Like Count Dooku said to Anakin Skywalker...
I've been looking forward to this.....
Yey, it's here, a review that's been 5 whole months in the making. It's been a funny few months really, plans were made, plans fell apart, the world fell into chaos, the world is still on the verge of chaos. Let's put it this way, this review "was" supposed to include some sick content from the Alps, I kid you not. As my friends will attest to on Facebook, me and my friend often go on travels with our cameras and this year was supposed to be a big one (thanks Mexican beer flu) alas it was not to be, the world shut down, the content was impossible to get.
Now, I "could" have just made it a standard review filled with the normal stuff, but I couldn't, nay wouldn't do that, this deserves more, you don't become the 5 time reviewer of the year by peppering reviews with the same stuff time after time, you have to push the envelope, show what can be done, reach for levels of review brilliance that ends in you getting 6 on the bounce reviews of the year..... And in September a window opened. Regional lockdowns were all but lifted and plans were made.
And this, down underneath this, is the most MARVELous review, that I, have ever written.
Enjoy, stay safe and keep Mexican beer flu away.
Xperia 1ii (MK2) (yes that's what it means)
The Xperia 1ii is Sony's first foray into the mobile smartphone market, its- wait what?
Surely not Sony's first? Viridis you old plank, there's been like 50+ Sony smartphones, you've reviewed like 6 or 7 of these yourself...
Well, yes and no, Sony mobile is... Well it's no more. Instead Sony mobiles are now under the control and ownership of the parent company, Sony. As many of you know, I personally knew a load of the guys at Sony mobile in Lund, Sweden, and this was a bitter sweet transition. Lots of hope for a better future for the Xperia brand, but at the ultimate cost to many people I have the privilege of calling my friends. (Though I'm also friends with a few people at Sony too so viridis is all good there).
So Sony mobile was moved to the same department that deals with home electronics and cameras, this latter bit is very good news. So yes, technically this is "Sony's" first SmartPhone... And it's an absolute beast!
Join me as we explore, in great detail, this behemoth of a creative tool. Be warned though, this review is gonna be BIG!.
here's ya box, and all the other assortments of stuff, (standard stuff including an 18w fast USB-PD charger. You also get the standard (but pretty decent quality) Sony headphones as well as the usual paperwork that no one reads.
And here's the phone itself:
A similar shape and size to last year's Xperia 1, with the obvious updates in the processor, ram and storage, this year's device comes armed to the teeth in the latest technology improvements,
The super fast Snapdragon 865 SOC
Upgraded ram from 6GB LPDDR4X To 8GB LPDDR4X
Upgraded system storage from UFS 2.1 to UFS 3.0
Display colour enhancements
90hz software display smoothing.
All new camera system with larger sensor and Zeiss T* lenses.
Gorilla glass 6
Of course the main upgrade on that list for the mark 2, is the camera system, we saw great improvements with the Xperia 1 mk1, but on the mark 2 they have been dialled up to 11.
We'll look into the camera system a little later...
The mark 2 is also Sony's first 5G enabled handset, providing massive speed improvements of mobile data where available, and offering higher limits on WiFi speeds thanks to the 865s 5g SOC.
The Xperia 1ii is very similar to the Mark 1 with the same 21:9 aspect ratio, 4K HDR display, gorilla glass 6 front and back for maximum protection... But this time.. it has a headphone jack!
One could only assume that Sony realised that dropping a headphone jack was actually not the best idea, it's still the most used audio interface in the world, and no amount of thinking differently will change that.
The mark 2 feels sturdier in the hand thanks to its more flattened sides than the mark 1. The mark 1 might have felt a little better, but it also felt slippery at times, the mark 2 corrects that, and gives you the same smooth feeling of the mark 1, albeit just a little less slippery.
The UI of Xperia 1ii includes some pretty sweet features that we'll touch on now,
Split screen, or multi tasking.
With a tap of the side sense you get the option of turning on multi window mode, this mode allows you to run two apps in perfect real time with each other. Want to watch a YouTube video whilst reading the news, no problem,
you can shrink and stretch each window giving you more room if needed in either app window,
the best part is, if you tap the middle window separator, then the multi button again, it will bring up your app history for quick switching on both windows, giving you ultimate control over the content you want to view.
