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Sony Xperia Z1 Compact Review

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 9

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The 20.7 MP G Lens camera with 1/2.3" sensor enables you to take wonderful images.

The beefy 20.7 MP G Lens camera of the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact has absolutely the same characteristics as that of the Z1, which is a great technological achievement by Sony – to fit the same sensor in a considerably smaller body. The great thing about the G Lens camera (G Lens is just a branding, by the way, don't look too much into it) is that it not only fits a great number of pixels, but those pixels actually have a decent size (1.1 microns). This has been made possible thanks to the large, 1/2.3" sensor. To give you some perspective, this sensor size is 64% bigger than what most high-end phones out there are equipped with (1/3”), and the whopping 80% bigger than the other popular sensor size (1/3.2”). Meanwhile, the aperture of the camera is quite wide (f/2.0), which allows the camera to capture more light. Finally, the Z1 Compact has a wide-angle lens of 27mm that will let you capture more of the scene in front of you – useful if you're shooting in a small room, for example.

Thankfully, the user interface is very easy to use, especially when you're sticking with Sony's Superior Auto mode, which attempts to automatically pick the best settings for you, depending on the scene you're trying to photograph. Still, Sony has also included a Manual mode, which allows you to tweak a variety of different settings on your own.

There are also some other interesting camera modes in the Xperia Z1 Compact. For example, there's Info Shot, which will attempt to give you useful information about the object that you're photographing. Or, there's also Social Live (powered by Bambuser), which lets you live-stream up to 10 minutes of video directly to your Facebook feed – very cool feature indeed, though we don't like that there's a time limit. There is, of course, a number of picture effects, as well as some interesting AR (augmented reality) effects, which kind of blend the real scene in front of you with a 3D scene of your choice. Playing around with these AR effects is fun for a while, but due to their limited number and overly-specific character, one quickly realizes that there isn't almost anything meaningful they can accomplish with them.

We're happy to say that, just like with the Z1, this 20.7 MP camera doesn't disappoint. Quite the contrary! Images tend to have very realistic, vivid and lively colors. At the same time, the handset doesn't oversaturate or overwarm them to artificially make them look prettier. Exposure is also great most of the time – the dynamic range is good enough to let you take immersive photographs that feature both darker and lighter areas, and it will all look natural and appealing. The only drawback we can find is that some very bright areas sometimes come out overexposed, but this doesn't happen very often.

Details are superb with the Z1 Compact's photos – even when compared to some of the best phone cameras out there, such as the G2. If you view the 20.7 MP photos in actual size, you might dislike the mostly pixelized look, but if you scale these gigantic images down to something like 13 or 8 MP, and compare them to awesome 13 MP photos such as those from the G2, you'll be surprised to find that the Xperia Z1 Compact actually captures detail extremely well. Actually, this is what the Xperia Z1 Compact does by default. With its Superior Auto mode, the Z1 Compact produces images in 8 MP size. It does use the full resolution of the 20 MP sensor, but scales the pictures down - this way, the user ends up with high-quality 8 MP photos of 'easy-to-share' size that don't exhibit visible artifacts when viewed in actual size. Furthermore, the Superior Auto mode enables you to use the camera's Clear Zoom feature, which produces good-looking, lossless-like digital zoom. Having in mind that one rarely needs a gigantic, 20 MP shot, we believe the Superior Auto mode is the more appropriate shooting mode for most consumers, due to its  more easily manageable photos, the zoom capability, and the lack of visible artifacts. Still, the Manual mode lets you take 20 MP photos, if you happen to need this. We've used the Superior Auto mode to capture most of the sample images that can be seen in the gallery below.

Image size:
Use our samples comparison tool to see photos from more phones

Camera speed

Taking a pic (sec)Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec)Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 3
No data
Apple iPhone 5s 3
Sony Xperia Z1 3.2
No data
Samsung Galaxy S4 3.4
View all

Unfortunately, such superlatives cannot be said about the Xperia Z1 Compact's night photos. The handset often messes up the exposure, while colors are also somewhat off. The only thing we can do right now is to hope that Sony will improve this aspect of the camera with a future software update.

On the other hand, we simply love the images that the Xperia Z1 Compact takes indoors. Photos have a great sense of depth and detail, with very realistic and pleasing colors. Thankfully, the LED flash also does a very good job, allowing you to illuminate a small scene.

When it comes to video recording, though, this surely isn't the best camera we've seen. Mostly smooth in nature, the 1080p video lacks fine details and fails to impress us. Its quality is OK, but it's nothing earth-shattering. Sadly, a 60 fps option is missing to let us record even smoother video, such as the one on the LG G2.

