The Future of Smartphone Cameras?
one camera. Then this is the back of the iphone 10. two cameras. This is the iphone 13 pro three cameras. This is the back of the galaxy s22 ultra four cameras, and you better believe there are some phones out now with five cameras. Weve, just gotten very used to the idea of smartphones having lots of cameras on the back its even become a little bit of a status thing like when you see that phone with several cameras on the back. You kind of know that thats one of the more premium ones, so this sony phone may look like a bunch of the other ones. That weve talked about and kind of just like a lot of other sony phones, and it has all the sony stuff that weve come to expect over the years, but it has one really key feature up its sleeve. That makes it very different, see theres other types of phones when they have three cameras. For example, they have three native focal lengths, typically its an ultra wide a standard and a telephoto. So thats awesome. If you just hit the 0.5 x button for an ultra wide or just hit the 3x button for that telephoto shot, those are basically native optical zoom, but everything in between is just going to be digitally zooming between them. So if you zoom into 3.5x thats, basically the same as you cropping in slightly to a photo from the 3x camera after you take it.
If you zoom in to 2.5x thats, just zooming way into the 1x lens with digital zoom youre, not getting more detail, the photo wont necessarily look better, its just purely for convenience, so thats. Why? You notice that little snap that happens when you get to the 3x and it switches to the next camera thats, how you can tell your photo will be better, but this sony, xperia 1 mark 4, brings back the legendary continuous optical zoom through this telephoto camera. So last time we saw this was in this: the asus zenfone zoom back in 2015, which was a much worse camera and that kind of fell on its face. So the tech has come a long way since then so theres still a 1x camera. Yes, theres still a 0.7 x for your ultra wide shots, but the telephoto camera is now behaving kind of like a full size, zoom lens with a focal length range of 85 millimeters to 125 millimeters. So now lets you smoothly zoom between 3.5 x and 5.2 x, with real optical zoom, and yes, that means there are moving parts inside the phone to make this happen. So sonys been working on this for a little while, you might remember the xperia 1 mark iii, that i also reviewed, which is this one, which also had a pretty wild telephoto camera set up this one with magnets snapped between 70 and 105 millimeters, so that was Technically variable optical zoom, which is still super cool, its like having two cameras in one in that telephoto camera.
This one with continuous zoom is like having dozens of different focal lengths and dozens of cameras in one just in that telephoto now any focal length between 85 and 125 millimeters will be perfectly native optical zoom, but again its more like having a real, continuous zoom built Into the back of a phone now in practice, you can see here, the zoom range is relatively small: 3.5 x to 5.2 x is not a huge zoom, but it does actually achieve its goal. This was the xperia one mark iii at 70. Millimeters then snapped to 105 millimeters. Both of these are optical. Then this was when it was right in between so just digital zoom. Now this is the xperia 1 mark iv. First at 85. Millimeters then, all the way in at 125 millimeters and then here it is right in between its subtle, but it maintains better sharpness throughout this whole range, while behaving just like a regular camera, and that is why i think this is, or at least logically should be, The future of smartphone cameras weve been trying to get good variables different focal lengths on the back of smartphone cameras for a while. Now, like i said, weve just accepted a bunch of different cameras on the back, so galaxy s 22 ultra right now. What does that? Have that has a regular camera, an ultra wide, a 3x telephoto and a 10x telephoto so that it can balance between a variety of different focal lengths? Of course, 3x will be perfectly optical and then 10x will sharpen again, but again, its still going to be a little bit blurry in between thats.
