Sony Xperia 5 IV review

The Sony Xperia 5 IV is a classy, understated camera phone with amazing video capabilities and manual controls for advanced photography – but it comes at a price

Sony Xperia 5 IV hands on
(Image: © Lauren Scott)

Digital Camera World Verdict

If you’re a videographer, photographer, or content creator who wants advanced camera features and video recording in a smartphone, the Xperia 5 IV won’t disappoint. The phone is advanced but easy to use, well-featured by not flashy. It’s let down by a few tiny niggles – limited updates and some overheating issues – but overall the package is very slick and impressive, giving you the ability to capture pro stills and video in a very compact design.

Pros

  • +

    Simple and solid design

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    4K HDR 120fps video recording

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    Great audio quality

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    Full manual camera control

Cons

  • -

    Expensive price point

  • -

    Disappointing in low light

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    Limited software updates

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The Sony Xperia 5 IV is the latest premium camera phone from Sony, launched in September 2022 as a compact version of the Sony Xperia 1 IV (opens in new tab) from earlier in the year. The smartphone shares a lot of features with its big brother, but these don't include the continuous optical zoom module. It's a smaller handset for smaller hands (and pockets) and is also more affordable than the Xperia 1 IV.

Creators who like Sony phones (opens in new tab) will find plenty to like with the Xperia 5 IV. Not only is it a powerhouse for visuals – photography and videography – but it also features excellent audio, with a headphone jack and front-facing speakers.

Launched at a similar time to the iPhone 14 Pro (opens in new tab) and Google Pixel 7 Pro (opens in new tab), the Xperia 5 IV has had mixed responses so far. But I'm not sure Sony is trying to keep up with Apple, Samsung, and now Google in the camera phone race. Overall, it’s produced an excellent camera phone, that arguably targets a different user than those three manufacturers altogether. The Xperia 5 IV should appeal to loyal fans of the brand, mixing elements of its Sony Alpha camera (opens in new tab) and Bravia TV elements to create a very strong media device.

Sony Xperia 5 IV specifications

Dimensions: 156 x 67 x 8.2mm
Weight: 172g
Display size: 6.1" 21:9 CinemaWide display
Display resolution: FHD+ HDR OLED 2,520 x 1,080
Camera: Triple camera unit with 12MP 24mm f/1.7 , 12MP 60mm f/2.4 and 12MP 16mm f/2.2, 12MP f/2.0 front camera
RAM: 8GB
Internal memory: 128GB
External memory: microSDXC support up to 1TB
OS: Android 12
CPU: Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Mobile Platform
Battery capacity: 5,000mAh

Sony Xperia 5 IV design & build

Sony Xperia hands-on

(Image credit: Lauren Scott)

The Xperia 5 IV arrives in recycled packaging, without a charger or USB-C cable included. Fortunately, I've amassed plenty of USB-C cables lying around at home, but it means the unboxing experience isn't as exciting as it should be for such a premium product.

That said, the Xperia 5 IV is sleek, thin, and oh-so-tall. My black review unit is a bit utilitarian, but the Green (turquoise) and Ecru White color options look much more playful. The phone has a minimalist design akin to its predecessors (the Sony Xperia 5 III (opens in new tab) and Sony Xperia 5 II (opens in new tab)), with a matte glass back and a new beveled edge design for better handling.

Unlike the shiny backs found on the latest iPhones, the Xperia 5 IV is smooth and matte. No fingerprints here, thank you. Although this smooth, slimline form is a major part of the phone's appeal, at times I found it hard to get a decent grip without a case on, especially when filming a video or trying to change settings while taking photos.

Sony Xperia hands-on

(Image credit: Lauren Scott)

That's not helped by the very tall display, 21:9 in fact, which is amazing for watching films or recording video, but not great for handling when you need to reach the top of the screen with one hand. Let's just say I didn't feel comfortable leaning it over the edge of an oceanarium pool with one hand while testing the unit on holiday in Lisbon.

On the phone, you'll find three buttons on the right-hand side, including conjoined volume buttons, a lock button complete with a built-in fingerprint reader, and a camera shutter button. At the bottom of the Xperia 5 IV, there's a USB-C charging port and a 3.5mm headphone jack, which will please users who enjoyed wired headphones.

