Sony Xperia 1 IV review: a fantastic camera phone if you can ignore some flaws

By Yvonne
2022-10-12

The Sony Xperia 1 IV brings some stellar creative features, but it still has a few flaws that make the phone hard to use.

Sony Xperia 1 IV review

Sony Xperia 1 IV offers some amazing creative features. It has a continuous optical zoom that wows for photography, and can shoot 4K 120fps video on all three of its cameras. This makes it a fantastic tool for video. The phone is also well-built with an attractive display and a powerful processor. It has a long-lasting battery. It's a bit rough around the edges, with a fingerprint scanner which struggles to read your prints and a high price that is likely to deter many buyers.

The pros

  • +

    The continuous zoom feature of a camera is amazing

  • +

    Good-looking display

  • +

    Amazing battery life

Cons

  • -

    Temperamental fingerprint scanner

  • -

    Recorded videos can have playback problems

  • -

    Price is outrageous

Related Reading: Vivo X80 Pro Review

Review in two minutes

This Sony Xperia 1 IV Review is difficult to decide whether it should be regarded as a review of a smartphone for consumers or a tool to create professional-level artwork tools. If you consider it the former it can be hard to give it a recommendation.

It is an outrageously priced phone and can't be compared to the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro Max.

Sony is aware of this and doesn't want to target consumers who just buy any phone they find. The Xperia 1 series was designed for professional content creators (for the lack of a better term, it isn't). It offers a variety of bespoke photography and videography features, as well as audio recording capabilities.

It is the fourth generation of Sony's flagship Android smartphone line. What gave it away, you ask? This is the fourth-generation Sony Xperia 1 III and comes with a mid-range Xperia 10 IV. The premium models are rarely updated significantly from their predecessors. Sony opts instead to improve specs and add useful features that allow for creativity.

Continuous optical zoom is the big feature. The telephoto lens can move between 3.5x to 5.2x with no need for digital zoom. This is basically cropping. This mode is great for long-range photographers.

The major upgrades also include 4K video recording at 120fps on all three cameras, one rear-facing and one front-facing, and an audio record app which allows you to layer, clean, and mix sounds, as well as functions for streaming mobile games and larger batteries.

Sony phones have been praised for being among the top devices for creatives. The new additions of the Xperia line ensures that Sony will be competing with Apple and Samsung for the title. However, the Xperia camera's design is more technical-minded than either the iPhone or Galaxy point-and shoots.

Some of the edges are not perfect and can be overlooked by even skilled users. We can't rate this phone as a 5/5.

Sony Xperia 1 IV

We found that the fingerprint sensor on the side of the phone was inaccurate and failed to unlock it more often than it did. It has been an ongoing problem on Sony flagships, and the fact that they haven't yet fixed it is a mystery to us.

A few other software problems were encountered, including video playback not being available on certain video-recording apps and apps crash. There was also some bloatware, which we would have expected on such a high-end device.

This phone is expensive. It will cost more than Ultra-suffix phones and foldable phones. Our 'price and availability section' is not for the weak of heart. It is true that you can get many unique creative features at this price but it does seem a little excessive given the global cost of living crisis. What number of'starving artists" have $1600 available to them?

While we enjoyed using the Sony Xperia 1 IV for testing, it was not something that we would recommend to all our friends. We would recommend the device to those who can afford the price and enjoy Cinema Pro apps like continuous zoom, 120fps recording, or continuous camera zoom.

Related Reading: Motorola Moto G82 review

Sony Xperia 1IV price and availability

  • Costs $1,599 / £1,299 - no Australia release
  • More expensive than Apple and Samsung rivals
  • Sales June 16th in Europe and September 1st in the USA

Even the most committed buyers will be put off by the Sony Xperia 1 IV's high price.

The US handset is $1,599.99 and comes with 512GB of storage. In the UK it'll set you back £1,299.99, which will net you 256GB storage. Sony is unlikely to launch the phone in Australia as it hasn’t yet sold any of its previous phones.

Sony Xperia 1 IV

The phone costs more than its predecessor - the Xperia 1 III went for $1,299.99 / £1,199.99, and both regions got a 256GB device. Before you get mad, the phone's increased storage capacity doesn’t justifies a $300 increase in price.

The Sony Xperia 1 IV competes with the best smartphones on the market at this price. For context the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra costs $1,299.99 / £1,249 / AU$1,999 for 256GB storage and $1,399.99 / £1,329 / AU$2,149 for 512GB, while the iPhone 14 Pro Max is priced at $1,199 / £1,309 / AU$2,099 for 256GB and $1,399 / £1,529 / AU$2,419 for 512GB.

