Sony Xperia 1 II Review

July 3, 2020 | Tim Coleman | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Sony Xperia 1 II is the company's latest flagship smartphone, priced at £1,099 / $1,199 in the UK and USA respectively.

Claimed to 'set a new bar for speed in a smartphone', you get the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, 8GB RAM, 5G connection and Wi-Fi 6 connectivity.

Of course, at Photography Blog our main interest lies in the smartphone's image making potential. You get triple front-facing Zeiss lenses, backed up with redesigned Photo Pro and Cinema Pro apps for full manual control over settings such as exposure, focus and drive mode.

There are also some eye-watering photography and video features. Co-designed with the Sony a9 - a camera primarily designed for professional action photographers - the Xperia 1 II offers 20fps with continuous autofocus focus and autoexposure and real time eye AF for humans and animals.

On paper, for image makers there's a lot to be excited about in the Xperia 1 II, which is available in Black or Purple (plus other limited edition versions), so read on to find out how we got on using it.

Ease of Use

Sony Xperia 1 II
Front of the Sony Xperia 1 II

Before we get into the nitty gritty of the camera and apps, let's take a look around the sleek and slender Xperia 1 II.

It's got an ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio 4K HDR OLED (3840x1644 pixel) screen. With a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio and 10-bit equivalent display, the colours are rendered beautifully.

Asides from being the perfect format for watching movies and gaming, there are a few benefits to ultra-wide screens.

With a maximised display size, the 'multi-window' function that allows you to view and operate two apps simultaneously has enough room to breathe - it's a genuine option.

That ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio of the screen also gives a cleaner display for image making, being perfectly suited to video, but in this case also for photography. That's because in the Pro Photo app, the camera functions and menus are displayed in the empty space to the side of the best quality 4:3 aspect ratio live view.

Sony Xperia 1 II
Rear of the Sony Xperia 1 II

Overall, the screen is great, although we did find it a challenge at times to see it clearly when out in direct summer sunlight, even at its brightest setting.

The phone itself is narrower than other 6.5in phones and therefore easier to hold. However, it's long format is unwieldy for single-hand use and you'll generally want both of your hands free for using the camera.

Design-wise, Corning Gorilla Glass on both sides make the Xperia 1 II a tough phone. You will still want to buy a protective case though, not least of which because the smooth surface is slippery. It's also water resistant to an IP65/68 rating (that's rain and dust as opposed to full waterproofing). A full day on a quiet beach proved no problem for the Xperia 1 II.

The battery has a healthy 4,000mAh capacity and can be charged to 50% in around 30 minutes. You'll get a full day's use on a single charge - a performance that matches up to the competition and is a big step up from the Xperia 1. There is also compatibility with a wireless charger dock, although this unit is not supplied with the phone.

A further look around the phone reveals the single SIM/ micro SDXC card slot, volume control, on/off button and a button that can be used for image capture with the camera. Lo and behold, the 3.5mm headphone jack is back, too!

Sony Xperia 1 II
Side of the Sony Xperia 1 II

For quicker and easier access, we would like to see an on-screen fingerprint scanner, instead of the power on/off scanner.

As standard, the internal memory is a generous 256GB and a micro SDXC card card be installed with support for cards up to 1TB.

On the rear is the triple lens camera, flash and a 3D iToF sensor used for autofocus and depth sensing. Thankfully, the lenses are now in the upper left as you hold the camera in landscape format for taking photos, meaning your fingers are much less likely to get in the way.

The primary rear lens has a 24mm focal length with 82° field of view and maximum f/1.7 aperture. You then have the telephoto 70mm camera with 34° field of view and f/2.4 maximum aperture, plus the 16mm ultra-wide lens with 124° field of view and f/2.2 maximum aperture. It's also possible to digitally zoom in with any of those lenses, up to a maximum of 200mm using the 70mm lens.

There is a single front-facing 'selfie' camera with 8MP resolution, 84° field of view and f/2.0 maximum aperture.

Sony Xperia 1 II
Camera App

While out and about, we have really appreciated what each of the 16mm, 24mm and 70mm lenses bring. For landscape scenarios, that ultra-wide lens is particularly useful. We have largely ignored the digital zoom because of the adverse impact on image quality.

