Sony Xperia 1ii Review: The Need For Speed

โ€“ Sony, it's the company
that builds the sensors for almost half the world's smartphones. It makes nearly half of all
mirrorless cameras sold, we're including the camera I use to shoot every MrMobile video. And it's also the company
that for years has failed to capitalize on the strengths
in its mobile division. In preparing for this video, I went back and watched seven years of my
own Sony smartphone reviews, from my days at Pocketnow to
last year's Xperia 1 video.

They all say pretty much the same thing, Sony's phones are good,
even great at points, but they're too expensive and not always for the right reasons. Flash forward to 2020 and the price tag on the Xperia 1 II
reads like a cruel joke. At $1200 unlocked, this
sequel is a full 26% pricier than its predecessor, and a cursory glance at its familiar form factor now drained of all its fun color, at least in the U.S, fails to reveal why? Well, the answer lies mainly
beneath these three lenses, which encapsulate a camera
system that's focused almost exclusively on a
professional photographer.

(gentle music) And you'll notice I didn't
say photographers plural, and that was no accident. Now as many features as Sony did built into this camera system,
it was really made for one very specific
kind of photographer, the one with the need for speed. The word speed shows up 19 times on the product page for
Sony's a9 Mirrorless Camera alongside ice dusted
shots of hockey goalies and sweat-shinned athletes mid pole vault. So the a9 was designed
for rapid fire sports and wildlife photography. And the Xperia 1 II shines most brightly, where it brings those
features over wholesale. You fire up Photo Pro,
you select burst mode, you have to press the
shutter button to get focus and you push it all the
way to start shooting. The phone can take as many
as 20 frames each second, with an autofocus system that calculates focus
three times per picture. The whole time it's using
face and eye detection. So if you're shooting
a person or an animal, the subject stays in focus. Yes, you heard me right, eye autofocus even works on animals.

Probably the best showcase of this is my buddy Julian's review for Wired. He shot a burst of photos
of his approaching dog, Tobu and each frame is perfectly in focus. His review is excellent by
the way, I'll link it below. (upbeat music) The hardware that allows for this is elaborate but not extravagant. Rather than joining the race
for ever higher resolutions, Sony limited each of
its three camera sensors to 12 megapixels, so it could deliver on those very fast focus speeds and also to combat problems
like rolling shutter distortion with fast moving subjects. The primary 24 millimeter
camera is flanked by a 70 millimeter
telephoto for zoom shots, and a 16 millimeter ultra wide with 124 degree field
of view. (camera snaps) That 124 degree figure is important, we've still got manufacturers out here playing fast and
loose with the term ultrawide with 107 degree lenses and so on.

No, no, no such tomfoolery on this device. All three cameras use ZEISS T star coding to help keep reflections down. And sandwiched between
them is a depth sensor that assists with autofocus if the subject is within 15 feet or so. It's all controlled by the
app you got a peek at before. And if you had any doubts that this was a specialty smartphone, Photo Pro will erase it. This is kind of an amalgam
of the interface found on the Sony a-series and
it's higher end Venice line of cinema cameras, and it
pulls absolutely no punches. Whereas camera-centric phones
from say Huawei and Nokia have tried to make professional
photography accessible for newcomers, Sony's only priority seemed to be making existing owners
of Sony equipment feel at home. Which would be great if
the interface was better. But over my past seven or
eight years of shooting on Sony equipment, I've always
found the interface clunky. It's something that I
put up with in exchange for the awesome image quality
the hardware gives me.

I got pretty down on this
app in a recent episode of the Android Central Podcast. And over the course of the
week, I had my review device, I did get better at shooting with it. That goes for Cinema Pro too. But I never came to really like it. Personally, I wish the company
had gone the opposite route like Red was gonna do,
release a modular accessory that would let me use my Sony lenses, which I really do love
with my Sony smartphone.

I'd buy that in a heartbeat. Back to the topic, of
course, you don't have to use the Pro Photo app, even if that is the
whole point of the thing. The stock Sony camera app is here too. And pro tip, you can map a
double click of the power button to the stock app while
mapping a long press of the shutter button to pro camera. So you have a shortcut for
each use case which is nice. While these photo samples aren't
necessarily representative of what buyers will receive
when the phone ships on July 24th, because of
a pending software update, they're exactly what I've
come to expect from Xperias. Crisp with nicely balanced
color and the kind of restraint that comes from a philosophy
of in Sony's words, "getting it right in the camera." Now, that's a contrasting
philosophy to Google's, which uses extensive AI
processing to make up for the more conventional
optics in its pixel phones and for the lack of a better
phrase, fix its photos in post. I shot side by side with the Pixel 4 in auto mode for these comparisons.

And you might say that using
the Xperia in auto mode as I did for most of these samples, defeats the whole purpose of the product, because again, it's
built for professionals who will want to control every variable. The folks even pros occasionally need to take a quick reaction
shot, which doesn't allow time for all the dial twisting. On the bright side, the
phone's hardware helps it out even in the stock app. These burst mode photos on
the boat came out great. And for reasons I can't fully quantify, I absolutely adore this picture
of a hanging plant I snapped at one of my local coffee shops.

