Who announces a flagship in the middle of the year? Sony does. Who focuses on multimedia above everything else? Sony does. Who sticks to its own design, regardless of where the industry is headed? Sony does. Love it or hate it, the Japanese company makes phones like no other.
Considering the low sales volumes, we guess that most people don’t fall in the ‘love it’ category. How could they, given Sony’s ambitious pricing and leisurely release schedule? But this year the Mark 4 flagship brings proper innovation and is increasingly leans towards professional features (exemplified by the Xperia Pro and Pro-I phones).
This periscope with smooth zoom is a wonder of miniaturization
And this year the Sony Xperia 1 IV arrives earlier. In Europe, at least, it was announced in early May and will start shipping on June 11. US fans will have to wait until September, though. Still, last year the Mark 3 was announced in April and started shipping in July (the US launch was on a relatively tighter schedule).
It’s clear that Sony will not be rushed, what matters is delivering a unique phone. And it did. We have seen continuous zoom before, but in chunky devices (some of which looked more like a camera than a phone), certainly none that were only 8.2mm thick.
The telephoto lens offers smooth optical zoom from 3.5x to 5.2x (85-125mm). That means consistent image quality as you zoom in and out or use the rack focus feature of the Cinema Pro app. Others have to use digital zoom for this (not that they offer a rack focus feature).
6.5″ 4K 10-bit 120Hz display
The remaining cameras on the back don’t feel as revolutionary, but Sony made sure to pack the phone full of features that semi-pros might need. This is a camera where you are supposed to use manual controls to get just the shot you want. And you can live stream over 5G either from the phone’s own cameras or from a tethered Sony Alpha.
If you do tether an Alpha camera, the Xperia 1 IV will not only stream live over 5G, it will also act as a good quality external monitor – 6.5” in size with near 4K resolution (3,840 x 1,644px due to the 21:9 aspect ratio), 10-bit HDR10 120Hz panel.
The Vlog Monitor accessory plus an external mic (plugged into the 3.5mm jack)
If you’re not quite up to Alpha levels yet, the Vlog Monitor and Shooting Grip will help the phone-only content creators. Sony is also one of the biggest names in gaming and the Mark 4 is intended to serve mobile game streamers with dedicated features.
This semi-pro phone comes at a semi-pro price. In Europe, you’re looking at €1,400/£1,300, US buyers will have to shell out $1,600. Pricey, compared to its predecessor (€1,300), but less than the Xperia Pro-I (€1,800). Still, compared to any non-foldable phone out there, the Xperia is, simply put, expensive.
A phone built for streamers
Even so, you can offer Apple or Samsung $1,600 and they won’t give you a flagship with a headphone jack or expandable storage. If you want the features of the Xperia 1 IV, it’s the only game in town. And it knows its worth too. So, do you want one?
Before you vote, you will probably want to read our review to see if the zoom camera is as awesome as it is supposed to be. Also, don’t miss our video review.
Let’s look at the cheaper option, the Sony Xperia 10 IV, which is around one third the price, €500, and will also be available in June (in Europe). The phone is better than its predecessor, but with incremental improvements – Snapdragon 695 (6nm) replacing the 690 (8nm), the main 12MP camera gained OIS, the battery grew to 5,000mAh (up from 4,500mAh).
Still, for €500 (or less) you can get a Snapdragon 8-series chip, certainly a 7-series. And 120Hz displays are easy to find in that price range. The 8MP 2x telephoto camera is not great, but telephotos are usually overlooked outside of the flagship segment. The other cameras could have used an upgrade or two, though.
But how may of those €500 smartphones with a Snapdragon 870 or 888 have an IP68/IPX5 dust and water resistance rating? Or a 3.5mm headphone jack? Or a microSD slot? Or a flat, no-notch, no-punch hole display? And how many run an Android this close to stock? (these questions apply to the Xperia 1 IV rivals too)
We won’t bother listing alternative phones you can buy instead of the two Mark 4 models. There are plenty of cheaper options that are more capable in some fields, but intentionally limited in others. That’s why we called Sony a “love it or hate it” company – its products are often the only ones that check all the boxes, but they have their peculiarities and are often wallet-busters.
Well, what do you think of the Xperia 10 IV? By the way, we have started our review of the phone, so expect a detailed report soon.