Retailing at a whopping S$2,299, the Sony Xperia Pro-I is expensive for a smartphone. Designed to be a camera first, the Pro-I is only matched in price by higher storage capacity phones such as the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max (S$2,299, 512GB) or the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra 5G (S$1,998, 512GB). But does the Xperia's 1-inch sensor, 4K OLED screen and Sony camera feature justify the cost? Yes, but you kinda need the chops to make full use of it.
- 1.0-type Exmore RS CMOS sensor with phase detection AF
- Fingerprint sensor on the power button
- 12MP rear camera with 16mm (f2.2), 24mm (f2.0, f4.0), 50mm (f2.4) and 8MP front camera
- 12GB RAM, 512GB onboard storage, microSDXC up to 1TB
Design-wise, the Pro-I looks good. The phone sports a rectangular block design that's easy to hold. The 6.5-inch 120Hz 4K OLED takes up most of the front space, with minimal bezels at the sides. There's no notch for the front camera, so you get a nice and clear 21:9 view for watching movies. While it does have a 120Hz refresh rate, you can turn it off to save battery life. There's no variable refresh rate as far as I can tell. For the best movie experience, there's also Dolby Atmos support as well as a 3.5mm audio jack. The phone lasted 12hr 40m in our video-loop battery test. I also had no issues gaming on the phone — performance was great even on the last-gen Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chip.
The main feature though, has to be the camera, and this is where it gets tricky. The phone comes with a 1-inch type Exmor RS CMOS sensor, Zeiss Tessar Optics, and dual aperture (f2.0 and f4.0). The aperture motor can be heard powering on when the camera app is launched. There's also Eye autofocus, which automatically switches between animals or humans. There are three lenses, for 16mm (ultra-wide), 24mm, and 50mm (2.1x zoom) focal lengths. Note that only the 24mm has the variable apertures. The other two lenses have their own apertures — f2.4 for the 50mm and f2.2 for the 16mm.
While you can just use the camera in the Basic mode, those who want a bit more control will use the Advanced mode. This changes the UI to one that resembles a Sony mirrorless camera. It allows you to shoot in a variety of modes, including manual, auto, shutter priority, and programme. And don't get me wrong, the photos taken whether with Basic or Auto, are pretty good. But they aren't any better than say a photo taken with Apple or Samsung phones. It's particularly obvious with shots with lots of backlight — the iPhone manages to even out the exposure. Meanwhile you probably have to do it manually via post processing (like a real camera) with the Pro-I.
Honestly, if I'm using a smartphone for pictures, I'm totally comfortable with letting the phone do all the work. This isn't the case with the Sony Xperia Pro-I, obviously. It's really a phone for a professional phone-tographer, but why wouldn't you just get a mirrorless camera then? Likewise, you could probably spend a bit more to pick up the Sony A7C instead. Nevertheless, if you're still keen, you can get it from Shopee or Lazada for around S$2,000 after discounts.
Note: Review unit provided by Sony.
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