Thankfully, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact proved that its camera not only has the same specifications as the one in the Z1, but can also produce the same great images!


Not the best option for heavy multimedia usage...

With its relatively small screen, the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact isn't an ideal phone to watch video on. The display looks very good in all of its IPS glory, and while watching a short video every now and then is more than satisfying, we don't really think it's very comfortable for longer experiences, such as watching a full-length movie. The phone supports all the popular formats, and even if you manage to find a video that is not playable with the stock player, you should be able to fix this by downloading a capable third-party player from the Play Store.

The Walkman music player is quite cool and simplistic. It sports some interesting features like ClearAudio+, which aims to give some more clarity to the sound, though it's basically a specific EQ preset. There are also some other sound enhancing tools like xLOUD, as well as a regular equalizer with many presents, including a custom option, allowing you to set your own equalizer.

The picture and video galleries are very good. The apps have a fresh and consumer-centric design. The Sony touch has worked well here.

The Z1 Compact has a pretty decent loudspeaker – just be sure to turn the ClearAudio+ option on, because otherwise the sound is quite dull and lacking in high frequencies. The speaker isn't as powerful as some of the best speakers in the class, such as the one of the iPhone 5s, but it's still above average.

Audio output

Headphones output power (Volts)
Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 0.24
Apple iPhone 5s 1
Sony Xperia Z1 0.29
Samsung Galaxy S4 0.38
Loudspeaker loudness (dB)
Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z1 Compact 66
Apple iPhone 5s 74
Sony Xperia Z1 68
Samsung Galaxy S4 77
View all

  • Options

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:31 10

1. JerryTime (Posts: 468; Member since: 09 Nov 2013)

Yet another Sony phone that makes me drool. And yet another phone that Sony should've sold in the states. Bring your phones back to the states on every major carrier in the States please Sony!

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:38 4

4. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10457; Member since: 14 May 2012)

Would sell pretty well on AT&T and T-Mobile.

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 10:21 5

13. JerryTime (Posts: 468; Member since: 09 Nov 2013)

Would sell well on any major network not just a GSM provider.

posted on 24 Jan 2014, 14:55 2

58. FredoGavera (Posts: 7; Member since: 09 Jan 2013)

To be honest, I was never really a huge fan of xperias. The only sony phone I ever owned was the play which was great except for the complete lack of support...

Regardless, the last xperia to catch my eye was the Z1, never got it though because I'm in the category of people who find phones that size absurd. Once this phone is out I'm pretty much a guaranteed buyer.

I just really hope that updates won't be delayed too bad for future android OS's... I hear sony isn't the best with keeping up... already had to deal with LG's shenanigans

posted on 25 Jan 2014, 08:44

59. RickB (Posts: 6; Member since: 25 Jan 2014)

Sony has been doing very well with open sourcing their builds so even if they don't provide updates as fast as we want, you can always upgrade the ROM yourself.

I'm running a custom ROM on my Xperia ZL and it easily doubled my battery life. It's still a Sony ROM so I have the great apps like Walkman and Dual Shock controller, but none of the bloatware that I don't need that just consumes the battery.

posted on 09 Feb 2014, 19:35

84. HarryWild (Posts: 60; Member since: 18 Oct 2012)

I finally found a phone that I want to buy and it not going be sold in the U.S.! It a high end phone too! Just crazy, Sony! No wonder you are in trouble!

posted on 10 Apr 2014, 14:11

87. Heretic (Posts: 18; Member since: 12 Jun 2012)

I agree.

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:33 23

2. AppleHateBoy (unregistered)

Relatively Small Display??

Yeah. We at PA expect phablet size displays in a phone barely bigger than an iPhone.

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:48 19

7. ArtSim98 (Posts: 3535; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)

Yeah, and I guess they didn't realize that the phones name is Z1 COMPACT. It's supposed to be smaller than average!

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:37 30

3. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10457; Member since: 14 May 2012)

Ray, I read the whole review. Now how the hell does having a small display count as a con when the iPhone 5S and 5C (as mentioned under the display category) has a 4" display?

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 10:34 5

15. JerryTime (Posts: 468; Member since: 09 Nov 2013)

See my comments under the Z1S vs 5s article and you'll have your answer. ;)

It's gotten to the point where these reviews and phone comparisons are laughable at best.

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 13:11 4

26. buccob (Posts: 2571; Member since: 19 Jun 2012)

Also my comment... I will summarize.

What readers should pay attention is to User Rating... And if that rating somehow is close to what PA gives, then you have a fair review... But the norm is that most user gives Sony smartphones a higher rating than what authors do, and that shows a disparity and probably a bias review.

