Sony made a camera with a phone attached to it . . or so they claim
The Xperia Pro-I is aiming to grab a piece of the premium pie with old marketing tricks. But will it work?
Sony is literally using "I'm packing big time" to make the distinction between their product and the competition. The Xperia Pro-I is packing one of the largest camera sensors out there - a 1-inch EXMOR-RS straight from their capable RX100 VII (Mark 7) point-and-shoot camera. While this is not exactly a first, since Panasonic CM1 did it back in 2014 and then Sharp Aquos R6 repeated this feet, Sony has arguably the most advanced implementation.
Weirdly though, while the full sensor resolution is 20MP the Xperia Pro-I can only snap 12MP photos. Sony claims a full-sensor readout and clever pixel binning to basically emulate much larger sensor size. Again, that's not unheard of and there are 100 to 12 megapixels implementation on the market, but the sensor's already large physical size here makes a huge positive difference. To make it even more camera-like, Sony added the BIONZ X image signal processor from their A9 mirrorless camera as a separate entity to work on the photos.
As for the optics, there is now a variable aperture on the main camera that goes from f/2.0 all the way to f/4.0 and for a sizeable sensor this is necessary, rather than just convenient. You see, big sensors tends to have a shallower depth of field and for a full incher, it's next to impossible to compensate only in software. Then there's the autofocus, which as trivial as it sounds nowadays is actually spectacular, compared to every other smartphone out there.
The focus points are 315 in total, covering 90% of the frame area, they are phase-detection and the performance of that whole system is noting short of impressive! The Xperia Pro-I can take 20 fps burst with continuous autofocus and even real-time eye tracking, which would work on your pets as well. Importantly, the positive effects are carried over the video section. With 4K resolution and even 120 fps slow motion with no input frame compression - it's vloggers delight! On the software side, Sony offers their cinema-like VENICE colour modes with a 21:9 aspect ratio option.
The rest and accessories
By now nobody reading this could be bothered about the actual phone, but here it is anyway. There are two more 12MP cameras for ultra-wide and 2x telephoto capture, albeit with regular, smaller sensors. There's also a separate 3D-ToF sensor to help those not-so-capable shooters and the all important nowadays 8MP selfie camera.
The screen is a 6.5-inch 4K OLED capable of 120Hz refresh rate. The power comes from a Snapdragon 888 chipset, paired with 12GB of RAM. Storage is plentiful at 512GB and expandable by a microSD card slot. The battery is 4500 mAh and supports up to 30 watts of charging. The fast charger is bundled in the box, along with the USB cable and strangely - a case! There is a 3.5 mm headphones jack, so Bluetooth deniers can rejoice.
Sony has been very keen to their claims that the Xperia Pro-I is a camera on the first place and then a phone, so they've explained that the "I" in the naming is a reference to their Alpha series . . in their mind anyway. And to prove a point, especially among vloggers, Sony will offer a special Vlog Monitor - a 3.5-inch 720p screen accessory that attaches to the Xperia Pro-I's rear and allows you to film yourself with a little bit of ease on the framing.
The elephant in the room
It's time to talk about the pricing. The phone will start to ship in December at the hefty price of $1800 and this is when the real issue starts. The Xperia Pro-I equals in price Samsung's flagship Z Fold 3 and it's $200 more expensive than a 1TB iPhone 13 Pro Max! Heck, the thing is $500 more expensive than the camera it has been derived from (RX100 VII costs $1300)! It would cost the same as Sony's own A7C full-frame camera! But Sony claims the 5G connectivity part to be the point of separation for their potential customers. Yeah . . right!