Skip to main content

Sony announces the Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III with variable telephoto lenses

Sony announces the Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III with variable telephoto lenses


Another camera-focused iteration of Sony’s flagship Android phone

Share this story

Sony Xperia 1 III (left) and Xperia 5 III (right)
Sony Xperia 1 III (left) and Xperia 5 III (right)

Sony is announcing two new phones today, the Xperia 1 III and the Xperia 5 III. Both are the latest in Sony’s campaign to redefine the Xperia brand as a kind of sibling to its well-regarded Alpha digital cameras. As such, the camera system is once again the main focus, and Sony specifically is touting the “world’s first smartphone with a variable telephoto lens paired with a Dual PD sensor” and improvements to its already fast and accurate autofocus system.

Pricing was not announced, but they should both be available in the US “this summer.”

Each phone has the basic specs you’d expect on a top-flight Android phone: three cameras on the rear, a Snapdragon 888 processor, and support for 5G. Actually, the 5G support is worth noting because these Xperia phones will be able to work on 5G networks in the US, something weirdly lacking on the last models. However, they’ll only work on the regular sub-6 networks on Verizon and T-Mobile, without support for AT&T’s 5G network. As is fairly usual for Sony, these will be sold directly rather than via carriers.

The phone also keep the Xperia design language Sony landed on with the original Xperia 1. They’re tall and narrow, with lots of glossy black and small curves on all the angles, giving them the most monolithic look of a smartphone today. I think they look great, but I’m also aware that they’re likely to cost a lot of money when Sony gets around to announcing the price.

In order to establish the Xperia brand, Sony has also been pushing a lot of other nice specs that are relatively hard to come by on other Android phones. The Xperia 1 III has a 4K OLED screen that now supports a fast (though locked) 120Hz refresh rate. There are dual speakers that are 40 percent louder and will work with Sony’s 360 Reality Audio format.

Sony is also enabling 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 you can use it as a monitor – much like the Xperia Pro can do with HDMI. That could also make them an interesting option for live streaming.

They’ll come in both dual-SIM and SIM+microSD variants. And there’s even a good ol’ headphone jack and a shutter button.

The Sony Xperia 1 III


The Sony Xperia 1 III

There’s also the more standard fare, like wireless charging and a 4,500mAh battery. When plugged in and gaming the phones can redirect power away from the battery to reduce heat. Both phones will ship with Android 11, but as of right now there’s no clear commitment to future software updates.

If you step down from the Xperia 1 III to the Xperia 5 III, you’ll get a very similar set of specs with a few exceptions. It’ll 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 has support for the periscope-style variable lens.

But again, the big push is on the cameras and here Sony has done quite a bit to improve the hardware. Sony is using three 12-megapixel sensors on the back, and both the main and telephoto lenses support OIS. (The Xperia 1 III also gets a time-of-flight sensor.)

Sony says it has lenses that are the equivalent to 16mm (f/2.2 ultrawide), 24mm (f/1.7 wide), and 70mm (f/2.3 telephoto), but that the telephoto can also reach to an f/2.8 105mm equivalent. That extra telephoto zoom comes thanks to a folded periscope lens design, and the Xperia is physically moving the lens elements to get different focal lengths.

The idea is that photographers will mostly stick to those focal lengths, but should they want to zoom further or use a zoom level in between the Xperia phones will utilize digital zoom.

Sony Xperia 5 III


Sony Xperia 5 III

Beyond the fancy hardware, Sony has iterated on its software. Unlike Google, Apple, and even Samsung, Sony is putting its emphasis on technical features rather than computational photography. It is claiming some improved low-light performance in some situations, but really the main emphasis is on features like autofocus and shooting speed.

These phones can take photos at up to 20fps with focus/exposure readings happening at 60fps. They also support 120FPS 4K in HDR. There’s still eye-tracking autofocus, but this year there’s real-time tracking for that autofocus. In a demo, Sony showed a subject turning around and when their eye was visible again, the camera adjusted.

The hardware is excellent, but it may only get noticed by enthusiasts

Sony is finally integrating its pro camera app with the main camera app. There’s the “basic” mode like any smartphone, but it’s now quicker to get to the pro mode. Sony’s pro mode really is angled towards people who use Sony’s cameras, too: the interface is very similar.

On paper, all of this sounds really great. We’ll need to review them to see if these specs can translate to great experiences. Previous Sony Xperia phones have also had great camera hardware specs, but for taking quick shots they have often missed the mark. Treating a smartphone camera as a pro SLR-style camera could limit their appeal.

Sony’s tack with the Xperia line is to pack them to the gills with specs and features that will appeal to photographers and even videographers (there’s an excellent workflow-based video app included). In reality, however, Sony has struggled mightily to gain any measurable marketshare in the US. A lot of that has come down to higher prices than is the norm for even flagship Android phones, but some of it also comes down to availability. Without carrier partnerships or massive marketing budgets, these Xperia phones are more likely to appeal to camera enthusiasts than mainstream Android buyers.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed Sep 24 Striking out

External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.

Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.

The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.

Andrew WebsterSep 24
Looking for something to do this weekend?

Why not hang out on the couch playing video games and watching TV. It’s a good time for it, with intriguing recent releases like Return to Monkey Island, Session: Skate Sim, and the Star Wars spinoff Andor. Or you could check out some of the new anime on Netflix, including Thermae Romae Novae (pictured below), which is my personal favorite time-traveling story about bathing.

A screenshot from the Netflix anime Thermae Romae Novae.
Thermae Romae Novae.
Image: Netflix
Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.

External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.

External Link
Ford is running out of its own Blue Oval badges.

Running out of semiconductors is one thing, but running out of your own iconic nameplates is just downright brutal. The Wall Street Journal reports badge and nameplate shortages are impacting the automaker's popular F-series pickup lineup, delaying deliveries and causing general chaos.

Some executives are even proposing a 3D printing workaround, but they didn’t feel like the substitutes would clear the bar. All in all, it's been a dreadful summer of supply chain setbacks for Ford, leading the company to reorganize its org chart to bring some sort of relief.