Sony Xperia Z2: Camera

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

8

Sony Xperia Z2: Camera App and Performance

The Sony Xperia Z2 has one of the most feature-packed camera apps we've seen. There's an awful lot to digest, but it avoids becoming a terrible mess by offering a Superior Auto mode that covers just about any possible shooting situation for the point and shoot crowd. Unlike normal auto modes, it can use HDR for backlit scenes, and the super low-light mode when it's needed.

The actual camera shooting screen is pretty simple too.

Sony camera app

This the Manual mode. Auto is even simpler

The default Auto mode is much more controlling than that of most phones. It's the Manual mode that provides the 'normal' mobile shooting experience.

Let's be clear – this is not a real manual mode. It lets you choose the resolution of your photos (It's all 8MP in Auto), pick scene modes and choose whether or not to use HDR. It's not for photo pros, it just gives you a little say beyond when to press the shutter button.

The rest of the camera modes are a little more creative or frivolous (/fun). There's the AR (augmented reality) mode seen in the Xperia Z1, which plasters anything from dinosaurs to little gnome fellas on your screen – kids will love it. There's a fantastic selection of filters too, including some pretty dynamic picks like the Harris shutter, fisheye lens and kaleidoscope. Here are some examples of the sort of creative things you can do with them:

Sony Xperia Z2 20

There's a filter to make shots look old. Double Instagram points

kaleidoscope

The Kaleidoscope function is good for making your own phone wallpapers

lens

You don't get much more hipster-y than a Harris shutter shot

The Xperia Z2 also has a go at the sort of 'fake bokeh' mode that every new phone seems to have attempted this year. The HTC One M8 does it with special hardware, the Galaxy S5 and LG G Pro 2 with a normal camera and software.

This phone uses software, taking two shots – one with the subject in focus, another with the subject as out of focus as possible. An algorithm them compares the two shots to effectively separate the subject and let you blow everything else in the image further out of focus.

As with every other take on this kind of effect we've seen to date, it's not all that effective but is fun to experiment with, especially as there are three different blur types – normal, vertical motion and horizontal motion.

It is a little slow (not as slow as the Galaxy S5, though) and defocusing effect often leaves bits out or cuts into the subject. But here are the sorts of shots you can take with it:

Sony Xperia Z2 17

Sony Xperia Z2 16

The railings have been blurred out into the sky here, spoiling the effect a bit.

Sony Xperia Z2 18

The feature has worked pretty well here. There's a weird non-smeared blip in the bottom-right and the edge of the plant has been blurred, but from a glance you could almost believe it was an optical effect.

Sony Xperia Z2 15

Sometimes the blur mode goes very wrong indeed. We have no idea what happened here. Not only did the blur work horribly, the mode has also corrupted the image.

Sony Xperia Z2 – Camera Image Quality

The Sony Xperia Z2 has the highest-resolution camera among its big-name peers – the Galaxy S5, the iPhone 5S and HTC One M8. It uses a 20.7-megapixel sensor. What's initially hard to get your head around, though, is that it uses this sensor primarily to take better 8-megapixel photos. Not 20-megapixel ones.

Sony Xperia Z2 23

The lens positioning makes it horribly easy to get your fingers in the way

Our assumption is that Sony has been producing small pixel-pitch mobile sensors for so long that it's much easier/cheaper to develop a 20.7-megapixel sensor than an 8-megapixel one of the same size. And, of course, it sounds better on the spec list as-is.

This is a 1/2.3-inch sensor, a fair bit larger than the 1/3-inch sensor of the iPhone 5S, the 1/2.5 S5 sensor and the 1/3-inch One M8 sensor. When you shoot in the auto mode, the output from the 20-megapixel sensor is used to create a higher-fidelity 8-megapixel image than most phones of that resolution could muster.

While you can shoot 20.7-megapixel and 15.5-megapixel photos in the 'manual' mode, you're heavily dissuaded from doing so. Shots higher than eight megapixels can't use any scene modes or the HDR function. For this reason, we're only going to use full 20MP resolution shots to look at the detail this phone can produce. The rest of our images are 8MP.