Each lens offers a maximum 12MP image size at 4:3 aspect ratio, while using a different area of the new sensor, with the primary 24mm lens utilising the sensor fully. And the camera sensor is 1/1.7”, which is 50% larger unit than the one found in the Xperia 1.

It seems strange to consider 12MP a low resolution for a smartphone, but this very ethos has served the photo quality in Google Pixel phones very well.

For photography and video there are two main ways to control the camera, through the dedicated Cinema Pro and Photo Pro apps or through the standard camera app.

In the standard camera app, you can switch between the three lenses, adjust brightness via a slider, select aspect ratio and switch to the front facing camera. For photos, you can also select the flash mode and manually add a bokeh effect with the 24mm lens only. (Bokeh is the word used to describe the aesthetic quality of out-of-focus areas.

Sony Xperia 1 II
Photo Pro App

There are a few additional photo modes; panorama (which works really well), 'slow motion' (for 120fps full HD videos), Portrait Selfie, Google Lens and finally Creative effect (for various filters including Old Film, Mirror and Harris Shutter).

You also have direct access to the Photo Pro app, although we'd like to see a more intuitive way to switch back from the pro apps to the standard camera app. It appears that the quickest way is through image playback.

Truth be told, the standard camera app is rather basic. But the Photo Pro app is an entirely different experience.

Making the most of that ultra-wide display, the layout in the Pro apps is brilliant. Sony Alpha users will be familiar with the menu layout, with PASM exposure modes, EV compensation, drive mode, AF mode, ISO, metering, flash, white balance and Face/ Eye detection AF. Histogram, grid lines and level gauge can be displayed in real time too.

Photos are taken in the Pro app using the shutter button on the side of the phone. Unlike the standard camera app, there is no on-screen shutter button option. We found the side shutter button a little on the stiff side, especially when trying to get a grip on the slippery rear surface. Ideally you'll have both hands available to hold the phone.

Sony Xperia 1 II
Photo Pro App

Ultimately, those who know a bit about photography will really enjoy the Photo Pro App. And like in the latest Sony Alpha cameras, the continuous AF in the Xperia 1 II is excellent in a wide range of scenarios.

Sony's industry-leading real-time face and eye detection AF is available here for both people and animals and has unerring accuracy and reliability. And it's on a phone.

There is the reassurance that continuous AF is on the money via those signature green squares that you get displayed over your tracked subject - be it face or eye detection.

Then there are the drive modes supported by fast continuous AF - up to 20fps with continuous AF and AE. That continuous high drive mode is available when using the 24mm lens only, while the other lenses are supported with a 10fps continuous low drive mode.

In low contrast light, AF is excellent too, for a phone. Whatever the scenario, the Xperia 1 II is lightning quick for focus and capture. It almost seems absurd (in a good way) to have such action-photography-friendly features on a phone.

Sony Xperia 1 II
Cinema Pro App

We also need to comment on the Cinema Pro app for video. You get 4K (3840x1644) or 2K (2520x1080) capture at up to 60fps, plus eight colour grade presets in addition to a standard look. The shutter is automatically adjusted according to your FPS, whether it is 24, 25, 30 or 60fps - that's really helpful.

All three lenses are available for video mode, although not at all FPS options are. With a fixed aperture of f/1.7 to f/2.4 depending on the lens in use, direct sunlight is too bright even using the base ISO 64 setting and certainly when shooting at 24fps. We couldn't find a ND filter effect option to reduce light transmission. So if you want to shoot video in sunlight, 60fps is your only real option.

Video AF is good albeit with a little 'twitching' as it makes those micro adjustments, while manual focus is controlled by selecting the distance on a slider.

There is a really neat feature to select two manual focus presets ('A' and 'B') on the slider to make an immediate switch between those two distances. We can see a lot of use for this feature and are still pinching ourselves that this is on a phone! Manual focus transitions are really smooth.

A general sour observation about the Xperia 1 II is that not all features are available in all modes or for all three lenses and it'll take a little time to work out what is indeed possible.

All in all, the Xperia 1 II is very capable for photo and video recording and is backed up a powerful processor, healthy battery life and intuitive Pro apps. It's not for everyone, in fact, its handling is aimed squarely at discerning image makers who will be bowled over by what is possible.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting, which produces an average image size of around 7Mb.

