Sony Xperia 1 review: shoot like Spielberg

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The unit in the name of the flagship Sony Xperia 1 – for good reason. After all, this is the world’s first smartphone with a 4K OLED screen, the company’s first device with a triple camera and the ability to shoot video with cinematic effects. We share our impressions of a technological novelty from the Land of the Rising Sun in a review.

Sony Xperia 1

Not like everyone

Sony Xperia 1 has a recognizable Japanese design. Laconic appearance, branded “angularity”, metal frame, Gorilla Glass 6, protection against water and dust IP65 / IP68. And, of course, an unusual screen: without any cutouts, but with a cinematic aspect ratio of 21: 9. It is notable for both proportions and characteristics. Today it is the first among the phones OLED display with a resolution of 4K, HDR support and 10-bit color rendering.

The parameters of the matrix are so good that it is suitable even for serious work with photos and video, which requires an objective assessment of the shades. To do this, the gadget settings provide a professionally calibrated profile “Creator Mode”. In it, the colors are displayed as they really are, without the variegation characteristic of OLED panels. With the calibration profile turned on, the mobile phone is convenient to use as an external viewfinder for Sony professional equipment – useful to photographers and cameramen. From the phone, depending on the camera model, you can control some functions. For example, directly from the Xperia 1 screen, specify the focus point.

Sony Xperia 1

The display allows you to work in two modes: standard and creative. In the first, we used Bravia technology in a version adapted for mobile devices. It converts the standard signal into a higher quality image – HDR. In the creative mode, the meaning is different – not in bright colors, but in the color rendition, allowing the photographer or operator to precisely control the creative process. To do this, Sony Xperia 1 supports work in the color space BT.2020. In addition, although the display itself is 8-bit, 2 bits are added due to software – this is important in the work, because the final 10 bits provide smoother tonal transitions.

Hiroshi Takano Chief Product Marketing Engineer Sony Mobile

Triple eye

The photo and video capabilities of the new product have also undergone noticeable changes compared to the previous flagships of the brand. The upper “eye” in the camera block is the main lens with a viewing angle familiar to the eye. This module is noteworthy in that it has a high aperture and supports optical stabilization. The sensor has a large grain size of 1.4 microns, which positively affects the quality. Also improved the noise reduction system. Here’s what Hiroshi Takano, chief engineer for product marketing at Sony Mobile, told us about this:

Thanks to the f / 1.6 aperture and the modified noise reduction technology, the photosensitivity of the 26 mm camera was improved by 4 times. Previously, the noise reduction process took place at the last stage of file processing when saving to JPEG, that is, the fight against noise proceeded after the fact. And now the process has become more efficient. Noises are removed early in the Xperia 1. It is easy to notice that small details, even in night photographs, are better developed.

Hiroshi Takano Chief Product Marketing Engineer Sony Mobile

The second module is a telephoto lens. In Sony Xperia 1 it provides a double optical zoom without loss of quality. It can be used for portraits, for example for waist-length and large-scale ones. Finally, the third module is super wide angle. It allows you to fit in the field of the frame maximum space. It is convenient to use when shooting landscapes to convey all the sensations of space. Such a lens will also help out in cramped rooms, when everything necessary is not placed in the scene on standard optics, and there is nowhere to move away from the object (relevant at exhibitions, parties and other events). Sony also worked on the “shirik” software part – the camera is now able to automatically correct geometric distortions, completely eliminating the fish-eye effect.  

Sony Xperia 1

Someone will say: “Nothing new . But, as you know, the devil is in the details. One of the differences between Xperia 1 photomodules from competitors is that all three are equipped with equivalent 12-megapixel sensors. Each provides high quality output pictures, whether it be photos or videos. At the same time, colors and contrast do not dance – a series of shots taken using different focal lengths look whole, like one project. It is convenient to maneuver between three lenses during the shooting process: either sharply (via the switch key) or smoothly (zoom menu). Thus, the uniqueness of the gadget is that there is no division of cameras into main and auxiliary, – all elements are self-sufficient.  