Xperia Z2Photo comparison

The Galaxy S5 is clearly the detail winner here, but note how the Xperia Z2's downscaled 8MP image is able to render very fine details clearly - such as the detailing on the top of the Gherkin.

20MP

Here we see why the Xperia Z2 reverts to 8-megapixel images as standard. The smaller details on the higher-resolution image look a lot more skittish. There are some minor detail benefits to the higher-resolution photo, but it is also noisier and shows lesser contrast.

The Xperia Z2 creates very confident, detailed-looking 8-megapixel images, right down to pixel level when shooting in good lighting. This image of a crane shows you the sort of fine detail fidelity you can get when deliberately reducing resolution instead of trying to inflate it. Check out how clearly separated the two fine cables are. And there's none of the purple chrome noise that plagues the HTC One M8's images:

Sony Xperia Z2 21

However, we did find that the playing with resolution does become a limiting factor when shooting macro-style photography. At pixel level you can see that, while sharp, the actual sensor can see finer details that are represented in the final 8MP image. It limits how much you can crop into macro images a bit. But it's fundamentally a pixel peeper's problem.

Sony Xperia Z2 8

Here's a 1:1 crop from the centre the above photo. There's quite a lot of fine detail, but could there be even more?

Sony Xperia Z2 9

Low-light and Tricky Lighting

When dealing with poor lighting, the Xperia Z2 is pretty solid. By using multiple sensor pixels to create each pixel in an 8-megapixel image, the camera can continue with reasonably low levels of noise well past sunrise, as long as there is enough light for the autofocus system to actually lock onto.

Here's where the scene modes of the manual setting can get a little confusing, though – there are four modes designed for low-light shooting. There's night portrait, night scene, hand-held twilight and high sensitivity. The best results come from the hand-held twilight mode, and they're great for a camera without optical stabilisation that doesn't take ages over its low-light shots.

Sony Xperia Z2 13

Original

Sony Xperia Z2 14

1:1 pixel crop (note how the noise reduction has not destoyed the finer detail on the sign)

Sony Xperia Z2 11

Original

Sony Xperia Z2 12

1:1 pixel crop (again, detail is pretty good, even right at the edge of the frame)

Like the Xperia Z1, the Xperia Z2 has ways to deal with very low light conditions without using a flash. But you might say the phone actually goes too far.

When using Auto mode, at a certain point of ambient light dimming the Xperia Z2 reverts to an extremely aggressive system. It artificially ramps up image brightness, and seemingly supercharges sensitivity (artificially or otherwise). It does this without masses of image noise too, by smoothing out anything it can.

Xperia Z2 ultra-low light treatment:

Sony Xperia Z2 22

Samsung Galaxy S5 ultra-low light treatment:

Sony Xperia Z2 19

It may not look like it, but the Galaxy S5 is actually the better shot here. There is more detail in the tree and the colour representation is far more faithful.

While it makes dark scenes that would otherwise be little more dark graininess in other phones comprehensible, the shots tend to look quite unnatural. As well as having flat-out the wrong brightness level, white balance is often totally out of whack and planes of the image are flattened in order to wipe-out noise. It's quite a feat of software jiggery-pokery.

It becomes more of a substantial criticism when we compare it to the Galaxy S5. Its picture stabilisation mode merges multiple exposures to offer reasonable-fidelity images in any lighting conditions. The Z2's most extreme low-light mode is more like an auto-photoshpping of the scene that turns it into a candied confection. The Galaxy S5 is slower – much slower – in these conditions but the detail and overall image quality you get with the S5 in very low lighting is simply better, and offers more scope for editing.

You wouldn't want to save either for posterity, though, so many of you may prefer the more eye-catching Xperia Z2 shot.

Another low-light limitation is that there's no real manual control to let you choose how the Z2 copes with low light. For example, with an HTC One M8 you can slow down the shutter speed and crank down the exposure compensation to take half-decent low light shots. Here you're very much at the mercy of the Z2's own software algorithms. But they do work reasonably well, for the most part.

There's another area where the Xperia Z2 camera tends to trip up a bit, though. In shots with a fair bit of variance in light levels – a daylight indoors shot where there's a window just out of shot, for example – photos can appear rather low-contrast, giving a washed-out appearance. The Galaxy S5 copes better under these conditions.