For a long time now, Sony has used various battery care features to make the user get the most out of the built in battery.
You get adaptive charging, a feature that monitors the battery temperature when charging, and adjusts the charge rate when needed to prevent damage to the lithium cells which can occur when temperatures get hot.
You also still get the battery care feature, which charges your phone to 90% then stops until just before you get up and will top up the last 10% stopping the quite bad system of the charger holding the phone at 100% that method really is bad for battery longevity.
The MK2 also brings back wireless charging at 10w which is great for me as I had a wireless charger on my desk doing nothing until they bought this back.
This app stores all your game settings, you can adjust each setting per game, allowing you to choose performance mode, battery care mode or a balanced setting, you can choose notification muting as well as call control, record and screenshot and dedicate more ram under the focus settings.
of course, being an Xperia too, you still get Remote play for PS4 and now PS5
H.S Power control
A really cool new feature is found in the game enhancer which is called H.S Power control. What this feature does is pretty cool, and is yet another feature to save your battery. You can plug in your charger and bypass charging completely, so the charger runs the phone and the battery is untouched. Cool right.
This prevents the previously mentioned overheating which is amplified when gaming and charging, I would not be surprised if more devices use this in the future tbh.
The Xperia 1ii has had a complete overhaul in the sound department, especially the speakers, the new sound system includes the Dolby Atmos audio system baked in like before, but this time is backed up by 2 front firing hi Res audio speakers, each one far louder than last year's xperia, the quality is amazing and when backed up with a bit of the vibration system, provides a nice immersive audio experience.
The 5g on Xperia 1ii gives fast stable connection when in range of the 5g network, myself I have the benefit of getting 5g at work so I see around 250mb per second download, with around 20 upload. More than enough for the mobile use I have.
Videos load instantly, files upload in a flash and the best part... I swear it uses less battery power on 5g than 4g
The camera system.
the camera system of Xperia 1ii has been updated to include a larger main sensor whilst still maintaining its 12mp image output. This allows a higher pixel size which results in more light getting into the sensor and produces a brighter, cleaner image.
its still a 3 x 12mp set, comprising of a 16mm ultra- wide camera, a 24mm main camera and a 70mm tele camera.
these values were selected as they represent the main "trinity'' of lenses people buy. each lens has a zoom level up until the next lens becomes the unit and then that lens will too zoom to its next lens match.
The camera has also amped up the focus system from last years mark 1, to now have faster eye auto focus thanks to the 3D i-TOF sensor, this is no small upgrade not only does it now measure eye focus in real time, but can throw out full frame images at 20 shots per second AF/AE. and... it will even detect your pets eyes too.
though the real meat is in the camera pro app, we'll move on to that next.
here are some samples.
this is the real star of this phone, a camera system like no other phone out there (well the xperia 5ii is the same camera so..)
Photo pro takes all Sonys controls from their alpha range of cameras, and throws it slap bang into a mobile phone. the range of control is unthinkable, you can choose auto, Program, Shutter priority or full Manual.
The auto mode is exactly that, a fully automatic shooter, much like the standard camera app but with the output settings we'll get to later.
The program mode allows you to change exposure value compensation, ISO, metering, focus mode, and white balance as well as the focus region.
Shutter priority allows you to manually choose your shutter speed, and compensates lower exposures or higher exposures with automatic ISO adjustments.
Manual mode opens up everything, you can choose any of the adjustments in the camera and control any of them.
the Photo Pro setting menu offers many of the settings found in the alphas, including controls for dynamic range, with choices between natural DRO (dynamic range optimisation) or full blown HDR mode...
You can also now output photos in RAW, JPEG or both.
RAW is a must have output for serious photo editing, instead of a small compressed jpeg, you get the sensors full image output, exactly what the sensor captured. no compression, no system manipulation.
This allows the best method of non-destructive editing available.
Using both is great for seeing the full jpeg and selecting the best shot for processing of the raw file.
Using the RAW file of one of the earlier photos, you can truly see just how much detail is captured.
Zoomed well over 100% the detail is fantastic, and very clean. even a single strand of a spiders web is clearly captured.
