Sony Xperia 1 IV Review: For Sony Camera Fans

Sony smartphones have been a niche for alternative groups for years, but last year’s Xperia 1 III (pronounced Mark 3) became a cult hit thanks to its further entry into the realm of pure enthusiasts. Sony has essentially decided to go in the opposite direction to what other phone brands do. Is everyone getting rid of the headphone jack or external memory card support? Sony’s phone retains both features. Are brands sacrificing screen uniformity to refine the bezels? Sony recommends using some bezels instead of using the notch. Are all brands chasing computer photography pioneered by Google and Huawei? Sony says they want to forget about handing over camera control to AI and want users to have more control. With a 4K OLED screen that packs more than twice as many pixels as a similarly sized iPhone screen, you’ve got a device that will satisfy hardcore power users who are avid enthusiasts.

Sony’s new 2021 upgrade, the Xperia 1 IV (pronounced Mark 4), brings back the entire package with a few improvements like a bigger battery, a brighter display, and a better zoom lens. That’s not a big enough change to justify an upgrade for those who already own last year’s phones, but it might further convince those who are tired of getting all Android phones feeling the same to try something different.

design and hardware

The Sony Xperia 1 IV looks almost identical to last year’s Mark 3, so it’s still a very familiar Sony look. It is a slim rectangle in the shape of a box that is slightly larger and narrower than a typical smartphone slab. This is because Sony uses a thinner 21:9 aspect ratio for its 6.5-inch screen. I like this narrower form factor because the phone is narrower from left to right and easier to hold.

The back of the phone is a bit self-explanatory, but the Xperia 1 IV has an understated, minimalist look that some may like. The front of the phone is mostly a screen, with a nice 4k, 120Hz OLED panel. It has larger bezels than typical modern smartphones sandwiching the display, but Sony is using it well because it has a selfie camera as well as a pair of symmetrical front speakers. That said, the Xperia 1 IV is a rare phone with front stereo speakers. As mentioned, the phone also retains a headphone jack, so it should satisfy audiophiles. On the right side of the device there is a clickable button with an additional texture that you would not normally see on a smartphone. This is a dedicated shutter button for the camera. More on this later.

4K screens obviously include a lot of bezels, but probably too many. I still believe that relatively small mobile device screens can perform well at 2k resolution, and beyond that is the flex of the spec sheet, so to speak, overkill. The Xperia 1 IV is not convincing in any other way. Of course, the display is very sharp and looks great, but so do the other six Android flagship phones we recently tested without a 4k screen.

Having a 4k panel means your phone will consume more battery than usual, but fortunately Sony has increased the battery size from last year’s 4,500mAh to this year’s 5,000mAh.

We have the usual Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 with 12GB of RAM and wireless charging, IP68 water resistance. Ultimately, the hardware most fans care about is the camera system.


Sony’s last three Xperia flagship phones were geared towards “real photographers”, especially those who own Sony’s Alpha cameras. Sony’s idea is that iPhones and Google Pixels around the world are telling consumers that AI is very smart and can take pictures for them, while Sony is giving users back control of the camera. Everything from shutter speed to ISO to white balance is possible. If you’re shooting in a dark room with your iPhone, Apple enables a computer photography technology called Night Mode, so you don’t have to think, just point and shoot. With Sony phones, Sony wants slower shutter speeds to pull in more light and higher ISOs to increase light sensitivity, just like a real photographer would in the same situation.

To make shooting with the Xperia 1 IV feel like shooting with a real camera, the phone has the aforementioned physical shutter button. As with Sony Alpha cameras, you can lock focus by pressing the button halfway and then press it fully to take a picture.

There are other camera features familiar to Sony Alpha camera owners, such as “Eye Autofocus” (the phone locks focus on the subject’s eyes to keep the face in focus), and very pleasedly works with dogs and cats as well.

The camera can also shoot 4/120fps video or take pictures in rapid-fire mode (20 frames per second).

The software is top notch and the phone camera app actually feels like a Sony Alpha camera, but what about the hardware? Sony is back with a triple-lens system consisting of all 12MP cameras covering ultra-wide (16mm), wide-angle (24mm) and portrait (85mm to 125mm) focal lengths. You can see that the last focal length has a range. Because the zoom lens here is an innovative variable optical zoom lens with a real moving lens inside the phone.

Like I said, Sony takes their software image processing very lightly (unlike Apple or Google phones, which basically do Photoshop work after shooting). So the photos are more natural and primitive, but sometimes more flawed. For example, if you shoot backlit as a background, the sky will fly away and you will have dark shadows (even with a real camera). iPhone and Pixel solve this problem with computer algorithms, but Sony doesn’t. Instead, Sony provides controls that you can adjust.

This is a system compared to driving a manual transmission (stick shift) in a car. Interesting in the process of controlling the gears of a car is fun and rewarding, but most people don’t mind and prefer to drive automatically. hassle. The same goes for the Xpera 1 IV camera. When you take a picture, you have to think and adjust more than the iPhone.

This alone makes the Xperia 1 IV unique and different from the rest. Whether this will overwhelm the average consumer remains to be seen. But if you’re a true enthusiast, you’ll enjoy having more control over your photos by someone who considers themselves a photographer.


The phone’s general performance is fine except for the fact that the 4k display results in sub-average battery life. On off-peak days (working days if you’re tied to your desk for 8 hours a day), your phone will work just fine. However, if you use it all day (usually on weekends), you should charge the phone at or before dinner time. Battery life is neither terrible nor good.

This phone runs Android 12 with Sony’s very lightweight software overlay on top, and there isn’t much to report here. Sony offers a side menu that you can launch via swipe and tap, but otherwise the experience is very common Android. This is a good thing.


The Sony Xperia 1 IV is very expensive, well over $1,300. But for enthusiasts and buyers of Sony cameras, this price won’t be too much of a shock (the Sony A7C with a 20mm lens costs well over $3,500).

For casual buyers, this price is hardly for entry-level, so the Xperia 1 IV is another niche market. But at least Sony isn’t just following the pack, it’s trying a variety of things.


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