Sony’s Xperia 1 and 5 Mark III introduce first ever variable optical zoom (but that’s not what we’re excited about)
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Sony’s Xperia 1 and 5 Mark III introduce first ever variable optical zoom (but that’s not what we’re excited about)

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Sony has just announced the Xperia 1 Mark III, its flagship smartphone with camera technologies borrowed from its Alpha line of cameras, as well as display, cinema and audio capabilities built from the know-how of the broad divisions within Sony Electronics. While companies have teased the development of such actual optical zoom modules, with optics containing moving elements to shift the focal length from a wider to a more telephoto one, Sony is the first to incorporate such a design into a shipping product. It allows the Xperia 1 and 5 Mark III smartphones to optically achieve both 70 and 105mm equivalent focal lengths with its single telephoto module (with F2.3 and F2.8 apertures, respectively). The main (24mm) and wide (16mm) modules remain the same as that seen in the Xperia Pro and Xperia 1 Mark II.

Like the Xperia 1 Mark II and Xperia Pro, the Mark III smartphones can both shoot at 20 frames-per-second (fps), but the Xperia 1 Mark III takes things further: not only can it shoot at 20 fps with 60 fps AF/AE calculations per second with real-time (eye) AF tracking, but, in a first not just for smartphones but for all cameras, the Xperia 1 Mark III can shoot at 20 fps while performing temporal noise reduction on each one of those frames. In an exclusive interview with DPReview, engineers from Sony’s Xperia team confirmed that, in low light conditions, up to 4 frames are aligned and averaged to decrease noise for each frame shot at 20 fps, something no camera to date we know of can do in high speed burst mode. Granted, the smaller sensor camera in these smartphones benefit more from such stack-and-merge temporal noise reduction approaches than dedicated interchangeable lens cameras, but, nevertheless, to do so at 20 fps is quite an achievement.

The biggest news is the folded optics that allow for the world’s first variable telephoto lens. It’s not quite a zoom lens in that it offers only two optical focal lengths: 70 and 105mm equivalent. Anything in between 70mm and 105mm equiv. is achieved digitally. But to go from 70mm to 105mm equivalent, an individual optical element is moved, and that is unique, as up until now smartphones have only offered separate camera modules with fixed focal lengths whose only movable parts were the full optical assemblies which were moved solely for focus purposes. To move a single element to vary the focal length, Sony tells us it had to work hard to maintain strict accuracy of actuator accuracy and element placement. And while Sony tells us it could theoretically have offered optical zoom for all focal lengths in between 70mm and 105mm equivalent, it’s chosen this time not to.

More impressive is the fact that Sony has upgraded all camera module sensors to stacked CMOS (Exmor RS) sensors, with faster sensor readout rates. Like the Xperia Pro, the main 24mm camera module sports sensor readout rates faster than 10ms, while the 16mm and 70/105mm telephoto modules now also have fast readout rates, albeit slightly longer than 10ms. Sony has also now paired the telephoto module with a dual PD (phase-detect) sensor. That means that the entire telephoto image sensor can be used for phase-detect autofocus, as opposed to having AF points sparsely scattered about. This should help significantly in terms of autofocus performance, which tends to be more problematic for telephoto modules, particularly ones with smaller physical apertures that tend to falter in autofocus performance due to the decreased light levels reaching the sensor. In comparison, previously only the wide and main camera modules had dual PD AF, in the Xperia Pro and the Xperia 1 Mark II.

Foremost amongst other improvements include an upgrade to the already industry-leading 4K HDR OLED display, which can now be run at 120Hz for smoother motion. 240Hz motion blur reduction processing reduces motion blur further for a smooth gaming experience. Each unit is now calibrated at the factory for an accurate white point, making the ability to use the Xperia 1 Mark III as an external OLED monitor for your camera that much more useful. While the Xperia 1 Mark III cannot connect to your camera as an external monitor over HDMI (like the Xperia Pro), it can do so over USB using the UVC standard (USB Video Class). This is limited to YUV 4:2:2, MJPEG HD, 60 fps, SDR, though, which severely limits its usefulness.

The Xperia 1 Mark III uses the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G mobile platform, and includes wireless charging capabilities, and can serve as a wireless charging pad for other devices. It has a 4500 mAh battery, with special thermal management technologies that can drop the battery out of the circuit to prevent heat buildup when using any USB-C connection that can itself provide power. It has an IP 65/68 dust/water-resistance rating, and extremely durable Corning Gorilla Glass Victus for shatterproof durability.

