Sony Xperia 1 III and 5 III: the first smartphones with a dual-focal length lens
Sony is back on the scene and unveils three new smartphones: the Xperia 10 III, Xperia 5 III and Xperia 1 III. Notable point, these last 2 models are the first to integrate a telephoto lens with variable focal length, equivalent 70 and 105 mm. Back on all the characteristics of these new promising models.
The great return of Sony on the smartphone market?
For several years now, Sony’s smartphone sales have not exactly been at their best. Despite a number of qualities, they are being supplanted by models from the Samsung / Apple duopoly. But they also have to face the armada of Chinese smartphones, which rely on an ultra-aggressive pricing policy.
It is in this context that the Sony Xperia 1 III, Xperia 5 III and Xperia 10 III have arrived. All three of them rely on a technical sheet, especially on the photo part, like this new dual-focus telephoto lens.
Xperia 1 III: the most elitist of Sony smartphones
With its new Xperia 1 III, Sony is thinking big. Externally, the smartphone is similar in every way to the Xperia 1 II, launched last year. So we find the all-high format and the 6.5-inch 4K HDR OLED screen in 21:9, refreshed at 120 Hz. This screen is surrounded by borders at the top and bottom, so Sony doesn’t have to use a notch or punch.
Similarly, the fingerprint reader is still placed on the side, within the Power button. And we also find the button of the photo trigger, which gains this year a textured finish.
3 sensors, 4 different focal lengths
On the photo side, the Xperia 1 III innovates and becomes the first smartphone in the world to benefit from a telephoto lens with variable focal length. The latter is of the periscope type – the lenses are mounted perpendicular to the back of the smartphone. By moving the lenses, we can obtain the 2 distinct focal lengths, equivalent 70 mm and 105 mm.
A small revolution that avoids Sony to multiply the photo sensors on the back of the smartphone.
One small regret, however: it is impossible to use the “intermediate” focal lengths, between 70 and 105 mm. Also, we would have liked the telephoto lens to have an even longer range, like some models capable of reaching 135 mm or more (despite a certain drop in quality, it is true).
Another notable point is that this double focal length also results in a double aperture. At 70mm, the lens opens to f/2.3; at 105mm, the lens opens to f/2.8. Fortunately, the difference in aperture is not too great between the 2 focal lengths.
To go even further, the Sony Xperia 1 III also relies on a 200mm digital zoom, enhanced with artificial intelligence. Thus, an AI Super Resolution function is able to reconstruct the details of the image. The goal: to produce an image infinitely more qualitative than with a “classic” digital zoom.
Nevertheless, we can’t help but notice that the telephoto sensor is quite small (1/2.9 inch type), which could prove annoying in night photography.
Beyond this (double) telephoto lens, we will note the presence of the wide-angle (24 mm) and ultra-wide-angle (16 mm) lenses. Two focal lengths designed to echo the lenses for Sony Alpha hybrids, as you might expect.
So here’s the list of features of the 4 sensors of the Sony Xperia 1 III:
- Main sensor 12 Mpx, type 1/1,7 inch, 24 mm optics, f/1,7 aperture, OIS, Dual PD AF;
- 12MP sensor, 1/2.6-inch type, 16mm ultra-wide angle, f/2.2 aperture, Dual PD AF;
- 12MP sensor, 1/2.9-inch type, 70-105mm telephoto, f/2.3-2.8 aperture, OIS, Dual PD AF;
- 3D iToF sensor
Like its predecessor, the Xperia 1 III’s photo sensors are all 12MP. Sony thus avoids once again entering the race for millions of pixels, relaunched in particular by Samsung. Exmor RS type, these sensors are “stacked CMOS” (a DRAM chip is placed directly under the photosensitive surface). The result is greatly reduced reading speeds, and a rolling shutter effect that is a priori non-existent.
As on the Xperia 1 II, all sensors are equipped with the “Dual Phase Detection” system, to improve the performance of autofocus. Thus, the Xperia 1 III should be able to focus almost instantaneously. In parallel, Sony has refined its algorithms for tracking the subject (human or animal). Thus, the AF must be even more effective, even on complex scenes.
In this regard, note that the 3D iToF sensor is still part of the game. It facilitates the work of the various sensors for calculating the distance to the subject, speeding up the focus. This 3D iToF sensor was already present on the Xperia 1 II.
Finally, the Xperia 1 III keeps the burst at 20 frames per second, with subject tracking and exposure lock. An impressive figure … and already achieved by its predecessor, it is true.
A revised photo interface
The Xperia 1 II was distinguished by its 3 distinct photo and video applications. There was a “general public” interface, a “Pro” photo application, which used the aesthetic codes of Sony Alpha hybrids, and a “Pro” video application.
This last one evolves slightly, and brings some additional options to better control the shooting parameters (but also the recording time and the remaining memory capacity).
On the photo side, the “classic” application and the “Pro” photo application are merged, to gain in simplicity. According to Sony, this also allows to offer the same features between the 2 modes (real time AF, 20 fps burst on all focal lengths) – which was unfortunately not the case on the Xperia 1 II.
Note also that the main photo interface of the Sony Xperia 1 III has been revised. More modern and simpler, it should allow easier access to all shooting modes, thus correcting one of the defects of its predecessor.
Last point: Sony continues to do without the night mode. When asked about it, the brand says it wanted to prioritize AF speed and offer a natural rendering to the photos – to avoid causing an artificial rendering with a dedicated Night mode.
True, but on many models, the Night mode allows you to capture clear handheld photos, even in very low light – which was far from being the case with the Xperia 1 II, which also lacked this mode, although very useful.