In the US, Sony's storage heavyweights are priced more than the Sony, but in the UK, it is at the same level.

Sony granted Europe preferential treatment in the release of its Xperia 1 IV. The device launched in Europe on June 16, including in the UK. However, the US initially was promised a launch date of September 1, but it ended up opening in a new tab. Sony has not provided any explanation for why.

Despite the long delay, it is actually a very short turnaround time between launch and publication, compared with what happened to previous Xperia launches.

  • Value score: 2/5

Related Reading: A surprise new iPhone 14 and Galaxy S22 rival – Motorola Edge 30 Ultra review

Sony Xperia 1 IV design

  • An angular display makes it difficult to use
  • Retains 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Shutter button can be used for photograph

Your eyes and hands will both tell you the exact same about the Sony Xperia 1 IV: It's a thin, angular phone that won't win design awards, especially for the award for biggest redesign since predecessor'.

The phone measures 165x71x8.2mm. It is definitely tall but narrow enough to not stretch your hand. And it weighs in at just 185g.

Although it isn't the most comfortable smartphone we have, its flat edges make it quite awkward to hold.

The device's glass sandwich features the Gorilla Glass Victus front and back and an aluminum frame. The device is certified IP65 as well IP68, which means it can be protected from dust and water submersion. The device is available in black, white and violet.

Sony Xperia 1 IV

The Xperia 1IV is the perfect smartphone for those who want more buttons and ports. It has a USB C port and is one of our favorite premium smartphones. It also has a volume rocker and power button, as well as an embedded fingerprint scanner.

This camera tool is a huge fan of us. Pressing it in the app to take a photo, and depressing it allows you to find focus just like a real camera. You can also press it when the screen is turned off to open the camera app. This allows you to snap quick shots.

The fingerprint scanner is temperamental so we can't offer glowing feedback. The scanner would often fail to locate our fingerprint. It could sometimes give one of several error messages or not say anything. This happened despite having registered our fingerprint multiple times which increased the chances of it functioning.

The scanner fails more frequently than it works, which is something we have experienced with these phones ever since our original Xperia 1. We are unable to understand why Sony has been having so much trouble with side-mounted fingerprint scanners on budget and mid-range phones.

  • Design Score: 3/5

Sony Xperia 1 IV display

  • A 6.5-inch, long and thin display
  • 4K resolution makes movies look great
  • The Brightness Increase isn't enough

The display of the Sony Xperia 1 IV is almost identical to its Mark 3 predecessor. It's an OLED display measuring 6.5 inches with a 120Hz refresh rate and 4K resolution. The 21:9 aspect ratio makes it look great.

The Xperia screen isn't always at 4K. This is a good thing because it doesn't have to display your Instagram photos in that size and would drain your battery quickly. However, this resolution comes into play when you watch high-resolution videos or games, which makes for a wonderful viewing experience.

Sony Xperia 1 IV

You may be asking, "6.5"? You might ask, "6.5 inches?" It's not surprising that the most expensive Android phones are smaller than that, but because it has a thin, long aspect ratio it doesn't seem any smaller.

This Xperia's main improvement over its predecessor is the brightness of the display. Sony claims that the IV displays 50% more light than the previous-gen model. It's true. The phone's screen was visible in brighter outdoor lighting than previous models. However, it wasn't enough bright.

We struggled to see it on sunny days when compared with other smartphones we carried. It's also not as bright outside where we live, which makes it difficult to see the display.

  • Display Score: 4.5/5

Sony Xperia 1 IV camera

  • Amazing Continuous Camera Zoom is 3.5x-5.2x
  • Video recording at 120fps is extremely useful
  • Some software bugs were discovered

For average users, the Sony Xperia 1 IV may not be the most popular camera phone. However, it is a great device for taking quick photos of pets and loved ones. It has a lot of great features for photographers who are interested in acquiring a real camera.

Two of the four camera options on the phone are identical to the Xperia 1 III: the main 12MP f/1.7 24-mm camera and ultra-wide 12MP f/2.2-16mm snapper. The Time-of-Flight depth sensor, which was present in the Xperia 1 III is also still available.

Sony Xperia 1 IV

This upgrade is the smallest of both. The front-facing camera is now 12MP, f/2.0, 24mm. It was 8MP before. The new 4K recording capability allows you to record video at 12MP resolution.

This is a major upgrade that no other company has made - continuous optical zoom. It means that the Telephoto Lens has moving parts so it can move seamlessly between 3.5x (85mm), and 5.2x (175mm) zoom levels. It is an excellent feature for zoom photographers, since it allows you to line up your subject accurately without needing to use digital zoom or cropping to get close enough.

