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Sony Xperia 1 III review: Fine control for camera obsessives

The Xperia 1 III sounds a good deal like the smartphones that came before it. If it wasn’t for the matte finish, it would be almost identical to last year’s Xperia 1 II. Sony has lodge to its remarkable elongated smartphone species factor while improving the screen itself, as well as the cameras.

Yet again, this phone is sloped at a particular kind of smartphone shopper. That’s no bad thing, especially in a occasion where most smartphones — if they don’t fold — shortage anything particularly unique. At $1,300, the Xperia 1 III is also an expensive phone. That’s several hundred dollars more than an iPhone 13 Pro Max and sneaking closer to prices often held for Samsung’s flagship foldables.( Edit: Just as I wrapped up this review, Sony launched a brand-new flagship smartphone, the Xperia Pro-1 with a bigger likeness sensor, several attachments and a $1,800 price tag .)

If you’re persuasion by the potential of unrivaled smartphone camera control — or really desire the aesthetic of Sony’s hardware — there’s a lot to like here.

HardwareSony Xperia 1 III reviewMat Smith/ Engadget

I’m not sure whether it’s the affinities with Sony’s camera series or simply how shiny and understated the Mk.III is, but I enjoy how this phone ogles. A pitch-black oblong is far from exotic, but it’s clearly attractive. And that’s despite the unusual screen ratio( 21:9 ), which establishes the machine more elongated than pretty much all other smartphones. In add-on, a new almost-matte finish adds to the premium feel, something the Xperia 1 III requests at this price.

The Mk.III organizes claim to being the world’s firstly 4K telephone with a 120 Hz refresh rate. I’m splitting “hairs-breadths” here, but it’s 1644 x 3840 — so it’s not quite 4K like your TV would register, which “wouldve been” 2160 x 3840. Predictably, everything on the screen looked incredibly crisp, and my interactions with the phone were also buttery smooth.

The 6.5 -inch OLED display continues to show Sony’s obsession with showings, and given the specs, you’d expect it to look as good, if not better, than Samsung and Apple’s top machines. If you decide to switch the high freshen frequency on, the Xperia won’t dynamically reform refresh proportions to maximize battery life. There are a lot of experiences when you’re simply looking at the screen that you don’t need 120 Hz refresh rates.

Whether it’s Samsung’s Galaxy S 21 and its dynamic refresh rates, or the iPhone 13 Pro’s ProMotion, both sets of phones flit between refresh paces as needed, reducing the toll on the battery. Regrettably, once designated, the Xperia 1 III’s screen stays at 120 Hz.

The phone mansions front-facing stereo talkers, which phone good. That’s still a oddity for smartphones. As you might expect from Sony, there’s support for nearly all the cutting-edge audio formats, including its own 360 Reality Audio, Hi-Resolution audio, and Dolby Atmos.

You’ll have to figure out which apps and assistances furnish these upgraded audio knowledge, as it’s still a labyrinth of discovering out exactly how to play the highest-quality music documents. On that subject, Sony is grasping onto the 3.5 mm audio jack for one more year.

Sony Xperia 1 III reviewMat Smith/ Engadget

There’s a fingerprint sensor built into the phone’s power button on the right edge of the telephone, a magnitude rocker, a two-stage camera shutter button and then yet another button, just because Sony could. It summons the Google Assistant but sadly can’t be assigned to other( more useful affairs ). In the early stages of using the phone, I’d often press the wrong one, capability up the screen instead of launching the camera. Sometimes, I’d do the reverse.

Four buttons on one side is too many and while I eventually got used to it, a dedicated expression auxiliary button seems wholly redundant.

I might affection how the Mk. III gazes, but that tall screen will be a struggle for some smaller pass. I find it a bit of a reaching for icons at the top of the screen, and drop-down menus often expect two mitts. This form-factor does feel more comfy in my hands, though, and slips into pockets easier than Apple’s bigger Pro phones, or the Pixel 4a 5G.

Rounding out the list of specs you’d expect to see in a fee smartphone, the Xperia 1 III is running on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 chipset, with 12 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. It is likewise a little more 5G-friendly, labouring this time around with T-Mobile and Verizon cliques. However, there is no mmWave support nor will it work on AT& T’s 5G offering.

Sony has increased the artillery sizing to 4,500 mAh, establishing it notably bigger than its precede. Regrettably, the Xperia 1 III clashes to last-place an part era, if you keep the screen leading at 120 Hz, at least. On dates of heavy call, I’d have to recharge the phone by early evening. After dropping the establishes down from 120 Hz I was often going only shy of a epoch and a half of use, which is a moderately standard person for most high-end Android machines. The artillery is big, yes, but so is the screen.

The camerasSony Xperia 1 III reviewMat Smith/ Engadget

It’s an open confidential that Sony utters camera sensors for a lot of smartphone creators. But until very recently, that didn’t translate to killer smartphone cameras for its own phones. So if the Xperia 1 II was Sony getting serious about its phone cameras, then the Xperia 1 III is Sony getting serious, focused and business-like, all at once.

As with the screen, Sony is taking its own approach with three 12 -megapixel cameras of diversifying focal segments. That includes a new telephoto lens that can switch between 70 mm and 105 mm equivalent zoom. Sony says the variable zoom lens promotions it to focus faster, which was true in my own experience, although I did find there was a little bit too much blur when using the optical zoom at its maximum.

