Sony announces Xperia 5 V with stacked camera sensor… we try it out

A photo of the Sony Xperia 5 V
(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)

Sony has announced the Xperia 5 V, its latest compact flagship smartphone, and for 2023, the Xperia 5 series seems to be on the back foot on first impression. With fewer cameras and chunkier styling than last year’s Xperia 5 IV, some might call the latest in the line a downgrade, but while it doesn’t look set to be the best phone of 2023, it could still be a winner on the camera front for a number of reasons.

We’ve been using the phone for a few days, and when we first got our hands on it, we had a few concerns. Costing £849 – as much as a Google Pixel 7 Pro and significantly more than excellent alternatives like the OnePlus 11 – Sony’s Xperia 5 V has a smaller display, fewer cameras, and clunkier styling. 

After firing up its camera, though, the fact the Xperia 5 V is loaded up with the same main sensor as found in the much pricier Xperia 1 V seems to be its saving grace. That makes it the most affordable phone with Sony's latest stacked sensor technology, and when you factor in Sony’s pro shooting modes, the phone begins to flex on the photography and video fronts.

Xperia 5 V: Cameras

The Xperia 5 V has two cameras, a primary and ultra-wide camera, with the main camera featuring a 1/1.35-inch sensor. While its native resolution is 52MP, the effective photo resolution is 48MP. The reason for this difference is the sensor’s aspect ratio. It’s a little wider than traditional sensors – 4.3:3 – so when recording video, it captures the entire width of the sensor and has more information for stabilization. 

A photo of the Sony Xperia 5 V

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)

If you think that means you’ll be able to capture full-resolution, 48MP photos, though, we weren’t able to on our device. It shoots 4:3 photos which are then pixel-binned down to 12MP.

The Xperia 5 V also uses Sony’s stacked pixel architecture, resulting in superior noise handling when compared to other phones with the same sensor size.

As this phone has two cameras – a wide and an ultra-wide – it misses out on the optical zoom of its Xperia 5-series predecessors. This marks a continued trend – the gradual paring back of the Xperia 5 series cameras versus the flagship Xperia 1 series. Nevertheless, Sony makes a 48mm focal length available in the camera app, so you can punch in and capture with a native 12MP, two-times zoom by cropping into the high-resolution sensor.

An ultra-wide 12MP camera with a 1/2.5-inch sensor and a 16mm focal length sits alongside the main camera, and with autofocus, offers a bit more versatility than some wide-angle alternatives, and the front camera is a 12MP 1/2.9-inch setup.

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)

On first impression, the Xperia 5 V’s camera captures impressive, realistic photos that are loaded with natural tones and colors, with a strong amount of resolved detail, and the digital zoom is also respectable. Noise-handling and low-light performance from the ultra-wide camera is a bit more disappointing, though, so its primary camera looks set to be the 5 V’s main selling point.

Sony Xperia 5 V: New features

Sony’s updated a number of camera features for the new 5 V. The first is portrait mode – finally – which has historically been a poor performer on Sony’s Xperia line. Called Bokeh mode, the UI takes inspiration from Alpha cameras, the phone captures deeper foreground/background separation, and we’re hoping that Sony’s improved edge detection as well, as we’ve had mixed results on past Xperias.

A new app, Video Creator, is also debuting on the Xperia 5 V. While it hasn’t landed on our review device, so we can’t test it out, it looks like a bit of a mishmash between GoPro Quik, thanks to its auto-generated highlight videos, and Kinemaster. 

Venturing beyond the camera, Sony’s also refreshed its Game Enhancer for the Xperia 5 V, while bringing back all the modes we’ve come to expect from a premium Xperia.

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli)

Sony Xperia 5 V: Additional features

The rest of the Xperia 5 V’s specs read well, but no better than we’d expect for a phone of its price. Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 power and 8GB RAM have done a good job of keeping the phone fast and cool in our time with it. 

A modest 6.1-inch 21:9 Full HD OLED screen with an up-to 120Hz refresh rate looks vibrant and bright enough for comfortable outdoor use, and the phone’s 5000mAh battery, complete with wireless charging, has no issues keeping it alive for a full day.

Xperia fan favorites are back too – a SIM tray you can pull out with a fingernail, IP68 dust and water resistance, a physical camera button, and a headphone jack – and Sony’s launching the phone in three colors: Black, Blue, and Platinum Silver.

Our biggest gripe with the phone after a few days with it is the 128GB storage. For not much more, the Honor Magic 5 Pro offers 512GB, and the Asus Zenfone 10 costs £100 less with 256GB. While the Xperia 5 V has a microSD card slot, with so many apps needing to be installed or save data on internal storage, Sony dropped the ball for a power user in 2023 on this front.

On the plus, the Xperia 5 V will double up as an external monitor for an Alpha camera, just like the flagship 1 V, and its battery life, main camera hardware, and powerful software should still make it a compelling package for keen smartphone photographers. 

Expected to be on shelves in late September for £849 (roughly US$1,075 or AU$1,660), if you want a preview of the main camera’s performance before it drops, check out our Xperia 1 V review, and if Sony isn’t quite doing it for you, read our guide to the best camera phones of 2023.

See our rundown of the Best Sony phones, and the best budget camera phones

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Basil Kronfli

Basil Kronfli is a freelance technology journalist and content creator with a number of specialisms. He started his career at Canon Europe, before joining Phone Arena and Recombu as a tech writer and editor. From there, he headed up and runs Tech[edit], a technology YouTube channel, and has worked alongside this role at Future as a Senior Producer, sharpening his considerable video production skills. 

His technical expertise has been called on numerous times by mainstream media, with appearances and interviews on outlets like Sky News, and he provides Digital Camera World with insight and reviews on camera phones, video editing software and laptops, on-camera monitors, camera sliders, microphones and much more.