Sony Xperia Z2: 10 essential camera tips and tricks
That the Sony Xperia Z2 smartphone doubles as a very capable camera is a well known fact, and our in-depth camera comparisons serve as proof. The handset boasts a large, 20.7MP sensor with a wide aperture, a handy physical camera button, and a cache of software features enabling one to take great photos and videos. However, it is not necessarily the camera that makes the difference between an okay and an outstanding photo. The photographer's experience and knowledge play a key role in this process, hence we decided to come up with this guide. Ladies and gents, we give you 10 essential tips and tricks for taking better photos and videos with your Sony Xperia Z2.
In general, Sony's Superior Auto mode is pretty reliable, and we'd recommend using that when taking casual shots. At night, however, this particular mode tends to produce inaccurate photos. Note that the above picture, taken with Superior Auto enabled, is reddish in tone. The solution is to use Manual mode at night when colors look off. We manually adjusted the white balance prior to taking the bottom photo, and the result was an image with much more accurate colors.
The camera on the Xperia Z2 overheats and shuts itself down if used for prolonged periods of time, which is mighty annoying. To prevent this from happening, try not to expose the phone to direct sunlight while shooting, or better yet, avoid keeping its camera app running all the time. You may also try enabling the phone's Stamina mode, which limits the phone's performance, thus reducing power consumption and potentially the additional heat generated by the SoC. Dimming the screen, which reduces its power draw, might also help.
The Sony Xperia Z2 has something that few other smartphones can offer – a dedicated camera button. It is not only for taking photos, you know. Hold the key down to instantly launch the camera when the phone is in stand-by. Or if you prefer, go to the camera settings and change the Quick Launch option from "Launch only" to "Launch and capture". This will let your phone go from sleep to snap in a little more than a second – perfect for not missing those precious moments as they happen.
Speaking of the phone's physical key, every Xperia Z2 owner should know how to make the most of it. The purpose of a 2-stage shutter is to allow one to lock the focus and exposure by pressing it halfway, and to take the shot with as little lag as possible when the right moment comes. Those who prefer using the on-screen button instead can hold a finger on it to lock the focus and exposure. Releasing will take the photo.
The digital zoom on most smartphone cameras is next to useless as it simply stretches the image, reducing its quality dramatically in the process. But the so-called Clear Zoom on the Sony Xperia Z2 can actually come in handy when you need a close-up. When the camera is in Superior Auto mode, zooming is done by fitting more of the sensor's pixels inside the produced 8-megapixel image, producing up to 3x magnification without any serious drops in image quality. The method is similar to what Nokia uses to enable "lossless" zooming on its 41-MP Lumia 1020.
By default, the Sony Xperia Z2 takes images at an aspect ratio of 16:9. But since the sensor's native aspect ratio is 4:3, it makes some sense to take photos in that proportion instead. Note how extra vertical space is captured in a 4:3 photo (resolution of 3264 x 2448), while the 16:9 option (resolution of 3840 x 2160) crops out 30% of the vertical image area. To switch between aspect ratios, just open the camera settings menu – it is the very first option on the list.
Unless you dig deep into the settings of the Z2 camera app, you might miss the fact that it can shoot 1080p video at 60 frames per second. Such videos are much smoother when compared to the standard, 30 fps ones, and the difference is pretty striking. Just keep in mind that shooting at 60 fps is not recommended for low-light and night scenes. To shoot 60 fps videos, open Manual mode, switch to video, open the settings menu, and choose Full HD (60 fps) from the video resolution panel. Note that 60 fps videos aren't available in Auto mode.
And while we're at it, you might want to give HDR video a try. Again, it is enabled from within the Manual mode's video settings. The images you see here visualize the difference, and to get a general idea of when HDR mode can be useful, you can go over your article dedicated to HDR smartphone photography.
Sony has pre-loaded tons of goodies into its Camera app, including the Background Defocus, AR Effect, Info-Eye, and Social Live modes. But that's not all. Additional camera modes can be downloaded from the internet, and the list includes over a dozen items as of this writing. Among them is the new Live on YouTube, which is used to livestream video straight to Google's video service. You can also get Motiongraph for creating cool, short animations, and Motion Shot, which captures multiple frames of a moving object and then stacks them together.
The Sony Xperia Z2 comes with an excellent Timeshift Burst mode, which takes a rapid series of photos both before and after you press the shutter. The downside of this mode, however, is that it has to be enabled in order to be used, and that takes time. If you prefer having a burst mode available at all times, go to your camera settings and turn on "Burst with longpress". This will let you shoot bursts of photos simply by holding down the shutter key – perfect for scenes when timing is of importance. Note that you won't be able to use the on-screen shutter's hold-to-lock feature to lock the focus and exposure, as described in slide 4.