Sony has also announced the Xperia 5 Mark III, a pared down version of the Xperia 1 Mark III. Sony has tried to pack as much of the performance of the Xperia 1 Mark III into the Xperia 5 Mark III, but in a smaller, more compact body. To do so, a number of key features are missing, including:

We’ll be updating this story and providing more in-depth content on the Xperia 1 Mark III and the Xperia 5 Mark III over the next couple of days, so stay tuned. In the meantime, have a look at the press release below.

Sony Electronics New Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III Smartphones Deliver an Elevated Photo, Video and Entertainment Experience for Creators

New 5G Capable Models Feature World’s First Variable Smartphone Telephoto Lens with a Dual PD Sensor[i], World’s First 4K HDR OLED 120Hz Refresh Rate Display[ii] and more

  • World´s first smartphone with a Variable telephoto lens paired with a Dual PD sensor
  • Real-time Eye AF for humans and animals, newly equipped Real-time Tracking[iii] and fast, accurate continuous AF across all lenses
  • 20fps Burst Mode with low light noise reduction powered by BIONZ X™
  • Brand new AI (artificial intelligence) super resolution zoom technology
  • Updated Photography Pro feature – now equipped with ‘Basic Mode’
  • World’s first smartphone with a 4K HDR 120Hz Refresh rate display[iv] crafted from Gorilla® Glass Victus™[v]
  • Evolved Full-stage stereo speakers, 40 percent louder than previous model[vi]
  • Qualcomm®Snapdragon™ 888 5G Mobile Platform
  • Improved battery life (4500mAh) and the ability to charge up to 50% of capacity in 30 minutes with the kitted 30W charger – in addition to a newly extended battery life of up to three years[viii]

SAN DIEGO, CA – April 14, 2021 – Sony Electronics Inc. today announced two new additions to its Xperia 1 and 5 flagships series line-ups – Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III. Both devices provide a rich collection of integrated features that connect Xperia community with some of the most advanced technologies across Sony’s entire suite of consumer electronics products. Whether they are photographers, audiophiles, cinephiles, gamers or cinematographers, the next generation of Xperia 1 and 5 flagships series will deliver a user experience that is unlike any other smartphone in market today.

“Today we’re introducing two new Xperia models that are significant for both Sony and the industry as a whole,” commented Neal Manowitz, President and COO, Sony Electronics Inc. “Drawing on our leadership in imaging, display and audio technology, we’re proud to debut the world’s first smartphone with a 4K 120Hz display and the world’s first smartphone with a variable telephoto lens. We continue to break new ground and provide passionate consumers with a more powerful creative device and an immersive entertainment experience like they’ve never had before—all in the palm of their hand.”

Professional Technology from Alpha Brand Cameras

Co-developed with the engineers behind the Sony Alpha brand cameras that are renowned for their industry-leading autofocus technology, the Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III feature fast, accurate continuous AF plus Real-time Eye AF in all lenses. With Xperia 5 III and its advanced object tracking technology, photographers can capture accurate shots of moving subjects in a wide variety of scenarios with a simple tap on the screen.

Xperia 1 III presents an even more sophisticated feature set for photographers that strive for picture-perfect results. Object tracking is upgraded with Real-time Tracking, allowing users to shoot the most challenging moving subjects with precise focus. Using AI-based algorithms and the 3D iToF sensor to measure distance, Real-time Tracking can accurately detect and focus on a subject even if the subject temporarily moves out of sight[ix] so they can capture even the most difficult images with ease.

When speed is a necessity, both models offer continuous AF that performs AF / AE calculations at up to 60 times per second – enabling users to shoot and store up to 20 shots (20fps) with high precision, accurate focus and optimized exposure[x]. This level of performance is comparable to that used in professional sports cameras such as the Alpha 9 series. The BIONZ X™ processor enables users to shoot in low-light scenarios in Burst Mode for the first time, producing results with noise reduction that have never previously been possible in predecessor models.

Reach Beyond Expectation with a Variable Telephoto Lens

The variable telephoto lens on each of the new Xperia models allows for focus to acquire instantly when users are switching between the 70mm and 105mm lenses. Pairing this unique lens setup with a dual PD sensor and a dual PDAF capabilities ensures that all of the beauty and detail in each image is captured in full, across the entire focal range. These new models represent the first time ever that a variable telephoto lens has been paired with a Dual PD sensor in any smartphone.

Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III offer a total of four focal lengths in photo and video recording – 16mm, 24mm, 70mm and 105mm focal lengths[xi], giving creators the freedom to capture a variety of settings from landscapes to wildlife in stunning clarity. Both models continue to feature ZEISSTM optics calibrated specifically for the Xperia smartphone. The ZEISSTM T* coating contributes to exquisite rendering and contrast by reducing reflections.

A Wealth of Creative Opportunities

The next generation of Xperia both incorporate new AI super resolution zoom. This technology uses Sony’s AI processing to restore detail and definition to images, ensuring precision is not compromised.

Additionally, like their older siblings, Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III feature the Photography Pro function, making it a breeze to capture professional-level photography in a palm-sized device. Both models were developed in collaboration with professional photographers to mirror many of the manual controls available in Alpha series cameras including ISO, shutter speed, EV Indicator, RAW support plus a dedicated shutter button (with embossed finishing exclusively on the Xperia 1 III). New for this year’s smartphones is the ‘Basic Mode’ feature in Photography Pro which enables fast access to a range of easy-to-use photography features including a touch shutter button, portrait orientation, artistic bokeh effect, panorama and more.

Transporting Cinephiles to the Big Screen

The new Xperia models are a true cinephile’s dream. Xperia 1 III features a larger than life 6.5” 21:9 CinemaWideTM 4K HDR OLED display with a 120Hz Refresh rateiv while Xperia 5 III offers a stunning 6.1″ 21:9 CinemaWide™ HDR OLED display with a 120Hz Refresh rate. Whether on the go or in the comfort of home, both models transport users into a uniquely immersive viewing experience, allowing them to lose themselves in their favorite movies or TV shows.

Users can now enjoy their favorite entertainment as the producers intended with the Creator Mode. “Powered by CineAlta,” it now features a factory-calibrated OLED display to mirror the color reproduction of Sony’s professional color monitors used in leading Hollywood studio productions. Additionally, both models feature 10-bit equivalent displays (8-bit with 2-bit smoothing) that can display a myriad of colors without banding and support BT.2020 color space.

Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III capture the senses and offer an audio-visual experience like no other. Streaming content is more lifelike than ever with more contrast, color and clarity. Consistent with their predecessors, they benefit from the X1™ for mobile engine which brings BRAVIA HDR remastering technology for a beautifully expressive viewing experience. Similarly, thanks to the continued incorporation of Dolby Atmos® sound tuned in collaboration with Sony Pictures Entertainment, users can experience a fully immersive, multi-dimensional performance with headphones or the smartphone’s built-in Full-stage stereo speakers.

Play to Win

Gamers can gain a key advantage with the superior upgrades in Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III. The familiar 21:9 display transports players into the thick of the action[xiii].Thanks to a new and improved 120Hz Refresh rate display[xiv], now incorporated in the 1 series and 5 series, fasting-moving objects are rendered clearly for seriously smooth gameplay. The addition of 240Hz Motion blur reduction[xv] also means the display updates at an incredible 240 times per second for blur-free with crystal clear performance. 240Hz Touch scanning rate also ensures that the action happens exactly as intended, and is a crucial advantage over the competition.

Another new feature in both models is the ability to adjust white balance – reducing strain on the eyes and allowing for longer durations of mobile gameplay. The new L-y raiser (low gamma raiser) also makes it easier to see opponents in the dark by adjusting image details in dark areas and highlighting enemies without overexposing bright areas of the screen.

Combining visual excellence with an immersive audio experience is key for both Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III. Gamers can plug-in their favorite headset via a 3.5mm headphone jack for impressive audio with minimal latency. The new Audio equalizer lets users control, heighten and minimize sounds such as footsteps and surrounding noises, allowing them to hear their opponents approaching and react ahead of them[xvi]. And for those playing in teams, the new optimized V.C. microphone allows for clear communication by reducing background noise based on the users chosen headset type[xvii].

Avid gamers can now relive winning moments in all their glory thanks to high frame rate recording at up to 120fps[xviii]. Whatever they are playing, R.T. record (Rewind time record) automatically pre-records up to 30 seconds of game footage so gamers can easily rewind and capture key moments like match-winning plays and share them online with friends and fellow competitors.

Lastly, thanks to incorporated Heat Suppression power control (H. S. power control), gaming performance remains uncompromised. By powering the phone systems directly, rather than charging the battery, thermal stress on the handsets is reduced.

