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Best Sony phones in 2021: from the Sony Xperia 5 II to the Xperia Pro

Best Sony phones
(Image credit: Sony)

The best Sony phones offer a great balance of high-end flagship features with an affordable price tag. There are four main handsets to choose from if you're looking for a Sony Xperia phone, depending on whether you'd prefer excellent video features or a larger display. 

While there are technically other handsets that could be considered some of the best Sony phones, most of these are getting pretty long in the tooth and you would struggle to find them being sold. However, the four Sony Xperia models currently available offer users a choice between pricier, flagship models and older handsets that have reduced in price. 

If you don't quite find what you're looking for in our best Sony phone guide, why not take a gander at the best Samsung phones or the best iPhones for photography, as there are plenty of camera phone options to choose from!

Alternatively, if you've just bought one of the best Sony phones and you want to make the most of it, why not accessorize with one of the best Popsockets or the best iPhone tripod?

Best Sony phones

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(Image credit: Sony)

1. Sony Xperia 1 III

The best Sony phone with all the bells and whistles

Specifications
Release date: April 2021
Rear camera: 12pm (24mm f/1.7) + 12pm (70-105mm f/2.4-2.8) + 12MP (16mm f/2.2)
Front camera: 8MP (f/2)
Rear camera aperture: f/1.7 + f/2.4-2.8 + f/2.2
Dimensions: 165 x 71 x 8.2mm
Weight: 186g
Storage: 256GB
Reasons to buy
+Brilliant camera phone for serious photographers+Plenty of processing powere+Lots of storage +Headphone socket
Reasons to avoid
-Expensive-Zoom could have more reach

Sony's latest flagship model goes even further to boost the Xperia's reputation for photographic credentials. This quad-camera model offers the best telephoto reach of any Sony phone to date with its variable 2.9-4.4x equivalent optical zoom. The   Xperia 1 III is also loaded with impressive class-beating specifications, including a 6.5 inch 4K 10-bit OLED display, Snapdragon 888 processor and 256GB storage. It also boosts the battery over that of its predecessor (the Xperia 1 II), and features a healthy 12GB RAM as standard across all its variants.

The Sony Xperia 1 III’s main camera features a 12MP sensor matched with a 24mm f/1.7 wide lens. Additionally, there is a 12 MP periscope zoom camera delivering two focal lengths. At 70mm equivalent, the phone’s first zoom range starts with an f/2.3 aperture, while at 105mm equivalent, the aperture closes to f/2.8. The ultrawide f/2.4 lens offers a 124° view. And the fourth rear camera is used simply to measure depth. But the best bit of the camera capability comes with Photography Pro camera user interface, with an impressive range of manual modes and customizations, and familiar Sony interface.

(Image credit: Sony)

2. Sony Xperia 1 II

Last year's flagship phone is still worth considering

Specifications
Release date: March 2020
Rear camera: 12pm (24mm f/1.7) + 12pm (70mm f/2.4) + 12MP (16mm f/2.2)
Front camera: 8MP (f/2)
Rear camera aperture: f/1.7 + f/2.4 + f/2.2
Dimensions: 167 x 72 x 8.2 mm
Storage: 128GB
Reasons to buy
+Excellent pro video features+Stunning screen+Decent battery performance
Reasons to avoid
-Large handset-No wireless charging

The Sony Xperia 1 II is still a great Sony phone for video pros and cinema buffs who want to get manual with their smartphone videography. Like the newer Xperia 1 III, it  is able to shoot footage at up to 21:9 for cinema style capture, offers full manual control and features a beautifully flat color profile, perfect for post-processing in Premiere Pro or Da Vinci Resolve. Thankfully, almost everything else about this phone is excellent too, with a striking 21:9, 4K HDR screen, a clean UI and a snappy chipset ensuring plenty of power under the hood. 

In full: Sony Xperia 1 II review

(Image credit: Louise Carey / Digital Camera World)

3. Sony Xperia 5 II

The best Sony phone to balance features and affordability

Specifications
Release date: October 2020
Rear camera: 12MP 24mm f/1.7 , 12MP 70mm f/2.4 and 12MP 16mm f/2.2
Front camera: 8MP f/2.0
Dimensions: 158 x 68 x 8mm
Storage: 128/256GB
Reasons to buy
+Beautiful 120Hz display+Great camera technology
Reasons to avoid
-Confusing button arrangement

The Sony Xperia 5 II is the latest Xperia smartphone from Sony, offering the great camera features found in the Xperia 1 II in a smaller body and a more affordable price. Featuring an upgraded chipset and camera from the previous generation, the Sony Xperia 5 II has a Full HD Plus screen (compared with the Xperia 1 II's 4K display) with a 120Hz refresh rate. This makes the Xperia 5 II perfect for watching movies, playing games and scrolling through apps, as users should have a smoother experience. Meanwhile, photography enthusiasts can take advantage of the excellent ZEISS imaging technology found in the Xperia 5 II's triple rear camera. If you're looking for a great handset that balances flagship-style features with affordability, you could do worse than the Sony Xperia 5 II, as this is definitely one of the best Sony phones around. 