Why this is ideal. This is literal perfect optical zoom throughout the whole range you just cant beat physics now, of course, the tech has a lot to improve, on probably the most obvious piece being its got to cover a wider and wider focal range as it gets better. Like i said, 3.5 x to 5.2 x turns out isnt a whole lot of zoom right now, but imagine a version that goes all the way from 2x to 8x and then maybe something does all the way from 1x to 10x. You know, suddenly, you dont need a separate primary and telephoto camera anymore, and so i was just kind of logically extrapolating. It seems like it would be such a cool idea if we went from one camera on the back to two to three and then, as the tech gets better and better, we go from three back to two and then back to one but but the more. I think about it. I dont actually think that we can expect to reduce all of the cameras on the back of the phones now all down to one just because the physics problem is incredibly hard like. If you look at a mirrorless camera, you have one sensor, but you still need to change lenses to go from ultra wide to a normal field of view to a telephoto, even if they all can zoom. You really dont see often some casual lens that can do everything like an 18 to 400 millimeter lens.
Actually i take that back. I just looked it up there. There are some that exist. I just found on b h. There is an 8 to 800 millimeter lens, but its the size of like a microwave, its 53 pounds and costs 165 000, and that is the point here. This is a physics problem, basically, and all of the pain points of trying to solve that problem, get magnified when you shrink it all down into like a tiny smartphone camera like this. With these little itty bitty sensors, that dont gather that much light and where theres not a lot of room for high quality optics but high quality optics really is the key here so that zenfone zoom that we talked about earlier. That phone had a single camera that did 28 to 84 millimeters, so its about 1x to 3x zoom, and i never owned that camera or that phone. But from all the reviews i read, they all killed it for having really poor quality optics and really bad images. As a result – and so that means the technology has definitely gotten significantly better since then, and hopefully that trend can continue. So i love that sony is working on this. They stay really clever with it, obviously starting with turning everything sideways within the phone for the periscope zoom and then using magnets to move around the optical elements inside in a super precise way. That is very impressive. What theyve achieved so far so file this down as yet another sony phone with a super, impressive, technically well executed, enthusiast feature and then the rest of the phone built around.
It is exactly what youd expect from sony its an upgrade from the xperia one mark iii that i reviewed less than a year ago, its the same tall, matte black shape and design. You can barely tell the difference from the outside between the phones, but they do have some year over year, upgrades thrown in theyve still got their incredibly overkill. Six and a half inch 4k 120 hertz oled display, but this ones even brighter up to a thousand nits. So its more visible outdoors and even more of a battery hog uh. The battery, though, is also bigger: its up to 5000 milliamp hours now and theyve bumped it up to a snapdragon 8 gen 1 chip with 12 gigs of ram half a terabyte of storage, theres, updated loudspeakers and a new 12 megapixel selfie camera. All three cameras on the back can shoot 4k 120 frames per second videos and 20 photos per second in bursts with sonys awesome eye tracking autofocus and hey. I got ta hand it to sony. I was gon na say i think theyre the only smartphone brand thats. Never had a notch in any of their phones, but i did look it up. There was actually once a sony phone that had a notch and it was pretty brutal but theyve been remarkably consistent with this design. Theyre also one of the only ones keeping a headphone jack around, despite being one of the companies selling tons of wireless earbuds too so theyve added a bunch of new software features around this phone centered around gaming and live streaming.
But at the same time, with all those pluses, there are definitely also still some classic sony downsides, first, starting with the fact that its being unveiled now but isnt coming to the u.s till september. So you can sort of map out the hype curve dropping between now and then, and they very much still lean into the enthusiasts sony alpha camera like shooting experience, which is an upside for some people. But that also means there is no simple point and shoot portrait mode or night mode, and you do have to dive straight into sonys camera app, which obviously isnt for everybody also fun. Fact the box it comes in uh just has a phone yeah, just the phone. No charging brick also no usbc, cable, no paperwork, just the phone thats it and its going to retail when it does land in the u.s for 1, 599, so yeah, not for everybody but hey. I got to give sony props, because this this is one of those things like i really enjoy using these sony phones. The software experience on them has kind of quietly become one of my favorite near stock android experiences on any android phone. They get their updates, theyre smooth all the time and they consistently deliver some innovative new stuff in every new phone they drop and they refuse to be notched or headphone jack, dropping like kind of the rest of the phones out so im glad it exists all right.