This continuous optical lens is perfect for long-range photography. It has the same depth effects as longer focal lengths. This zoom lens was used loads during our testing, for both closing distances with distant subjects and getting close to smaller subjects such as animals and plants.

We give this lens two thumbs up. In fact, our only complaint is that could be more. Zoom should not exceed 5.2x. Let's also see sensors with higher resolution than 12MP. This will eliminate zooming beyond 5.2x.

One issue we have with continuous zoom is the Photography Pro app. The zoom slider lets you adjust the zoom from ultra-wide to 1x zoom optical 3.5x to to 5.2x and to 15.6 digital zoom. Unfortunately, there is no panel that can be used for the Telephoto Camera's range. This means you will see the numbers on a larger bar so it makes it difficult to pinpoint exact levels.

Both the main and ultra wide cameras function in a similar way to previous Sony phones. There is no AI optimization as this phone was designed to be used by people who will edit their photos.

People who don't have a passion for photography will find it difficult to follow along. The camera-like shooting mode can carousel allows you to switch between various exposure modes. This will seem a bit gibberish for people who do not own a DSLR. This is not the phone for you if you are looking for a simple point-and-shoot smartphone camera.

Mobile filmmakers will find it extremely useful to have the option to capture 4K 120fps video on all four cameras. This means that you won't need to rely solely on the main camera if you require slow motion footage or high resolution footage.

Although this worked mostly well, there were some limitations to its popularity. You can't record audio at 120fps. If you require sound, then you will need to go down to 30fps. We also found that the 4K telephoto footage had difficulty focusing, even when autofocus was enabled. It's unclear if this was an issue with software or hardware, but we did notice it.

We're now on the list of mobile video complaints - one major one really restricts the appeal of the phone for movie-making and that concerns video playback. We couldn't view a Cinema Pro video we had just shot (we'll explain why later).

We couldn't play the footage that we had shot even when we opened Google Photos (the default Android photos app), and later found out this happened to Video Pro, another Sony video recorder app. We thought that the footage had been corrupted until we discovered the files were still usable once they were exported or viewed from the phone's file system.

Filmmakers who need to see back the footage they have just shot can face this problem. Although it's most likely caused by a software problem, the issue persists between phone resets and system upgrades.

  • Camera score: 4.5/5

Sony Xperia 1 IV specs and performance

  • The Snapdragon 8 Generation 1 chipet
  • Heat is a grave issue
  • Speakers are great for watching movies

In keeping with the tradition, the Sony Xperia 1 IV uses the highest-end chip available - in this instance it's Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. This is a feature we've seen in countless smartphones, such as the OnePlus 10 Pro and Xiaomi 12, the Samsung Galaxy S22, in the US for the S22 but in Europe, it was a different chip.

The chip has a lot of processing power which is useful in recording high-resolution videos and playing lots of video games. There wasn't an Android phone with a faster chip at the time the Xperia was released.

One problem with Qualcomm's high-end chipsets is their literal hotness. When you do something intense like gaming, recording video or charging your phone up, they can quickly overheat. We had to wait several times for our phone to cool off before we could use Cinema Pro (which will be described in detail later).

It's possible for overheating to affect performance. Qualcomm should have looked into this as there is a visible power drop whenever the phone heats. We had app crashes due to overheating, most notably in the camera app.

The Sony Xperia 1 IV can be a great gaming device when it works well. This is especially due to its 21:9 screen, which allows for more action.

Sony Xperia 1 IV

They are also very good and we think they are the most impressive built-in speakers that have not been tuned by an audio company. Although movies sound great when they are played loudly, headphones will give you a much better experience.

  • Score: 4/5

Sony Xperia 1 IV software

  • Android 12 is supported, but will be available for upgrade.
  • Stock Android is clean in design
  • The majority of pre-installed applications are helpful - but they don't all

Sony follows a similar approach as Motorola. It takes stock Android (as designed by Google) and adds some extra tools. The Xperia 1 IV has Android 12, but it doesn't include the Material You customization tool.

Because of its sleek design, Stock Android looks great on this large screen. Although the majority of apps are pre-installed, they're mostly clean. These are not third-party apps, but rather super-useful Sony tools, and they're not cheap Chinese phones.

Photo Pro is the top-end version of the standard Photo app, Video Pro for video recording and Cinema Pro for recording audio. Music Pro can also be used to record, mix and layer music, although it requires the use of an in-built microphone.

Sony Xperia 1 IV

These features are extremely useful and can be used by creative people. Photo Pro is a Sony-like camera, with all of its features. Cinema Pro allows you to control cinematic video so you can shoot movies right from your smartphone.

While there are many tools to capture content, Music Pro is the only one that allows you to edit your images. Future Sony smartphones will be able to edit and mix video and photos.

