Sony just announced a new smartphone, the Xperia 1 IV, and it’s a milestone. The company is known for its expertise in camera sensors and supplies excellent camera phone sensors for many manufacturers. But the new phone aims to overcome smartphone photography’s one major flaw: the lack of an optical zoom.
With a regular camera, you can rotate the lens or press a lever to zoom in and out without losing resolution. There is a problem with smartphones. Almost every smartphone ever has fixed focus lenses. The only ways around the problems associated with this are digital zoom (which quickly reduces image quality to the point of being unusable) or multiple lenses.
Even the multi-lens solution has major limitations, as full resolution is only possible at each camera’s native focal length. Adjust that and you’re back in the digital zoom realm.
So Sony’s new phone is completely different. The new phone has three cameras, one of which has a variable focal length of 85 to 125 mm. That means it offers the equivalent of 3.2x zoom compared to the 24mm main lens, but that then expands to just over 5x.
As 3x optical zoom is common, you’ll really notice the step up to 5x, and to be able to do it without any loss in image quality is sensational.
It’s not cheap. When the phone launches (September in the US, June 16 in the UK) it will cost $1,599 (£1,299 in the UK).
There are other great new features, but none as unique as true optical zoom.
All three 12-megapixel cameras allow you to record Ultra HD quality slow-motion videos. It has another Sony specialty: real-time eye autofocus to ensure your subjects’ faces are pin-sharp. 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 is putting a 4K display on its premium phones. This is a 6.5-inch display in Sony’s preferred widescreen format (21:9). This will definitely make it easier to hold. Oh, and it has the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon Gen 1 processor powering it.
The optical zoom alone makes this a hugely intriguing proposition, and while it’s far from cheap, Sony’s routinely flawless build quality and sleek design are very appealing.