Sony Xperia Z2: HDR

We're also slightly disappointed by the HDR mode here. It's fairly low-key, and so doesn't leave you with artificial-looking photos, but it's also not all that effective. Since seriously high-performance HDR modes started appearing in mobiles around a year ago we've started using them to 'fix' photo scenes that phones would never have been able to cope with a few years ago, but here you won't get very far.

Particular scenes that show up this are things like those with strong light sources in the actual shot and those dramatic sunset skies, where the bright sky and rapidly-dimming foreground make it nigh-on impossible not to under or over exposure half of the image without HDR. The Xperia Z2 isn't as great at capturing these moments as the very best.

Here's a look at how the Xperia Z2 and Galaxy S5 HDR modes compare:

Xperia Z2 HDRGalaxy S5 HDR

However, as a whole we're most happy with the Xperia Z2 camera. Forget that it's capable of shooting 20-megapixel photos and snap away. We do hope that Sony ups its HDR game soon, though.

Flash, Video and Front Camera

front cameraWe've sidelined the flash so far because the XPeria Z2 does its level best to make sure hardly ever need it. And as such, it no surprise it's pretty unremarkable. It's a single-LED flash with none of the duo-tone tech you get with an iPhone 5S or HTC One M8.

The front camera is conventional too. It uses a 2.2-megapixel sensor, with a wide-angle lens.

Like some other new high-resolution sensor cameras, the Xperia Z2 can capture 4K video with its rear camera.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

私たちの

April 15, 2014, 2:55 pm

i hope you realize that getting hotter on the outside is actually good for the phone since the heat gets dissipated. remember that it has the same internals as s5 and m8. if it gets hot, you can expect the rest to have the same heating issue unless you really notice the phone's performance becoming laggy with the heating. as anandtech noted, the galaxy s5 tends to consume more power as it gets hotter probably due to reduced efficiency, because it's difficult to release the heat through the s5's plastic water-resistant body.

WORYA

April 15, 2014, 2:56 pm

Why has there been no mention of the active noise cancelling headphones? That is a major selling point for some, especially when no other phone offers this,

andyvan

April 15, 2014, 3:09 pm

Or it could just mean the phone is getting hotter on the inside, which is why it's hot on the outside. I'm struggling with your logic, there. Assuming you'll see the same due to similar hardware is spurious argument given the cooling setup and configuration has just as much bearing.

私たちの

April 15, 2014, 3:18 pm

what i'm saying is if it gets hot and laggy at the same time, that means there's probably a problem with the optimization of the software. however, if it only gets hot on the outside without any problem in the performance, it's highly likely that the heating is only due to the natural heat dissipation design of the device. it's the performance that needs to be evaluated.

i'm just insinuating that the device is simply maximizing the non-plastic build by letting heat dissipate to the metallic parts for better cooling. it could simply be how the phone is designed. again, if it gets hot and the performance falls, then there's a problem.

however, i think we all agree that a hot device is uncomfortable to use.

andyvan

April 15, 2014, 4:10 pm

This isn't a standard feature on all phones. We're told you only get them from select retailers, or at least that's the case in the UK. Our review sample did not come with them.

munta abdel

April 15, 2014, 4:15 pm

There are many things which are not mentioned in the review, i'm sorry but poor review You guys still need a lot of IT education to be able to review such devices (phone tablets, pcs, ...etc ) ,as i see in most of your reviews(htc m8, galaxy s5 , xperia z2,....etc) with unrealistic and wrong info .
i really feel sorry for people which they are not educated enough to know what reviewers are talking about .
any way good luck in future reviews

toboev

April 15, 2014, 5:45 pm

How can it be both IP55 and IP58? One or the other, surely?

私たちの

April 15, 2014, 9:00 pm

add to that their suspicious scoring. in their breakdown, the galaxy s5 scores lower but was given a 9/10 overall rating but the z2 with the higher score breakdown only gets an 8/10. so what's the purpose of the score breakdown?

seriously, i wouldn't question any reviewer's opinion but once i see a lot of mistakes, that's another issue.

munti

April 15, 2014, 10:38 pm

I totally agree , look for example at the cam review , I think the reviewer has not seen dxomark ranking
http://www.dxomark.com/Mobiles...

that was one of many wrong info given in the review

Bugblatter

April 15, 2014, 11:23 pm

And many of the things you say are wrong. However I'm not going to say what they are because you might be able to prove me wrong, and that would never do.

