We’ve been spending some time with the Sony Xperia XZ, settle in for a deep dive into the class leading camera.
Sony Mobile has been developing expertise in smartphone cameras for the last several years, so much so that many other brands use their sensors and technology for their own shooters.
For the new flagship Xperia XZ smartphone, Sony has taken the tech from the recent X range and expanded on its capabilities yet again.
The biggest addition for the XZ is a new laser-guided autofocus system which combines with other focus-related features in the phone to make it easier than ever to latch onto your subject. There’s also a new five-axis image stabilisation which aims to totally banish blur.
That’s the blurb on the box, alongside those extremely impressive numbers- a 23 megapixel shooter on the back at F2.0 and a 13 megapixel sensor on the front. They definitely stand out from the crowd.
So how do these cameras actually stack up in real life? Let’s dive in.
First to the interface. Sony really wants to put the camera first and that starts with an app that’s wonderfully streamlined and intuitive. It’s also easy to use one-handed- just swipe up and down to change modes and flick your finger across to choose between front and back facing lenses.
There’s also the very nice inclusion of a dedicated shutter button on the right hand side. This can be set up to instantly launch the app and capture in a single press- you are shooting blind but that second can be the difference between grabbing or missing a moment.
This shutter button really is a marvel, especially as it falls so easily to your forefinger when you hold the phone in landscape mode- which you really should! The volume rocker also works as a zoom toggle here, though I kind of wish the directions had been reversed.
And boy is this sucker fast. Partly that’s down to the optics and the triple threat of a speedy sensor, the laser AF and rapid IR info but it’s also a consequence of the really fast processor on board. The app launches in a split second and your image locks instantly, but one of the biggest surprises was just how quickly it writes to storage so you can be ready to share- or snap the next shot.
We’ve all used sluggish smartphone cameras and it’s great to have one that just performs- especially when it comes to focus. The XZ is able to lock on even in low light situations (thanks laser!) and you just press to capture.
The basic mode is intelligent auto and again it’s about making things as easy as possible. Scene modes are automatically selected based on the conditions and generally do a great job of figuring out what you need to get a result that’s as sharp as possible.
In well lit areas, the results are generally gorgeous- though Sony’s HDR mode is surprisingly subtle which some might find preferable to the garish tones from other manufacturers. You can easily take a group shot, snap a sunset and it even manages to freeze action in most situations.
The object tracking tech makes a return and continues to be impressive. Just tap on something in the frame that you want it to stay locked onto and it will do its damndest- even on something like a fast moving puppy. The tech is able to predict movement to get that shot.
Intelligent Auto is great but sometimes you might want a little more control out of your shot, and that’s where manual mode comes in. Personally I got my favourite images out of the camera in this mode, with a little extra effort.
Manual lets you quickly pull up a range of options including focus, exposure and white balance. But the biggest revelation for me was definitely having control over shutter speed.
I’ve never had this option before in a mobile camera and it allows for all kinds of creative expression. The simplest is being able to decide on a setting like 1/30 to eliminate blur and then adjusting other criteria like ISO and exposure to get exactly the look you want.
Sony also offers a bunch of third party camera apps which act as plug ins and bring extra functionality and gimmicks. This area includes 4K video as well as the very useful Timeshift video (slow motion) and Timeshift Burst which lets you take loads of shots at once. There’s also augmented reality stuff and creative filters, if you’re into that stuff.
The XZ captures 1080p video at 30 or 60 frames per second as well as some lower res modes. Image stabilisation here comes in a few different forms, with the most effective being Intelligent Auto. It really does smooth out movement but has to work harder in low light scenarios.
The selfie camera is an altogether simpler beast with less options overall. I’d mostly recommend leaving it in Intelligent Auto, mostly because you don’t want to be worrying about settings when you’re trying to snap a shot. The shutter key comes in handy here and you can also hold out your hand or smile to start a countdown. You can also put silly things on your face, if that is appealing.
The Sony Xperia XZ takes aim at camera quality and hits the mark with two high performing sensors with a huge amount of advanced technology working behind the scenes. The best part is that these fancy features mostly get out of the way simply make it easy to take great shots in pretty much any situation.
The Sony Xperia XZ is available exclusively from Eir stores in Ireland now.