In full: Sony Xperia 5 II review

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)

4. Sony Xperia 1

It might be an older generation, but this is still a great buy

Specifications
Release date: June 2019
Rear camera: 12MP 26mm f/1.6 , 12MP 52mm f/2.4 and 12MP 16mm f/2.4
Front camera: 8MP
Dimensions: 167 x 72 x 8.2m
Storage: 64/128GB
Reasons to buy
+Great display+Manual video recording
Reasons to avoid
-No video editing tools-Battery could be bigger

It might be a little long in the tooth compared to its newer Xperia 1 II sibling, but the original Sony Xperia 1 still packs a punch as one of the best Sony phones – and at a much more affordable price too. We've often found that one of the best ways to get a great deal on technology is to purchase an older generation. While you might not get the latest up-to-date features, you'll usually find that there's not that much difference between the two models. The original Sony Xperia 1 still features a 4K notch-free HDR 21:9 screen that's perfect for viewing movies or playing games. It even has a triple-12MP rear camera array (although it's missing the ZEISS optical coating that the Xperia 1 II features). If you're looking for an older flagship for a great price, this is definitely a good investment. 

In full: Sony Xperia 1 review

Best Sony phones

(Image credit: Digital Camera World)

5. Sony Xperia 5

The original Xperia 5 is still one of the best Sony phones

Specifications
Release date: October 2019
Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP
Front camera: 8MP
Dimensions: 158 x 68 x 8.2mm
Storage: 128GB
Reasons to buy
+Great video features+Stunning screen
Reasons to avoid
-No headphone jack

Looking for a camera phone that's compact and capable for a reasonable price? The original Sony Xperia 5 is still one of the best Sony phones – especially if you're interesting in shooting video. Featuring a 21L9 OLED display, the Samsung Xperia 5 has the same triple camera unit as the Xperia 1, but it features 4K HDR and the Cinema Pro app, which adds manual cine camera-like controls. There's even an automated pull-focus feature! When the Sony Xperia 5 was first launched, its $799/ £699 price tag meant that it wasn't fantastic value for money. However, now that there's a newer generation hogging the spotlight, you can pick up the Xperia 5 at a pretty good price.

In full: Sony Xperia 5 review

(Image credit: Sony)

6. Sony Xperia Pro

The ultimate phone for serious content creators

Specifications
Release date: January 2021
Rear camera: 12pm (24mm f/1.7) + 12pm (70mm f/2.4) + 12MP (16mm f/2.2)
Front camera: 8MP (f/2)
Rear camera aperture: f/1.7 + f/2.4 + f/2.2
Dimensions: 171 x 75 x 10.4mm
Weight: 225g
Storage: 512GB
Reasons to buy
+Doubles as a field monitor for videographers+512GB storage+Live streaming capabilities
Reasons to avoid
-Eye-watering price-No zoom

The Sony is one of the most unusual phones available today – and it needs to be to justify an asking price that is around twice that of a flagship iPhone 12 Pro Max. Its photographic credentials are essentially borrowed from the Sony Xperia 1 II - so it is not the best camera phone even in Sony's current range. But this is still a phone that is made for serious filmmakers. The reason being is that this 5G phone is meant to be used as a on-camera monitor for vloggers and videographers - offering a 6.5in 21.9 screen that is substantially better than that found on Sony's own mirrorless cameras. But the phone's real party trick, is that the Xperia Pro has been built with those who want to live stream video to YouTube on location. It as a 5G signal on four sides, helping ensure it can get a signal however it is mounted, and taking advantage of the high data speeds available on the most recent cellular networks. And you don't have to use the Xperia's cameras - you can plug in your own system camera to get the full creative control of a Sony Alpha camera, or any camera with a clean HDMI output for that matter.

Sony Xperia Pro as a video monitor & streaming tool: your questions answered

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Louise Carey

With over a decade of photographic experience, Louise arms Digital Camera World with a wealth of knowledge on photographic technique and know-how – something at which she is so adept that she's delivered workshops for the likes of ITV and Sue Ryder. Louise also brings years of experience as both a web and print journalist, having served as features editor for Practical Photography magazine and contributing photography tutorials and camera analysis to titles including Digital Camera Magazine and  Digital Photographer. Louise currently shoots with the Fujifilm X-T200 and the Nikon D800, capturing self-portraits and still life images, and is DCW's ecommerce editor, meaning that she knows good camera, lens and laptop deals when she sees them.