See what I did there?

munti

April 15, 2014, 11:49 pm

i would agree with you if we are talking about personal opinion but not a professional point of view.

verygoodbrother

April 16, 2014, 3:04 am

Excuses excuses. The Z1 had the same overheating problems and still can't believe that Sony didn't fix it for the Z2

Benjamin Rodriguez

April 16, 2014, 5:37 am

The IP(Ingress Protection) rating is a bit weird, you see. In a given IPXX rating, the first digit indicates the level of dust protection(5) and the second digit is for water protection(8). But the rating IP55 is not for either of those, it's a separate rating for pressurized water jets.

So the Xperia Z2 is IP55 certified for water jets and IP58 for dust and water ingress(including submersion).

toboev

April 16, 2014, 8:34 am

Finally, I've tracked it down. The IP ratings spec (IS/IEC 60529) is not freely available public domain info it seems, but courtesy of the Parliament of India's Right to Information programme (!) it is available. The relevant paragraph:

"Up to and including second characteristic numeral 6, the designation implies compliance also with the requirements for all lower characteristic numerals. However; the tests establishing compliance with any one of the lower degrees of protection need not necessarily be carried out provided that these tests obviously would be met if applied.
An enclosure designated with second characteristic numeral 7 or 8, only is considered unsuitable for exposure to water jets (designated by second characteristic numeral 5 or 6) and need not comply with requirernents for numeral 5 or 6 unless it is dual coded as follows:"

All other references I can find (Wikipedia, etc) omit that vital part about the assumed (but circumscribed) cumulative nature of the number codes.

Short version: Sony is correct.

PS.
"IP55 and IP58 certification. This means you can submerge the phone in water and it can take being pummeled with water jets."
TR would do better to re-sequence the word order to keep the two parts in respective order.

andyvan

April 16, 2014, 8:35 am

As this guide explains, our scores are not an average: http://www.trustedreviews.com/...

Simple facts. The S5 has by far and away the best screen of the three, which is it gets a 10 for that part, and (in our opinion) the screen is one of the most important parts of any phone.

As for the Z2, it's a very good phone but it's also the only one of three to show any cause for alarm RE: overheating. We didn't feel comfortable recommended the phone the phone outright for that reason. I don't think it's unreasonable to expect no such issues from a £550+ phone.

andyvan

April 16, 2014, 8:43 am

DXOMark hasn't even looked at the S5 or HTC One M8 yet, so I fail to see how it can be used as definitive source, and it isn't especially difficult to pick holes in their analysis, either.

I'm sorry if you're disappointed that the Z2 hasn't scored higher, but you're yet to actually make a specific point of why we're wrong that isn't some vague subjective assertion.

toboev

April 16, 2014, 8:44 am

Thanks for your reply. Unfortunately I don't think it is correct, but thanks for wanting to help. In the meantime I have been able to track down a copy of the standard published by India which does explain the need for two ratings as applied by Sony. See above.

toboev

April 16, 2014, 9:38 am

Why should TR base their review on what any other reviewer says? I don't want, on TR, to read a re-hash of other published reviews - I'd rather read them first hand, thanks.

solpete

April 16, 2014, 9:48 am

At first I thought this review was great. But it was the complete opposite.

I don’t know why you are so alarmed by the occasional overheating. You write yourself that "However, in the several days following this incident, temperatures stayed within acceptable levels". So it was an isolated incident. You then continue to say that "And
we were unable to recreate the overheating message. It does happen, but it's rare and only caused by an unfortunate convergence of events." So it’s an unfortunate convergence of events; yet you highlight this as a big negative?

I would also like to comment on that you praise the S5 screen as the best by “far”. Isn’t the capability of taking low light pictures far more important than subtile screen differences? You didn’t compare low-light photography much – yet you devoted three pages to photography in your review of the S5.

