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In my one and a half month of owning and using the Xperia Z5, I have taken 170 pictures with it as a common user.
Casual shots, macros, outdoors, indoors and all sorts.
I am going to use 22 of these pictures in this article to give you a flavour of the Xperia Z5 camera quality. After reviewing its macro performance recently, this article will conclude my verdict about the Z5’s camera experience.
Z5 is a smartphone camera with 23MP Sony sensor and a huge set of expectations attached to it. Traditionally Sony Xperia range has struggled to give the end-user a super camera experience. I have been waiting to analyse and review the Z5’s camera and let you know my opinion about it.
This article is written for those who want to know how good is the Xperia Z5’s camera performance in day to day situations.
Stay with me and you will have my real-life feedback and verdict at the end of this article.
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It is important for you to know that my reviews are not carried out from a pro-user perspective.
Instead, I am an average user and I write from an average user’s perspective. I am not interested in too many numbers and too many technical details when it comes to camera performance.
My aim is to let you know how good the pictures look like when taken in a common day to day scenario.
If you want to dive a bit deeper, there is a good detailed review of Z5’s camera performance by GSMArena team in this article here.
All pictures included in this article are taken with the Sony Xperia Z5 (model E6653) which is bought from the UK market. At the time of writing this article, I am using the Android version 5.1.1 on this phone. The default Sony Camera app (version 2.0.0) was used in taking all these pictures and no accessory (tripod, lenses or filters etc.) was used in taking the sample shots.
I do not edit pictures for imaging details except sticking the logo and caption text. This is to make sure that you see the exact “picture quality” as captured by the camera.
Most of my pictures are taken in default mode (Superior Auto in Xperia Z5) however, I have always said that by learning and using “manual mode”, you can improve the results further.
The use of manual mode is more useful in some conditions as compared to others. I have found that for an average user, most of the pictures are taken in auto mode, hence my tendency to simulate the same in my reviews.
And finally, everyone uses their smartphone camera differently.
It is not necessary that my pictures and results represent your photography and picture-taking skills. As I mentioned earlier, I am not a pro-photographer so this article should not be treated as a technical verdict about the camera capabilities.
It is more an end-user’s perspective from a day to day camera user experience.
Sony’s camera app gives you an option to use a further set of “camera apps” from its main menu. These apps are designed for those who want to use useful and fun features provided by Sony. You have an option to add more apps here as well by downloading it from Google Play Store.
I personally did not use them.
Hence I will not include them in this article here.
If you are a user of one of these apps (or more), it would be useful if you let us all know about your experience.
The two main options I will be talking about are the “Superior Auto” (default mode) and “Manual”.
Superior Auto mode is where I take most of my pictures.
An easy to use interface where the camera app decides which settings to use while taking a picture. Your job is to find an object, frame it, focus it and shoot it.
I liked the camera app in Superior auto mode as it is practical and easy to use. A significant plus point is that even if we are in auto-mode, the app gives you an option to adjust colour and brightness from its interface. So you can focus an object and just before taking the snap, if you feel to make it bright/dark or vivid/dull, you have an option to do that.
Interface wise, I have nothing much to complain and at the same time, nothing much to praise either.
Next comes the manual mode.
Scene selection, ISO, White Balance and HDR (high dynamic range) features are the main plus points here. Obviously it offers you exposure control as well (brightness/darkness) but we had a similar feature available in Superior Auto mode as well so it is not really a difference if we compare the two modes.
It is definitely a better option than auto mode if you know about photography skills and don’t mind having extra controls to manually adjust your settings. For many, this can be complicated and hence if you fall in this group, Superior Auto is your best bet.
There are two significant points which I would like to mention as weaknesses of the Sony’ Xperia Z5 camera.
Sony camera does not offer you the RAW format support.
Not really a problem for me as I don’t work with RAW format but for those who like editing and working with the images with extra level of detail, this can be a let down or even a deal-breaker.