Create Movies like the Professionals

Cinematography Pro “powered by CineAlta” enables more creative choices for engaging storytelling such as dramatic 5x slow-motion in 4K HDR 120fps[xix].It also records in 21:9 ratio at 24/25/30/60fps, enhancing cinematic expression. Eight different Look color management pre-sets allow the user to completely change the mood of their scenes by utilizing different cinema styles, a vital tool in advanced storytelling. Sony’s unique Intelligent wind filter technology uses award-winning audio separation technology to reduce wind interference for clearer audio recording, making it easier for the user to focus on their creative vision.

New features within both models include a range of UI improvements designed specifically with movie makers in mind. For instance, to help users control their workflow, they can easily check how much free memory is remaining and how much recording time is still available. Users can also easily check which parameters they used on a specific clip to apply them to other projects. Each clip’s parameter details now include resolution, FPS, look, lens, stabilizer, WB, ISO, shutter angle/ speed, focus and audio level. This is further complemented with the ability to review and organize footage with clip playback, allowing users to play back clips with a simple swipe on the phone’s display.

Audio Playback as the Recording Artist Intended

Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III allow listeners to immerse themselves in sound that is so authentic, it can feel like they are at a live concert or with the artist recording in a studio. Much like the immersive experience for cinephiles, the new Xperia models utilize sound tuned in collaboration with Sony Music Entertainment. In addition to unique hardware decoding, a newly developed speaker virtualizer enables Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III to be the world’s first smartphones to reproduce 360 Reality Audio in the speakersvii. To top it off, new TIDAL subscribers will get three months of TIDAL Hi-Fi free when they buy either model, including the 360 Reality Audio experience.

If the music source being listened to is 2-channel stereo, the new 360 Spatial Sound comes into play. It enables the Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III to upmix stereo tracks and virtualize to an immersive sound experience, in real time. The technology works with local audio files and streaming services to further enhance the listening experience.

High-quality music can be further enjoyed through the Full-stage stereo speakers or when listening with headphones either wirelessly or with the 3.5mm audio jack. The Full-stage stereo speakers are placed at the front of the phone to effectively reproduce the sound field. And as an exclusive update for Xperia 1 III, are now up to 40 percent more powerful[xx] than its predecessor[xxi]. This is thanks to a new speaker box structure, which has been designed both to improve sound pressure and eliminate vibration. The audio volume through audio-out (via the 3.5mm audio jack) has also been improved by approximately 40 percent, while sound quality has improved with less distortion near the maximum output level.

As well as High-Resolution and High-Resolution Wireless Audio, both Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III continue to offer DSEE Ultimate[xxii] which enhances the quality of digital music using Sony AI technology, including audio and video streaming services. It automatically improves audio frequency and dynamic range in real-time, taking each track close to high-resolution audio.

All the Speed you Need

Combining 5G and Wi-Fi connectivity with the latest Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 888 5G Mobile Platform, the next generation of Xperia raises the bar for smartphone performance thanks to the Qualcomm® Kryo™ 680 CPU enabling up to 25 percent higher performance and Qualcomm® Adreno™ 660 GPU delivering 35 percent faster graphic rendering than the previous generation.

Smart connectivity takes Xperia smartphones’ deep learning technology that utilizes Sony’s Neural Network Libraries and analyses Wi-Fi signals to predict near-future connectivity issues. The Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III assesses the quality of available Wi-Fi before connecting so there’s no more grabbing Wi-Fi that doesn’t work. If it predicts any compromise in Wi-Fi connection quality, it uses mobile data instead[xxiii].

With a 4,500mAh battery, both models offer plenty of power to keep users going through the day while a range of charging features helps maximize convenience and prolong battery lifeviii. When the battery needs a boost, it can be charged up to 50 percent in just 30 minutes with the included charger XZQ-UC1. Furthermore, Xperia Adaptive Charging allows the battery life to be extended up to three years (up from two in previous models) in both models. Xperia Adaptive Charging works by monitoring the phone as it charges, to make sure the battery isn’t overworked.

Finally, Xperia 1 III offers a wireless charging and Battery share function, allowing the device to be connected to a wireless charger to conveniently top off the battery. Thanks to the Battery share function, it can double as a charging pad for other devices too.

Sleek Design with Functionality in Mind

Both Xperia 1 III and Xperia 5 III are crafted to be robust. The Xperia 1 III combines high-quality materials with a bold and distinctive design. From the frosted glass on the back to the blasted metal frame, it’s an irresistible blend of form and function. It also features Corning® Gorilla® Glass Victus™ on the display, the toughest Gorilla Glass yet – boasting improvement in both drop and scratch performance. Meanwhile, the Xperia 5 III is its compact cousin featuring Corning Gorilla Glass 6™ on the rear and the display with a sleek mirror-glass finish and a robust metal frame. For further peace of mind, both models also feature IP65/68[xxiv] water resistance and protection against dust.

