Sony Xperia Z3 camera test and photography review

The Z3 is my second Xperia, having upgraded from the original Xperia is a great improvement over all performance, aesthetic design, battery life, and most importantly the camera. I’m more of a street photographer, first thing that I love very much (which I think is also quite common nowadays), is the shutter button design.

So you have your ‘click’ button right at where it should be when you want to snap a picture. You know what’s the best part? You can wake the camera mode up from idling simply by press and hold the button. That makes it very easy and quick to snap anything you see.

In addition, I’ve also developed my method of left-hand-shooting:


Okay! Let’s begin my review and sample gallery. Since I’m sort of an old-school photographer, I shall not cover any fancy softwares/filters, to me photography and camera is all the tool you need to capture and tell the stories. You can do anything you want with photoshop or any build-in softwares for colors and bokeh… but what you captured is what you captured.

If you’re a hardcore technical fussy person, you can go DXOmark to read and compare sensor quality.. MTF chart whatever… I’m not going to go through that! A good camera tool is something that can delivers in the hands of the photographer, end of story.

Oh, one thing weird about the resolution settings. For some reason, I have to shoot in ‘Manual’ mode in order to get full 20MP. If I do the quick-wake-up method, I keep getting 8MP. I am not very sure if I can change it by default. Same goes to the 4k video recording.

Digital zoom

Most phones have digital zooms (very rare ones have optical zoom). Xperia Z3 house a 20 mega pixel sensor, that’s enough pixels density to perform ‘usable zoom’. But is the optics matching up to that resolution? Here’s the uncompressed samples:

Straight from the camera without zoom. Click to download/enlarge.
Straight from the camera without zoom. Click to download/enlarge.
Digital zoom. The camera still registered as '20 mega pixels'.
Digital zoom. The camera still registered as ’20 mega pixels’.
This is the crop from the original non-zoom pic, and enlarged with Photoshop to match the zoomed pic.
This is the crop from the original non-zoom pic, and enlarged with Photoshop to match the zoomed pic.

From quick comparison, the Photoshop algorithm works better than the in-build software digital zoom (expected). So, you can basically forget about digital zoom.


A small tip. To achieve bokeh with such small sensor, macro is the way to go. Don’t expect too much bokeh from smart phone camera.
Well, this is a real talking parrot!


The only phone I have in comparison is my old original Xperia.. Z3’s macro can’t focus as close as Xperia, but is definitely sharper, more accurate, and less problematic (if you read about my Xperia review, yes I complain about the macro inconsistency). Above 3 shots are originals, full res and not edited.

Other samples

Crop, no editing.
Crop, no edit.
Crop, no editing.
No edit.
No editing. But I think I had a plastic filter on, so the sharpness turns out quite bad.
No edit.
No editing.


When the first Xperia came out, it was one of the better performing Android camera phone back then, but in comparison its still inferior to even iphone 3. I am pleasantly satisfy with the camera quality of Z3, good enough for my backup camera. Good performing focusing, color is acceptable, noise level is much better than the predecessors. Though the camera might not match up with the latest iphone6 or Samsung’s Galaxy Edge S6, hell yeah I would still choose the Z3 for the overall design, Android interface and waterproof usability.

A side story to note… my Z3 survived one or two falls… but not until a bad fall on a bicycle where I landed my entire body weight on it.. it died… sadden very much, with a heavy heart I sent it to Sony service center to replace the screen which costs me like USD300 ?! A note from the repair, it didn’t went well, the screen wasn’t attached properly so it failed again within about a month. So I went back to Sony service center, and they are kind enough to replace me a brand new Z3 as an apology to the previous failed repair. An improvement on the customer service I see, worth noting.

Well, I hope you find this review useful. Please follow my other stuffs on this wordpress, which ranges from clean electric mobility to camera lens modification, Everest and Japan nuclear adventure stories, animations and photography. Please also visit my photography facebook page. Thank you!


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