Sony Xperia Z5 review: An ageing beauty

£521
Price when reviewed

Sony Xperia Z5: Cameras

The other big change for the Z5 is the camera, which sees its first hardware upgrade since the advent of the Xperia Z1 back in September 2013.

The new Exmor RS rear camera module bumps up the maximum resolution to 23 megapixels, the sensor size to 1/2.3in, and also incorporates SteadyShot optical image stabilisation (OIS) plus hybrid autofocus by adding phase-detect pixels to the image sensor.

Unsurprisingly, Sony claims its autofocus system is the fastest in the business, capable of focusing on your subject in as little as 0.03 seconds. It’s certainly quick, but it does hunt a touch, especially in low light and when you use the camera shutter, so you’re never quite sure if it’s locked on or not. It spoils the effect somewhat, and leads to the odd out-of-focus shot.

In a more tangible win over the opposition, Sony’s sensor has its phase-detect sensors scattered all over the sensor, even into the corners, which means you can tap anywhere on the screen to focus. I found this was the most reliable way of setting focus on the Z5, and when I used it this way, it felt far more surefooted.

The rear camera has an f/2 aperture – matching that of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and lagging very slightly behind the LG G4’s f/1.9. It can shoot 4K video, and Sony has also given its digital ClearZoom facility a boost, allowing you to zoom into a scene digitally by a factor of five. In use it seemed pretty effective, although, somewhat inevitably, it delivered a rather pixellated result.

What does this mean for outright quality, though? In my testing, an awful lot. In short, Sony has brought its smartphone camera bang up to date, and it’s now almost as good as the best in the business. That’s no mean feat when you consider how good the Samsung Galaxy S6’s camera is.

Despite the increased resolution and new optical image stabilisation, however, what really impressed me about the new camera was how reliable the autoexposure proved to be. Every scene I threw at the Z5’s camera it coped with beautifully, capturing photos packed with contrast, detail and balanced colours.w07b6505

Look closely and you can see that there are more artefacts here than in the Samsung Galaxy S6’s photos, which show up as a speckling around the edges of objects, but generally (and this counts for both the 8-megapixel Auto and 23-megapixel Manual modes) it’s a highly competent snapper.

Where the Xperia Z5 isn’t so good is in low light. Dip the lights and turn off the duo-tone LED flash, and it struggles to keep up with either the Galaxy S6 or the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, with noise and artefacts joining forces to smoosh out detail and stomp all over subtlety.

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It’s rescued somewhat by its excellent video stabilisation. This all but eliminates the jelly-shake you see in most rival smartphones’ video modes, even when you’re walking down the street. Despite that, however, I’d still place the Z5 a fraction behind the leading lights overall.

As for the front-facing camera, that’s seen a boost in resolution as well, from 2.2 megapixels in the Xperia Z3, to 5 megapixels here. This delivers selfies with more detail and texture, but there’s no front-facing flash.

Sony Xperia Z5 specifications

Processor

Octacore (quad 2GHz and quad 1.5GHz), Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 

RAM

3GB

Screen size

5.2in

Screen resolution

1,080 x 1,920, 428ppi

Screen type

IPS

Front camera

5.1MP

Rear camera

23MP (f/2, phase detect autofocus, OIS)

Flash

LED

GPS

Yes

Compass

Yes

Storage

32GB

Memory card slot 

MicroSD

Wi-Fi

802.11ac

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 4.1, A2DP, apt-X

NFC

Yes

Wireless data

4G

Size (WDH)

76 x 7.8 x 154mm

Weight

180g

Operating system

Android 5.1.1 Lollipop

Battery size

2,900mAh

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