For the busy multi-taskers, both models feature upgrades to the multi-window functionality. With the pop-up window feature, users can easily handle a new task, then get right back to what they were doing.

Last but not least, when paired with compatible Sony headphones[xxv], users can easily access the Sony | Headphones Connect app using the new Side Sense menu for swift connectivity.


Both models are available with a new and improved Antibacterial Style Cover. Designed with durability in mind, the covers feature a built-in stand to support horizontal placement and provide a comfortable viewing experience. They are also coated with anti-bacterial material that has a protection rate of up to 99.9 percent[xxvi] – preventing cell growth.

A 30W compact charger is also available and features USB-C power delivery. Designed for overheat protection, this new charger is certified with PPS support (Programmable Power Supply) to reduce heat impact.

Pricing and Availability

Xperia 1 III will be available in Frosted Black and Frosted Purple and shipped with Android™ 11. Xperia 5 III will be available in Black and Green and shipped with Android™ 11 as well[xxvii]. Pricing for both models will be announced at a later date. The products will ship to U.S. customers this summer.

[i] Xperia 1 III / Xperia 5 III feature 70mm and 105mm focal length in the same periscope camera paired with a Dual Pixel Diode sensor. Verified by Strategy Analytics’ SpecTRAX Service against the published camera specifications for over 18,500 smartphones. Correct as of the 14th April 2021.

[ii] Verified by Strategy Analytics’ SpecTRAX Service against the published display specifications for over 18,500 smartphones. Correct as of the 14th April 2021.

[iii] Real-time Tracking is only available on Xperia 1 III. The subject may not be detected depending on the shooting environment

[v] Xperia 1 III features Corning® Gorilla® Glass Victus™ on the display only. The rear is crafted from Corning® Gorilla® Glass 6. Xperia 5 III features Corning® Gorilla® Glass 6 on the display and rear

[vi] 40 percent more powerful speakers only available in Xperia 1 III – compared to Xperia 1 II

[vii] This feature is currently available with TIDAL. Third party terms, conditions, account and fees may apply. Service availability may vary by market. Verified by Strategy Analytics’ SpecTRAX Service against the current audio specifications for over 18,500 smartphones. Correct as of the 14th April 2021.

[viii] Result tested by Sony Corporation – based on usage profile using the same type of battery and USB charging. The life span of the battery varies on usage situation.

[ix] Accuracy may vary according to environmental circumstances. Some performance restrictions may apply.

[x] Maximum calculations will depend on shooting environment. Up to x60 calculations per second AF/AE is available for 24mm, 16mm, 70mm and the 105mm lens can calculate up to 30fps AF/AE

[xi] 35mm equivalent format

[xiii] Depending on the specification of the game, it may not be display in the 21:9 ratio

[xvi] The feature may vary by content, game availability and compatibility.

[xviii] Effective when the setting of the Game Enhancer Refresh rate is more than 120Hz, or the setting is “Performance First”. High frame rate recording up to 120fps is available at 720p resolution.

[xix] Functions with the 24mm lens only and when set at 24fps

[xx] The effect of feature may vary depending on environment and contents. Some performance restrictions may apply

[xxi] Compared to the Xperia 1 II

[xxii] High-resolution compatible headphones (sold separately) are required to enjoy high-resolution sound sources equivalent to high-resolution audio

[xxiii] Smart connectivity availability may vary depending on country, carrier and user environment.

[xxiv] This device is water resistant and protected against dust. All ports and attached covers should be firmly closed. Do not put the device completely underwater or expose it to seawater, salt water, chlorinated water or liquids such as drinks. Abuse and improper use of device will invalidate warranty. The device has been tested under Ingress Protection rating IP65/68. Sony devices that are tested for their water resistant abilities are placed gently inside a container filled with tap water and lowered to a depth of 1.5 meters. After 30 minutes in the container, the device is gently taken out and its functions and features are tested. Note this model has a capless USB port to connect and charge. The USB port needs to be completely dry before charging

[xxv] Headphones must be compatible with the smartphone app “Sony | Headphones Connect”.

[xxvi] Protection rate may vary depending on long-term usage

[xxvii] Pricing for both models will be announced at a later date. The products will ship to U.S. customers this summer.

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