Xperia Z camera sample.

We take a first look at photo and video on the Xperia Z's Exmor RS-powered camera, and compare it to last year's Xperia T​​

If you've read our initial review of the Sony Xperia Z you'll know it's packing Sony's new Exmor RS camera tech, which incorporates a fancy new 13-megapixel stacked CMOS sensor. But how does this translate into actual photos and videos? Check out our selection of early sample images and video after the break to find out.

For comparison's sake, we've also got a few side-by-side shots with the 13MP Exmor R camera on last year's Xperia T.

Digital imaging is one of Sony's strengths, and it's no exaggeration to say that the Xperia Z features one of the best smartphone cameras we've tested. The benefits of the stacked Exmor RS sensor -- which has a larger light-sensitive area than earlier Exmor R models -- are clear to see.

Generally, the camera produces excellent images, and isn't subject to the fine-detail noise that plagued earlier 12 and 13-megapixel Sony phone cameras. The larger sensor size also allows more color detail to be retained in darker areas where earlier devices like the Xperia T have suffered. Dynamic range, too, is noticeably superior in a few areas. And HDR video is a welcome addition, working as well as it did when we previewed the feature at CES. As we saw back then, you trade a little fine detail and noise for better clarity of bright and dark areas at the same time.

The only real weakness we've noticed so far is in macro photography -- the Xperia Z produces decent macro shots, but isn't able to focus on subjects quite as close as the Xperia T. (That said, the Xperia T was unique in its exceptional macro capabilities.)

We did also notice a few software quirks. On occasion the camera shortcut on the lock screen would cause the phone to hang for a few seconds. And sometimes the Z's "superior auto" mode would fail to recognize the need to switch to backlight-correction HDR mode where the T would act as expected.

Regardless, it's a solid improvement overall. Check out our sample gallery below.

Side-by-side with the Xperia T

All images: Left photo from Xperia T, right from Xperia Z; Click to enlarge

Xperia T sample Xperia Z camera sample.

Note the slightly less washed out sky on the Xperia Z shot.

Xperia T sample Xperia Z camera sample. Xperia T close-up Xperia Z close-up

In ideal lighting conditions there's not much difference between the two, but note the clearer colors and lack of noise around distant buildings. The Xperia T appears slightly sharper, likely due to different post-processing methods used on that phone.

Xperia T sample Xperia Z sample

In the set above, the Xperia Z failed to switch to backlight-correction mode, giving the win to the Xperia T.

Xperia T sample Xperia Z camera sample.

Another close one, but the shot from the Xperia Z has slightly more vivid colors.

Xperia T sample Xperia Z Sample

The Xperia Z shot on the right appears less washed-out.

So the difference isn't always striking, but generally the Xperia Z comes out on top. That said, software quirks occasionally got in the way on the Z, and it's interesting to note that more post-processing (e.g. sharpening) seems to be present on shots from the Xperia T.

Competition from HTC

In the next couple of weeks HTC will be launching its new HTC One handset, with the much-hyped "Ultrapixel" camera. Like Sony's Exmor RS, the idea here is to get more light onto each pixel. Sony does this by eliminating stuff around the edge of the light-sensitive layer, allowing that layer to be larger. HTC increases the size of its pixels to allow each one to pick up more light, at the cost of the total number of pixels. So HTC's pixels may be bigger, but the trade-off is sheer megapixel count -- the HTC One outputs at 4 megapixels versus the Xperia Z's 13.

As soon as we've got an HTC One in-house, we'll put the camera through its paces and see how it compares to Sony's latest. Stay tuned for that, and our full review of the Xperia Z, in the coming weeks!

 

Reader comments

Sony Xperia Z camera - initial sample images and comparisons

14 Comments

Photos look good, til you zoom in and see the weird amount of blur. Which I think Sony always tends to do, over-compress. Still, the shots look promising. If this is the same sensor Samsung is using I will very interested in seeing what results they are able to produce.

I think this is common among all smart phones. Images will never be as sharp as even some of the best point and shoots. The sensors are just simply TOO small.

However, that's not to say these phones today are producing decent 5x7 prints, or even 8x11 in certain situations.

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Why does it seem like every Android camera review/comparison/write-up has like 95% outdoor-ish photos????

Some of those photos do not look like they were taken with a cell phone. Looks like we are finally getting to the days of decent cell phone cameras.

Hmmm, not fair using HTC booth to demo the Xperia.

But on a serious note, why run your side by side shots thru photoshop when you are trying to demonstrate the cameras?

T has slightly warmer tones, and the focus is much better on fine detail, (Most obvious on the 100% cropped).

But I agree the dynamic range of the Z much wider.

Oh, and the Aperto photos are a perfect Stereo pair, viewed thru a Stereo viewer.

I struggle to see how these photo's could have come from a smartphone camera. Some of them are amazing! Technology is awesome.

Also, am I the only one who thought of weed initially after glancing at the first image?

Quality of images are looking really awesome and resolution is quite impressive looking.I found this product the coolest of all the Sony's model.I think people will definitely like this gadget.
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The Xperia T photos look more realistic and have better focus. The Xperia Z photos are slightly oversaturated and blur a lot of detail. The alleyway shot is no contest (Xperia T > Xperia Z). It's interesting how older technology sometimes outfinesses the "latest & greatest".