Sony has just announced a new smartphone, the Xperia 1 IV, and it’s a ground-breaker. The company is known for its skill in camera sensors, supplying outstanding cameraphone sensors for many manufacturers. But the new phone aims to overcome the one big flaw smartphone photography has: the lack of optical zoom.
With a regular camera, you can rotate the lens or press a lever to zoom in and out, with no loss of resolution. With smartphones, there’s a problem. Almost every smartphone ever has fixed focus lenses. The only ways round the problems connected to this are digital zoom (which quickly reduces picture quality until it’s almost unusable) or multiple lenses.
Even the multiple lenses solution has big limitations, with full resolution only possible on each camera’s native focal length. Adjust from that and you’re into digital zoom territory again.
So, Sony’s new phone is game-changingly different. There are three cameras on the new phone, and one of them has a variable focal length, 85-125mm. That means that compared to the main 24mm lens, it offers the equivalent of a 3.2x zoom, but which can then adjust to just over 5x.
Since a 3x optical zoom is common, you’ll really notice the step up to 5x and to be able to do it with no loss of picture quality is sensational.
It doesn’t come cheap. When the phone is launched (September in the U.S., June 16 in the U.K.) it will cost $1,599 (£1,299 in the U.K.).
There are other great new features, though none as unique as the genuine optical zoom.
You can shoot slo-mo video in Ultra HD quality on all three of the 12MP cameras. It has another Sony specialty: real-time eye autofocus to make sure your subjects’ faces are in pin-sharp focus. The 5,000mAh battery is enough to keep the phone going for a long time, and it’s worth noting that unlike other manufacturers, Sony puts a 4K display on its premium phones. This is a 6.5in display in Sony’s preferred widescreen (21:9) screen ratio. This makes it an easier fit in the hand, for sure. Oh, and it has the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon Gen 1 processor powering it.
The optical zoom on its own makes this a highly intriguing proposition and while it’s far from cheap, Sony’s routine immaculate build quality and elegant design are highly appealing.