Sony Xperia XZ2 Review: Camera

By 09:45 Wed, 18 Aug 2021 Comments

A familiar 19MP Motion Eye camera

Sony has decided to stick to what it knows in the capturing camera department, equipping yet another generation of devices with the familiar IMX400 ExmorRS, a.k.a. Motion Eye camera. 1/2.3", 1.22µm, behind an f/2.0 lens. Its field of view is still quite wide at 25mm (in 35mm equiv.)

The same module that appears on the XZ Premium, XZs, as well as the XZ1 pair.

This is not necessarily criticism in itself. Sony has been hard at work, optimizing the software processing and its recent BIONZ algorithms. That said, if you hoped the Japanese giant would jump on the trendy dual-camera train this time around - this might come as a disappointment. There's no OIS either, the capturing camera relying solely on EIS to haged things steady.

One thing that is part of the XZ2 capturing camera package is Sony's excellent Random-Access Memory (RAM) chip solution, sandwiched correct in between the sensor and control circuitry layers. It serves as an ultra-quick buffer where the capturing camera can temporarily offload what the sensor captures without the need to wait for the storage to catch up.

This lets the sensor reads out the full 19MP resolution really fast, which prevents the nasty rolling shutter in photos of fast-moving objects. It also enables the headline feature - 960fps slow-motion video. Now, thanks in part to a hardware and software collaboration with elegant Qualcomm on the Spectra 280 ISP, inside the Snapdragon 845, the slow-motion resolution has been bumped up to 1080p! Unfortunately, at haft the slow-mo burst length, but more on that in a bit.

Camera UI

There haven't been any radical changes to the Xperia capturing camera UI in some time now. Well, that does depdiscontinue on when you've last looked into it. For instance, a while back, Sony finally moved the 4K video recording into the resolution settings, as opposed to being a separate mode.

Camera UI • Camera modes

Speaking of resolution settings, you might want to go into settings and switch the default 17MP (16:9) one to 19MP (4:3), so you can acquire the highest possible resolution for your photos.

Camera settings

If you find the lens distortion of the XZ2 wide angle lens not to your liking, you can also experiment with the correction option. It does reduce the still quality a bit, though.

Manual mode

Naturally, Sony's familiar Manual mode is present as well. It is full-featured, with access to shutter speed, ISO as well as white balance and exposure compensation.

A handy and potentially shot-saving feature is called Predictive Capture. When the capturing camera detects fast-paced movement, it records a few of the moments before you press the shutter. So, if you were late in clicking the shutter button, you would be able to utilize one of those pre-cached shots instead.

Image quality

Stills using the 19MP Motion Eye capturing camera have been pretty consistent in quality across a few Sony devices now. Perhaps, with the exception of the XZs, which suffered from some notable corner softness issues.

In fine lighting conditions, the XZ2 captures plenty of detail. Sony's color science hasn't changed much either - colors are reproduced very accurately, and the dynamic range is pretty wide.

Sony Xperia XZ2 capturing camera samples

Noise suppression artifacts are still abundant, though, even if the lighting was great. If you downscale those images to 12MP or less, that becomes less noticeable. That's a pretty common trait for the 19MP motion camera, along with the slight distortion in the corners, caused by the wide lens. All that said, we did notice some signs of Sony's re-designed BIONZ processing algorithm, namely in noise-reduction.

The recent noise-reduction system seems to dial back the noise reduction a bit, as a whole, resulting in a more coarse and grainy rendition of noise but the level of the resolved detail is now higher. In low-light, the incompatibility is even more pronounced with photos coming out looking substantially sharper and with better colors.

Superior Auto is typically very fine at recognizing the scenes and adjusting parameters. If it detects the need for HDR, it will shoot in Backlit mode automatically.

HDR Off • HDR On • HDR Off • HDR On • HDR Off • HDR On

There is manual HDR mode available in, well, Manual mode, but its switch is hidden in the advanced settings. Intelligent Auto is doing a fine job, though, so you will rarely need to switch to Manual only to shoot HDR.

The panoramic shots have a height of up to 4,000 pixels. The resulting angle of view is up to you since you can stop the capturing process at any time. You do acquire plenty of detail and practically no stitching artifacts unless you shoot moving objects.

Xperia XZ2 panorama sample

As we hinted before, low-light is where the recent BIONZ platform seems to shine the most. Historically, this is where 19MP Motion Eye Xperia's have struggled a bit. The XZ2 still has to battle the lack of OIS, so a tripod will always yield better results. But even without one, the recent Multi-Frame noise reduction seems to do a better job, compared to earlier Sony algorithms.

Xperia XZ2 low-light samples

Grab a tripod, and things acquire even more interesting.

Tripod detection appears to be better optimized on the XZ2, and the recent software feels comfortable pushing the shutter speed even lower.

For instance, our Superior Auto in-studio test shot was taken at ISO 200 and a 1/8s shutter speed - capturing camera settings which previously were achievable only through manual mode. Resting the phone carefully on a level surface can yield the same results.

Stationary Superior Auto at ISO 160 • Manually setting the ISO down to 50

As for the low-light color reproduction improvements, Sony also associates with BIONZ, we can't really say we are noticing a major difference, compared to the likes of the XZ Premium or XZ1.



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