Sony joins 4K smartphone race with Z2

4K cameraphones

Xperia Z2 with mic
Sound choice? The 4K Xperia Z2 has an optional, dedicated external mic for sound and video recording. Picture: Sony

Sony has joined the ranks of manufacturers offering a smartphone capable of 4K video, with the Xperia Z2.

Revealed at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the Z2 is an Android smartphone, based around a 5.2-inch screen and a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor with 3GB RAM. The handset, which will go on sale in March, will ship with Android 4.4. This puts it at the top of Sony’s smartphone range.

For videojournalism and film making, though, it is the camera features that will interest most. In stills mode, the camera features a 20.7 megapixel sensor, the same specification as Sony’s previous flagship phone, the Xperia Z1.

The real upgrade on the Z2 is in its video capabilities, and this gives an insight into the way Sony, and others in the industry, see video developing. Although the camera sensor in the Z2 is superficially similar to the Z1, it retains a camcorder-sized, 1/2.3-inch Exmor RS, mobile-optimised sensor. The Z2 couples this with a Sony G lens and a BIONZ image processor.

The Z2, though, takes this further, and adds 4K, Ultra HD video to its video recording capabilities, something that even the higher-resolution Nokia Lumia 1020 cannot do. The Z2 camera gives a video resolution of 3840×2160 pixels at up to 30 frames a second. It is not clear at this stage, if the phone will support European frame rates, such as 25fps, or the cinema-standard 24fps.

Super slow mo

However, a Timeshift video mode allows filming at up to 120fps, for slow-motion effects, via a new camera app. This also adds creative effects such as background defocus. Sony also includes a film-making app, Movie Creator, for basic video editing from the phone.

Video recording is in 3GPP and MP4 formats, with an HDR recording mode for both video and stills. The Z2 features stereo audio recording, and uniquely among smartphone makers, Sony is also now selling a dedicated, pro-grade external mic for the camera.

Sony's STM10 stereo mic for the Xperia Z2 and Z2 tablet.
Sony’s STM10 stereo mic for the Xperia Z2 and Z2 tablet. Picture: Sony.

The Stereo Microphone STM10 is an X-Y configuration stereo mic that can also be pointed through 90 degrees, to focus on the subject being filmed.

The mic can also be used with the 4K, Xperia Z2 tablet, which Sony also announced at MWC.

As with the previous Z1 phone, the Z2 is waterproof and dust proof, and is rated up to IPX5 and IPX8.