Sony has announced its latest smart device, the Xperia Pro, a flagship smartphone that doubles as the world’s first external 4K HDR OLED monitor, as well as a 5G (mmWave) live streaming and file transfer solution, for your dedicated camera. To support these new skills, Sony has equipped the device with four 5G antennas, a beefed up chassis and the addition of a Micro HDMI port. It’s aimed squarely at professionals, creatives, and content creators that need to get their media delivered as soon as possible, if not in real-time, from as diverse a range of locations as possible.
Much of the hardware remains similar to the Xperia 1 Mark II, but the inclusion of the HDMI port makes the Pro the world’s first portable 4K1 HDR OLED monitor for cameras and video production devices, with support for a wide variety of formats, some forthcoming. It’s the combination of functionalities, some unique and others simply never seen together in one device, that make the Xperia Pro an intriguing device.
We’d be remiss not to mention the Xperia Pro’s camera features up front. Much like the rest of the phone – for example the unchanged but rather capable display – camera features remain identical to the Xperia 1 Mark II. Like it, the Pro borrows technology from the company’s Alpha 9 cameras to achieve headline grabbers like real-time human and animal eye autofocus (AF) and 20 fps burst speeds with uncompromised AF and autoexposure (AE) per frame.
4K HDR video monitoring and live streaming
When connected to a supported camera via Micro HDMI, the Xperia Pro can be used as both a video monitor as well as a video steaming device. As a monitor it offers a 6.5″ 4K ‘true’ HDR screen (thanks to its OLED panel) and pinch-to-zoom functionality for accurate focus adjustment. And as a 4K live streaming device, it can transfer 4K video at up to 131Mbps – no word yet on battery life during continuous live streaming.
A refresher on the impressive display of the Xperia 1/Pro line makes the device’s value proposition as an external monitor self-evident: with a Hollywood-esque wide display ratio of 21:9, this 6.5″ 4K HDR OLED panel offers a claimed 1,000,000:1 static contrast ratio with a resolution of 3840×1644. It’s capable of 10-bit equivalent2 playback that’s been tuned to have the same gamut as the professional Sony BVM-X300 critical reference monitor. Sony claims a color gamut wider than DCI-P3, and a peak brightness of 1000 and 400 nits for 1% and 100% APL or average picture level, respectively, for HDR content (see footnote for a caveat).3
Taken altogether, this means that the Xperia Pro, with the addition of Micro HDMI input capable of accepting 4K HDR signals at up to 60p, is the world’s first portable external 4K HDR monitor that’s truly capable of reaching high contrast ratios with relatively high peak brightness thanks to its OLED panel. Practically, this means that rather than having to haul a $35,000 Sony BVM-X300 30″ OLED mastering monitor out on set for your 4K HDR shoot / production just to get an idea of what your footage might look like on an HDR display after application of a simple LUT or HDR workflow, you might be able to get away with a device always with you in your pocket, a little hot shoe ballhead accessory, a smartphone holder and an HDMI cable.
There are some caveats to the monitoring capabilities, though: video scopes or other capture assist tools are not currently offered, though we’re told these may be added in future firmware updates. It’s also important to note that the Xperia Pro is not a video capture device and will not save footage internally; it will only display and transfer it.
Which brings us to the live streaming capabilities of the device: Sony’s flagship smartphone can stream content directly from any camera with HDMI output to YouTube at up to 720p, or live stream content via live streaming platforms such as streamlabs or StreamYard to multiple streams and services, including YouTube, Facebook Live, Twitch, LinkedIn and more. Data travels between the camera and the smartphone over HDMI at incredibly fast speeds – 12 Gbps – while the 5G uplink provides maximum and average speeds of 131 and 115 Mbps, easily adequate for 4K HDR streams. A network visualizer tool quickly indicates up/down bandwidth available as well as usage, and can be overlaid on top of the mobile OS’ GUI.
Using the phone’s USB-C port, when connected to a supported Sony camera, Xperia Pro can also be used to transmit photos or videos4 via 5G to an FTP server or other web-based location.
The Xperia Pro borrows its camera array and features from the Xperia 1 Mark II, showcasing technologies from the company’s Alpha 9 series of cameras. The diagram below breaks down the three main optical modules and lens designs, as well as the time-of-flight module.