We all know this phone is going to get >9.3 on user rating so it does not worry me... I will still buy it

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:39 27

5. imparanoic (Posts: 88; Member since: 15 Oct 2012)

phonearena crap bias review, relatively small displaÿ4.3, yet you don't mention this supposed disadvantage on iphone 5s or 5c even though the screen is smaller at 4"

I think phonearena should called iphone -arena

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 22:07

42. jael206 (Posts: 145; Member since: 18 Jul 2012)

But no matter how we bash PA for being bias, they still stand unapologetic.. What the face man!!

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:43 1

6. Xperia_droid (Posts: 39; Member since: 07 Nov 2013)

now IPS+Triluminos+X-reality display sounds interesting

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:50 1

8. Xperia_droid (Posts: 39; Member since: 07 Nov 2013)

of if i forget about camera
iphone 5s need to be scared

posted on 28 Jan 2014, 23:03

74. Lauticol (Posts: 341; Member since: 25 Jun 2011)

Triluminous, Bravia and X-Reality are all gimmicks Sony adds in it's smartphones displays, but you compare them to other company's flasgships and Sony screens are the worst

posted on 29 Jan 2014, 07:31

76. Xperia_droid (Posts: 39; Member since: 07 Nov 2013)

Bravia/X-reality are awesome when watching videos. they makes videos a bit oversaturated and boost contrast. yes sony's previous screen panels are not too great but i still prefer this for watching videos.
but i want 6" retina display with X-reality :D

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:52 2

9. mokhtar (Posts: 405; Member since: 06 Jan 2014)

now do a test between 5s / s4 mini / htc one mini , or you will avoid that " phone arena" because you know sony will smoke the others ??
Sony now : best phone z1 , best compact phone , best tablet ... you made phone area :p ?

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 22:07

43. PapaSmurf (Posts: 10457; Member since: 14 May 2012)

Z1 is not the best phone lol. Best compact is a tie between the 5S. Best tab? iPad Air/Mini 2.

posted on 28 Jan 2014, 15:22

72. mokhtar (Posts: 405; Member since: 06 Jan 2014)

For you yeah, for the world.and.reviewrs tablet z the best tablet and the award winning of 2013 :), best phone is z1 and ray and the other reviewrs say that not me :) ( note 3 is a phablet :))

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 09:52 13

10. Amir1 (unregistered)

best compact phone ever made. iphone is a thing of the past.

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 10:05 2

11. R-vjn (Posts: 185; Member since: 07 Jan 2013)

Finally IPS comes to Sony, thank god. I always hated the displays of xperia's, even Triluminos, when compared to the best IPS panels around.

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 10:12 2

12. ArtSim98 (Posts: 3535; Member since: 21 Dec 2012)

Ray, could you add 20 mpx photos, since those are just 8 mpx and they look quite bad imho.

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 10:30 8

14. emadshiny (Posts: 1144; Member since: 05 Dec 2012)

I cant see such a con as "relatively small display" for iPhone which is even smaller than Compact. Oh! I forgot here is iPhone arena

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 10:34 1

16. zhonghua (Posts: 2; Member since: 14 Jan 2014)

Mr. Ray, please share the video review if you do have. I can't wait to have this phone soon.. :) Nice review by the way.

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 10:40 5

17. spiderpig2894 (Posts: 590; Member since: 10 Jan 2012)

A cons that states "Relatively small display". Say whuut? How can you never say that to an iPhone yet you can say it to a "Compact" branded phone?! What kind of logic is that?

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 10:50 12

18. Joshing4fun (Posts: 1237; Member since: 13 Aug 2010)

The small display is a pro for this phone- that's the selling point!

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 11:15 4

19. Feanor (Posts: 725; Member since: 20 Jun 2012)

Hmm...9.0 is clearly a bit unfair when the larger Z1 brother with the significantly worse display, slightly worse performance and potentially less battery life received a better note. Also in comparison to iPhone I was expecting at least same score.

posted on 23 Jan 2014, 11:55

20. papss (unregistered)

Great phone other than the OS it uses. Honestly that's a deal breaker

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Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

Sony Xperia Z1 Compact

OS: Android 5.1 5.0 4.4.4 4.4.2 4.3
view full specs
Display4.3 inches, 720 x 1280 pixels (342 ppi) IPS LCD
Camera20.7 megapixels
Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, Quad-core, 2200 MHz, Krait 400 processor
Size5.00 x 2.56 x 0.37 inches
(127 x 64.9 x 9.5 mm)
4.83 oz  (137 g)
Battery2300 mAh, 10 hours talk time

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