The autofocus system operates quickly and accurately. Now, in addition to the usual autofocus, the smartphone uses an intelligent mode. He independently determines the face in the frame, and then focuses precisely on the eyes. It worked for us at a distance of 4 meters, even when a person was wearing glasses.

Wide angle camera. There is no focus adjustment, however, in quality it is almost not inferior to the main
Wide angle camera. The smartphone identified the scene and turned on the “Backlight” effect – the detail of the sky was restored and the shadows were brightened
Double magnification module. There is almost no noise in the sky, the detail of the windows is good
The main camera. In macro photography, optical blurring is good.
The main camera. Night shots now have less noise, no watercolor effect and decent detail
Double zoom camera (portrait mode). Automatically worked eye focus and added software bokeh effect
Double zoom camera. The double optical approach, unlike the digital one, does not spoil the quality – it is easy to read the inscription “Industar”
Wide angle camera. On this lens, unlike the standard one, it was possible to fit the entire group of buildings into the frame
Wide angle camera. Compare this shot with the next shot from the same position.
Standard camera. Taken from the same point as the previous frame
Double zoom camera. Maximum approximation without loss of quality
Front module Despite the modest 8 megapixels, the quality is not bad.
Double zoom camera. Shooting on this module feels similar to what a classic 52mm SLR gives.
Double zoom camera. Pay attention to small details and sharpness.
Wide angle camera. Fixed distortion, lines at the borders of the frame are straight
Standard camera. Even in cloudy weather, the device produces a nice picture
Standard camera. Indoors, with full artificial light, good sharpness is maintained and there is no noise. Even the menu labels are readable
The main camera. Here, the detail of the frame suffered a little, as there was a little light


As for the video capabilities of the new product, this is the topic of a separate article, which we are already preparing. In short: the gadget is able to interest amateur operators. The quality of the clips is such that it is not a shame to rotate on the big screen. The Cinema Pro application developed under the CineAlta brand is preinstalled on the device – with the same logo that Sony associates with the creation of content and usually uses it in professional technology.  

The camera has excellent stabilization (OIS + EIS), a minimum of artifacts during night shooting. Cinema Pro has professional color effects that allow you to get a clip with colors and contrast “like in a movie”. Here is an example of how new filters work:

In the standard application, the basic shooting modes are saved. All the usual options are available, recording HDR clips and super slow motion clips with 960 fps. So, for example, it removes the device in a standard application in maximum quality:

Extra button and long body

Using this 6.5-inch giant every day, oddly enough, you quickly get used to it. The device, in comparison with its predecessors, is much thinner and lighter – this is a plus. But there is also a minus: the elongated body design delivers inconvenience. Therefore, wearing Sony Xperia 1 in the side pockets of some trousers is not always convenient. Also, due to its large dimensions, it’s hard to reach the top edge of the screen. This blemish, however, has a partial solution. Sony immediately suggested that not all pianists have fingers, and made the upper halves of the edges of the smartphone touch. Going back, activating the “one-armed” interface – all this can be done by tapping or stroking the metal sides of the mobile phone. Not to say that it is very convenient, but getting used to is not difficult.

Sony Xperia 1

Despite the long case, the camera button and fingerprint scanner have an underestimated location – you don’t need to reach for them, doing the twine with your fingers. It is also noteworthy that there is a separate power button next to the fingerprint sensor. There are no complaints about the scanner itself. It works smartly and without misfires. The same applies to the NFC module – payment in stores is reliable, the first time. In general, there’s nothing to complain about except for the lack of wireless charging. The rejection of this technology, as explained by company employees, is dictated by the desire to make the device thinner.

Smartphone in action

The novelty works on Android 9. There are not many of those added by the Japanese brand in the system – branded animations on the screensavers, several additional settings, the ability to arrange icons in the application menu and various options related to management and hardware (display calibration and more). This is probably for the best. After all, the OS on Xperia 1 in this form feels almost like pure Android, but with the visual elements of Sony.