Sony has a similar ethos to Google Pixel - shunning pixels and sticking with a maximum 12MP resolution, available for all three lenses. Those 12 megapixel JPEG images average at around 6MB depending on the shooting mode and give a print size of approximately 13.5x10in at 300ppi.

Certainly, when viewed on a phone or tablet, you can get some very sharp looking images. There is a fall off in sharpness in the corners, especially with the 16mm lens, but overall we are happy with the quality of detail.

Even with an optical zoom, detail in smartphones (in general) is sharper in close up subjects rather than those that are far away, like in landscape images.

Bokeh effect, where used, is applied rather well, although it will of course depend on your subject and the background around your subject.

In bright sunlight, you will need to watch out for flare when shooting in the general direction of the sun. The effect can be minimised by shielding the lens from the sun.

The standard camera app is generally automatic and basic and as such we have lent way more often to the sophisticated Photo Pro app. Here you get way more manual control over exposure and the drive modes for fast action sequences.

Colour rendition is lovely and natural - more so than some competing flagship phones from other brands. You can keep the camera in its auto white balance and with the automatic colour mode and be happy with how images look in most scenarios. There is the 'Creative effect' mode in the standard camera app, offering alternative colour modes and effects, too.

Shooting in JPEG only format, there is only so much visible dynamic range - this is a phone after all. Through the Photo Pro app menu it is possible to switch from the default dynamic range optimiser to Auto HDR and increase that detail in highlights and shadows. Conversely, the optimiser can be turned off altogether. If you're shooting in bright light, the Auto HDR is a wise choice.

Optical image stabilisation is available for the 24mm and 70mm lenses only and in video it is combined with electronic stabilisation and gives some steady handheld action. With stabilsation employed, it is possible to maintain sharp detail with slower shutter speeds than normal - which is better than cranking up the ISO.


Manual exposure control is possible in the Photo Pro mode (although aperture is fixed), with an ISO 64-3200 range, plus auto ISO. The ISO setting can be shifted in 1/3EV steps, and we have included identical shots taken at the base ISO and then every full ISO stop between ISO 100 and 3200, that's almost seven stops in all.

According to Sony, RAW format will be available for the Xperia 1 II via a software update. At the time of testing, we have only been able to take pictures in JPEG format.

With a maximum aperture between f/1.7 and f/2.4 depending on the lens in use, plus 5-axis image stabilisation, chances are the Xperia 1 II will be set to ISO 64 or ISO 100 via auto ISO the majority of the time. And in good contrast light such as daylight, detail is sharp in these settings.

Certainly, you'll want to do your best to use ISO 64 or ISO 100 because the adverse effect of noise is progressive with each ISO setting increase. Viewing images at 100% size on screen, detail remains reasonably sharp up to ISO 400, then mushier from ISO 800 and higher.

In low contrast light such as shadows, JPEG detail will be a little mushier than in the brighter areas whatever the ISO setting. Noise is also influenced a little by the lens in use - you'll get best quality pictures possible by using the primary 24mm lens.

All being said, most images will be viewed on a smartphone or tablet and will appear very sharp up to ISO 800.

ISO 64 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso100.jpg

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso200.jpg

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso400.jpg

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)



Three front lenses are set at the equivalent focal lengths of 16mm, 24mm and 70mm, with the 24mm being the primary lens. Each lens can digitally zoom in, with a maximum reach of 200mm when using the 70mm lens.








As with any small-sensor smartphone, the Xperia 1 II has decent macro capabilities. It's minimum focus distance is approximately 10cm.



Both in the Photo Pro and the standard camera apps, the flash options are; auto, fill-flash, red-eye reduction, off and torch. Depending on lens choice, app choice and camera settings, not all flash options are available and there are inconsistencies between apps.






Shutter speed and ISO is automatic in the standard camera app, but in the Photo Pro app those settings can be manually adjusted. The maximum camera settings for night photography is a 30 second shutter speed and ISO 3200.


Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Sony Xperia 1 II camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movies & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 3840x1664 pixels at 60 frames per second. Please note that this 19 second movie is 207Mb in size.

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 3840x1664 pixels at 60 frames per second. Please note that this 6 second movie is 73.2Mb in size.

