A return to excellence: Sony’s Xperia Z5 Premium reviewed


Just like the other major Sony phones released at the back half of this year, the Z5 Premium features a 23 megapixel camera with one of the Exmor sensors taken from Sony’s camera range.

That’s one of the neat things worth remembering, because while some companies have to work hard to get its various modules up to scratch, Sony can employ the teams working in its other areas to make technology for its phones.

Since around the time of the Xperia Z2, that’s exactly what Sony has been doing, tapping the resources of its digital camera section and using the talent found within to improve the technology of its phones.

This year, that technology comes not from Sony’s compact division, but its Alpha mirrorless camera division, delivering low-light sensitivity as high as 12800, an f/2.0 aperture, and support for 4K video capture.


In practice, you’ll find the camera can perform, though it still offers up similar performance issues to its Z5 and Z5 Compact siblings.

First, though, the image quality can handle its own in some areas, with daylight revealing a camera that shines, delivering crisp colour, excellent contrast, and the ability to control the image the way you want with both automatic and manual modes provided for.


Night time, however, and the 23 megapixel camera doesn’t feel like much of an improvement on last year’s Z3, and in some ways, manages to feel close to the same if not all that much different.

It’s not bad, either, just not as industry leading as we had hoped, feeling like Sony’s image stacking often provides less than desirable noise control. In our time with the Z5 Premium’s camera, we felt ourselves wanting the power of the camera in the Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge, as well as the other Galaxy phones from 2015.

Image test from the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium's camera
Image test from the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium’s camera

You won’t likely be unhappy, but you may feel like things can be better, and that’s certainly true of the camera app speed.

We’re still not quite sure why the speed on this phone feels slower for the camera, but just like on the Z5 and Z5 Compact, firing up that camera doesn’t really feel like it’s going home to the keeper in an efficient manner.

Further testing reveals a solid three to five second time for the physical camera button to fire up the camera app, which is far longer than we’d like, and pretty much spot on with what the other Xperia phones have offered this year.


At least the app has changed, and now you have a controller on the left side to let you quickly get around the settings of the camera, which we’re sure some people will find handy.

Strangely, Sony has still left the 8 megapixel mode on by default when you first start using the Z5 Premium, an issue which afflicted the Z5 and Z5 Compact and appears to still be a minor issue here, though something you’ll want to switch away from all the same.

At least the front-facing camera feels like it’s a decent option, with a 5.1 megapixel module letting you get some decently lit selfies when the time comes.

Image from the Sony's Xperia Z5 Premium's front-facing camera, with the left image being the whole and the right image being a 100 percent crop.
Image from the Sony’s Xperia Z5 Premium’s front-facing camera, with the left image being the whole and the right image being a 100 percent crop.

Battery life

Fortunately, battery life manages to raise the overall quality of the Xperia Z5 Premium, with the 3430mAh battery and an optimised edition of Android allowing Sony to push the phablet past many of the other large screen devices we’ve seen this year from Sony’s biggest competitor, Samsung.

In fact, with wired headphones and no smartwatch connected, our Sony Xperia Z5 boasted a solid day and a half of life, while wireless mode with Bluetooth headphones and a smartwatch pushed that back to a day, though we didn’t need to charge until we headed off to sleep.

Battery life on wired headphones.
Battery life on wired headphones.

We didn’t get the chance to push Stamina mode on this review, something we’ve had experience with in the past that tends to under-clock and pull back on resource usage for the phone.

Based on previous tests, it’s not unreasonable to expect that with Stamina mode applied and wired headphones used, the Xperia Z5 Premium could easily nab the two days of battery life Sony’s advertisements suggest are possible.

Battery life with wireless headphones and a smartwatch.
Battery life with wireless headphones and a smartwatch.