The best Sony phones offer a great balance of high-end flagship features with an affordable price tag. However, the way that Sony names their phones isn't particularly clear. So it can be difficult to decide which to buy.
To make it easy for you, we explain in this article exactly what the various handsets have to offer. To start with, the best Sony phone overall for most people is the Sony Xperia 1 III. However, it's also one of the most expensive (but not as expensive as the Xperia Pro, which is is designed for professional streaming). So we'll also look at the other models, and explain how they differ.
Other manufacturers, of course, are available. So also check our guides to the best Samsung phones (opens in new tab) and the best iPhones for photography (opens in new tab), as there are plenty of camera phone (opens in new tab) options to choose from there too. Once you've settled on a phone, then make the most of it, and check out our guide to the best Popsockets (opens in new tab) and the best iPhone tripods.
Best Sony phones
Sony makes phones for photo enthusiasts - and the newest Xperia delivers more in this regard than any of its predecessors. Camera fans can dive into the detail – eke out the extra value hidden within the three (yes, three) camera apps pre-loaded on the phone.
The Xperia 1 IV is particularly exciting given its world-first tech. This is the first phone to support 120fps video capture across all its rear 12-megapixel cameras. Most impressive, though, is the inclusion of a true optical zoom. The phone's periscope camera can take you from 85mm to 125mm continuously, despite the fact the Xperia 1 IV is a slim, fine-looking slab of frosted glass and blasted metal.
See our full Sony Xperia 1 IV review (opens in new tab)
Sony’s latest pro-grade smartphone, the Xperia Pro-I is the first to feature a 1-inch sensor. This is a long-overdue vindication for Sony fans. It’s the first true example of the Japanese smartphone maker navigating its mobile line with the imaging gravitas it has with its camera division.
While the original Sony Xperia Pro (opens in new tab) is a very expensive external monitor/smartphone hybrid with an adequate camera setup, the Pro-I is a less expensive top-spec photography phone, confirming it as the best Sony phone to date. It has three cameras, a 16mm ultra-wide-angle, a 24mm wide (which is backed up by that large Type-1 sensor), and a 50mm portrait lens; all its cameras have 12MP resolution sensors. And it’s also powerful, with top-tier specs – a crisp 4K display, the latest widely available Snapdragon 888 processor, and over half a terabyte of storage.
See our full Sony Xperia Pro-I review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
Sony's latest flagship model is the best Sony phone to date, not least when it comes to photography.
The main camera features a 12MP sensor matched with a 24mm f/1.7 wide lens. Additionally, there is a 12MP 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.
You get superb telephoto reach, with its variable 2.9-4.4x equivalent optical zoom. And the camera has a great user interface, with an impressive range of manual modes and customizations.
More generally, it's loaded with 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.
See our full Sony Xperia 1 III review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
Like the look of the Sony Xperia 1 III, number one on our list, but want something a little cheaper and/or more compact? Then the new Sony Xperia 5 III will suit you perfectly. It's both less expensive and slightly smaller, with the screen diameter dropping down from 6.5 to 6.1 inches in diameter. And yet it still packs a similar level of polished performance.
Both models are powered by the same Snapdragon 888 5G chip and boast a long-lasting 4,500mAh battery. Both have a triple–12MP camera system that can capture 4K HDR slow motion video at 120fps.
There are some compromises to be made, though. Most notably, the Xperia 5 III's resolution is only HD, rather than 4K, and its speakers are less powerful. You get just 8GB of RAM rather than 12GB. And in terms of photography, it lacks the Xperia 1 III cameras' advanced real-time tracking. But overall, this is a very lovely phone, and very much worth considering.(opens in new tab)
While it's a bit old now, having been released in March 2020, 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's 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 (opens in new tab). Almost everything else about this phone is excellent too, including its striking 21:9, 4K HDR screen, clean UI and a snappy chipset ensuring plenty of power under the hood.
In full: Sony Xperia 1 II review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
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.
It offers the great camera features found in the Xperia 1 II in a smaller body and a more affordable price. Photography enthusiasts can take advantage of the excellent ZEISS imaging technology found in the triple rear camera.
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 it good for watching movies, playing games and scrolling through apps.
In full: Sony Xperia 5 II review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
One of the best ways to get a good deal on a smartphone is to purchase an older generation, assuming there are discounts on offer at the time. 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 features a 4K notch-free HDR 21:9 screen that's good for viewing movies or playing games. It has a triple-12MP rear camera array, although it's missing the ZEISS optical coating that the Xperia 1 II, above, features. So if you're looking for an older flagship for a great price, this is definitely a good investment.
In full: Sony Xperia 1 review (opens in new tab)
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 should be able to pick up the Xperia 5 at a pretty good price.
In full: Sony Xperia 5 review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
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 (opens in new tab) for vloggers and videographers - offering a 6.5in 21.9 screen that is substantially better than that found on Sony's own mirrorless cameras (opens in new tab). 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 has 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.
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