We talked about the Sony Xperia 1 II (Mark II, which is what I’ll call it from now on) over three months ago now, and after building up some initial hype, the phone pretty much vanished for the better part of those three months resurfacing in late June as it got ready for a July release in western markets. And well we’re glad to say that our hype wasn’t misplaced, this is easily one of the best Android flagships released this year, even if being the best doesn’t make it exactly the phone for everyone.
So as the CNET review above may show you, the Mark II is a solid phone with some great features (including a headphone jack) that’s rounded off by one major feature: the camera. Smartphone cameras continue to be all the rage, becoming difference makers for Apple, Google and Huawei devices. And all of those companies have had differing and interesting approaches to making better cameras, focusing on multiple cameras, hardware improvements or software optimization to make the best smartphone camera. And the keyword here is smartphone, because it seems Sony, being the same company in charge of not just making smartphone camera sensors for most Android manufacturers, but also dominating the professional photography and film sector, decided to essentially take one of it’s professional cameras (at least the technologies and software behind it) and squeeze it into a phone. So while The Pixel 4 and iPhone 11 are great cameras for casual photography, the Mark II is essentially a great professional camera in the body of a smartphone, and it shows in all the right ways (and some of the wrong ones).
As the Engadget video above might have shown you, this phone’s approach is to photography is definitely different from most phones, but it’s all the better for it especially if you’re into professional photography. Phones like the Pixel 4 make for great casual shooters, cameras which essentially everyone can take good photos with. But in their reliance on certain base standards and software tweaks to create what’s essentially a good photo, especially for sharing on social platforms like Instagram, they also create more bland, homogenized images that sure, adhere to standards of what most people call “a good picture”. but don’t have the range, colors or metadata that photographers love and rely on to make amazing quality photos. The Mark II, however, does have all this, and it makes it arguably a great replacement for a lot of professional cameras as well, even if Sony prefers it be used in tandem with them. It went the iPhone route of having the same 12 megapixel cameras on all three of its back cameras but had the lenses ,apertures and cameras themselves differ for an ultrawide, default and telephoto lense, with some software tweaks for all the crazy pro camera features ranging from super-fast burst photos, cinema pro video features and a range of customizable stings from ISO to shutter speed to tons of camera features pro users will love. Simply put, pros will love this, and you’ll make amazing unique photos with it, but to be fair, that’s only if you’re good at using it, and that’s of course part of the reason this is an amazing phone, that’s not exactly for everyone.
The camera isn’t the only reason why this phone isn’t exactly for everyone, the price is a huge factor here too. The phone starts at US $1200, and even in 2020 this is beyond a crazy high price. This is while even Samsung’s S20 Ultra is dropping to around $900 and the iPhone 11 is still at $1000 on Apple’s store. Add in the rising advent of mid-range phones like the OnePlus Nord or Google Pixel 4A and Sony’s pro-level phone suddenly seems like it’s not meant for anyone else besides the professionals who might use this phone to compliment their cameras. But ironically this phone also offers amazing features for anyone using a smartphone normally anyway. We already mentioned the headphone jack, but add in a shutter button for photography, a rare 21:9 4K OLED screen, some unique motion smoothing that matches higher refresh rate screens and even a micro SD slot and some interesting PS4 (and upcoming PS5) integrations. Meaning this is one of the best flagship phones you can buy, and easily the best phone Sony has made in years. Yet, chances are due to the price, the very unique camera setup and other factors like the coronavirus might make Sony’s greatest shot at a great smartphone might not even get noticed, which is a shame. Because if you ever get the chance to get you hands on this phone, you should definitely see if you’ll like it, because chances are you will.