The results are quite comparable to higher specced cameras too, the differences between the next shot from Xperia 1ii and the one after from the A6000 after it, are not that big. The A6000 is cleaner, yes, as you'd expect from an APS-C 24mp lens, but imo Xperia 1 captured the colour richer, and truer to the actual colour.
Well to test out this system fully.. we WERE going on a trip to the Alps, but the Mexican beer flu put an end to that, but not to be outdone by Mr Covid, we simply waited until we had a window of no restrictions, and went up north,.... Far up north.
Let's look at how the Xperia 1ii fared alongside an actual alpha camera..
Our first stop was in glencoe, a place we often visit on our trips and photograph some stunning scenery.... Until this trip, when for the first 2 days it rained solid and we had to move the tent through fear of water logging the site, not good. I did however manage to snap a few pics in glencoe but alas the mountains were behind thick clouds so we cut our losses in that regard.
On morning 3 though, we had to get up at 3am in order to pack tent up and make the 4 hour journey up to Ullapool before the ferry left at 9:45, sounds fine... Until you realise that Glencoe is one of the darkest places on earth at night and the tent had to be moved with all our other gear around the now soggy ground to the car.
Plus... When I woke at 3am I went outside and not only had the rain stopped, but the sky was crystal clear and a beauty to look at.
I grabbed my tripod and took some snaps with the Xperia 1ii in the photo pro app, balancing between higher ISO and longer exposure to try and get as little noise as possible. I allowed myself 10 minutes to get the shots, and these were the fruits of my first use of the photo pro app for long exposures.
The ferry across was long, a good three hours until we reached Stornoway on the isle of Lewis, what was cool was the pod of dolphins that went past us on the way over, did I get pics? No, because in my great wisdom left my zoom lens in the car, and by the time I thought about photos, were just far enough away that the 70mm on the mark 2 wouldn't have been adequate. Never mind I'm sure I'll see some on the way back (spoiler: I did)
Arriving into Stornoway we first found the one supermarket on the island and stocked up, then we went exploring for a while, taking in some scenery and oddities that are dotted about the otherwise, quite barren landscape.
That night, we went outside from our B&B (we were very cold) and looked up... We immediately went to get our cameras.
Now it's not often you can see the milky way with your own eyes, it's near impossible in fact, anywhere near a city, or town won't get the required amounts of darkness in order to see the bands of white streaking across the night sky, but here, on this isolated island, everywhere is jet black at night.
The Xperia 1ii
What surprised me is the amount of clarity the Xperia is getting out of its camera, the f1.7 Zeiss coated main camera is really coming up trumps in these images, whilst the a6000 has a clear bonus of being a larger sensor and higher mp to go with it, the Xperia 1ii has the bonus of having a better lens and equally as high pixel size to the alpha, whilst the alpha wins on resolution, the Xperia really is pulling details out the star cloud much better, my only annoyance is we missed the galactic core by about 2 weeks, and no that orange glow is not the sun, it's the moon, it really glows orange at moon-set up there..
and just in case, here is where the Xperia images lie on the Galactic map of our milky way.
The next day we spent down the southern end of the island filming with the drones, and got a few pics of the small port at Rodel, as well as visiting some of the nicest beach areas in the while of Europe (not joking)
and a few off the drone just because...
I also took the chance to grab a couple of panoramic shots using the Xperia Pano mode
That night, we grabbed some more shots whilst packing up. Well, Packing up and charging about 16 batteries as we knew there were no more options for charging from that day onwards.
The next morning we packed up nice and early in order to catch the ferry back, this one leaving at 6am so up at 4:30 and off we went. It was wonderful to see the mountains of the mainland appear in the morning sun's glow and yes, the dolphins were in the same area on our return.
We headed far down south, right down to the border, where we found our campsite, spent 3 hours trying to get up the tent in the wonderful 30mph+ winds (not even kidding, it was like a massive kite, it was awful, take a look...)
And once settled in, it was quite late so we hit the beds, and made plans for the next days....
Now, here's some really useless but cool information, it might explain the next really long, yet cool 2 days of the trip.
