Playing The Long Game: Outdoor Photography With Telezooms

Sony Xperia 1 IV Smartphone Review

The Sony Xperia 1 IV is designed to wow content creators and inspire those who capture images with smartphones so we've been putting it to the test to see if it can do exactly that.

| Sony Xperia 1 IV in Camera Phones

Sony Xperia 1 IV Smartphone Review: P1010122 | 1/160 sec | f/4.5 | 19.0 mm | ISO 200

Quick Verdict

The Sony Xperia 1 IV is a premium smartphone with a premium price that's capable of capturing images with true-to-life colour. The continuous optical zoom is something a bit different with the telephoto lens moving between 3.5x and 5.2x but the results aren't really any better than those we've seen from other smartphones that don't have continuous optical zoom built in. We also experienced the occasional gremlin causing problems with the UI and the smartphone struggled with heat management. The display is great, though, and the battery life will keep you capturing photos all day. 

+ Pros

  • Great screen
  • True-to-life colours in images  
  • Decent battery
  • 3.5mm jack
  • Full manual control camera app
  • RAW shooting
  • 4K @ 120fps

- Cons

  • Price
  • Continuous optical zoom didn't impress us that much
  • Overheats in hot weather (more than other smartphones)
  • Tricky to hold
  • Complicated Pro mode
  • No Portrait or Night modes


The Sony Xperia 1 IV is the latest flagship handset to be introduced by Sony who are on a journey to 'produce award-winning, positive technology that people want' by combining everyday smartphone features we've come to rely on (large batteries, impressive displays etc.) with camera features we're more used to seeing on DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras. 

With the Sony Xperia 1 IV, these new features include a continuous optical zoom lens (85-125mm equivalent) which we've been putting to the test to find out if it new Sony smartphone is going to be a device all photographers will want. 


Sony Xperia 1 IV Features

Sony Xperia 1 IV Smartphone Review: P1010119 | 1/160 sec | f/4.5 | 19.0 mm | ISO 200

The Sony Xperia 1 IV has a real focus on content creation with features that include a true continuous optical zoom lens with 85-125mm focal length. The other ZEISS-quality lenses built in are 16mm and 24mm and you also get a depth sensor. Technology moving from Sony cameras to this Sony Xperia smartphone include real-time Eye AF, real-time object tracking and optical SteadyShot. The dynamic range has been improved and you also get 20fps burst shooting in HDR on all three lenses as well as AI white balance and an RGB IR sensor. The battery measures 5000mAh and you can quickly charge the device up to 50% battery in around 30-minutes. Other features include the familiar, long Sony smartphone design, IP65 and IP68 ratings and 5G compatibility that will switch to 4G depending on the signal strength. 

Sony Xperia 1 IV Specs:

  • Rear cameras: 12MP f/2.7 24mm wide with Dual Pixel PDAF and OIS, 12MP 85-125mm f/2.3-2.8 telephoto with Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS and 3.5-5.2x continuous zoom, 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide with Dual Pixel PDAF, 0.3MP TOF 3D depth sensor
  • Front camera: 12MP f/2.0 24mm wide 
  • World's first true optical zoom lens
  • 120fps high-speed readout image sensor for all three lenses
  • Real-time Eye autofocus (AF)
  • 20fps AF/AE burst shooting in HDR on all three lenses
  • Videography Pro and Pro Camera Mode
  • Video: 4K and 1080p at various frame rates including 4K 120fps, up to 5x slow-motion video recording
  • Display: 6.5-inch display (1644x3840 pixels), 4K 120Hz that's 50% brighter
  • Dimensions: 165mm x 71mm x 8.2mm
  • Weight: 185g
  • Battery: 5000mAh


Sony Xperia 1 IV Handling

Sony Xperia 1 IV Smartphone Review: P1010113 | 1/200 sec | f/4.5 | 19.0 mm | ISO 200

Sony Xperia smartphones are instantly recognisable thanks to the 21:9 aspect ratio screen design which makes them rather tall and long (165mm x 71mm x 8.2mm). The Sony Xperia 1 IV features this design which foes make it slightly harder to hold one-handed (although it fits the palm well). You do get used to it and it's also safer to use a smartphone with both hands but those who are firm fans of small dimensions probably won't like the design of the Sony Xperia 1 III, preferring instead the look of other flagships. The straight edges are quite as comfortable as the rounded edges we see on other smartphones but, again, it's something you do get used to.

Even though the back is constructed from glass the finish prevents fingerprints from ruining the overall look and it also means it's a bit more grippy but do pop on a case, still, as it'll help protect it from knocks. The huge glass screen that has minimal bezels is easily marked, though, so you may find yourself getting out your lens cloth quite a bit.

