Sony’s Xperia Z5 is the latest in the company’s Z-series line of flagship smartphones and replaces the Z3+. It’s positioned to take on the iPhone 6s, Samsung Galaxy S6, HTC One M9 and LG G4. Three variations of the Z5 are available: the standard Z5 with a 5.2-inch screen that we’ll be reviewing, the Z5 Compact that features a 4.6-inch display, and the Z5 Premium which boasts a 5.5-inch screen with a 4K resolution.
The camera is the same whichever variant you choose. A new 23MP 1/2.3-inch sensor replaces the 20MP device in the outgoing Z3+ and offers hybrid autofocussing, a 24mm-equivalent focal length and a maximum aperture of f/2.0.
Sony Xperia Z5 Features
The biggest change for the Z5 is its new camera module. Like the Z3+, the sensor size is still 1/2.3-inches, making it the same size as a standard compact camera sensor and larger than the sensors found in the iPhone 6s and Galaxy S6. The lens’ focal length has been widened slightly, from 25mm-equivalent to 24mm-equivalent, but Sony has made a bigger change to the autofocus system. The Z5 gets new Hybrid AF tech that combines conventional contrast-detect AF with phase detection for autofocus speeds as a fast as 0.03 seconds.
The Z5’s camera app is also crammed with features, like manual controls that enable focussing and metering mode adjustment, along with ISO control. Creative effects modes are also plentiful, as the Z5 includes two augmented reality options where cartoon graphics can be composited into a scene, or placed over your face. There’s also a panorama mode, sticker creator setting and slow motion video recording mode, plus several other shooting modes.
Elsewhere the Z5 closely resembles the old Z3+. It shares the same 5.2-inch screen size and Full HD 1920x1080 resolution. Even the 1.5GHz processor has been carried over from the Z3+, and the new phone also sports 3GB of RAM. IP68-rated water resistance has been carried over, too, along with MicroSD storage expandability and 4K video recording. The Z5 does get a new fingerprint sensor though, built into the power button.
- 23-megapixel 1/2.3inch Exmor RS
- Fixed 24mm-equivalent lens, f/2
- Hybrid contrast+phase detection AF
- 5.2-inch touch-screen, 1080x1920, 428 ppi
- GPS / Wi-Fi / NFC
- Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) video recording
- HDR / panoramic shooting / 5MP front-facing camera
- MicroSD expandability
- Fingerprint sensor
- IP68-rated water resistance
- Available in black, white, gold or turquoise
Sony Xperia Z5 Handling
If you’ve held an Xperia Z3+, then the Z5 will be immediately familiar. The new phone has a few design differences – button placement has been tweaked, for instance – but the basic form and feel are almost identical.
The similarities between the Z3+ and Z5 are verified by an identical 146mm length and 72mm width. The new model is marginally thicker at 7.3mm, but this makes it feel a little more secure in the hand and the position of the power button is more easily accessible. Its integrated finger print sensor works very well, requiring around 30 seconds to record your print, but working flawlessly afterwards.
Beneath this are the volume keys, which aren’t as easily accessed when holding the phone conventionally, but rotate to landscape orientation and these buttons are then ideally placed for zooming the camera. There’s also a proper two-step hardware shutter release button that lets you focus and capture an image. It’s a rarity on a smartphone and gives a much more intuitive shooting experience.
Build quality is fine, but not exceptional. Compared to an iPhone, Galaxy S6 or HTC One A9, the Z5’s plasticky case feels more mid-range than premium and it also flexes slightly. The design doesn’t let you access the battery, either, though there is a Micro SD slot is hidden behind a flap on the left edge of the phone.
The Z5’s screen is also taken from the Z3+, and while its 1080x1920 resolution is respectable, the competition from LG and Samsung have it beaten, with the latter also producing slightly more vibrant colours.
The Z5’s camera can be accessed by swiping the camera icon up from the lower right of the lock screen, or by simply holding down the physical shutter release button for one second (even when the phone is on standby).
Basic camera app operation is effortless, with the essential function buttons where you’d expect to find them. The settings menu reveals options like the self-timer and smile shutter (the camera automatically snaps a shot if it detects a smile), as well as resolution settings. Tapping the sliders icon reveals extra customisation such as colour and contrast adjustment.
The mode dial icon contains a whopping fourteen different shooting modes. Superior Auto is the default scene-detecting capture mode, but there’s also a manual mode where focussing, metering and ISO sensitivity can be adjusted, although ISO adjustment is only available when the image resolution is set at 8MP or lower. You’ll also find several creative modes for adding filters and even merging cartoon graphics like fish or a dinosaur into a composition.
The overall user experience is slick and responsive, as it should be for a device packing this much processing power and RAM.
The 2900mAh battery in the Z5 is 30mAh down in capacity from the battery in the Z3+, and though rated talk time is almost identical, music playback has reduced by 4 hours to 87 hours. This still compares well to a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+, however, which is rated for 66 hours. There’s no CIPA rating to measure how many photos the camera can capture per charge, but avoid power-hungry apps or extended periods of web surfing and the Z5 should comfortably out-snap a conventional point-and-shoot camera.