Xperia 5 iii – Hands on
This is Sony’s third version of the Xperia 5, which brings some small but subtle changes from the previous incarnation.
Just to be clear, I’ve been using the previous Sony Xperia 5 ii as my personal phone since its November 2020 release, so I’m in a good position to see what’s changed and improved over the past 12 months.
Starting with the specifications:
Snapdragon 888 5G mobile platform. (new from last year 865) Dual Sim Hybrid (Single SIM + optional 1TB Micro SD) 4500 mAh battery + PD fast charging 8GB Ram + 128GB Storage 1” 21:9 CinemaWide screen 120Hz Refresh Rate / 240Hz motion blur reduction FHD + HDR OLED 2520 x 1080 5 mm audio jack for hi-res audio 3 x 12 MP rear camera Mounting Camera 1 Focal length: 24 mm Size: 1 / 1.7″ Exmor RS™ for mobile sensor FOV: 82° Aperture: F1.7 Camera 2 Focal length : 70mm / 105mm Size: 1 / 2.9″ Exmor RS™ for Mobile Sensor Field of View: 34° (70mm) / 23° (105mm) Aperture: F2.3 (70mm) / F2.8 (105mm ) Camera 3 focal length : 16mm Size: 1/2.5” Exmor RS™ for mobile sensor Field of view: 124° Aperture: F2.2 Features: Photography Pro, ZEISS® quality lenses specially calibrated for Xperia 5 III , ZEISS® T* coating, AF up to 20 fps/AE, up to 60 times per second continuous AF/AE calculation8, Real-time eye autofocus (human, animal), object tracking, dual photodiode, RGB-IR, OIS -photo , photo flash, photo light, hybrid zoom 12.5x (based on 24mm wide-angle camera) , AI Super Resolution Zoom, HDR (High Dynamic Range) photo 8MP Front camera Size: 1/4″ FOV: 78° Aperture: F2.0 Features : HDR (High Dynamic Range) photo, SteadyShot™ with Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stabilization), Portrait selfie, Display flash, Hand gesture
From the specifications alone you can see that the camera setting is the most important point of attention for this device.
Sony is a respected industry leader in camera technology. The software and image processing technology has been ripped almost straight from the alpha series camera line and presented neatly in a phone – well when I put it neatly, it’s not exactly intuitive like your normal Android camera application, explaining why it’s called Photo Pro gets . You can go very deep, even very deep, in tweaking all the elements you’d normally find in a full-fat DSLR camera so you can tune in and get the most out of your shot.
Going deep is great if you have the time to arrange a shot and focus, but as I’ve found on the 5 ii, I’ll tend to use the built-in Android camera app, just to get a quick recording to forward via Signal or WhatsApp .
Sony must have listened, as a nice addition to this year’s model, it now features a BASIC mode within Photo Pro, which takes over the use of the stock Android camera app so you can go in and get that no. -nonsense recording can grab and let the software decide what needs to be done.
As for quick snaps and a big bonus on the Xperia line is the dedicated hardware camera button, which not only allows you to quickly launch the camera, but also offers full traditional camera button functionality. Half-press to autofocus and full-press to take the picture, frankly, this simple implementation of a hardware button to take a picture allows you to hold the phone still and just take a better picture.
The main camera module is one of the elements that has undergone a slight upgrade from the previous model, although the main camera sensor and pixel count are the same as last year. The lens arrangement gets a change in the form of a new telephoto arrangement, with a periscope lens.
Here are a few sample photos taken by me and some professional sample photos from Sony to show what the camera is capable of, in the right hands. it’s easy to guess what’s what, not just from the lack of glorious sunshine and exotic locations.
Another key difference in the Xperia 5 series is the form factor. If we were still in the “feature phone era” with physical keyboards and telephones for phone calls, you could probably classify this as what we used to call a “Candy Bar.” style phone, in the fact that it is taller than it is wide.
This is what gives you the 21:9 cinema screen on a 6.1 inch screen, it may look a bit odd and elongated but don’t let this put you off in any way. This was one of the features that drew me to buy my version II last year. It’s still big enough to display all your content and watch a movie on the super-wide screen, but operate comfortably with one hand, especially with the optional one-handed mode, which reduces screen content to an area only reachable with your thumb alone. Then the whole device slides easily into your jacket or trouser pocket, without feeling like you just stuffed a mini-tablet in your pants.
I must say the phone is as slippery to hold as a wet eel covered in baby oil, it will do its very best to jump off the couch at every opportunity thanks to the super glossy, gorilla glass 6 front and back anyway also look super sleek and sexy and not over the top. But seriously, a suitcase is a must to keep it in your hands! Hey Sony if you’re listening, for the next 5 iv – can you pick up the hole for the lanyard holder, you just put on the Xperia Pro I – you know the one you used to have on the original Xperia Z 😉
Multi-Window apps can also take full advantage of the extra high screen real estate, allowing you to have 2 fully working apps on the screen, simultaneously in portrait or landscape mode and resize as needed.
Another upgrade for this year is the addition of 360 Reality Audio to the already amazing sound quality you get from wired headphones using the now ‘extra premium feature’ that was once a standard 3.5mm jack.
Pair this with Hi-Res Sony headphones like my trusty MDR-1As and your ears are in for a treat without the need for USB-C external DACs or dongles. Yes, yes, I know it’s all about the bluetooth these days, but even with the best codecs available you just can’t get the same level of quality, lag-free audio that you get with a physical cable between you and the phone.
Sony takes all the knowledge and technology they excel in, including in other areas, and somehow manages to cram it all into a phone.
It’s always a mystery to me why, when they deliver such great feature-packed products like this, they always seem to be eclipsed by the competition, who are usually just catching up or borrowing the same hardware that Sony makes and sells to them.
It’s always been the case that I feel with Sony, don’t get me started on smartwatches and fitness trackers, Sony has already done that, peaking too early and then exiting the market, before ever becoming popular and mainstream.
So who is this phone for, well if you like a near-standard Android OS with very little bloat and some nice practical software features (sorry, negatives here for pre-installation, a Facebook app not easy to uninstall) and a quirky physical design aesthetic, different from the competition, a camera that if you have the time to play with and know how to handle a good DSLR you’ll understand why megapixels don’t always count. A physical fully functional camera button, I really can’t praise this simple but much appreciated feature enough, sorry. Throw in the latest Snapdragon 888 and some swanky gaming-specific features, and you’ve got a device that others will replicate in a few years.
If you’d like to know more or have something to say, get in touch in the comments section below.
Otherwise, the Xperia 5 iii is now available for pre-order from Amazon for £899,
Also worth noting is that if you pre-order now you’ll get a pair of WH-H910N Noise Canceling Headphones thrown, worth an additional £157.
If you came here looking for a full camera comparison between this year’s Xperia 5 and last year’s model, sorry to be disappointed as we never officially reviewed the 5 ii last year. However, feel free to check out our friend Steve Litchfield at allaboutmobile which goes into super-duper details and an in-depth comparison of both devices.