The fast readout speeds of the Exmor RS sensor in the main 24mm ‘wide’ camera module allows for 20 fps bursts with 60 fps AF/eye AF/AE calculations. Three camera modules provide a versatile range of focal lengths: a 16mm equiv. F2.2 ultra-wide camera with a 1/2.55″ sensor made of 1.4µm pixels, a 24mm equiv. F1.7 wide camera with a 1/1.7″ sensor (1.8µm pixels), and a 70mm equiv. F2.4 telephoto camera with a 1/3.4″ sensor. All cameras have 12MP sensors, with the ultra-wide and wide cameras sporting split photodiode designs that offer fast – particularly as light levels drop – dual-pixel AF with 100% focus point coverage. The tele- camera only offers sparse phase-detect AF which, in our experience, can hunt in challenging light.
A 3D time-of-flight (ToF) camera, originally introduced in the Xperia 1 Mark II, helps improve autofocus performance, particularly in low light. The iTOF camera sends out IR light in the form of a grid – 43,200 points – and measures the time required for that light to return to the camera after bouncing off of nearby objects. Operational distance is up to 5 meters, beyond which objects are simply measured as being at infinity. iTOF measurements are combined with dual-pixel and PDAF measurements to speed up focus acquisition. No word yet on whether or not the ToF camera is used to improve the depth map generated from the dual pixel sensor for the camera’s bokeh mode.
Both wide- and tele- modules are optically stabilized, and it’s worth noting the main wide unit’s generously sized 1/1.7″ sensor is larger than – and collects nearly 50% more light than – the 1/2.55″ sensors found in the main cameras on most current and recent iPhones and Google’s Pixel phones. It’s similar in size to the sensor found in the main camera of Apple’s flagship iPhone 12 Pro Max. However, when it comes to devices that rely heavily on burst photography and computational methods to overcome limitations imposed by traditional optics and optoelectronics, sensor sizes and physical apertures only tell you a part of the story. We’ll reserve final judgement with respect to camera quality for after we’ve done head-to-head testing.
Video and Audio
On the video capture front, the Xperia Pro offers 21:9 24/25/30/60p 4K HDR modes, both capturing HDR video by shooting and combining varying exposures per output frame, and encoding HDR video using HEVC with an HLG gamma curve and 10-bit encoding in the wide BT.2020 color space. In terms of autofocus in video, you can tap on your subject to rack focus to it, but we have yet to confirm whether face or subject tracking are available via a simple ‘tap-to-track’ interface as it is on the latest Alpha-series cameras.
Sony has kept its 3.5mm headphone jack from the Xperia 1 Mark II, as well as its two front-firing stereo speakers and Dolby Atmos playback. Sony claims the same signal:noise ratio improvement in audio the Xperia 1 Mark II gained over the Mark I (a ten-fold reduction in noise). An intelligent wind filter uses noise cancellation technology borrowed from Sony’s headphone division to remove rumble and wind noise digitally, and the flagship phone also supports 360 degree reality audio.
Unique value proposition / compared to Xperia 1 Mark II
Before we sum up the Xperia Pro’s unique value proposition, it’s worth recapping the major differences and similarities vs. the Xperia 1 Mark II. In addition to its four uniquely positioned 5G antennas, a tougher chassis and a Micro HDMI port, the Xperia Pro also uses a different power and thermal management system than its flagship sibling, the Xperia 1 Mark II, for better efficiency. The positions of the four antennas are such that a strong signal is maintained no matter the position in which the phone is held or oriented, particularly in comparison to competitor devices with two or three antennas. These differences aside, the Xperia Pro and Xperia 1 Mark II devices are essentially identical in terms of components and capability, down to their camera modules as explained above, Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 platform, displays, video and audio spec, and IP-65/68 weather/dust-resistance rating.
