Sony Xperia PRO-I review: The Camera phone

The Sony Xperia Pro-I is the polar antithesis of what nowadays constitutes as a mainstream phone, and while not using it on a daily basis, I still find myself thinking about it every day.

Is it the phone’s decent camera, the surprisingly user-friendly design, or the phone’s overall non-conformist concept? It’s most likely a combination of all three, but the greatest compliment I can pay this phone is that I wish I could use it for longer.

It was no easy chore to get into this review: it was evident from the start that the Sony Xperia Pro-I is unlike any other phone introduced in 2021. For years, phones have supplanted consumer cameras as the primary tool for photographers, but there has been a startling absence of phones designed specifically for professionals that allow for granular fine-tuning of all critical functions.
The Xperia Pro-I aims to correct that injustice. It’s a super-premium, niche phone that costs over $1,800 but has more than enough bells and whistles to warrant its high price.

Please join me, dear reader, on a voyage with the Sony Xperia Pro-I, as we investigate the ins and outs, nuts and bolts, and features of what I believe to be one of the most distinctive and interesting phones of 2021.

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Sony Xperia PRO-I


The Good

  • Sharp and accurate 4K 120Hz OLED display
  • Distinctive industrial design
  • Remarkable camera versatility
  • Superb video-recording capabilities
  • Natural, not overly processed photos and videos
  • Loud and clear stereo speakers
  • Plenty of storage plus microSD card support
  • Outstanding flagship-grade performance
  • User-friendly hardware features

The Bad

  • High price
  • Shutter button is too sensitive
  • Only 30W fast charging
  • Mushy haptic feedback
  • No biometric alternative to the fingerprint scanner
  • White balance discrepancies between the different cameras
  • Camera interface doesn’t rotate

Sony Xperia Pro-I design

The Sony Xperia Pro-I is instantly recognizable as a Sony flagship device: simultaneously intimidating yet unassuming, it’s a phone that firmly places function before form while still managing to succeed at both.
Although it’s obviously subjective, I think Sony’s ultra-premium smartphone’s utilitarian industrial design is outstanding. The Xperia Pro-I adds a cool ridged frame to the standard glass-metal smartphone design, which significantly improves the phone’s grip. That’s crucial whether you’re capturing photos or videos, which you’ll be doing a lot with this phone.

Sony Xperia PRO-I review: The Camera phone

This Sony phone feels very premium, aside from the frame, which is the most prominent design aspect in comparison to other handsets. The phone’s matte Gorilla Glass 6 back looks fantastic, feels amazing in the hand, and perfectly complements the phone’s overall design. It’s resistant to fingerprint smudges, but it’s not very grippable, so you’ll want to consider investing in a protective case or… a lanyard.

I can imagine how divisive the phone’s small and tall design is for some, but I personally adore it. The phone’s 21:9 aspect ratio allows it to be operated with just one hand. True, the phone’s bottom and top bezels are thick, but they’re symmetrical and blend in with the general design of this Xperia, so you’re “saved” from having to deal with a notch or a punch-hole for the front camera.

Sony Xperia PRO-I review: The Camera phone

The distinctive ridged shutter button and separate video-recording keys on the right side of the phone heavily hint at the Xperia Pro-photographic I’s nature. When the phone is not in use, pressing these buttons works as a shortcut to the independent photo and video-taking apps. Another feature of the Xperia line is the lanyard hole, which allows you to attach your phone to a lanyard and use it without danger of it falling to the ground.

The Xperia Pro-inclusion I’s of a 3.5mm audio connection and a flashing notification LED light is a pleasant throwback to a simpler time. I’d always lamented the loss of those particular user-friendly features that Big Phone had sadly doomed to oblivion, so finding them on the Xperia Pro-I was a pleasant surprise. These are unquestionably in keeping with the phone’s “pro” status.

Sony Xperia PRO-I review: The Camera phone

The side power button has a traditional fingerprint sensor incorporated in it, which works flawlessly. You can unlock and authenticate your phone with a single gesture, but it’s not nice that you don’t have a backup biometric authentication method.
The phone’s stereo speakers are quite good, producing loud and clear music, while the base is inadequate and falls short of contemporary devices such as the Google Pixel 6 Pro, which has very good loudspeakers. There’s also full Dolby Atmos compatibility for the ultimate multidimensional audio experience.

The haptic feedback is one of the few design elements of the phone that does not impress. The vibration motor is mushy and slow, lacking the precise and distinct feel experienced on devices such as the Galaxy S21 Ultra, iPhone 13 Pro Max, and OnePlus 9 Pro.

Overall, I’d give the design team behind this phone a big “thumbs up” for prioritizing function above appearance while still looking wonderfully elegant.

Sony Xperia Pro-I design

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Sony Xperia Pro-I display

The display of this Sony super-phone is remarkable, with a 6.5-inch QHD+ OLED display with a razor-sharp resolution of 3840 by 1644 pixels and a fast refresh rate. You won’t find a more detailed display capable of adapting to your specific requirements. However, realistically, it might have been a lot better.

Sony Xperia PRO-I review: The Camera phone

For want of a better description, my favorite feature of the Xperia Pro-display I’s is how customizable it is. See, there’s a handy color temperature option that lets you choose from a few different white balance presets, ranging from a warm 4000-Kelvin setting to a very chilly 10,000-Kelvin setting. There’s also a super-accurate 6500K preset, which is ideal for video creators who need a precise monitor display, but you may fine-tune things to your liking.

Display measurements and quality

The lackluster maximum brightness is probably the screen panel’s single serious flaw. In direct sunshine, the phone is readable, but it isn’t up to par with most other flagships released in 2021—or even 2020. That’s not very encouraging, given that one of the key strengths and intended functions of this gadget is to be able to make out on-screen content while filming a video outside.

Sony Xperia Pro-I summary

Overall, the Xperia Pro-I has exceeded my expectations. It raises the standard for Sony as a phone, but it also unlocks a whole new level of video and photographic potential as a camera. Apart from being the ideal phone for budding photographers who want to master their craft or established professionals who want more creative freedom, the Xperia Pro is a phone for those who just demand more.

In general, the Xperia Pro-I has beyond my expectations. As a phone, it sets a new bar for Sony, but as a camera, it unlocks a whole new level of video and photography potential. The Xperia Pro is a phone for individuals who demand more, not simply for fledgling photographers who want to master their craft or established experts who want greater creative flexibility.

The Sony Xperia Pro-excessive I’s pricing is, nevertheless, one of its most disconcerting features. Its $1,799 price tag puts it in direct competition with many of the top foldable phones on the market, which is a tough pill to swallow. The device’s exorbitant price may deter many potential buyers, which is unfortunate given all of its positive attributes.

Why should you choose the Xperia Pro-I over the Sony RX100 VII, which has a lot of the same hardware? Because, in addition to a fantastic camera, you also get a good contemporary flagship phone that occupies a distinct market segment. The Sony Xperia Pro-I is a bright beacon for Sony and the industry as a whole, breaking boundaries and exploring what’s possible. Aimed at true professionals and people who aren’t satisfied with the cookie-cutter nature of most popular flagships out there, the Sony Xperia Pro-I stands as a bright beacon for Sony and the industry as a whole, breaking the boundaries and exploring what’s possible.

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