The frame surrounding the 6.5" display is home to the volume and power buttons then below the power button is a Google Assistant button which is a nice add-on but it isn't something we really used during testing. There's also a camera shutter button that's embossed so you can easily find it without having to tilt your phone to see which button you're pressing - handy when you've already framed your shot and don't want to spoil it. It's also in the perfect position for landscape shooting as you can keep a decent grip on the phone while hitting the shutter button rather than having to reposition your hands to tap the on-screen shutter button. 

On the bottom of the Sony Xperia 1 IV is a USB-C port and SIM tray while on top you find a headphone jack. 

We've mentioned the screen is big measuring 6.5-inch as the display on the Sony Xperia 1 III did and even if the shape of it isn't for you, it is a really great screen with accurate colours, good brightness levels and the size makes it great for watching videos. 


Sony Xperia 1 IV Smartphone Review: P1010123 | 1/160 sec | f/4.0 | 19.0 mm | ISO 200

Turn the smartphone over and you find the camera unit top left featuring one line of cameras and the Zeiss T* branding is visible to promote the fact that quality optics are built-in. 

The camera set-up is as follows: 12MP f/2.7 24mm wide with Dual Pixel PDAF and OIS, 12MP 85-125mm f/2.3-2.8 telephoto with Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS and 3.5-5.2x continuous zoom, 12MP f/2.2 ultra-wide with Dual Pixel PDAF, 0.3MP TOF 3D depth sensor. 

A world first, the telephoto lens features continuous optical zoom from 3.5x-5.2x with an aperture that changes from f/2.3-2.8. If you need more zoom, digital is available up to 15.6x but we're not massive fans of digital zoom. On the front is a 12MP f/2.0 24mm wide camera that sits in a small bezel right at the top of the smartphone. 

Sony's obviously well known for making cameras and they've taken this knowledge and applied it to their smartphone range with the introduction of technology such as Real-time Eye autofocus (AF), real-time object tracking and optical SteadyShot. The autofocus performs well, locking on when needed, as does the real-time object tracking which has no problems keeping up with moving objects/animals/people. Optical Image Stabilisation can't be complained about either, offering excellent performance and utilising Sony's latest Optical SteadyShot technology. One bonus is that 20fps AF/AE burst shooting in HDR is available on all three lenses so you won't just be relying on the main wide camera if you want to utilise this option. 

Video is can be captured in 4K at various frame rates and there's also a 1080p mode available. Both are supported by 5-axis gyro-EIS and OIS to keep footage steady. The selfie camera captures video at 1080p, 30fps. 


Sony Xperia 1 IV Smartphone Review: P1010117 | 1/200 sec | f/5.0 | 19.0 mm | ISO 200

As with previous Sony Xperia smartphones, the Sony Xperia I IV features 'Basic', 'Auto' and then 'P', 'S' and 'Manual' camera modes (as you see on 'proper cameras'). These are accessed via a wheel which opens up when you click the word 'Basic' that appears towards the top of the camera app. 

Before talking about each mode in a bit more depth, we find it a bit strange that Sony hasn't included a Portrait or Night mode as these are functions many smartphone owners use when capturing images as it makes the process simple but effective. Perhaps this shows who Sony think will be purchasing the smartphone but we just feel they're excluding some who may have purchased the smartphone if slightly easier controls were present. 

In the 'Basic' mode, you can switch between the lenses and access a few options which include a basic 'bokeh' mode which you can use when capturing shots of people or other objects you want to feature a blurry background and if you want to capture video without going into the 'Pro' mode, this is where you do it. 

'Auto' mode gives you more control options but weirdly, not an on-screen shutter button. Instead, you have to use the shutter button on the side of the smartphone which is fine in landscape orientation but can be a bit awkward if you want to switch to portrait. An abundance of settings you can turn on/off do appear but their appearance means you lose half of the display and you can only use it in landscape mode as the settings don't rotate if you move the phone into a portrait orientation. This also happens if you turn the smartphone to landscape orientation when in the 'Basic' mode with the on-screen controls taking up most of the space on the right-hand side. 

Continue turning the mode wheel and you come to the more advanced options that allow you to adjust shutter speed, white balance etc. We're sure some will use these manual features and it's great to see them appearing on smartphones but in reality, we reckon most will want to stick with the 'point and shoot' method. 

One problem we did face quite a bit when testing the Sony Xperia I IV was overheating which happened rather rapidly and regularly. Yes, we were in a heatwave at the time but other smartphones, including an older iPhone and newer Samsung Galaxy, didn't experience the same issues. We also had a few problems with the UI not always responding as it should but this wasn't continuously. 


Battery life - The battery is rated at 5000mAh and we didn't have to reach for the charging cable while out and about capturing video and images. If we did need to, however, fast charging is available and you'll get 50% battery power in around 30-minutes. 


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