Xperia Z camera sample.

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.

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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!