Sony first announced its triple-camera-equipped Xperia 1 Mark II flagship phone in February but users around the world are still waiting for the commercial release of the device. Once available, with its photo-centric design that borrows a number of features from Sony’s Alpha series cameras, the Xperia 1 Mark II should be a compelling option for mobile photographers. Now the company has shared additional information on camera technology and features in Japan.
In its primary camera the new Sony offers the same 12MP resolution as its predecessor. However, those pixels are distributed across a larger sensor surface. The Mark II’s 1/1.7″ primary sensor is quite a bit bigger than the Mark 1’s 1/2.6″ variant, but still falls short of some other flagship phones. The Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro and Huawei P40 Pro for example come with 1/1.33″ and 1/1.28″ sensors respectively.
|The Xperia 1 Mark II comes with a larger sensor than its predecessor.|
However, Sony is deploying a different strategy to most of its direct rivals. Both rival phones mentioned above use much higher resolution sensors and pixel-binning technology to reduce noise levels and capture images with a wide dynamic range.
Sony bets on ‘traditional’ large 1.8µm pixels, which, according to the company, make the new sensor 50 percent more light sensitive than its predecessor and results in improved low light performance.
|The 12MP sensor offers faster read-out than the 108MP Quad-Bayer sensors used in some competitors.|
Sony says the conventional design of the sensor offers faster read-out speeds than the pixel-binning Quad-Bayer technology deployed in most current high-end phones. The entire sensor can be read out in 10ms versus 32ms for a 12MP image from a Quad-Bayer sensor.
|The sensor features 247 phase detection points.|
This speed is necessary to enable the Mark II’s 20fps continuous shooting with autoexposure and autofocus. Dual-Pixel AF is embedded into the sensor and an additional 3D time-of-flight (ToF) sensor supports the system. Overall, the camera can use 247 phase detection points on the image sensor and 43,200 points from the ToF sensor to perform AF calculations.
|The AF also uses data from a 3D time-of-flight sensor.|
This is done by Sony’s BIONZ X branded image processor which performs 60 AE/AF calculations per second to keep subjects in focus and the image well exposed. The new phone also comes with the Eye AF feature that we already saw on the original Xperia 1. However, now it can lock on to animal eyes in addition to human eyes.
The ultra-wide and tele lenses of the triple-camera setup cannot quite keep up with the primary shooter in terms of read-out speed and processing, though. They both offer continuous shooting at 10fps with AE/AF enabled and AE/AF calculations are performed at a slower rate of 30 per second.
|Sony says the triple-camera offers the same flexbility as a camera system with 16-35, 24-70 and 70-200mm lenses.|
This said, with equivalent focal lengths of 74mm for the tele and 16mm for the ultra-wide, both cameras make nice additions to the primary camera’s 24mm-equivalent lens, covering a wide range of shooting situations. Sony goes as far as comparing the lenses in the Xperia 1 Mark II triple camera to a full-frame lens set including a 16-35mm wide-angle, a 24-70m standard zoom and a 70-200mm tele-zoom. Those lenses should have you prepared for almost anything, and according to the company the same is true for the phone’s triple-cam.
To make the new device even more attractive to serious photographers it comes with Sony’s new Photography Pro app, which features Shutter and Aperture priority modes in addition to a bunch of other manual controls you would find on the company’s mirrorless cameras. Most camera apps offer some sort of manual controls these days, usually in the shape of a separate ‘Pro mode’, but it looks like Sony is taking things a step further than most.
|The Photography Pro app offers a range of manual modes and settings.|
The Xperia 1 Mark II is also the first Sony smartphone to feature a ZEISS lens. ZEISS lenses can be found on many of Sony’s Cybershot compact cameras and are also available with an E-mount for Alpha cameras. ZEISS lenses featured on Nokia phones previously but the new Sony is the first to come with the German lens maker’s T* anti-reflective coating to reduce glare and ghosting effects.
It’s good to see Sony, which is the only current smartphone manufacturer that also runs a sizeable camera operation, creating more synergies and technology interchange between its mobile and Alpha divisions. Now we just need to wait for the device to appear in the market and see if the camera can compete with the best. According to rumors that could happen as soon as next week, starting in Taiwan.