Sony’s cameras are great. We here at Pocketnow swear by them. Most of us use a version of Sony’s micro 4/3 NEX series cameras for our stills and videos. Sony’s smartphone cameras, on the other hand, haven’t always been the best. But in recent months, that has changed. The shooter on the Xperia Z2 was one of the best Android smartphone cameras money could buy. And preliminary reviews of the Xperia Z3 are showing similar results.
But what about the miniature version of the Z3, the Xperia Z3 Compact? Well, it shouldn’t be all that different. Both use the same 20.7-megapixel image sensor and setup, so expectations for this camera are also very high. In the below samples, you will see what the Z3 Compact camera is capable of.
Xperia Z3 Compact camera sample: daylight
In broad daylight, the Z3 Compact has the capacity to take some wonderful photos. The 20.7-megapixel sensor captures an impressive amount of detail and usually musters a super sharp focus. However, nearly every photo we took turned out cool and drab, unlike the super-saturated photos you get from competing camera phones. That’s not to say you can’t fix that with a little editing in post, but it’s important to note how cool most photos turn out. They’re also a little light on contract, but you can fix that in post or in Manual mode.
Also important is the presence of a little shutter lag, which resulted in ever-so-slightly blurry photos – maybe one out of 20 taken. It’s not a terrible problem, and it was typically the result of either a moving subject (throwing off the focus and prompting the viewfinder software to refocus after fully depressing the two-step shutter button) or not enough light.
What is particularly great about this camera, though, is its macro mode. Background defocusing and the up-close details are both stunning. The Superior Auto mode (activated by default) is also great at picking the best settings for any given situation on the fly. It will automatically pick the best scene and shooting mode, but will also cut your max shooting resolution to just 8.2-megapixels with a 16:9 aspect ratio.
By switching to Manual mode, you can set the resolution to 20.7-megapixels (4:3), but you will have to set white balance, exposure, and more.
Sony’s viewfinder is one of the most adaptable around, too. It comes with dozens of different shooting modes, both pre-installed or aftermarket. Sony calls these “camera apps”, but they’re essentially plugins available from within the stock viewfinder.
Overall, the camera samples we’ve seen so far in great lighting have been fantastic, if a little on the cool side.
Xperia Z3 Compact camera sample: low Light
In the days of optical image stabilization, the Z3 Compact camera isn’t the best in low light. With no hardware stabilization, Sony has to rely on digital stabilization to do the trick. In short, it works … okay. It appears as if Sony does keep the shutter open longer to process more information and draw in more light, but in our testing, this resulted in a very soft focus, very little detail, and often somewhat blurry photos.
This wasn’t necessarily supposed to be a highlight of this phone’s camera, and it isn’t the worst we’ve seen. Color saturation isn’t terrible and I’ve personally seen much worse. That said, if low light performance is important to you, this may not be the phone to get.
Xperia Z3 Compact camera sample: video
Video capture also isn’t what we were expecting. The Z3 Compact is capable of shooting in 4K, though we opted to shoot in the out-of-the-box settings – 1080p. In short, it’s lacking in detail, pans are very jittery, and color reproduction is very cool, like with the above stills. There is some noticeable latency in auto-exposure adjustment when switching between dark and bright scenes, and there is no way to readjust focus once you start video capture, though you can snap some stills in the process.
Sound quality, while a hair on the tinny side, is actually quite good. And it does appear as if Sony is using digital stabilization in video capture, as well. That creates stable capture when walking or with natural hand shaking, but it also results in some visible warping and jerkiness.
Overall, the Z3 Compact camera is no game-changer, but it’s a very capable shooter in its own right. In great lighting, it really shines with a whole lot of detail and super sharp focus. And, frankly, the Superior Auto mode is worth using in exchange for some resolution. Manual mode, even with some basic photography knowledge, was cumbersome to use and often yielded inferior photos. Video and low light quality, however, suffer from the same lack of detail and digital stabilization.
It may not be the all-around best smartphone camera available, but it does have the chops to keep up with the larger Xperia Z3 and even some of its toughest competitors, like the Galaxy S5 or LG G3. We’ll continue snapping photos and testing throughout our review period, so keep an eye on the site for more from the Z3 Compact!
Finally, we’d like to thank our friends at Clove for supplying us with a Z3 Compact unit for review. Check out clove.co.uk to buy an Xperia Z3 Compact or one of many other mobile products for sale!