But on the flip side, Sony still suffers from familiar shortfalls when
put up against the Pixel. Overexposure of highlights,
less dynamic range and poorer performance in low light. Look at this in order to get
this shot of the city skyline with the Xperia, I had to mess
with the Pro Photo settings for like a minute and
use a portable tripod to keep the phone steady
for a long exposure. To get the same shot with the Pixel 4, it took one try and it was handheld. There's a whole other side
of this camera of course, in the video mode, along
with that Cinema Pro app to go with it. But I'm gonna save my
observations on that video stuff for when I review the Xperia Pro with this phone's sibling
coming later in the year. With one quick aside
just to give a shout out to this genuinely slick
rack focus feature. You set your start point,
you set your endpoint, boom.

The phone will smoothly rack from background to foreground
or vice versa, all on its own. Sadly, Sony's super high
frame rate slow motion feature that I've adored for years is not present on my review sample. It's not clear if that'll be added for the production version. I've reached out to
Sony for clarification, and will leave the answer in
the comments, if I get it. Now while the camera is the main reason to buy the Xperia 1 II, but there's a whole smartphone
surrounding that camera that you might want to know
something about as well.

By and large the news is good. But before we jump into it,
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sponsoring this video. (upbeat music) A good sequel should always build on its forerunners successes while taking the edge off its missteps. And the Xperia 1 II is a good sequel.

The six and a half inch
21 by nine OLED screen features 10 bit color that's
just as vibrant as last year's. And it's 4K resolution is just as sharp, but frankly unnecessarily so. I'd have gladly sacrificed resolution for increased brightness, so I could actually see it in the sun. But a nice consolation prize is the new motion interpolation, which makes this 60 hertz refresh rate look more like 90 hertz. And Sony uses that screen
smartly, even when it's sleeping. The ambient display doesn't just wake up when you get an alert. If you have several notifications waiting, it pulses the icon for the app
that's actually alerting you, so you know which is the newest. And even here Sony doesn't miss the chance to remind you about its other projects. You can set an image of Aibo
as a permanent companion, I missed my robot dog.

Unfortunately, the ambient
display consumes a lot of power up to an insane 20% of
my total daily usage. That's offset by the larger
4000 milliamp hour battery but it only just barely gets
me to the end of a 15 hour day. When I do need to charge, I can do that with Qi wireless charging, and for those who don't want to buy a smartphone
but once every few years, Sony provides its usual
smart charging options to preserve the long term
health of the battery. Elsewhere the Mark II restores both the venerable 3.5
millimeter headphone jack and dual front firing speakers.

So audio lovers have
something to look forward to. And it's all packaged up in a newly squared off chassis
made of Gorilla Glass six with Sony's usual IP 65 and IP
68 dust and water resistance. Operated by software,
that's just what you expect from Android 10 with a few Sony tweaks. Smooth, smart and mostly restrained. The side-mounted fingerprint sensor is the most reliable I've used. The tall aspect ratio makes
phone calls comfortable. But the only complaint I could find was excessive skin smoothing when using the selfie
camera for video calls. I'd love to be able to say that I look this young, but I do not. As I mentioned before, the
Xperia 1 II won't launch for another month. So in addition to adding
features like raw capture, I fully expect the camera
processing to be tweaked when Sony drops that pre-release update. But you know my rule, if
you can put money down for the phone today, which
you can and review devices are in the hands of reviewers, which they are, then it needs to be ready to be reviewed.

And may be you can say it
with me, It's a good phone, even a great phone at points. But $1200 is just too expensive for anyone but the photographer who truly needs the best
in class burst mode, and for some reason doesn't
already own a camera for that purpose. Now if you order before June 28th, the bundled noise canceling
earbuds come included, and those normally cost
about 180 bucks on sale, so it takes some of the sting out. Oh, and if you're purchasing for US use, be aware that you'll be
limited to 4G due to the fact that this phone is meant
primarily for other markets. For me, the Xperia 1 II is most appealing when seen as a preview of the Xperia Pro, which looks so genuinely
useful to those of us who shoot video on the go,
that I might actually buy it.

And taken together, this generation of Xperia represents proof
that Sony is finally serious about using its optical expertise to target very specific types of buyers Instead of casting that wide net, that's pretty much always failed to move the needle for
the company in the past. So while I can't recommend
this phone to all but the tiniest sliver of
photography centric users, I'm at least optimistic about
Sony's smartphone future and I haven't been able to say that with confidence for a long time. This review was made possible by a pre-production review sample on loan from Sony running pre-release software. MrMobile doesn't accept
compensation from manufacturers for reviews, though,
Sony did not pay a fee for this coverage, nor was it
offered copy approval rights or any early preview of this video.

That means they're seeing it for the first time right alongside you. Please subscribe to
the MrMobile on YouTube if that's the kind of review
you'd like to see more of. And be sure to check out SuperSaf's review which includes a longer conversation with me about the camera system. I'll link that below when it drops. Until next time, thanks for watching. And if you can't stay home,
then at least stay safe and keep wearing those masks while you stay mobile, my friends..

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