Sony Xperia 1 and Xperia 5 III: Photography-Focused Phones

In April 2021, Sony announced its latest round of under-the-radar Android flagship handsets, the Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III. Sony has been making decent Android smartphones for years, though the company has never broken through as a major player in this space. Their handsets tend to run expensive. And even though there are impressive technical features to justify the price, expensive phones are just a harder sell overall.
Sony hasn’t announced pricing yet for the series III phones, so perhaps this year will be different. The specs, though, do look impressive.
Here’s what to know if you’re in the market for a new smartphone and are wondering about the Sony Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III.

The Names Make No Sense

First off, it has to be said: Sony’s names make no sense. The Xperia 1 III is the high-end flagship model. The Xperia 5 III is the “mini” version of that flagship, with a few feature trade-offs. Worse still, the Xperia 10 III is the midrange handset that was also announced.
So, hard as it may be, try to remember that 1 equals bigger and better; 5 equals smaller and still high-end.

The Killer Features: Display and Camera

Next up, the killer features in the new Xperia phones: display and cameras.

Display

The Xperia 1 is being touted as “the world’s first 4K 120Hz screen smartphone,” and honestly that’s a pretty impressive achievement. Does the world need a phone with that many pixels? No, not at all. But that Sony could cram so many into this display is still an impressive, technical achievement.
That OLED display is 6.5 inches, with a cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio. You also get high-end color gamut and white point calibration tech, something that matters most to photographers. (Yes, there’s a theme here.)
The Xperia 5 doesn’t look like it has this 4K display, but the 6.1-inch OLED display is still beautiful. It also has the 21:9 aspect ratio and 120Hz refresh rate, too, likely in a FHD resolution.

Cameras

Sony has long catered to photography buffs, and this pair of phones is no exception. They both ship with triple cameras in the now-standard pro configuration of ultra-wide, telephoto and standard lenses. The Xperia 1 is confirmed to have 12MP in each camera, which is likely the case for the Xperia 5, as well. There’s also a 3D time of flight sensor with the cameras.
The big change this year is the variable telephoto camera. No one else is putting this tech in a smartphone, and it looks pretty exciting. The telephoto lens can shoot at both 70mm and 105mm focal lengths. There’s also a dual pixel diode sensor that can instantly switch autofocus between the various focal lengths.
Sony has usually focused on hardware photo features rather than the computational software that most other makers rely on. That said, Sony has added “AI super resolution zoom” so that it’s now doing both. Superior hardware plus computational software should result in some truly impressive images.
Real-time eye tracking makes an appearance here, first seen on Sony’s Alpha cameras. And Sony has added all kinds of features to its photos app as well, including a Basic mode for amateurs.
As if this all weren’t enough, the photographer-friendly features don’t stop. There’s also a special cable available that turns your Xperia phone into a color-accurate monitor for mobile photo sessions. It does this by converting the USB-C port into a video-in from a DSLR camera.

Chipset and Performance

Like other modern Android flagships, both Xperia phones run the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset. Currently, it’s the fastest and best Android processor available. RAM isn’t known yet, but is likely either 8 or 12 GB, and storage is locked at 256GB in all configurations. There’s also a microSD card slot.
The Xperia 1 and 5 will both ship with Android 11, the latest version of Google’s mobile OS.

Connectivity

The third-gen Xperia phones are 5G-capable, with some notable caveats. They don’t support the ultrafast mmWave technology, which is limited in its rollout and coverage anyway. More crucially for US customers, the Xperia 1 and 5 don’t support the kind of 5G network deployed by AT&T. If you’re sticking with AT&T or one of its service providers, these aren’t the phones for you. Verizon and T-Mobile can service Xperias just fine, though.

Availability and Price

Sony has announced “early summer 2021” availability and has kept mum on price. That said, expect the smaller Xperia 5 III to run upwards of $900 and the higher-end Xperia 1 III to go as high as $1200.

High-End Phones Deserve Quality Warranty Coverage

If you pick up a new Xperia phone later this year, make sure to pair your high-end phone with a quality extended smartphone warranty from Upsie. You want quality coverage that isn’t complicated or expensive, and that’s exactly what Upsie provides. Don’t mess with manufacturer plans or costly big-box warranties. Upsie offers an easier experience at a lower price. Explore Upsie’s plans now.

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