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Best Sony phones in 2021: From the Sony Xperia 5 II to the Xperia 1 II

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

(Image credit: Sony)

1. Sony Xperia 1 II

The best Sony phone with all the bells and whistles

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

Excellent pro video features
Stunning screen
Decent battery performance
A little pricey
Large handset

The Sony Xperia 1 II is the best Sony phone for video pros and cinema buffs who want to get manual with their smartphone videography. 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. 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. There are a number of welcome improvements over the original  there’s no wireless charging. If you want the ultimate cinema experience, both from a content creation and consumption point of view, the Xperia 1 II is it.

In full: Sony Xperia 1 II review

(Image credit: Louise Carey / Digital Camera World)

2. Sony Xperia 5 II

The best Sony phone to balance features and affordability

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

Beautiful 120Hz display
Great camera technology
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)

3. Sony Xperia 1

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

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

Great display
Manual video recording
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)

4. Sony Xperia 5

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

Release date: October 2019 | Rear camera: 12MP + 12MP + 12MP | Front camera: 8MP | Dimensions: 158 x 68 x 8.2mm | Storage: 128GB

Great video features
Stunning screen
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

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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 she is so adept at that she's delivered workshops for the likes of ITV and Sue Ryder. Before joining the site, her formidable hands-on abilities served her well as features editor for Practical Photography. Louise currently shoots with the Fujifilm X-T200 and the Nikon D800, capturing self-portraits and still life images.