Sony makes high-end cameras. Sony makes high-end smartphones. And Sony makes the smartphone camera image sensors found in many of the best phones for snapping photos, including Google’s Pixel series.

But Sony’s smartphones have historically been… just fine for taking pictures, although things have started to look up recently.

So it’s interesting to note that a unique camera system is a key selling point for the new Sony Xperia 1 IIand Sony Xperia 5 III smartphones. These will be the first phones to feature variable telephoto lenses that allow you to adjust the focal length.

While the two phones have three rear cameras, they support four focal lengths; 16mm, 24mm, 70mm, and 105mm (those last two are courtesy of the variable telephoto lens).

That should give you a decent range of options for optical zoom, the phone’s also support Sony’s “AI super resolution zoom” to let you get a little closer with some digital magic. And other camera features include:

  • Manual controls for pro users that want to adjust the ISO, shutter, speed, and more
  • RAW support
  • Dedicated shutter button
  • Optical image stabilization
  • Continuous auto-focus
  • Real-time object tracking
  • Shoot up to 20 pictures per second while applying auto-focus and other exposure optimizations
  • Support for low-light burst mode photography

Pricing and availability for the new phones hasn’t been announced yet, but it’s a safe bet that the Xperia 1 III will be the more expensive of the two thanks to premium features like a bigger, higher-resolution display, 50-percent more memory and twice as much RAM.

Here’s a run-down of the key specs for Sony’s new flagship phones:

Sony Xperia 1 III Sony Xperia 5 III
Display 6.5 inch
3840 x 1644
HDR
OLED
120 Hz
6.1 inch
2520 x 1080
OLED
HDR
120 Hz
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Qualcomm Snapdragon 888
RAM 12GB 8GB
Storage 256GB
microSDXC (up to 1TB)
128GB
microSDXC (up to 1TB)
Battery 4,500 mAh 4,500 mAh
Cameras (rear) 12MP 1/1.7″ Exmor RS F1.7 24mm
12MP 1/2.9″ Exmor RS F2.3 (70mm) or F2.8 (105mm)
12MP 1/2.5″ Exmor RS F2.2 16mm
12MP 1/1.7″ Exmor RS F1.7 24mm
12MP 1/2.9″ Exmor RS F2.3 (70mm) or F2.8 (105mm)
12MP 1/2.5″ Exmor RS F2.2 16mm
Camera (front) 8MP 1/4″ F2.0 8MP 1/4″ F2.0
Water/dust resistance Water resistant (IPX5/IPX8)
Dust proof (IP6X)
Water resistant (IPX5/IPX8)
Dust proof (IP6X)
Dimensions 165 x 71 x 8.2 mm 157 x 68 x 8.2 mm
Weight 187 grams 169 grams

press release

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  1. There’s a lot to like here, but they aren’t perfect. I could perhaps buy. Here’s my initial impressions:

    I was interested in the X5.3 first:
    – good size (height good, length short)
    – great SoC, great Battery, and great Cameras for the size
    – great 21:9 LTPO-120Hz display with sharp “1080” resolution
    – clean Software, great Support, PRO-features
    – must have features (IP68, microSD, 3.5mm Jack, Front-firing stereo loudspeakers, good aspect ratio, no Notch/motors)
    – Lacks Wireless Charging. Should’ve used 32bit DAC too.
    – Housing is Rounded Body. Isn’t using Corning Victus
    – Very low availability, and high price

    The drawbacks made me consider X1.3 instead:
    – decent size (height long, length good)
    – Disappointing Battery and Cameras for the size
    – As above, flagship specs, must have features, and software
    – Hopefully we can reduce framerate/resolution to save battery
    – Awesome angular body is very ergonomic
    – Should’ve used 32bit DAC
    – Low availability, and very high price

    1. Oh, and there’s one other major negative reason to NOT buy either of these phones. It’s the elephant in the room: 2022.

      There might be a divide coming to the Android phone market in 2022. This would be with a more optimised OS version, and running on a NEW architecture. I’m talking about the leap from ARMv8 to the upcoming ARMv9 ecosystem. It might be a case, similar to buying a Snapdragon 805 (32bit/Android 4.4/Nexus 6) when the Snapdragon 820 (64bit/Android 5.1/Axon 7) launched not too long after.

      So it might actually be worth waiting for the Sony X5.4 or the Sony X1.4 instead of these ones. After all, we are talking about +1,200 Euros!!!

      PS: Did I mention the camera hardware’s are mediocre? They’re competitive for early-2020, but definitely not that competitive for late-2021, which is the market they will be in. Perhaps the next iteration will see them use a larger and more advanced sensors.

  2. Dang, really liking the Xperia 5 III, but it’s still too damn tall for a ‘compact’ phone imo. My last Xperia was the ZL (compact version of the Z) and it was an entire inch shorter. I rock a 21:9 ultrawide monitor and still occasionally wear JNCO jeans with comically deep pockets, but I still can’t deal with unnecessarily large phones. Even my PH-1 pokes out of my pockets (in normal slacks) when sitting down. We either need to make smaller phones normal again or larger pockets more common, or both.

    /rant =)

  3. Wow, I think this Xperia 5 III is going to be my next phone. It seems they’re offering the exact configuration of camera hardware that I want, and they’re offering a dedicated shutter button.

    Based on the video, it looks like the UI of the camera app is designed to follow the design language of the UI in their Sony Alpha series of cameras. I love it. Very functional interface.

    Even out side of the camera specs, this phone checks all my boxes. Headphone jack confirmed in the video. MicroSD support. Big battery. I also really like that they’re not following the “Flagship phones need to be huge” philosophy. 6.1″ is still big, but it’s at least reasonable.

    The video also says it will offer Sony’s DSEE audio enhancement, which is a feature Sony offers on many of their higher end audio devices. It fixes some of the artifacts caused by lossy audio compression. This might be an indication that Sony is using their own audio DAC chip in this phone, rather than the baked-in DAC that the Snapdragon 888 offers?

    On paper this looks like a seriously good phone. I’m really impressed. This is what 2021 smartphone innovation should look like. Very advanced, but ultra practical.

  4. “Manual controls for pro users that want to adjust the IOS,”

    I believe that IOS was meant to be ISO.

    1. bradlinder – Brad Linder is editor of the mobile tech blog Liliputing, an independent journalist and podcast producer and editor based in Philadelphia.
      Brad Linder says:

      I believe you are correct.

  5. Looking forward to seeing the frequency support for T-Mobile US. Most of the more recent Xperia phones didn’t have full support which meant I had to look elsewhere.

    1. Update: it looks like these new Xperia phones do have support for important T-Mobile frequencies. I think I found my new phone.