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Sony Xperia 1 IV has a 4K screen and a real zoom lens


Inside the svelte, low-profile body of the new Sony Xperia 1 IV is a telephoto lens with tiny elements that can freely move back and forth to zoom in and out. No other phone can do that. Last years Xperia 1 III had a similar goal, but these tiny lenses were limited to one of two positions. And as innovative as the The Xperia 1 III’s dual telephoto lens wasin use it offered no real advantage over rivals such as the Galaxy S22 Ultrawhich uses two separate telephoto lenses to achieve something similar.

The Xperia 1 IV is the world’s first phone with true optical zoom – 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 line of Xperia phones are after your heart, your creativity and your wallet. After all, the Sony Xperia 1 IV costs $1,600 (which roughly converts to £1,300, AU$2,300) and makes the new phone one of the most expensive models sold today.

The Xperia 1 IV represents an ideal Sony has been pursuing since 2019. The Tokyo-based company isn’t looking to compete with mainstream phones such as the iPhone 13, Galaxy S22 or Google Pixel 6 Pro. Instead, with the Xperia 1 IV, Sony carved out its own corner of the sandbox and built some impressive castles.


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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 5,000-mAh battery, Gorilla Glass Victus as well as Android features of yesteryear you won’t find on most flagship phones. These include a headphone jack, a slot for expandable storage and an LED notification light on the front.

For most people, including me, the Xperia 1 IV will be too expensive. At $1,600, I’d be more inclined to buy a dedicated camera. But if you can afford it and you want a cutting-edge phone that’s steeped in the intricate processes of photography and filmmaking, the Xperia 1 IV is waiting for you.

The Xperia 1 IV will be out in the US on Sept. 1 and is available for preorder now. Sony has a limited time deal where you can buy an Xperia 1 IV and get a free pair of Sony WF-1000XM4 true wireless earbuds, which have a $280 value. I wish Sony had offered to bundle the Xperia 1 IV with its shooting grip and remote controller and tiny magnetic vlogging monitor that lets you film yourself using the rear cameras.

Sony Xperia 1 IV has a 4K screen and a real zoom lens

The Xperia 1 IV works with Sony’s shooting grip, remote control accessory and magnetic vlogging monitor. This lets you use the rear cameras to film yourself.


James Martin/CNET

Sony Xperia 1 IV and the missing Music Pro app

Sony lent me a preproduction 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 from Sony, a singer on a windy beach records her vocal track with the Xperia 1 IV and the Music Pro app.

Music Pro applies a combination of noise reduction, deReverb 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 has a 4K screen and a real zoom lens

The Xperia 1 IV has three rear cameras and a 3D iToF sensor used for focusing.


James Martin/CNET

Sony Xperia 1 IV gets all-new cameras

You could write a book with the number of details Sony sent me about the cameras on the Xperia 1 IV. And the photography nerd in me loves that. But I’ll keep things concise for this review.

All of the cameras on the Xperia 1 IV have new and faster sensors, meaning they’re capable of 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
Ultra-wide angle f/2.2 16mm No 12MP
Wide angle f/1.7 24mm Yes 12MP
Telephoto f/2.3-2.8 85-125mm Yes 12MP

Let’s go back to that telephoto camera. Between 85mm and 125mm (or 3.5x and 5.2x) magnification, it’s all optical zoom all 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. If you can zoom optically, in other words, 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.

Sony Xperia 1 IV has a 4K screen and a real zoom lens

Every Saturday a bunch of people line up outside the church. This photo was taken with the telephoto camera at 3.5x magnification.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Sony Xperia 1 IV has a 4K screen and a real zoom lens

This was taken with the telephoto lens at 3.5x magnification indoors. Despite the lack of light, the Xperia 1 IV’s Eye AF (autofocus) found and tracked the dog’s eyes perfectly.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Sony Xperia 1 IV has a 4K screen and a real zoom lens

This was taken with the main 24mm camera. I like how the background falls out of focus. 


Patrick Holland/CNET

Sony Xperia 1 IV has a 4K screen and a real zoom lens

This was taken with the ultrawide camera. I like the contrast of dark and light.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Sony Xperia 1 IV has a 4K screen and a real zoom lens

Just a quick stop during a bike ride through Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. The Xperia 1 IV is thin enough to fit in the back of a cycling jersey.


Patrick Holland/CNET

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 models.

Under good light, and even medium lighting, all three phones are capable of taking excellent photos. Look at the pictures 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.

Sony Xperia 1 IV has a 4K screen and a real zoom lens

Photo from the Sony Xperia 1 IV.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Sony Xperia 1 IV has a 4K screen and a real zoom lens

Photo from the iPhone 13 Pro.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Sony Xperia 1 IV has a 4K screen and a real zoom lens

Photo from the Google Pixel 6 Pro.


Patrick Holland/CNET

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 between the two.

Sony Xperia 1 IV has a 4K screen and a real zoom lens

Photo from the Sony Xperia 1 IV.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Sony Xperia 1 IV has a 4K screen and a real zoom lens

Photo from the iPhone 13 Pro.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Sony Xperia 1 IV has a 4K screen and a real zoom lens

Photo from the Google Pixel 6 Pro.


Patrick Holland/CNET

When things get dark is 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 below photo of a cocktail in a dark bar.

Sony Xperia 1 IV has a 4K screen and a real zoom lens

Photo from the Sony Xperia 1 IV.


Patrick Holland/CNET

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.

Sony Xperia 1 IV has a 4K screen and a real zoom lens

Photo from the Sony Xperia 1 IV.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Sony Xperia 1 IV has a 4K screen and a real zoom lens

Photo from the iPhone 13 Pro.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Sony Xperia 1 IV has a 4K screen and a real zoom lens

Photo from the Google Pixel 6 Pro.


Patrick Holland/CNET

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 Alpha line of mirrorless cameras. Cinema Pro is aimed at filmmakers and is inspired by Sony’s Venice line of cinema cameras.

Video Pro is a less complicated app to use for recording videos than the Cinema Pro app. Video Pro offers a bunch of manual controls, but there’s an automatic mode that leaves everything to the Xperia. Video Pro is becoming one of my favorite ways to capture video on phone.

While image quality is important, these three apps help Sony stand out from the iPhone, Pixel, or Galaxy S22 Ultra.

Sony Xperia 1 IV has a 4K screen and a real zoom lens

Photo Pro has a PSM dial based on the PASM dial found on mirrorless cameras.

James Martin/CNET

Consider me impressed, but I reserve judgment

I had the prototype that Sony lent me for 10 days. And while that’s normally more than enough to review the phone, the thing is, the first software I used was a bit rough. But if you want more of my impressions of the Sony Xperia 1 IV, watch my detailed how-to video.

CNET

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