I haven’t had a Sony Xperia phone for at least ten years but found the interface intuitive and easy to navigate after a short play – even for a non-Android user. In terms of handling, I want to mention the fingerprint reader which, set up for my thumb, felt awkward to reach and slow at times. When it takes longer to get into the phone, that makes it more difficult to capture on-the-go snaps. That said, the dedicated camera shutter button gets around this problem somewhat, but it's a shame that there's no face recognition to unlock the device.

Otherwise, the Sony Xperia 5 IV has an IP65/68 rating and Corning Gorilla Glass, which should help keep the phone protected and safe from accidental water dunks up to 1.5 meters.

Sony Xperia 5 IV features

Screen

The 6.1-inch screen of the Sony Xperia 5 IV offers a smaller profile than the 6.5-inch screen of the Sony Xperia 1 IV. On first impressions, it seems you get a lot of screen real estate for the size of the phone, but the screen-to-body percentage is lower than the Pixel 7 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro. You can set the display to 120Hz, which matches both aforementioned phones, and this is pin sharp for reviewing images, watching videos, and just generally scrolling apps.

Cameras

The Sony Xperia 5 IV has a triple-lens camera setup; three 12-megapixel lenses, with an f/1.7, 24mm (wide), f/2.4, 60mm (telephoto) f/2.2, 124˚, 16mm (ultrawide) view. The 12MP front camera sensor is larger than its predecessor, for better selfies in low light, with a 24mm wide view and f/2 maximum aperture.

The technology inside the Xperia 5 IV is said to be based on Sony's Alpha series cameras and what's most impressive is that you get up to 20fps AF/AE HDR (high dynamic range) burst shooting and real-time Eye AF on all of the lenses.

The video capabilities are impressive, with 4K at 24/25/30/60/120fps, as well as 1080p at 30/60/120fps.

Battery

The Xperia 5 IV has a large 5,000mAh battery – super impressive for a phone of this size and the same as the Google Pixel 7 Pro. It also supports wireless Qi charging, for the first time on an Xperia 5 series phone. While I haven't done any benchmarking tests, I found that the battery lasted all day while snapping, shooting and mapping my way around Lisbon on a day of exploring, with 14% left to spare by bedtime. It also lasted noticeably longer than my iPhone 12 when in standby mode, although this is purely anecdotal.

Chipset

The Xperia 5 IV is powered by the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Mobile Platform, a chipset designed for high-performing mobile devices including the Samsung Galaxy S22 (opens in new tab) lineup. I don't pretend to know much about chipsets, but there have been concerns about overheating with this particular chip, and that is definitely something that I experienced on the Xperia 5 IV when recording video for several minutes and when charging.

Sony Xperia 5 IV camera performance

Sony Xperia 5 IV hands on

(Image credit: Lauren Scott)

Let's get into the meat of this review – the cameras and camera apps. You'll essentially find three different camera apps on the Sony Xperia 5 IV. There's Photo Pro, where most users will end up, and Video Pro and Cinema Pro. 

Exposure modes
In the Photo Pro app, there's the option to keep the interface on 'Basic', which leaves the phone to decide most of the settings for you. Or – and here's the exciting part – you can use the device a little more like a proper camera, thanks to Auto, Shutter Speed Priority, Aperture Speed Priority (opens in new tab), and even full Manual Mode (opens in new tab). In Manual mode, you get to choose the ISO, focus area, and drive mode (up to 20fps)... really it's like using a Sony camera, or any mirrorless camera (opens in new tab) for that matter, which is great for photographers but could be confusing for true beginners.

General image quality
Image quality can sometimes be a very objective thing to measure, but here goes. I tested the Xperia 5 IV on a variety of subjects and found it excelled in some areas but performed badly in others. Good things include color accuracy and white balance, and the images have a slightly warm tone that's pleasing. 

On the downside, I noticed that in low light there wasn't a great amount of detail in the video, and chromatic noise crept in. My images also started to look noisy past ISO400 too. Elsewhere, the front-facing selfie camera could be sharper (it's certainly not as good as the Pixel 7 Pro (opens in new tab) by comparison), while Bokeh mode (a bit like the iPhone's Portrait mode) can blow out background highlights so much that they detract from the main subject. But I'm being picky.

Autofocus
What is also impressive about the Xperia 5 IV is the autofocus, which is perhaps unsurprising given that’s where the best Sony cameras perform well (especially the new Sony A7R V). The Xperia 5 IV can track the eyes of subjects for portraits and pets in natural daylight well, even at the maximum burst shooting rate.