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 18 second movie is 40.4Mb in size.

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 9 second movie is 21.1Mb in size.

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 6 second movie is 13.9Mb in size.

Product Images

Sony Xperia 1 II
Sony Xperia 1 II
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Sony Xperia 1 II
Sony Xperia 1 II
Sony Xperia 1 II
Sony Xperia 1 II
Sony Xperia 1 II
Sony Xperia 1 II
Sony Xperia 1 II
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Sony Xperia 1 II
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Sony Xperia 1 II


Handling wise, the Sony Xperia 1 II represents a comprehensive upgrade from the one-year-old Xperia 1. The large display is gorgeous, battery life is healthy, processor is top-of-the-line and storage is generous.

Those that want to make the most of the Xperia 1 II's image making potential should stick with the Photo Pro and Cinema Pro apps which offer a brilliant experience when compared to the basic and largely automated standard camera app.

Whether you are a Sony Alpha camera user or simply a photo enthusiast, the layout and handling of the Photo Pro app is arguably the best around in any smartphone. This feels like a niche camera, designed for those that want creative control.

Conversely, the masses may be alienated when it comes to the camera. One example is that there are no dedicated algorithms for a 'Night Mode', but you can take manual control of shutter speed for night shots. Ultimately, you'll have to manually work out a lot for yourself.

And there are plenty of quirks - certain settings that are available in some scenarios and for one of the lenses may not be for others, with no workaround.

With an RRP of £1,099, the Xperia 1 II is a true flagship phone pitched against the very best from Samsung, Apple, OnePlus, Huawei et al. Image quality compares without excelling and is impacted by the user ability rather than relying on automated modes.

For us, when it comes to image making, the main reasons to choose the Xperia 1 II have to be around its niche handling. This is a photographer's phone, while video users are very well catered for, too. Overall, the Sony Xperia 1 II is the most compelling smartphone from Sony yet.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4
Value for money 3

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Sony Xperia 1 II.

Apple iPhone 11 Pro

Another year, another new flagship phone from Apple, this time introducing a new triple camera system, night mode and improved battery life. Is the iPhone 11 Pro the best smartphone that Apple have ever released, and can it beat the Android competition? Read our iPhone 11 Pro review to find out, complete with full-size sample images and videos.

Apple iPhone 11

The Apple iPhone 11 is the more affordable, more sensible little brother of the flagship Pro model, sharing most of the same camera features with the exception of the Pro's telephoto lens. Read our in-depth iPhone 11 review now, complete with full-size sample images and videos...

Google Pixel 4

The Pixel 4 is Google's new flagship smartphone, available in standard and XL sizes. New for this generation is a second 16-megapixel 2x telephoto lens with an f/2.4 aperture, along with improved portrait and night modes. Is this the best Pixel phone for keen photographers, and can it compete with its main rivals? Find out now by reading our Pixel 4 review, with full-size sample images and videos...

Huawei P40 Pro

The P40 Pro is Huawei's new flagship smartphone for 2020. Featuring a 6.58-inch screen, 50 megapixel sensor, 5x optical zoom lens and 4K video recording, can it overcome its much-publicized lack of Google App support? Find out now by reading our in-depth Huawei P40 Pro review, complete with full-size sample images and videos...

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra

The Galaxy S20 Ultra is Samsung's new flagship smartphone for 2020. Featuring a 6.9-inch screen, 108 megapixel sensor and 100x zoom lens, it's certainly big in size, megapixel count and zoom range, but is it also big in performance? Find out now by reading our expert Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review, complete with full-size sample images and videos...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Sony Xperia 1 II from around the web. »

The Sony Xperia 1 II is the full package as smartphones go, but it isn’t for everyone. Its large size and particular quirks make it something of a niche device, but if you’re looking for a phone with a great rear camera, unbeatable display and a battery that will last you a whole day, you’ve got it here.
Read the full review » »

The Sony Xperia 1 II stands out from the crowd by offering a photo and video capture experience tailored towards enthusiasts and pros. If you fit this niche and prioritize pro camera features and image accuracy above all else, the Xperia 1 II is definitely worth shortlisting. However, a more typical user is likely to find a rival phone like the S20 Ultra or P40 Pro gives slightly more pleasing images, even if they're not quite as true to life.
Read the full review » »