Last but not least, the overall camera experience is slow.
It takes too much time between taking a snap and the camera available again for the next snap. I personally feel that with such a powerful processor, graphic handler and generous 3GB RAM, this should not be the case and the processing of the picture should be quicker.
Sometimes it is annoyingly slow between taking a few snaps. I hope Sony addresses this issue in their future devices.
02.02.2016 update – courtesy Gary Ohanian via comments – this issue disappears if touch-capture or hardware based camera button is used to take pictures).
We come to the main part now – picture quality of the snaps taken with the Z5’s camera in ample light.
The important bit.
Scroll through the following 11 sample shots with brief descriptions first.
The Z5’s 23MP primary shooter fails to impress me in decent and bright sunny conditions.
My biggest problem is inconsistency with colours.
In most of the pictures, the colours either lacked depth and richness or they appeared to be dull and washed out without real-life feel. This is a big one for me. Only occasionally, I found the colours to be acceptable and of good quality. I have seen some stunning colours in my recently used LG G4 smartphone and Z5 unfortunately can not reach to that level.
In fact for me, it is below standard for a flagship smartphone by a company who is famous for its cameras and video devices.
There is also a slight hint of softness around the edges but that is not easily noticeable in bright light shots so I won’t worry too much about it in ample lighting conditions.
It all depends on how keen and how concerned you are with the picture quality. I won’t call the pictures to be “bad”. You must have a flavour from the pictures posted above.
It is fair to say that they are “acceptable”, just not excellent for a smartphone camera in flagship market. We expect the Sony’s 24mm wide G Lens to be stunning in picture quality. Unfortunately we don’t see it in results here.
I will give it a 7/10 for picture quality in ample lighting conditions.
You don’t always have plenty of light to take photos in.
This is where the ability of a smartphone camera to work in dark and low lighting conditions come handy.
Let us have a look at the set of 7 sample photos first – all taken in medium and low lighting conditions.
Xperia Z5 does not come with a hardware-based optical image stabilisation (OIS)
This is not easy to achieve in slimline smartphones like Z5 due to the physical size of the hardware required to accommodate. However, in order to compensate that, Sony has a digital image stabilisation (SteadyShot Stabilisation) which I found to be very good (although not as good as OIS).
However, in low lighting conditions, this is supported and helped by higher ISO values (increasing the sensitivity) of the sensor to reduce the shake-effect.
The colours, which are already not a strong point of the camera in discussion here, are further affected by the high ISO values. The colours are not real-to-life.
Secondly, I found a significant amount of noise and blurriness (specially around the edges) in various shots taken in indoor and medium/low light conditions. The pictures look like to be taken with a mid-range smartphone rather than a flagship device with a top-spec camera.
If you read my reviews of the LG G4 or Samsung Galaxy S6 which I recently used and analysed for their cameras, it is evident that they took much better pictures in low lighting conditions as compared to the Sony’s Z5.
I will give Z5 a 6/10 for low and medium light photos.
Z5 is a 6.5/10 for overall camera experience for me.
If you have used the camera of this Sony flagship (or even Z5 compact or Z5 premium as they have the same camera specifications), leave your score in comments below. Give your main reason for your score as well for everyone’s understanding. You can find details of “how to score” in FAQs here.
I expect more from Sony.
Bumping up the mega pixels and hardware specifications are not enough in this tough competition. Software manipulation and handling are paramount and play an important role in the end-user’s overall camera experience. Unfortunately, Sony did not pay enough attention to the software side despite having one of the best smartphone camera hardware specs in the market at the time of writing this article.
If camera and picture quality are important considerations for you, there are better choices available in the market.
If you are not too fussy about the camera performance, Z5 has several other plus points which can tempt you to own and enjoy this phone.
Have you used the camera in Xperia Z5? If so, what are your thoughts about it?
If not, do you think that Sony has failed to impress us one more time with their Xperia flagship?