The unique proposition of the Xperia Pro is its combination of features never before integrated into one device, along with some unique functionalities like the world’s first 4K portable external OLED monitor with high brightness and high contrast ratio for plug-and-play monitoring of HDR production on-the-go – without the need for a production team hauling expensive reference monitors, cables, power banks, and the like. The availability of live streaming and file transfer capabilities combined with reliable 5G (mmWave) thanks to uniquely positioned antennas and a properly designed chassis, along with the unique advantages of proper 4K HDR monitoring direct from camera thanks to the acceptance of a wide range of HDMI signals (from FHD to 4K, from 24p up to 60p, and even 10-bit 4K streams forthcoming via a firmware update) – it’s the unique combination of all of these features in a compact, portable smartphone device that on its own is a powerful image and video capture tool one can always have on oneself that – for some – may make the Xperia Pro a potential powerhouse to consider.
Carrier support & price
For launch, Sony is partnering with Verizon Wireless, but the phone will also be sold unlocked. At of the time of writing, there will only be 4G support for Xperia Pro when used on other carriers.
The launch price is $2500 and handsets will be available for purchase from today.
1With the caveat that 4K resolution, or 3840 horizontal pixels, is only achieved for 21:9 content. 16:9 content is only displayed at a resolution of 2.9K (2922 x 1644).
210-bit display is achieved with an 8-bit panel using 2-bit temporal dithering, or frame rate control (FRC).
3Think of APL, or ‘Average Picture Level’, as ‘how much of the picture is bright white?’. Unfortunately, we should point out that our real-world measurements of the display haven’t exceeded ~700 nits in HDR mode, an observation confirmed by others. Even in general usage we’ve found the display to be dimmer than iPhones with comparable or even inferior display specifications.
4Only a7S III can transmit video footage over FTP via Xperia Pro.
The New Xperia® PRO Communication Device from Sony Electronics Delivers 5G Solution for Professional Content Workflow
World’s first smartphone with dedicated HDMI input enables creativity and speed for content creation and content distribution.
SAN DIEGO – January 26, 2021 – Sony Electronics Inc. today introduced a new professional 5G device, Xperia PRO that enables content creators to work faster and smarter than ever before. Featuring the world’s first smartphone with dedicated HDMI connectivity (1), it supports 5G mmWave and 5G Sub-6 for high-speed data transfer and is engineered to optimize signal reception. These innovative features pave the way for the future of imaging and the content creation workflow.
“We are committed to developing innovative tools for professional content creators,” said Neal Manowitz, deputy president of Imaging Products and Solutions Americas, Sony Electronics. “Our customers’ voice is paramount – we are always listening, exploring new methods to help them create and communicate in ways that were never before possible. Combining the speed of 5G and the connectivity of an HDMI input, Xperia PRO is designed to empower creators with real-time content sharing and distribution, opening up a new world of possibilities for professional workflow. Together, Alpha and Xperia bring the future of digital imaging, sharing imaging data and connecting people remotely in real time.”
Xperia PRO is the world’s first smartphone with a dedicated HDMI input (1)– allowing users to enhance their workflow by connecting the device to an Alpha camera (2) or any other HDMI input equipped camera to enable a 5G data link (3) to broadcast video in real-time. Using compatible third-party live streaming applications (4), Xperia PRO can stream video content from a camera that is connected to the HDMI input to an RTMP server or directly to popular social media platforms.
Xperia PRO’s HDMI input can also transform the smartphone into a high-quality 6.5-inch 4K OLED monitor through the preinstalled External Monitor (5) host application software. The External Monitor feature features a screen lock function, screen brightness adjustment, zoom capabilities, adjustable grid lines and more.
Stable High-Speed Data Transfer
A wired USB connection enhances the speed and stability of still image file transfer between the phone and camera. Connect your Alpha brand camera to the Xperia PRO mobile device through the USB connection* and the images can be automatically transferred to an FTP server. With this type of fast and reliable transfer, and you can concentrate on capturing the best shots(6).
Optimized Design for Dependable Reception
The Xperia PRO features a 360-degree antenna design, which covers all four sides of the device. This 360-degree antenna produces the most effective way to capture high-band frequency 5G mmWave signals. In addition, the low dielectric constant material used in the chassis of the Xperia PRO enables radio waves to pass through more easily. Together, these technologies help ensure optimized 5G signal strength connection, no matter how the user is holding the device or where it’s positioned.