Bravia Core was a good choice. It allowed us to catch up with all of the Sony movies that we had missed over the last few months, finally giving us the chance to watch Uncharted! We were frustrated that the download feature was not available and that 4K video had to be streamed to watch, it buffered through every film.

Select third-party apps are available, but they fit well within the scope of the phone as an entertainment device. For example, there is Tidal and Prime Video. Booking.com and Amazon Shopping are the disappointing exceptions to the rule that should not be included on the phone. LinkedIn, Amazon Shopping, and Booking.com are the best.

The Sony's large display makes it great for multitasking. There's plenty of space to place two apps at once. Additionally, the screen refresh rate allows you to navigate the menus smoothly.

  • Software Score: 4/5

Sony Xperia 1 IV

Battery life for Sony Xperia I IV

  • Large 5,000mAh lithium battery
  • Longevity even in the most demanding of tasks
  • Charges at 30W

The Mark 4 Xperia's battery capacity is a welcome improvement over its Mark 3 counterpart. A 500mAh increase has brought the power pack up to 5,000mAh. In our review we were impressed with the Xperia 1 III’s battery life. But bigger is better.

Despite the fact that the Xperia has a large screen (4K), constant 5G connectivity, and many background apps, its battery life was consistently impressive. The battery lasted us for a full day with standard usage, including regular texting and Google Maps searches, as well as music streaming.

However, this was not the case when the Xperia Pro feature was used. We couldn't record 4K video for hours and expect the day to end. It still impressed us even after prolonged use.

The charging speed is not as impressive. Sony chose to keep the 30W wired charging it used for its flagship phones. Given that many smartphones in 2022 can charge up to 150W, this is just too slow. Sony claims that this charging speed will prevent battery health from deteriorating too quickly. However, fast-charging smartphones have ways to keep the batteries from being destroyed by super high speeds.

Wireless charging is also available, but it takes longer than wired. You can also use the phone's power mat to charge other wireless-powering devices.

  • Battery Score: 4/5

Sony Xperia 1 IV review scorecard

Attributes Notes Rating
Design With its angular and arguably outdated design, the Sony Xperia 1 IV won't exactly turn heads. 3/5
Display Sony's the only company putting out 4K display phones right now, and it gives it the edge for streaming movies. 4.5/5
Performance While the Xperia does have a top-end chipset, overheating issues cause it to lose points. 4/5
Camera Sony makes some of the best camera phones, and the continuous optical zoom is a great example of why. 4.5/5
Battery The Sony will outlast most of its close rivals with its lasting power, though it loses points for slow charging. 4/5
Software Sony's clean Android operating system and useful extra apps gain it lots of points here. 4/5
Value Even with all its merits, it's hard to recommend the Xperia for everybody when it costs this much. 2/5

Do I need to buy the Sony Xperia 1 IV or not?

Sony Xperia 1 IV

It's a good deal if...

You like your zoom photography
The Sony Xperia 1 IV's continuous optical zoom gives you a lot of flexibility for long-distance shooting without the need to rely upon cropping.

Long photo sessions
The Xperia's battery was long lasting and kept the device running for long video or photo-capturing sessions. It also worked well in everyday use.

Enjoy streaming movies
The Xperia's 120Hz 4K 21.9 screen is ideal for viewing TV and movies, particularly if you are using streaming services with high-resolution video.

It's not worth the risk if...

Are you on a tight budget
Sony Xperia 1 IV smartphones are very expensive and will only be purchased by people who have a lot of money, both financially and literally.

Are you frustrated by a problem with your fingerprint scanner?
Sometimes it's the little things that can be annoying. If you feel frustrated by a temperamental fingerprint scanner, then the Xperia IV might really bother you.

Need quick charging
The Sony Xperia 1 IV will not charge quickly if it isn't fast charged.

You should also consider

After reading this review of the Sony Xperia 1 IV, you might be interested in these other phones.

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
The Sony Xperia 1 IV was designed for photographers who have a lot of knowledge about photography, but the S22 Ultra is for people who need AI to help them do their heavy lifting. The stylus is included, as well as a 10-x zoom lens with curved edges and an AI smarts display.

Image

iPhone 13 Pro Max
iPhone 13 Pro Max users will find the closest alternative with three rear cameras and a powerful chip. Although it offers iOS, the device is heavier and more powerful than Android.

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Sony Xperia 10 IV
The Xperia 1 IV is a mid-range phone that Sony offers, but at a much higher price. It has a lower resolution display and rear camera, and a weaker chipet. While it may not be as expensive, the Xperia 1 IV does offer the same software, battery and slimmer build

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