Looping a video for 15 hours screen-on time which you find much better than the S5 and M8? Better water-proofing than S5. Glass and Aluminum vs plastic S5.

And you don’t even mention that you never have to open the micro-usb/sim area because the Z2 has an extra port which allows for a magnetic charging cable much like Apples invention. This is an investment of a few bucks which simply isn’t available to owners of the S5 or M8.

When I read the review I found it to be excellent in some areas, but as you see above, you have failed completely on judging the Z2. And you give the design a 7 – the same
as S5? I find that a joke, and the other 8 reviewers I’ve listened to join me
in my opinion.
I could continue with the fragile history on cracked Samsung screens or how the plastic frame on the current generation of Samsungs crumble within a year of use (check XDA threads). All in all one can begin to wonder if the personal preference of
the reviewer hasn’t gone too far. Presenting a review of 8 vs 5 pages, and 109 vs 63 photos, on the S5 vs Z2, respectively, really shows what a biased and bad review this is.

toboev

April 16, 2014, 11:02 am

You make some valid points. However, the assumption you make that all reviewers should agree with each other is wide of the mark - why should they? The whole point of reading more than one review is to get more than one opinion, not to get the same opinion repeated twice over.

munti

April 16, 2014, 11:06 am

first of all i don't buy phones i get them for free ,because of my work 2d of all you don't have to attack me because of you don't like what i said, 3d of all go and ask about Dxomark( DXOMark are specialist in photography) ,4th of all everybody knows that nokia cam is the best in the market and now the z2 is at the top(Dxomark, and we did test all mobiles of 2014 at work,inc htc m8 and s5), 4th off all i dont have the z2 neither i'm going to buy it so just take it easy and don't go personal

munti

April 16, 2014, 11:09 am

well DXOMark are specialist in photography so they are the most trusted in cam reviews only .

solpete

April 16, 2014, 11:10 am

Yes you are right, the fact that the reviewer don't seem to like the form-factor of the Z2 is up to him. Other than that, I just find the review to be very shallow. I expected more from Trusted.

munti

April 16, 2014, 11:11 am

by the way that was my opinion so no hard feelings ,

私たちの

April 16, 2014, 12:59 pm

hmmm.... doesn't make sense to me.

you don't use averages ... so what are those score breakdowns for then? just for fun? no matter how you put it, they have to mean something.

oh my bad...

just reposting somebody else's reasonable comment for a retort (in case you haven't seen it yet):

At first I thought this review was great. But it was the complete opposite.

I
don’t know why you are so alarmed by the occasional overheating. You
write yourself that "However, in the several days following this
incident, temperatures stayed within acceptable levels". So it was an
isolated incident. You then continue to say that "And
we were unable
to recreate the overheating message. It does happen, but it's rare and
only caused by an unfortunate convergence of events." So it’s an
unfortunate convergence of events; yet you highlight this as a big
negative?

I would also like to comment on that you praise the S5
screen as the best by “far”. Isn’t the capability of taking low light
pictures far more important than subtile screen differences? You didn’t
compare low-light photography much – yet you devoted three pages to
photography in your review of the S5.

Looping a video for 15
hours screen-on time which you find much better than the S5 and M8?
Better water-proofing than S5. Glass and Aluminum vs plastic S5.

And
you don’t even mention that you never have to open the micro-usb/sim
area because the Z2 has an extra port which allows for a magnetic
charging cable much like Apples invention. This is an investment of a
few bucks which simply isn’t available to owners of the S5 or M8.

When I read the review I found it to be excellent in some areas, but as
you see above, you have failed completely on judging the Z2. And you
give the design a 7 – the same
as S5? I find that a joke, and the other 8 reviewers I’ve listened to join me
in my opinion.
I
could continue with the fragile history on cracked Samsung screens or
how the plastic frame on the current generation of Samsungs crumble
within a year of use (check XDA threads). All in all one can begin to
wonder if the personal preference of
the reviewer hasn’t gone too
far. Presenting a review of 8 vs 5 pages, and 109 vs 63 photos, on the
S5 vs Z2, respectively, really shows what a biased and bad review this
is.

comments powered by Disqus