It packs a nice design, plenty of clever touches (headphone port on a flagship feels almost novel at the point) and great software. Save for the £1000/$1000 price, this is Sony’s best phone for a number of years.
Read the full review »



166 × 72 × 7.9mm




6.5" 21:9 CinemaWide™ display
4K HDR OLED (3840x1644)
Creator mode "powered by CineAlta" - Inspired by Master Monitor colour reproduction, DCI-P3 100%, ITU-R BT.2020 (REC.2020) , Illuminant D65 White point, 10 bit tonal gradation , X1™ for mobile, Motion Blur Reduction
H.263, H.264, H.265, MPEG-4 Video, AV1, VP8, VP9


Water resistant (IP65/68)
Corning® Gorilla® Glass 6


Triple lens camera

Rear Camera (1)

1/1.7" Exmor RS™ for mobile sensor

Rear Camera (2)


Rear Camera (3)

1/2.55" Exmor RS™ for mobile sensor

Camera Features

ZEISS® quality lenses calibrated specifically for Xperia 1 II, ZEISS® T* Coating, Up to 20fps AF/AE , Up to 60 times per second continuous AF/AE calculation , Real-time Eye AF for humans and animals , Dual photo diode , 3D iToF , RGB-IR, OIS photo , Photo flash, Photo light, Optical zoom 3x (70mm lens equivalent), 3x Digital zoom (16, 24 and 70mm lens), HDR (High Dynamic Range) photo

Video Recording

Cinematography Pro "powered by CineAlta", 4K HDR Movie recording 24, 25, 30 and 60fps , OIS and EIS Video , Optical SteadyShot™ (hybrid OIS/EIS video stabilization) and SteadyShot™ with Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stabilization) , Intelligent wind filter, Slowmotion (120fps)
mp4 (AVC264, HEVC265)

Front Camera (1)

HDR (High Dynamic Range) photo, SteadyShot™ with Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stablization) , Portrait selfie, Display flash, Hand and Smile Shutter


High-Resolution Audio, High-Resolution Audio Wireless , LDAC
3.5mm audio jack, 360 Reality Audio , 360 Reality Audio hardware decoding , True front stereo speakers, Dolby Atmos® , DSEE Ultimate, Stereo Recording, Qualcomm® aptX™ HD audio
AAC-LC, AAC+, eAAC+, AAC-ELD, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, FLAC, MP3, MIDI, Vorbis, PCM, Opus, ALAC, DSD, 360 Reality Audio Music Format

Memory & Storage

microSDXC support (up to 1TB)

SIM Capability

Single SIM
Nano SIM

Operating System

Android™ 10


Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 865 5G Mobile Platform


USB Power Delivery (USB PD) fast charging, Qi Wireless charging
Xperia Adaptive Charging, Battery Care, STAMINA Mode


GSM GPRS/EDGE (Bands 850, 900, 1800, 1900)
UMTS HSPA+ (Bands 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 19)
LTE Cat19/Cat13 (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 32, 34, 38, 39, 40, 41, 46, 66) / LTE 6CA/2CA
Bands n1, n3, n28, n77 , n78


IEEE802.11a/b/g/n(2.4GHz)/n(5GHz)/ac/ax / Wi-Fi MIMO 2x2
Bluetooth® 5.1 wireless technology
Ver. 3.1
Smart connectivity, Google Cast, NFC, Output video/image via Display Port support Type-C Cable or USB-C to HDMI Adapter Cable (Display Port 4K 60fps)


Fingerprint sensor


PS4 Remote Play , DUALSHOCK®4 Control compatibility , Game Enhancer, Dynamic Vibration System


Hearing Aid Compatibility (HAC) , Teletypewriter (TTY) , Volume key shortcut/Screen readers: Select-to-Speak, TalkBack, Text-to-speech output/Display: Font size, Display size, Magnification, Colour correction, Colour inversion, Large mouse cursor, Remove animations/Interaction controls: Accessibility Menu, Switch Access, Click after mouse pointer stops moving, Power button ends call, Auto-rotate screen, Touch & hold delay, Vibration/Audio & on-screen text: Mono audio, Captions/Experimental: High-contrast text

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