Computational photography
The latest smartphone manufacturers are focusing on their computational photography features more and more. That means images are created by digital computation instead of through the optical lens. You get less of that with the Sony, as there's still no macro function or specific night mode — the Xperia uses long exposures and HDR processing for low light. 

Sony Xperia 5 IV video

Sony Xperia 5 IV hands on

(Image credit: Lauren Scott)

The Xperia 5 IV is designed for media-hungry users who want total control over their video footage, and it does a great job as an all-in-one video device that can slip into your pocket.

Two video apps: Video Pro and Cinema Pro
You can either start recording video from the more basic camera pro app with a big record button or use the specialist video apps, Video Pro and Cinema Pro (yes, there are two) which come with more customizable settings. In both video apps you can select the frame rate, shutter speed, ISO, switch to manual focus, and set the resolution – which gives you much more control than most devices.

While Video Pro has a simpler interface, Cinema Pro allows you to see and change the White Balance, Look, Resolution, Codec, and Microphone levels. I'm not a pro videographer by any stretch, but I appreciate how someone could use this app to create content with incredible control. If you wanted to match the footage on a smartphone to that taken with a video camera (opens in new tab) I imagine it'd be easy to do.

What about the frame rate?
While my iPhone 12 can shoot in 24, 30, and 60fps, the Xperia 5 IV offers 24, 25 (good for cinematic footage), 30, 60, and 120fps, making it possible to capture fast-moving subjects. Indeed, when I used it to capture my puppy, the Xperia could keep up where my iPhone couldn’t.

All in all, the footage looks sharp and well-exposed – for a smartphone – but gets very grainy in low light. The ability to change frame rates and use manual focus takes the quality beyond what you get on many mid-level smartphones. Still, it’ll be overkill for the majority of users – perhaps even keen vloggers.

I enjoyed using the Video Pro app so much that when I went back to my iPhone 12, I found video recording woefully basic by comparison.

Sony Xperia 5 IV hands on

(Image credit: Lauren Scott)

Sony Xperia 5 IV sample images

Sony Xperia 5 IV pricing

The Sony Xperia 5 IV is currently priced at around $999/£949.

For comparison, the iPhone 14 Pro starts at $999/£1,099 and the Google Pixel 7 Pro starts at $899/£849. Not quite one of the best budget camera phone (opens in new tab)s, but with these models, you're getting the best camera features money can buy.

Sony Xperia 5 IV verdict

The Sony Xperia 5 IV is cheaper and smaller than the Xperia 1 IV, making it an unbeatable choice for mainstream consumers who want to stick with Sony. Although I've focused on camera tech in this review, it's worth mentioning that Sony won't offer long-term security updates, and this makes it hard to recommend to anyone who wants a phone that will last – a major limitation, especially given the price point.

If you just want a smartphone with a decent camera for the odd Instagram reel or video of your dog doing a funny thing, its capabilities will be wasted, and there are more affordable options out there. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus (opens in new tab). and Google Pixel 7 Pro (opens in new tab).

Design-wise, Sony's android operating system doesn’t look as sleek as it could, but maybe I’m biased by my long-term use of Apple products. And then there’s the physical – practical and slick, or a little boring? When Google and Apple are offering color options like “Lemongrass” or “deep purple” is it time for Sony to break free and bring us something a bit more exciting?

While the Xperia 5 IV can't replace the best Sony camera (opens in new tab)s for image quality, it's a powerful alternative that you can slip into a pocket. If you want a camera phone (opens in new tab) that’s fun and affordable, the Xperia 5 IV will likely be too much. Fortunately, there are plenty of other brilliant Sony phones (opens in new tab) for that.

Overall, it's easy to see why some YouTubers are calling the Sony Xperia 5 IV a compact content creation machine. If you’re a videographer, photographer, or media pro who wants advanced camera features (and even full manual control) in your smartphone, the Xperia 5 IV won’t disappoint.

Lauren Scott
Managing Editor

Lauren is the Managing Editor of Digital Camera World, having previously served as Editor of Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) magazine, a practical-focused publication that inspires hobbyists and seasoned pros alike to take truly phenomenal shots and get the best results from their kit. 


An experienced photography journalist who has been covering the industry for over eight years, she has also served as technique editor for both PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine and DCW's sister publication, Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)


In addition to techniques and tutorials that enable you to achieve great results from your cameras, lenses, tripods and other photography equipment, Lauren can regularly be found interviewing some of the biggest names in the industry, sharing tips and guides on subjects like landscape and wildlife photography, and raising awareness for subjects such as mental health and women in photography.