Sony today announced two new phones, the Xperia 1 III and the Xperia 5 III. The two are the latest in Sony’s campaign to redefine the Xperia brand as a kind of brother to its famous Alpha digital cameras. As such, the camera system is once again the primary focus, and Sony in particular touts the “world’s first smartphone with a variable telephoto lens paired with a Dual PD sensor” and improvements to its focus system. automatic stitch already fast and precise.
Pricing has not been announced, but they are both expected to be available in the US “this summer”.
Each phone has the basic specs you’d expect on a high-end Android phone: three cameras on the back, a Snapdragon 888 processor, and support for 5G. In fact, 5G support is worth noting because these Xperia phones will be able to run on 5G networks in the US, which is strangely lacking on the latest models. However, they will only work on regular sub-6 networks on Verizon and T-Mobile, with no support for AT & T’s 5G network. As usual with Sony, these will be sold directly rather than through operators.
The phone also retains the Xperia design language that Sony used with the original Xperia 1. They’re tall and narrow, with lots of shiny black and little curves on all angles, giving them the most monolithic look of a smartphone today. I think they look great, but I’m also aware that they’ll probably cost a lot of money when Sony starts announcing the price.
In order to establish the Xperia brand, Sony has also pushed many other interesting specs which are relatively hard to find on other Android phones. The Xperia 1 III has a 4K OLED display that now supports a fast (albeit locked) refresh rate of 120Hz. There are two speakers that are 40% louder and work with the 360 Reality Audio format. from Sony.
Sony also activates a special mode for the USB-C port that allows you to use a special cable to take an HD resolution video signal from an SLR camera so that you can use it as a monitor – just like the Xperia Pro can do this with HDMI. It could also make it a great option for live streaming.
They will come in dual SIM and SIM + microSD variants. And there’s even a good old headphone jack and shutter button.
There’s also the more standard fare, like wireless charging and a 4,500mAh battery. When plugged in and playing, phones can redirect battery power to reduce heat. Both phones will ship with Android 11, but at this time there is no clear commitment for future software updates.
If you switch from the Xperia 1 III to the Xperia 5 III, you’ll get a very similar set of specs with a few exceptions. It will be smaller, of course. The larger phone has a 6.5-inch 21: 9 display while the 5 has a 6.1-inch 21: 9 display – at 1080p resolution instead of 4K. But it still supports the periscope style variable lens.
But again, the big effort is on the cameras and here Sony has done quite a bit to improve the hardware. Sony uses three 12-megapixel sensors on the back, and the main and telephoto lenses support OIS. (The Xperia 1 III also gets a time-of-flight sensor.)
Sony claims to have lenses equivalent to 16mm (f / 2.2 ultra-wide), 24mm (f / 1.7 wide), and 70mm (telephoto f / 2.3), but the telephoto can also reach a f / 2.8 equivalent 105mm. That extra telephoto zoom comes through a folded periscope lens design, and the Xperia physically moves the lens elements to achieve different focal lengths.
The idea is that photographers will mostly stick to these focal lengths, but if they want to zoom in more or use a zoom level between Xperia phones, they’ll use digital zoom.
Beyond sophisticated hardware, Sony reiterated its software. Unlike Google, Apple, and even Samsung, Sony emphasizes technical functionality rather than computer photography. It claims improved low-light performance in certain situations, but the focus is on features like autofocus and shooting speed.
These phones can take photos at up to 20 fps with focus / exposure readings at 60 fps. They also support 120FPS 4K in HDR. There is still eye-tracking autofocus, but this year there is real-time tracking for this autofocus. In a demo, Sony showed a subject turning around and when its eye was again visible, the camera adjusted.
Sony is finally integrating its professional camera app with the main camera app. There is the “basic” mode like any smartphone, but it is now faster to access the pro mode. Sony’s pro mode is also geared towards people who use Sony cameras: the interface is very similar.
On paper, this all sounds really good. We’ll have to take a look at them to see if those specs can translate into some great experiences. Previous Sony Xperia phones also had excellent hardware specs for the camera, but for taking quick photos they often missed the mark. Treating a smartphone camera like a professional SLR-style camera might limit their appeal.
Sony’s strategy with the Xperia line is to pack them to the gills with specs and features that will appeal to photographers and even videographers (a great workflow-based video app is included). In reality, however, Sony has struggled to gain any measurable market share in the United States. Much of this is due to higher-than-standard prices even for flagship Android phones, but a part is also dependent on availability. Without carrier partnerships or massive marketing budgets, these Xperia phones are more likely to appeal to camera enthusiasts than traditional Android buyers.