'You Had Me at Eye Autofocus': A Review of the New Titan of Camera Phones, Sony Xperia 1 II

Phone cameras are the most used cameras on earth, but it's only in the last five years or so that photographers have been taking them more seriously. Now, Sony are looking to blur the boundaries even further.

When I heard the announcement of the Sony Xperia 1 II I was thoroughly interested. At $1,200 for the phone alone, many balked at the price, and yes, it's expensive for a phone. For a camera, however, it's very reasonable, and for a device that comfortably walks both paths? Well, that's starting to look like a good deal.

The spec of the camera on this phone is stunning. It has triple 12 MP cameras with ZEISS optics, which are 16mm, 24mm, and 70mm lenses. It has 247 phase-detection AF points, Eye AF which works on animals too, shoots 4K and can be in 21:9 CinemaWide aspect ratio, and then viewable on the 4K HDR OLED display. Not to mention it can shoot raw, 20 FPS burst shooting, and that's before we get into the 8GB RAM and strong processor.

All of that is highly impressive, but watching it in action is the real deal-sealer for me. The photo and video software appear to be superb and little unmentioned features — like being able to automate a focus pull between two objects — is frankly staggering for a standard feature on a mobile phone.

I am hoping to get my hands on a review unit as soon as possible to see what this can do and more importantly, what of my kit it can replace.

Robert K Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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Can't wait to know what the Xperia Pro price will be.
It look like same phone + HDMI input!

You're not alone. I know it probably won't improve my life in any meaningful way... But I want one!!

Eye-detect AF might be helpful with the longer lens, but with the other two, depth of focus is likely to be great enough that it won't make a practical difference because face-detect or even basic AF already gets the whole face in focus anyway.

The 12MP sensors probably won't deliver any greater resolution than you can already get from, say, an iPhone.

And, I question the focal length choices, which I feel also aren't great with the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro. I'd rather see 18mm, 35mm and 70mm (effective) focal lengths.

I'm waiting for one of these companies to apply the sort of computational processing pioneered by the Light L16, perhaps framing a wider shot with the wide lens, then prompting the user to scan that frame with the longer lens and assembling a high-rez shot via stitching. Yes, there are 3rd-party apps for capturing and stitching high-rez images, but shooting a properly overlapping series of images can be tricky, and it's awkward to manually lock focus, exposure and WB for consistency across the series. An app could set these based on the framing preview made with the wider lens and apply that to each of the frames made with the longer lens for stitching. Stitching enables phone camera pros to make really big prints that are crisper and more detailed than possible with single 12MP captures, but the process is clunky and could be made much easier and accessible to a wider audience.

As for RAW shooting, that can already be done on other phones, including iPhones, with 3rd-party apps.

With all those goodies stuffed in a phone, I can't wait to see the great BIF shots or those great shots of Michael Thomas catching a pass from Drew Brees from 25 yards away. ;-)

But it will surely out text my purpose built camera. :-)