Some people couldn’t care less about the camera on their smartphone; if you’re interested in Sony’s new Xperia Z5, there’s a good chance you’re not one of them. The handset sports an image sensor the same size as ones you’ll find in many ordinary budget-tier compact digital cameras, trumping the sensors found in some competing handsets. As well, it greatly outpaces many phones’ resolutions at 23-megapixels, making it all the more attractive. At the end of the day, though, it’s the quality that matters. How does it hold up? Find out in the first part of our Xperia Z5 review!
The Sony Xperia Z5 features a rear 23-megapixel 1/2.3” Sony Exmor RS image sensor, a 24mm wide-angle G Lens, and a BIONZ mobile image processor; on the front lies a lesser 5-megapixel Exmor R camera.
The camera is joined by a dedicated camera button positioned on the side of the handset; unlike the power button, the camera button protrudes from the edge (it has a lot of give, though, and so is unobtrusive to the touch). Finally, a small LED flash is positioned beneath the rear camera, both of which lie flush with the back of the handset.
The hardware is notable, of course, but the software is where Sony’s camera offering comes to life. The camera app has many features baked in that you won’t find on competing smartphones, some more useful than others (the augmented reality option is fun, but not many people need a dinosaur overlaid into their environment).
Several camera apps are preinstalled with more available for download. Included apps, shown in the screenshots below, are things like an AR Mask that adds someone else’s face onto your own, an AR effect app for adding augmented reality environments to images, “Style Portrait” to add different styles to your portraits in real time, and more.
The Xperia Z5 may have an image sensor that competes with some standalone digital cameras, but the lens, of course, is considerably smaller. Overall, though, image quality is superb if you’re in an adequately lit environment, such as outside on a sunny day.
As well, the camera does a good job with its Augmented Reality filters, properly detecting most surfaces if there’s a large enough space and transplanting fantasy elements into them.
Bright Light Performance
Shooting environments with bright lights — that is to say, sunny daytime weather or a bright indoor room — come out very well when shot with the Xperia Z5’s rear camera. For most mobile users who are shooting general images for Facebook and such, there will be no complaints. Of course, the camera is touted as being something more than average, and so we have to look at it with a slightly more critical eye.
The Xperia Z5’s camera can have trouble handling very different exposures in the same setting, such as sun reflecting off bright snow. Look carefully at the image below and you’ll note the brightest portions of the snow are largely washed out, with the small details — visible in the GS6 image — disappearing in the overexposure. That loss of detail is unfortunate for those intent on post-processing the images and perhaps using them for greater purposes than Snapchat or Instagram.
Low Light Performance
Though the camera quality is average in daylight conditions, the Xperia Z5’s rear camera shines (compared to other smartphones) in low-light conditions. It does depend on what you’re photographing — there were some instances where the GS6 seemed to do better — but overall the Xperia Z5 held its own with indoor and dim shooting environments, more so than most competing smartphone cameras.
If you’re frustrated with the poor quality you usually get from indoor photos, the Xperia Z5 will definitely be a breath of fresh air, producing images that are nicely contrasted and not excessively speckled with colorful noise. Details are mostly preserved, though faint ones may be lost to the noise-dampening adjustments, and at times shadowy areas come out darker than agreeable. This is nitpicking, though, as the camera does handle itself very well in low-light situations.
Macro performance was disappointing on the Z5. When in auto mode, the camera will automatically toggle into macro mode when you get the lens close to a subject, but it can’t handle getting too close, and so true macro photography — or shots that are decently up close — will require a macro lens attachment.
The Xperia Z5 offers a few different recording resolutions/frame rates including 4K and FHD 60fps.
Also important is image stabilization, of which the Sony Xperia Z5 features a SteadyShot Standard stabilization mode and an Intelligent SteadyShot stabilization mode. Both modes work well, and you’d be hard-pressed to find one particular reason to use one over the other.
As expected, videos taken during bright daytime hours have the best quality — both the 4K and FHD 60fps videos looked fantastic, though the Xperia Z5 warned the handset could start to overheat when recording in the UHD resolution.