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Sony Xperia Z5 claims fastest autofocus on a phone, plus long battery life (hands-on)

Sony says the 23-megapixel camera on its flagship has the fastest autofocus on a phone, while lasting two days on a single charge.

Luke Westaway Senior editor
Luke Westaway is a senior editor at CNET and writer/ presenter of Adventures in Tech, a thrilling gadget show produced in our London office. Luke's focus is on keeping you in the loop with a mix of video, features, expert opinion and analysis.
Luke Westaway
4 min read

Smartphone cameras have come along leaps and bounds, but Sony clearly reckons there's still room for improvement. Its latest flagship phone, the Xperia Z5, hopes to lure shoppers with its 23-megapixel sensor with lightning-quick autofocus, a full HD 5.2-inch screen and a long-lasting battery.

Snappy autofocusing

For anyone who has whipped out a smartphone to photograph something sensational, only to find the phone stalling ponderously for a few moments before taking a blurry, seconds-too-late snap, chances are a faster autofocus on the device would be appreciated. Autofocus speed determines how nimbly a phone is able to determine the subject of a photo, and ensure everything in the shot is looking crisp -- an especially important trait for photographing a fast sports event for instance or a pet who'll only hold an adorable pose for half a second before scampering into the kitchen.

Sony Xperia Z5 touts speedy autofocus, 2-day battery life (pictures)

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Sony claims the Xperia Z5 can focus in 0.03 seconds and has, as the company asserts, the fastest autofocus ever seen on a smartphone. There are already phones out there with seriously impressive focus talents (notably the iPhone 6), but my brief hands-on time gave us reason to be excited about Sony's own tech. The camera snapped between foreground and background subjects at a satisfying tempo, quickly responding to my taps on different parts of the image.

As well as touting improved low-light performance, Sony claims the Z5 will prove an expert when it comes to zooming in for close-up snaps. Since smartphones lack optical zoom equipment, zooming in using a phone camera is essentially cropping the image. This normally results in blocky, unattractive photos. The Z5 is fundamentally the same as every other smartphone in this respect, but Sony says that the massive 23-megapixel sensor, allied with Sony's Clear Image Zoom processing algorithm, will give it an edge over rivals when it comes to zooming.

Battery boast

Smartphones with genuinely impressive battery life are almost non-existent, but Sony's promising two days of use out of its new flagship, as well as the power to charge quickly, racking up 5.5 hours of use after 10 minutes of charging, according to the company.

Sony's smartphones generally come packed with battery-life extending modes that cut down on non-essential functions in order to prolong the phone's lifespan. Whether or not the Z5 really can last two days of normal use without crying out for its charger is something we'll only know for sure when we run the phone through CNET's barrage of battery tests.


Sony hasn't strayed far from the look of its previous mobiles with the Z5, sticking with the squared-off, minimalist design that it's been using for some time. This time the style has been spruced up with a frosted-glass look on the back.

The Z5 has a frosted-glass effect on its slab-like rear. Rich Trenholm/CNET

One interesting touch is a fingerprint scanner on the phone's lock button. It is perhaps the tiniest fingerprint scanner seen on a smartphone thus far, so it'll be interesting to find out how reliable it proves to be long-term. Unless it works without hassle every time, security-conscious owners might opt for the more traditional PIN or pattern lock.

The Z5 is waterproof, which is a feature that really sets Sony's phones apart, as other manufacturers have been slow to make their mobiles immune to a dunking. While the touchscreen will not work underwater, a mechanical camera button on the side of the device should make it possible to take underwater snaps in the pool.

Inside the Z5 has 3GB of RAM, providing support for a Snapdragon 810 processor, which should make this phone more than capable of powering through graphically-demanding games or high-resolution video. The Z5 runs Android Lollipop, which grants access to a wealth of apps, movies, TV shows and books through Google's Play store.

Other options

The Z5 has a bigger brother in the Z5 Premium, a 5.5-inch mobile with a 4K screen. Rich Trenholm/CNET

The Z5 has been revealed alongside the Z5 Compact and Z5 Premium, which offer, respectively, a smaller 4.6-inch 720p display and pocket-friendly design, or a whopping 5.5-inch 4K display. Sony assures me that all three phones have exactly the same camera hardware and software on board, so if the Z5 isn't quite tempting enough, those others may be worth checking out.

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact puts high-end camera tech in a tiny frame (pictures)

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The camera tech on the Z5 is certainly intriguing, and we were impressed with the phone's focus speed during our very brief hands-on time. However this phone needs to deliver when it comes to image quality, too. We've seen plenty of mobiles in the past that tout bleeding-edge camera tech, but ultimately produced mediocre photos. If the camera proves to be genuinely good however, then the Z5's striking design and waterproof build could make it a serious contender. Stay tuned for the full review.

Find all of CNET's coverage of IFA 2015 here.