Video: SteadyShot stabilization, CinemaPro 4K 120 fps mode
On the video side, the Sony Xperia 1 III uses SteadyShot stabilization technology, which should be familiar to owners of a Sony hybrid. Its purpose: to mitigate (or even remove) the tremors and parasitic movements of the user of the smartphone. Sony would also have revised the shooting algorithms, in order to “produce much smoother, natural and smooth videos”.
The smartphone should be able to shoot 4K video at up to 120 fps. However, we do not know if this concerns all the sensors, or only the main sensor.
Finally, we note that the Xperia 1 III can be used as an external monitor with a USB-C – HDMI adapter, by connecting it to a compatible hybrid. A feature that was already found on the Sony Xperia Pro.
Other features of the Sony Xperia 1 III
Besides, the Xperia 1 III includes several improvements. For example, the speakers should be more powerful and offer a more immersive audio experience.
On the audio side, the Xperia 1 III still features a 3.5mm jack – a real rarity in the high-end smartphone landscape. What to please the music lovers. Especially since the audio output should be even cleaner than before. We also find the DSEE algorithm, which comes to upscale the titles in average quality to try to reach the sound rendering of tracks in Hi-Res Audio.
Under the hood is a Snapdragon 888 chip, the latest high-end chip from Qualcomm. Compatible with 5G, it should also offer a very high level of performance. It is coupled with 12 GB of RAM.
For its part, the storage goes up to 256 GB, expandable with a micro-SD card up to 2 TB. Enough to store all your photos and videos.
And in terms of autonomy, the Sony Xperia 1 III adopts a large battery of 4500 mAh. The device comes with a 30W wired charger, which should allow it to recover 50% of battery in 30 minutes. In addition, Sony guarantees a battery life of 3 years.
Sony Xperia 5 III: (almost) the same, but more compact
In practice, the Xperia 5 III is equipped with an OLED screen of 6.1 inches. The latter opts for a FHD resolution (1080p), but is HDR compatible. Its refresh rate is also 120 Hz.
Inside, we find the same Snapdragon 888 chip, accompanied by 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage (compared to 12 GB of RAM and 256 storage on the Xperia 1 III).
On the photo side, we find the same sensors and lenses as on the Xperia 1 III. Fortunately, the “small” Xperia 5 III also benefits from the 70/105 mm dual-focal length telephoto lens. The only difference is that the iToF sensor is missing. We may therefore notice a small difference in the speed of focus.
The Sony Xperia 5 III therefore incorporates:
- A 12MP main sensor, 1/1.7-inch type, 24mm optical, f/1.7 aperture, OIS, Dual PD AF ;
- A 12 MP sensor, 1/2.6 inch type, 16 mm ultra wide angle, f/2.2 aperture, Dual PD AF;
- A 12 MP sensor, 1/2.9 inch type, 70/105 mm telephoto lens, f/2.3/2.8 aperture, OIS, Dual PD AF.
Besides, the Xperia 5 III inherits the 4500 mAh battery of its elder brother. Similarly, the 3.5 mm jack is also part. Finally, the smartphone is also certified IP65/68, like its big brother.
Sony Xperia 10 III: the 5G more accessible
Lastly, Sony lifted the veil on the Xperia 10 III. Oriented mid-range, this model aims to make the 5G accessible to most people.
It features a 6-inch OLED screen (still in Sony’s popular 21:9 format), which is also HDR compatible. Inside, there is a Snapdragon 690 processor, coupled with 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage (expandable with a micro SD card)
On the photo side, the Sony Xperia 10 III integrates a main sensor of 12 MP (1/2.8 inch type), coupled with two 8 MP sensors for the ultra wide angle (16 mm) and telephoto (54 mm). In addition to the weak range of the telephoto lens, dedicated essentially to the portrait, one will note especially the very small size of these 2 secondary sensors: only 1/4 inch.
Notable point, the Xperia 10 III is equipped with a dedicated Night mode, unlike its 2 big brothers. We will also note the presence of human and animal tracking modes, as well as the burst at 10 frames per second. In video, the camera is capable of filming in 4K, but we do not know if this concerns the 3 lenses. Finally, the device also inherits the 3.5 mm jack and the IP 65/68 water and dust resistance.
Our first opinion on the Sony Xperia 1 III, Xperia 5 III and Xperia 10 III
After an Xperia 1 II in half-tone, Sony comes back on the scene and manages to surprise us. If the external aspect of these new models evolves very little, the photo part deserves our attention.
This double-focal telephoto lens seems very promising. It probably prefigures the future of smartphone cameras, where a single photo module will be able to navigate smoothly between different focal lengths, thus avoiding manufacturers to multiply sensors and lenses. For the time being, this 70-105mm telephoto zoom lens offers a longer focal range to the Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III.
Of course, we will have to test this system in the field to judge its real performance.
Finally, the small Xperia 10 III has the merit of further democratizing 5G, whose deployment is accelerating.
All in all, this trio of smartphones is very attractive. Let’s hope, however, that this armada of technologies will be enough to make consumers’ hearts (and wallets) fall over.
Price and un-availability
Sony made three phones that it thought specifically address the needs of its faithful fans. Those that adore the cinema aspect ratio of the screen, the headphone jack, the camera processing and features and the styling of the phones – both hardware and software-wise.
And we have no doubt that those very faithful fans will buy their pick of the three new phones.
But the thing is Sony hasn’t said when those phones will become available, other than in “early summer”. And more importantly there was no official statement on price.
History points to a high asking for the flagship Xperia 5 III and 1 III, and a listing in Russia seems to confirm that – around $1,300 for the Xperia 1 III and around $1,100 for the Xperia 5 III.Tags: Sony Xperia 1 III, Sony Xperia 5 III