Sony Xperia 1

The speed of the device is achieved not only through optimization and unloaded OSes. Inside – a fresh Snapdragon 855, 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of internal memory. Needless to say, iron is powerful? Easily cope with parallel running applications in multi-window mode (21: 9 screen has this), easily reproduces 4K-video with HDR and gives excellent performance in games.  

The gadget is most adapted for gamers, there is a special application Game Enhancer. It allows you to block notifications so that they do not bother during the game, and turn off YouTube tips. During gaming, you can shoot yourself on the front camera and record streams.  

Hiroshi Takano Chief Product Marketing Engineer Sony Mobile

Sony Xperia 1

As for games, in many elongated display formats are already supported – the picture occupies the entire area of the panel without black indents. At the same time, hits, where the controls on other devices take up a lot of space, obscuring almost a third of the picture, on Sony Xperia 1 look great. On such a screen you get a wider viewing angle, and the controls for the right and left hand are compactly located at the edges of the panel.

Melomanov flagship also will not disappoint. The kit comes with an adapter from Type-C to 3.5 mm. By connecting your favorite headphones, you get high-quality audio with a good volume margin through the standard player. In the wired headset mode, the phone, thanks to the proprietary DSEE HX technology, automatically improves the sound. There is support for LDAC and aptX HD codecs – for solid wireless headphones.

Sony Xperia 1

As for the built-in speakers, not everything is clear with them. They sound in stereo, they are clean and high quality, but the volume margin is small. Also, the speakers do not have pronounced low frequencies. However, instead of the bass, the Sony Xperia 1 unexpectedly offers something completely different – a sound vibration response. With this option, when playing music, the gadget shudders to the beat of rhythms, shakes in the hands during shots in action games. Not to say that imitation produces a wow effect, but the chip is entertaining.

Offline work

After updating to Android 9 in Sony models, the energy-saving features switched from the Stamina proprietary mode to the standard “save” from Google. Stamina remained in a slightly simplified form, although now it does not play a key role. Be that as it may, the autonomy of the flagship did not degrade compared to the company’s previous devices. Yes, and could not, given the transition to Sony OLED-matrix and 7-nanometer processor. Our test copy with the most active and diverse mixed use confidently lasted almost a day and a half (or 7-8 hours of the active screen). An hour-long nick in PUBG at an average brightness takes up 30% of the charge. You can watch video continuously in airplane mode for 11 hours.

Sony Xperia 1

A couple of times we managed to empty the battery to zero earlier than planned. However, this does not interfere much with routine usage scenarios – from a standard 18-watt charger, the battery is replenished by 50% in half an hour, and a full charge takes 1 hour 45 minutes.  


6.5“, Super AMOLED, 1644×3840, 643 ppi
CPU eight-core SDM855 (7 nm), 2.42 GHz
GPU Adreno 640
6 GB
128 GB
3330 mAh
main – 12 megapixels, telephoto – 12 megapixels, ultra wide-angle – 12 megapixels, front – 8 megapixels
fingerprint scanner on the side, NFC, Cinema Pro application
Sony Xperia 1 in DevDB

Test results

338 031
single-core 3543
multi-core 11 288
PUBG (high)
45-53 fps
WoT (high, HD textures)
58-60 fps
up to 11 hours of video playback
more than 3 hours of playing PUBG
Sony Xperia 1


Among the variety of camera phones Sony Xperia 1 manages to pleasantly surprise. On the elongated screen, you rediscover the two-window mode, which I never wanted to use on ordinary phones. Movie modes with cinematic quality awaken creativity. At the same time, it is a pity that wireless charging is not provided. There are questions to ergonomics. But when once again you look at this huge OLED panel, which no one has analogues yet, much can be forgiven.


If anyone was supposed to release the first cinematic smartphone, then this, of course, is Sony. Its new flagship has everything for creating and watching the highest quality video. The 21: 9 movie screen also has the world’s first 4K AMOLED matrix. The triple camera and software from CineAlta help shoot masterpieces. For technology that can surprise, Sony Xperia 1 receives a “Great Idea” Award from


recommended price
at the time of publication
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