In the film Avengers: Endgame, the story in part goes a little like this:
Avengers find plan, avengers need all help they can get, so hulk and rocket go to find Thor. Thor no longer lives in Asgard, as Asgard was destroyed in Thor: Ragnarok, so the remaining Asgardians set up a new home because Asgard is not a place, it's a people.
The remaining Asgardians set up "New Asgard" or Tønsberg as it's otherwise known in the MCU.
So Hulk and Rocket nip off to New Asgard to get Thor.
So, you'd think New Asgard (Tønsberg) would be some Nordic coastal town with that name, in fact it was heavily implied in the name Tønsberg, so to visit such a place would be a long trip in a car for two aging idiots with a tent ..but it's not.
New Asgard is in the UK, right on the Scottish border. In fact if you go on Google maps and search for New Asgard, it will take you right there. Cool right.
Welcome to St Abbs, Twinned with (and known as)New Asgard.
Now, let's go on a 5 mile hike around the filming locations
1 At Abbs village
This is the first stop on our tour, the actual port village. It's a very small place and is a working harbour, the village residents were all offered jobs as extras during the filming, and you can read more about the filming in the visitors centre, this quiet little village is now always busy, and the villagers seem to be really proud of their association to the marvel world, with the sign to the village officially changed to show the "twinning" to New Asgard, and small village stores having similar posters in their windows, St Abbs harbour is a cool little place to grab some shots, and was the setting for Valkyrie greeting Hulk and Rocket.
a6000 shot of the same scene.
what is brilliant about the Xperia 1ii in the above shot is that whilst the A6000 has the sharpness, the Xperia performed better due to its brighter lens combined with its better OIS stabilization. in the gusty winds, the end result is a sharper image for the Xperia.
and from the drone to compare with the cinema version.
2, the hike begins.
Not a filming location, but still an awesome view, we stopped to grab a few shots here.
3, the King of Asgard
This is the area that was used at the end of the Avengers film when Thor gave his Kingship to Valkyrie. It's a wonderful location, looking over the harbour and is easy to see why they chose this location for this shot, as well as...
4. Thor joins the Guardians of the galaxy.
There is a single flat area on this hike and this is the area they chose for Star lords ship, the Milano.
5 the rocky beach
We stopped off here to grab some shots of the rocks and waves, it was still very, very windy (we still hadn't put the drones up, all the earlier shots were from the last morning.)
So coming from the rocky beach you then have a bit of a hike up to the next filming location, which is far up the St abbs head near the lighthouse, you have to hike through fields, around a loch and then up a hill.
Welcome to New Asgard, please drive slowly.
This is where we first see the coast of new Asgard (well with heavy CGI as the actual harbour is 3 miles behind us,) but I agree, CGI'ing it into these rocks is visually cooler, this is where the original sign was, it was an actual sign that is no longer there, though it's still easy to see where it was, this is where we see hulk in the long bed land rover going down the road towards the village, except it's not a road, it's a very private drive to the lighthouse and there's no access, meaning the only way to see this area is the hike from St Abbs.
It's very cool and worthy of some shots.
And from there, we went home.
Theres many ways ive summed up phones over the years, epic, a new beginning, groundbreaking etc etc. But when it comes to the Xperia 1ii, theres only one way i can describe it. It's a much needed tool.
Now that isn't a bad thing, not at all. It's sublime at what it does, every part of it screams the best components at the fastest, biggest and loudest levels ever seen from Sony, but where it becomes something else, is the camera. Never before has a mobile device ever seen as much camera control as on this device, hell, even the iPhone 12 series still doesnt have this much control and output. That's really something in todays world of phones being nothing more than devices to piggy back camera and other new tech innovations on. This phone didnt act or work like a phone camera, it felt like a camera. The fact it was so easy matching shot conditions between the alpha and the Xperia is testiment to its root inner workings as a fully fledged Alpha camera in a mobile, and we didnt even talk about the cinema Pro app which adds on features like focus racking and a 60fps 4k hdr option. Likewise we didnt talk in much detail about the Xperia Photo Pro app being able to run off full frame output at 20fps auto exposure/ auto focus whilst it tracks the eyes of humans and animals. On a mobile phone.. Thats Mind blowing!
So, Yes.. It's a tool. And possibly the best mobile creator tool out there right now... and i cant wait to see the Mkiii
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