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If you’re going to be recording or watching a lot of content you’re going to want your phone to last a long time, but the Sony Xperia 1’s battery life just isn’t up to scratch.
With a 3,330mAh power pack the handset’s battery capacity is slightly below average, and since you’re going to be spending a lot of your time playing games, watching movies, shooting video and generally making the most of the elongated display, the phone really could have done with a bigger battery.
In our battery test, in which we play a 90-minute video at full brightness with accounts syncing over Wi-Fi in the background, the phone dropped to 81% – we turned on Creator Mode for the display and repeated the test, and found it dropped to 83%, so this option will save you a little juice. Both of these results are fairly poor, however, as most handsets at this price point only lose between 10% and 14% charge, so a lengthy movie-streaming binge is likely to eat up significant amounts of battery. It’s also worth noting that our test video is in 16:9, so there were black bars to the side of the display, and a 21:9 video would have drained even more power.
With average use during the day, the Xperia 1 always lasted until we got home from work, but during the evening we often needed to top it up, or limit our use until we charged the phone overnight.
On the subject of powering up, the Sony Xperia 1 doesn’t have wireless charging, despite previous Sony phones having the feature, and most other phones at the same price tag boasting it, and it feels like Sony has really missed the boat here.
Charging the device via its USB-C port is your only option then, and that felt fairly snappy – Sony’s claim that you can get from 0% to 50% in 30 minutes was accurate, and we never felt like we were waiting too long to power up.
A new feature in the Xperia 1 is Adaptive Charging – with this selected you can specify a time by which you need the phone to be powered up to 100%, and the phone regulates its charging speed accordingly. This ensures that your phone doesn’t spend time plugged in while at 100%, which can damage the battery, so Sony clearly has your phone’s long-term health in mind with this feature.
Sony has finally made the step up to three rear cameras, which most other premium phones have at this point, but as with previous Sony handsets, the Sony Xperia 1 camera is just ‘good’ and doesn’t really touch ‘great’.
All three cameras are 12MP, and comprise a primary shooter, plus wide-angle and telephoto lenses – clearly Sony is going the Samsung route of staying out of the megapixel-count arms race for now, which we won’t fault it for, since most smartphone cameras default to lower megapixel counts anyway.
We will, however, fault it for the limited camera features, which keep the smartphone one step behind competitors in every way. One of the main issues is the aforementioned dim screen, which means pictures taken on the smartphone don’t look as good as a similar image taken on other premium phones, but the camera has other issues too.
On top of this, the wide-angle lens has too wide a field-of-view, so pictures taken with it look unnaturally stretched, almost like they’re taken with a fish-eye lens, while the telephoto lens, on the other hand, isn’t telephoto enough – the maximum optical zoom is only 2x, which is a little on the low side.
When taking ‘normal’ pictures, the quality was perfectly acceptable – colors look good, and images show plenty of detail, even in the distant objects. Depth of field in particular felt notable, and in macro shots backgrounds were blurred well.
The Sony Xperia 1 has no night mode, which most modern smartphone cameras do – the scene optimization mode has a specific setting which lightens nighttime shots, but it isn’t nearly as good at doing so as bespoke night modes on other phones.
Sometimes automatic focusing was a little off for close-up pictures, resulting in background objects being in focus while the foreground was a little blurry, but simply tapping the screen a few times in the right area solved this.
On the front of the phone is an 8MP camera, which generally worked fine for selfies, as long as we didn’t fiddle with the Portrait Mode settings – when we did, these were a little overzealous in turning us into hideous-looking mannequins, but we quickly learnt to ignore them.
To be clear, the Sony Xperia 1’s camera was never bad, although images sometimes looked a little murky when viewed on the dim screen, and we needed to export them to a different device in order to appreciate them. However, each of the phone’s features was a little off in one way or another, so if you’re into your smartphone photography you may want to look elsewhere.
Shooting videos with the aforementioned Cinema Pro app is a different story – you’re expected to tweak all the settings yourself, so it’s a lot easier to set the focus and aperture you need. The app also lets you take ‘grabs’ or stills of whatever you’re pointing the camera at, which is your only option for taking 21:9 pictures if you want them.
Generally, we were pretty pleased with the app, as it let us indulge in some film-making fun, and videos get sent straight to the main gallery so they’re easy to find. There are a few issues – image stabilization isn’t as effective as we’d like, you can’t use the flash to light a scene, and there’s no built-in editing software on the phone, so you’ll need to use a third-party app, or save the files to your computer, if you want to do anything more than share them as-shot.
Overall, however, we were impressed with the Sony Xperia 1 Cinema Pro app, and we’re definitely going to be using it for film projects going forward.
The different colors of these fruit are picked up well.
The different levels of blur behind the flower show a good field of depth.
It was hard convincing the camera not to focus on the flag pole.
Scene optimization made this murky day look vaguely acceptable.
This wide-shot distorted the edges of the shot, and the world curves too much compared to the same shot on other camera phones.
Zooming in to the pigeon caused the picture to lose quality quickly.
A video show with the Cinema Pro app looks high-quality, and the autofocus which moves from the flower, to the various leaves and branches, to the tents, is adept at its task.
The video is too overexposed however, which is something that you don't pick up on when filming due to the Sony Xperia 1's dim screen.
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Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.
He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. He also currently works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.