The Network Visualizer feature developed for Xperia PRO provides easy-to-understand visualization of the signal direction, communication method and communication speed of the device to help camera operators on location locate the best spot for live transmissions. This feature shows the current signal reception, indicates the direction of the 5G signal that is being received and provides communication throughput and histogram. A shortcut button is located on the side of the Xperia PRO, which can be assigned to launch a frequently used feature including Network Visualizer.
Outstanding Imaging Technology for Content Creators
Xperia PRO packs in all of the same industry-leading imaging technology as the Xperia 1 II flagship smartphone, which makes it – even as a standalone device – a powerful tool for photography and video content creation. Because the Xperia PRO is always with you, professionals and other content creators will never miss an opportunity to create high quality, professional-level content or share that content in real-time – even without a professional camera on hand.
Developed with Sony’s Alpha camera engineers, the Xperia PRO integrates technology such as Real-time AF (autofocus) on both humans and animals. It also features an interface designed to meet the demands of professional photographers with a variety manual controls, the capability to shoot up to 20fps with 60 times per second autofocus/autoexposure calculations (7) and RAW support.
Drawing on the expertise of Sony’s Digital Cinema Camera engineers, the Xperia PRO offers a range of tools to enhance filmmaking. Users can get creative with Look color management pre-sets, 21:9 movie recording, 4K HDR in 24, 30, 60 and 120fps slow-motion (8) and Intelligent wind filter. The 6.5-inch 4K HDR OLED display features a 21:9 CinemaWide aspect ratio and supports the BT.2020 color space (9).
With Creator mode “powered by CineAlta”, and a specially calibrated D65 white point, it references the color reproduction of Sony’s professional color monitors.
Xperia PRO features ZEISS® optics calibrated specifically for Xperia with the ZEISS T* coating to reduce reflections. Xperia PRO also features a triple lens camera with a 16mm ultra wide-angle lens, 24mm lens wide-angle lens and 70mm telephoto lens for true creative freedom.
Robust and durable, the Xperia PRO combines IP65/68 rating water and dust resistance (10) with Corning® Gorilla® Glass 6 on the front for protection.
The Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 865 5G Mobile Platform and the Snapdragon X55 5G Modem-RF system empowers the user to game, capture, cross-task and connect with staggering multi-gigabit 5G speeds and improved performance from a 25% faster CPU and GPU than on the previous Xperia model.
With a long lasting 4.000mAh battery, the Xperia PRO gets the job done. It is compatible with the optional UCH32C Fast Charger to quickly top-up when the battery is running low. It also has two technologies to keep the battery healthy longer. Battery Care prevents the phone from overcharging, while Xperia Adaptive Charging monitors the phone as it charges to make sure the battery isn’t overworked.
Pricing and availability
The new Xperia PRO 5G device will be available to purchase and ship to customers on January 26, 2021 and will be sold for approximately $2,499.99USD. Customers can purchase Xperia PRO at a select group of Sony’s authorized dealers throughout North America.
(1) Xperia PRO features a dedicated Type D Micro HDMI input port. Verified by Strategy Analytics’ SpecTRAX Service against the published connectivity specifications for over 18,400 smartphones. Correct as of the 26th January 2021.
(2) HDMI Micro connector (Type-D) cable is sold separately. Camera compatibility is may vary.
(3) Network / carrier service and third-party providers and technology are not guaranteed. Modification or termination of technology by said providers may result in phone not being supported now or in the future. Purchaser must ensure compatibility with third party providers
(4) Third party terms and conditions may apply.
(5) Display ratios may vary based on content formatting.
(6) Alpha 7S III supports both still and movie files FTP transfer. Alpha 9/Alpha 9 II does not support FTP transfer of movie file. Compatible Xperia smartphones are ones supporting Power Delivery.
(7) Xperia 1 II’s camera features up to 20 fps AF/AE continuous shooting with tracking. Xperia 1 II produces in-focus photos at up to 20 fps by continuously calculates AF/AE up to 60 times/second. Verified by Strategy Analytics’ SpecTRAX Service against the published camera specifications for over 16,000 smartphones. Correct as of February 23, 2020.
(8) Recording time restrictions apply. 4K HDR 120fps available on Cinematography Pro on the 24mm camera.
(9) Xperia PRO does not cover the BT.2020 color space in full.
(10) Not 100% guaranteed