It's no secret that Sony makes some of the best image sensors in the world and many successful cameras - from phones to DSLRs - have a Sony sensor at their heart. Apple, Samsung, LG, Xiaomi and many, many others use Sony sensors to great effect. Sony Mobile - somehow - never quite managed to nail it.
But we'll bite our tongue and not discuss image quality now. That's a discussion to have with a retail unit in hand, for now let's focus on what the Sony Xperia XZ Premium promises.
For one, Sony dropped the resolution down to 19MP but retained the same physical dimensions of their previous 24MP 1/2.3" sensors, and as a result, pixels got 19% bigger. We applaud this move because daylight photography with phones is a solved problem but low light shots remains an issue. And the Premium still has the edge on other phones that hover around 12MP to keep pixels large.
You may think that Sony should have gone for a brighter aperture (it's f/2.0). However, the Google Pixels showed that a f/2.0 aperture is enough for a best-in-class low-light photography, no matter what Samsung and LG PRs say. The proof is in the pudding, though, we'll see if the XZ Premium can match the Pixels (which also use a Sony sensor, by the way).
But pixel size is far from the best feature on the new sensor - the sensor in the Motion Eye camera is the first to have on-board memory. It seems this has allowed for a much faster readout of the image from the sensor.
The Xperia XZ Premium camera can read out the full resolution image much faster than a traditional camera sensor. This prevents the rolling shutter or jello effect where straight vertical lines distort when you move the camera hile recording video.
The camera can also snap full-resolution photos in the background, which enables the Predictive Capture feature. It uses motion detection to pick out the best moments to snap up to 4 photos, which will be shown after you hit the shutter button. That means that even if you missed the right moment, the Motion Eye camera probably caught it.
We heard the iPhone users saying "Living Photos do the same thing." They don't. They are not even photos, but instead low resolution, low FPS videos. We're talking four full resolution still images here.
The most attention-grabbing feature enabled by that on-board memory, however, is the 960fps slow-motion video mode. We certainly had a lot of fun with it - it captures 720p videos and slows a part of them waaay dooown. The slowed down portions can only span for 0.18s of the real-life timeline, but that's plenty to capture things you've never seen with your bare eyes.
For normal videos, the Sony Motion Eye camera shoots the expected 2160p @ 30fps videos. Here are a couple of samples we shot using the Xperia XZs, but the XZ Premium will perform identically.
Sony also enhanced the Panorama mode. This has no relation to the on-board memory (that we know of), but it was a long time coming. Let's be honest - Panorama mode, even on the original Xperia XZ, was not good. It was low resolution (1,080px in height), and if you stopped before you completed the 360° circle, the camera would get confused.
Not anymore - the Sony Xperia XZ Premium (and XZs) shoot high-resolution panoramas (up to 4,000px in height), and you can stop at any time. At any time! Such a small thing and yet it took Sony years to get it into the hands of consumers.
We have to say, we're a lot more excited about the new camera on the Xperia XZ Premium than we are about its screen. Sure, we're yet to examine the quality, but on paper the Motion Eye is amazing.
Did we forget to mention that the SteadyShot electronic stabilization system now works in 4K videos? Sure, Sony still avoids adding OIS, but we've seen good digital stabilization (like SteadyShot) beat bad optical stabilization, so we're not complaining.