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Sony Xperia Z Camera Phone Review

Daniel Bell reviews the Sony Xperia Z camera phone, it has a 13 megapixel Exmor RS sensor and shoots HDR images and videos.

|  Sony Xperia Z in Camera Phones
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Sony Xperia Z

The Sony Xperia Z was announced in January 2013 at CES and is a smart phone with a 13 megapixel Exmor RS image sensor. You can also shoot HDR pictures and videos as well as shoot in Superior Auto mode. It is available for around £500 or free on a Three mobile phone contract.

Sony Xperia Z

Sony Xperia Z Camera Phone Features

The Sony Xperia Z has two sensors - a 13 megapixel BSI Exmor RS on the rear and 2.2 megapixel Exmor R on the front. The lens is a 35mm equivalent of 28mm and there is 16x digital zoom. The Xperia Z is water and dust resistant - water resistance is up to 1m for up to 30 mins.

There is Superior Auto mode to make picture taking simple - settings are adjusted automatically for the detected scene. Also included is a HDR mode which combines images at different exposure levels and is also available when shooting videos. There is also Sweep Panorama mode, filter effects and burst mode can record 9 megapixel images at 10 fps.

Videos are recorded in full 1080p HD and you can also take pictures at the same time as recording.

Sony Xperia Z

Key Features

  • 13 megapixel Exmor RS sensor
  • 2.2 megapixel Exmor R front facing camera
  • 4.1mm f/2.4 lens (35mm equiv: 28mm)
  • 16x digital zoom
  • Image stabiliser
  • 5.0 inch full HD TFT display
  • Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean)
  • Superior Auto mode
  • Water resistant and dust proof
  • Full 1080p HD video recording
  • ISO 125-1600
  • 10cm minimum focusing distance
  • HDR mode
  • Sweep panorama
Sony Xperia Z

Sony Xperia Z Camera Phone Handling

The Sony Xperia Z has a rectangular body that is quite chunky with all the ports for headphones, USB cable etc. having covers which make the edges of the camera very smooth. This means you can stand it on it's side vertically or horizontally if you want to use the self-timer for shots. There aren't many buttons as most of the phone is controlled using the touch screen. There is an on / off button and volume buttons which also control the digital zoom.

When the Xperia Z is locked you can gain access to the camera quickly by pressing the on button and sliding the camera icon to the side. When the camera is active there are video record, shutter release, playback and front / rear camera buttons on one side and other settings down the other. The menu system in the camera app is easy to use.

One of the most impressive features on the Xperia Z is the full 1080p HD screen which is makes it excellent for viewing your pictures and videos, although we did find it a little hard to see in bright light.

You're only likely to get a day of use from the phone on one charge, but this is typical of a smart phone, so you'll want to put it on to charge every night. We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

Shutter Response   0.7 secs
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response   0.8 secs
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo   37 secs
Shot to Shot without Flash   0.4 secs
Shot to Shot with Flash   0.6 secs
Burst - High   15 fps
Burst - Mid   7.3 fps
Burst - Low   4 fps

Burst mode high records at 1280 x 720 pixels, mid at 3920 x 2204 pixels and low at 1920 x 1080 pixels, all at 16:9 ratio.

Sony Xperia Z

Sony Xperia Z Camera Phone Performance

Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Sony Xperia Z Sample Photos

Sample Photos - The Xperia Z takes colourful images which are well exposed - great for sharing on the web with friends and family. The fixed 28mm (35mm equiv.) isn't the best for portraits shots but skin tones aren't bad. The HDR mode does a good job of retaining some detail in the shadows.

Sony Xperia Z Lens test images

Lens Performance - The detail in the images is OK, but when viewing full size you can almost see the individual pixels, which means that curves etc. look jagged rather than smooth - but as pictures taken on a smart phone tend to be shared on the web, it's not a big concern. You can't get all that close to your subject, so shooting macros is difficult and detail just isn't quite good enough.

Sony Xperia Z ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - Noise is low at ISO 125, but there is enough at ISO 200 to cause the images to become soft. At ISO 400, there are only issues with image quality in contrasting areas in the image and it doesn't get all that worse at ISO 800. At the highest setting of ISO 1600, image quality is poor.

Sony Xperia Z White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Under our studio lights, whether it be incandescent or fluorescent, the Auto White Balance (AWB) performs well. Identical images are also produced by the respective presets.


Panorama mode - Panoramic images have a decent amount of detail and are fairly well stitched, although there are some slight issues when viewing full size.

Sony Xperia Z Digital filters

Digital Filters - The Xperia Z has a range of unique and unusual filters - we've included a number of examples above.

Video - Video quality is decent, below is one recorded in full 1080p HD.

Value For Money

The Sony Xperia Z is available for £479 with 16GB which makes it reasonable value for money, in a similar price range as its competitors, or it's available for free on a Three mobile phone contract. It's also available with 32GB and is up against the following high-end smartphones:

Apple iPhone 5, 8mp, f/2.4, 16GB, £505
Samsung Galaxy S4, 13mp, f/2.2, 16GB, £465
HTC One, 4mp, f/2.0, OIS, 32GB, £489
Nokia Lumia 925, 8.7mp, f/2.0, 16GB, £489

Sony Xperia Z Camera Phone Verdict

The Sony Xperia Z looks impressive and will win over many fans, but if you want to use it as your main camera, you may be disappointed and there are certainly better cameras on smart phones available. Image quality is disappointing and panoramas aren't as impressive as the iPhone 5, but HDR shots are good and the Superior Auto mode makes picture taking extremely easy.


Sony Xperia Z Camera Phone Pros

Stylish smart phone with a massive full HD screen
Has Superior Auto mode
Fast continuous shooting
Runs Android
Shoots HDR
Water and dust resistant

Sony Xperia Z Camera Phone Cons

Image quality is disappointing
Can't get close enough for macro shots
Portrait shots aren't particularly flattering
Panoramas do have some stitching issues


Sony Xperia Z Specifications

Front Camera
PixelsNo Data
Max ApertureNo Data
Smartphone Cameras
Smartphone Cameras
    Additional CamerasNo Data
    Max Aperturef/2.4
    35mm equivalent28mm
    Optical Zoom1x
    Image Sensor
    Pixels13Mp (Megapixels)
    Pixels (W)4128
    Pixels (H)3096
    Sensor TypeBack-lit CMOS (B.S.I.)
    Sensor Size1/3 inch
    Sensor Size (width)No Data
    Sensor Size (height)No Data
    Aspect Ratio
    • 16:9
    • 4:3
    LCD Monitor
    LCD Monitor5in
    Screen resolution1920x1080
    Touch ScreenYes
    Focusing modes
    • Autofocus
    • Face Detection
    Exposure Control
    Shutter speeds shortestNo Data
    Shutter speeds longestNo Data
    ISO sensitivity125 - 1600
    Movie modeYes
    Video Resolution
    • 1920x1080 FullHD
    Video FPSNo Data
    Stereo SoundNo
    Other Features
    Image StabilisationNo
    USBUSB 2
    Internal Memory16000MB
    Power Source
    Battery TypeNon-removable Li-Ion 2330 mAh battery
    Box Contents
    Box ContentsXperia¬ô Z, embedded battery, Sony MH-EX300AP headset, charger, micro USB cable for charging, synchronisation and file transfer, and user documentation.

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    4 Sep 2013 10:43AM
    Hi Daniel, I'm interested in the actual sensor dimensions. I see they're listed above at 3920mm x 2940mm! which must be wrong. Is there a decimal point missing? Can you also tell me does the sweep panorama use the camera in portrait orientation as the iPhone 5?
    Many thanks, Lex

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