Sony Xperia Z: Creating a Splash

 
Sony Xperia Z

Sony Xperia Z

The Xperia Z set the trend for most of the technological advancements we have seen in 2013’s smartphones. How good is its camera? Raj Lalwani checks.

From a technological perspective, the Xperia Z leads the way. Not only is it water resistant, it also fires away at up to 14fps, and can also shoot an unlimited number of high-res images at 10fps. 13MP may be the new industry standard, but I wish Sony would have been more conservative in this aspect, as the sensor size is just 1/3.06 inches.

We Used it for our Team Photograph!
The quality of the sensor is a bit of a mixed bag. Colour reproduction is excellent and does not suffer, even in mixed or low light. In fact, we used the Xperia Z for our team photograph (published on page 16) because of how beautifully it renders colours. Dynamic range is great, and files look very similar to those from Sony compact cameras.

 

The files look great at small sizes, but at a per-pixel level, noise reduction reduces texture detail. Photograph/Raj Lalwani

The files look great at small sizes, but at a per-pixel level, noise reduction reduces texture detail. Photograph/Raj Lalwani

 

Something with that Processor
While the Xperia seems to have a good quality lens (minimal flaring, but nothing to worry about), its processing leaves a lot to be desired, if you inspect the files closely. The pictures are overcooked, with a lot of noise reduction and sharpening that can be seen even in images shot in good light.

Just Like a Cyber-shot
But then, with cellphones, one should rarely pixel peep, I think. The photographic experience is what matters. This is where the Xperia shines, but with two fatal flaws.

On the bright side, the interface is remarkably detailed. There is quick access to every possible setting on the main touchscreen. So even if the metering is not perfect (it isn’t), one can easily fine tune the exposure quickly—unlike phones like the Lumia 920 which make this a cumbersome process.

There is an excellent HDR mode, a Sweep Panorama mode, nine filters, 17 Scene modes. The screen itself is gorgeous—a 5-inch Full HD screen. But the size of the phone, along with its square dimensions, make it very difficult to hold steadily, if you are a traditionalist like me who grips the cellphone the way one would grip a regular compact. Battery life is terrible. You will be lucky to get anything more than six hours of shooting—lesser if you use the Burst mode, Sweep Panorama or 3G.

The Xperia Z is a very good phone, but now faces tough competition in the form of the Galaxy S4 and HTC One. The Xperia Z’s camera is not the best around, but it has some special qualities (frame rates, water resistant, compact camera interface) that make it unique. The only thing that stops me from recommending it to a photographer, is its abysmal battery life.

 

At A Glance
Specifications
13MP, 1/3.06-inch sensor, Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, 1.5GHz quad core, 2330mAh battery, Rs. 37,990

What We Like
Great screen, good colours, excellent video, excellent camera interface

What We Dislike
Too much noise reduction, poor battery life, awkward shape to handhold

Why Buy It?
If you can live with its poor battery life, it is a decent cameraphone, which offers exciting possibilities because of its water-resistant nature.

 

Final Ratings
Features
Extremely fast Burst mode, several Scene mode
12/15

Image Quality
Excellent colours, aggressive noise reduction
28/35

Video Quality
Smooth footage, good sound, great in low light
18/20

Handling
Awkward body, poor battery life, all camera functions accessible
10/15

Speed and Responsiveness
Speedy interface, average AF
12/15

OVERALL: 80%

Tags: June 2013, Cellphone Review, Sony Xperia Z, Raj Lalvani