony Xperia Pro-I

The dynamic range is good.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Sony Xperia Pro-I

Like other Xperia phones, the Pro-I doesn’t have a dedicated night mode.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Sony is not the only company to put a one-inch sensor into a phone. But the sensor in the Xperia Pro-I has been through seven generations of improvements and updates and combines the finesse of Sony’s other phone photographic tools and apps.

Like the Xperia 1 III, the Xperia Pro-I has Sony’s Photo Pro and Cinema Pro apps. But, Sony wanted a better video option for those looking for something more advanced than basic video recording and something not as complicated as using the Cinema Pro app. With the Xperia Pro-I, Sony is launching a new app called Video Pro which is aimed at journalists, vloggers and the like.

The top of the app has an Auto button that lets the phone make all the choices about shutter speed, ISO and white balance. But when you turn that off, you can manually control everything. You can switch between manual focus and autofocus and there is a slider which lets you zoom in and out while recording. You can switch the aperture from f/2 to f/4. You can reprogram the hardware buttons on the phone to trigger a shortcut in Video Pro like using the volume rocker to zoom-in and out.

Sony Xperia Pro-I

I couldn’t get my hands on the new Sony vlogging monitor kit or a photo of it. So I recreated my own using a Post-It Note as the tiny magnetic monitor and a chain of paperclips as the cable that connects the monitor to the phone.


Patrick Holland/CNET

The Xperia Pro-I works with the $99 Sony VCT-SGR1 shooting grip. That’s important because along with the Xperia Pro-I, Sony announced a $199 vlogging monitor kit which comes with a phone mount, a magnetic monitor and a tiny cable to connect the monitor and phone. The kit makes it so that you can film yourself with main rear camera and that one-inch sensor.

The Xperia Pro-I has the same 4K 120Hz display, USB-C port and dedicated headphone jack as the Xperia 1 III. The Xperia Pro-I runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G processor and supports low and mid-band 5G. Sony still plans to sell the Xperia Pro that came out earlier this year. The differentiator is it has a micro-HDMI port, 5G support for both sub-6 and mmWave here in the US.

You can order the Sony Xperia Pro-I starting Oct. 28 and the phone ships Dec. 10. 



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