Sony Xperia 5 IV review: The best 'Pro' camera system around

A compact smartphone with almost all the capabilities of a professional camera

IT Pro Verdict

Pros

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    Great battery life

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    Bright display

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    Professional quality camera system

Cons

    Every year, Sony takes its flagship Xperia 1 smartphone and squishes it down into a more compact version labelled Xperia 5. They also come with a confusing Roman numeral naming scheme; the latest is the Xperia 5 "IV" but pronounced 'mark 4'.

    The other noticeable thing about the Xperia 5 range is that they tend to be quietly brilliant. IT Pro gave 5 stars to the 5 II, even going as far as to say it was the phone of the year (2020). We expect the same with the 5 IV as it packs an excellent camera system, vivid display and snappy processor in a small form factor, though that also now comes at a pretty hefty price (£949 exc VAT).

    Sony Xperia 5 IV: Design

    There isn't much to say about the Xperia 5 IV aside from it looking exactly the same as the III and II and pretty much every modern handset Sony releases. This was exactly an amazing design, to begin with, and it now looks and feels rather tired, particularly when compared to the likes of the iPhone 14 or the Huawei P50. Simply put, the Xperia 5 IV is the dullest-looking device around.

    What works in its favour, however, is the compact form; Sony has managed to get a triple camera system, a 6.1in display and a 5,000mAh battery into a 67mm width and 8.2mm thickness. Specs like these usually come in big phablet phones but the Xperia 5 IV is a subtle little thing that weighs just 72g.

    Sony Xperia 5 IV: Display

    Despite the compact design, the Xperia 5 IV packs a 6.1in OLED display with a 21:9 aspect ratio. It's very narrow, which is great for your thumb as it can reach right across, and also good for a border-free movie or two, but it does look odd against other handsets in the current market.

    Again, Sony has incorporated an adaptive 120Hz refresh rate and the same 2,510 x 1,080 resolution as was in the III. In fact, the only real difference here is that the screen is much brighter. Under our calibrator, the display reached a peak brightness of 610cd/m2 which is nearly double the Xperia 5 III.

    Colour-wise, the display produced 99.9% for sRGB gamut colour coverage and a gamut volume of 102%. Both of those figures are excellent with only the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra able to beat it (100% and 148% respectively), which really does underline the quality of the Xperia 5 IV.

    Sony Xperia 5 IV: Specs and performance

    As with the Xperia 1 IV (and a number of other high-end devices) the 5 runs on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip, which is an upgrade on the 888 version found in the III. Though its benchmark scores are not necessarily an improvement on the previous device.

    In Geekbench 5, the 5 IV hit 1,212 for single-core scores and 3,554 for multicore scores - roughly the same as the III. However, these scores are quite impressive when compared to the S22 Ultra which only managed 3,475 for multi-threaded workloads. For power, it really is only the iPhone 14 Pro and its A16 chip that can best the Xperia.

    For day-to-day use, the Xperia 5 IV is a solid companion able to handle multiple workloads all at once. We put it through as much as we could, running lots of apps at the same time and found it to be quite the workhorse. Although, due to the narrow screen, you will find limits to what you can actually do, workwise, on this device.

    Sony Xperia 5 IV: Battery

    Despite the compact design, Sony has managed to install a 5,000mAh battery, which is an increase from the 4,500mAh one in the III. Though this didn't result in a better battery score; the IV lasted 20hrs and 22min in our looped video test, which is just a few minutes less than the III. However, that is a decent score, particularly as the device has a 120Hz refresh rate, which tends to drain battery life. Devices like the Google Pixel 7 Pro and the One Plus 10 Pro couldn't make it beyond 20hrs under the same tests.

    In real terms, the device gets through a working day (8 hrs shift) with power to spare – we regularly finished the day with 50%n or more battery life left. This is good because if you need to top it up you'll have to wait for a while. The device is calibrated for a 30W charger and that takes ages; it took over 30 minutes to get more than 50% back.

    Sony Xperia 5 IV: Features

    Feature-wise, there is very little interest beyond the handset being upgradable to Android 13. There is an IP68 dust and water resistance rating, Bluetooth 5.2 and a USB Type C 3.2 port – all very standard stuff. On the plus side, there is a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top and a MicroSD slot. The latter is great, partly because it is very rare in modern smartphones, but also because it gives you that extra bit of storage for all those professional photos you'll be taking.

    Sony Xperia 5 IV review: Cameras

    Once again, the Xperia 5 is fitted with a triple-lens camera system with three 12MP lenses (literally the same as the III). Although it is worth noting that the 12MP telephoto lens is slightly different switching down to just a 2.5 x optical zoom.

    The Xperia range doesn't really care much for the point-and-shoot experience and its image processing tends to look more natural – or nowhere near as polished as the iPhone 14 Pro or the Pixel 7 Pro. There's no dedicated night mode either, so you really need to work to make images pop.

    This is partly due to extensive controls in the 'Pro' setting; Sony wants you to treat your device like a DSLR camera and get hands-on with things like shutter speed and ISO. While most consumers are f/8 and show-up types, there is something impressive about the Xperia 5 IV's pro settings; yes, it can be frustrating and time-consuming to fiddle with the dials, but it is wholly satisfying when you do capture an image in this way.

    Sony Xperia 5 IV review: Verdict

    Despite its fantastic display, long battery life and genuinely brilliant performance, it is hard to fully recommend the Xperia 5 IV. The design, the narrow size, and the way the camera system is set up give it a more niche appeal. Worse, still, the £949 price is also off-putting.

    However, if you do like movies without borders and you're one for tinkering with photography controls, there isn't much better. This is a DSLR in smartphone form and considerably cheaper than an actual camera. So in essence it is potentially an alternative for street photographers that can't afford a proper camera.

    Sony Xperia 5 IV Specifications

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    CPUQualcomm SM8450 Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 (4 nm)
    RAM8GB
    Storage options128GB of 256GB
    Display6.1in OLED 120Hz
    Resolution1080 x 2520
    Pixel density~449 ppi
    Front camera12 MP, f/2.0
    Rear camera12 MP, f/1.7 (wide), 12 MP, f/2.4, (telephoto), 12 MP, f/2.2
    NFCYes
    Wi-Fi802
    Bluetooth5.2
    Connection typeUSB Type C 3.2
    Memory card slotYes
    Wireless chargingYes
    3.5mm headphone jackYes
    Dust and water resistance rating IP68
    Battery size5,000mAh
    Operating systemAndroid 12 (upgradable to Android 13)
    Dimensions (HWD)156 x 67 x 8.2mm
    Weight172g
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    Bobby Hellard

    Bobby Hellard is ITPro's Reviews Editor and has worked on CloudPro and ChannelPro since 2018. In his time at ITPro, Bobby has covered stories for all the major technology companies, such as Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook, and regularly attends industry-leading events such as AWS Re:Invent and Google Cloud Next.

    Bobby mainly covers hardware reviews, but you will also recognise him as the face of many of our video reviews of laptops and smartphones.