With the Mk.III, Sony likewise added dual-phase-detection-autofocus pixels, which, working together with 20 chassis per second shooting, should volunteer a better probability of catching snappy shots in frenetic establishes. You can tap to focus and the camera will move moving topics, just like a digital camera touchscreen.

Sony has pulled together an intriguing mix of( relatively) low-megapixel sensors and imparted it with what it’s learned from its camera series. Compared to what iPhones and Pixel telephones do with computational photography and post-processing, Sony offers a more technological approach to capturing shots.

While testing out the telephone, I leaned heavily on the “auto” shooting mode, which acts like any camera app on any smartphone. But like the Xperia 1 phones before it, the Mark III comes with a fairly swelling Photography Pro app. Beyond the basic mode, you can tinker with shutter speedings, ISO, complexion counterbalance and pretty much anything else.

I’ll confess that I’m not very good photographer, and so anything that helps me be a better shot, whether that’s software assistance or higher glowing predisposition, is appreciated. Outside of the automated, simplified camera procedure, the Xperia 1 III has a learning curve. Unfortunately, it doesn’t relatively match the accomplishments of a Sony camera. I flub around for an aperture priority mode( so I could maximize bokeh influence at low-pitched f stops ), but it doesn’t exist. I was tricked into thinking the Mk.III would work like a camera, but it’s still precisely a smartphone camera. You can adjust shooting move and ISO, but not aperture. At seasons, I felt I wasn’t skilled enough to get the most from the Mk.III. I can take better photos on other flagship telephones, but I think that’s due to my own photographic shortcomings.

Sony Xperia 1 III reviewMat Smith/ Engadget

The Xperia 1 III does huge with face identification and often fastens onto fast-moving people and babies. However, when you’re exercising the telephoto lens, the phone seems to hop between fore and background details a little too often. The normal blaspheme of smartphone photography doesn’t escape Sony, either. Low light surroundings will still mess up autofocus , no matter how smart Sony has formed it. There’s no darknes shoot mode, either, which is inquisitive in 2021.

Sony Xperia 1 III review camera samplesThe Xperia 1 III is excellent at ensuring faces in photos stay in focus. While most of the image is crisp, you can still clearly check the boat passengers even at this distance.Mat Smith/ Engadget

Video captured by the Mk.III was a pleasant surprise, whether shooting in 4K or 1080 p. I took the telephone with me during a junket to Amsterdam and recorded video both in daylight and night-time. The lack of going screen, on a moving tram, and the accurate illuminate as I recorded dark streets both excited me. The footage wasn’t extremely boisterous or blurry either, which is something you often is evident from numerous smartphone cameras when they’re trying to accommodate a lack of light.

If you’re looking for finer control with video, Sony’s Cinema Pro app returns again, render equivalent pro masteries but for video. You can select shooting modes like 10 -bit color and high-pitched frame-rates while toying with built-in filters, shutter hastened and even manual focus. You’ll need to come to Cinema Pro with at least a overtake understanding of what all those things do. I ascertained it a little too complicated, but at least the Mk.III offers fairly screen gap to sounds between arranges and adjust everything.

And a quick mention on the front-facing camera: It’s horrendous. Blurry , noisy and shockingly under-specced, at a time when we’re use selfie-cams more than ever. It’s an uncommon camera miss for Sony.

Software Sony Xperia 1 III review

Aside from the camera app, Sony has played it relatively safe in its customization of Android software in recent years. While there are a few homemade apps that you won’t stroke( like the story feed one ), there are some tricks you won’t find on other telephones, like the ability to use Xperia 1 III as an external check. The boast are working with cameras capable of USB Video Class( UVC) output( such as, conveniently, Sony’s Alpha camera series ), but it’s very much a simple, swelling display for your camera. Having said that, this 6.5 -inch 4K flaunt is almost definitely better than whatever’s on the back of your camera.

Sony has also streamlined connecting a PS4 DualShock controller to the Mk. III, with a pre-eminent tie option within the arranges app. You will probably need to pick up some kind of mount to keep the Xperia 1 III attached to your controller. Oddly, as of the time of writing, you can’t pair the PS5’s DualSense controller.

Wrap-upSony Xperia 1 III reviewMat Smith/ Engadget

The Xperia 1 III is not for everyone, but for focussed smartphone camera( or Sony) supporters, it’s another interesting maneuver, despite the prohibitive price. I can’t unequivocally say it’s the best smartphone camera, but, like its predecessors, it does things its own way, whether that’s the camera array, deep customizable camera app or the slick, sharp-worded 4K 120 Hz screen. Does anyone need a 4K phone screen? I’m not sure, but Sony makes a better justification for it with its external parade app.

The Mk.III, with its nearly matte finish, gapes and feels more like Sony’s family of alpha cameras, or perhaps more accurately, its high-end RX point-and-shoots, and when most other telephones are backed with glass or silky plastic, I conclude the Xperia 1 III has its own unique charm. Barring the iffy selfie camera, the latest Xperia 1 doesn’t do anything poorly and if you have the equanimity and the skill to master it, the Mk.III can take some stunning shots. For a great deal of beings, however, causing Apple, Google or Samsung’s software take over some of the slack will lead to better paintings , no matter how technically superb Sony’s proposition is.

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