iPhone 7 Plus vs Sony Xperia XZ camera comparison: which does 2X zoom better?


A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine treated herself to an iPhone 7 Plus. Long story short, she loved it, and it wasn't only for the gorgeous shade of Rose Gold it was sporting. The screen, the battery life, and the performance all blew her away, but the feature she was enjoying the most was the dual camera. Her pictures were coming out clear and detailed, even when she was zooming – something that couldn't be said about her old phone. Or for most other phones, actually.

There's a reason why the iPhone 7 Plus's camera performs that well. Next to its main camera there's a secondary Telephoto cam with proper optical magnification, and its 2X zoom brings the subject twice as close without sacrificing detail. In contrast, most other phones have to digitally stretch the image to achieve the zoom effect, and doing so results in loss of image quality.

Yet I think there's an Android phone that could match the iPhone at the zooming game – the Sony Xperia XZ. It doesn't have a secondary camera. It has no optical zoom either. But it has a bigger camera sensor, a wider aperture, and a ton more megapixels – 23, to be exact – to capture even the most minute details in every image. In comparison, the Telephoto camera on the iPhone 7 Plus has only 12 megapixels to work with. Will the XZ's technically superior camera be able to produce better shots at 2X zoom? There's one way to find out!

Scene 1: Old-timer



On the left we have an image out of the iPhone 7 Plus, and on the right – a photo from the Sony Xperia XZ. Both shots were taken at 2x zoom. Can you name a winner? Looking at details alone, I can't. Both images look mighty fine even if I take a closer look, so I'm calling this round a tie. Looks like the 2x digital zoom on the XZ could prove just as useful as the iPhone's.

Scene 2: Santa Claus



Or maybe I spoke too soon. This pair of images was taken at the office, where light conditions aren't exactly perfect for a photo shoot-out. Both photos look fine, of course, but the iPhone's is noticeably more detailed. Why is that? Well, the Xperia XZ's camera tends to be more susceptible to digital noise, and digital noise is always more prevalent in low-light shots, hence the smudgy details seen in its photo.

Scene 3: The bookshelf



In this third set of images, the iPhone still has the upper hand over the XZ. This does not become obvious at first, but if you take a closer look, you'll notice how the detail in the texture of the wallpaper is mostly missing. Also, the titles of the books are clearer to read in the iPhone's photo. But then again, I'd say that both photos are usable as they look good enough.

Scene 4: In the woods



And the Xperia XZ is back in the game. For this next scene, the light from the setting sun provided it with enough light to capture a nice, sharp photo – one that matches the iPhone 7 Plus in terms of detail. Okay, maybe the iPhone does have a tiny bit more detail in certain areas of its image, but overall, I'd call this round a tie.

Scene 5: Happy



Alas, the Telephoto camera on the iPhone 7 Plus has its downsides. One of them: it is less sensitive to light compared to the phone's main camera. That's why in some low-light situations – in scenes such as this one – the iPhone's camera software chooses not to use its 2x zoom lens and shoots with its regular cam instead. Yes, the zoom in the iPhone's photo above is purely the product of digital image stretching. There's no optical zooming going on. Yet I can't say that the Xperia XZ's photo looks any better. When examined from up close, both photos have more or less the same level of detail, and I'd even say that in some areas, the iPhone's image does look clearer.

Conclusion


After doing what I do for a living for so long, I have developed the habit of observing how people use their phones. And one of the things I've noticed is that pretty much everyone uses the zoom feature of its camera – regardless of whether they're a pro photographer or if they got their first smartphone yesterday. That's why it makes perfect sense for smartphone makers to give their phones better zooming capabilities. Apple did exactly that. The Telephoto camera on the iPhone 7 Plus does a really, really great job at bringing the subject closer to the photographer. It isn't the first phone to do so using optical means, but it is the first to implement optical zoom in a sensible, practical way. All the iPhone 7 Plus needs is enough light to do its magic. 

So, can the Xperia XZ match the zooming capabilities of the iPhone 7 Plus? Yes, I'd say that it can, but only to a certain extent. As long as light is plentiful, the Sony Xperia XZ takes sharp, detailed shots at 2X zoom – shots that look about as good as those from the iPhone 7 Plus. For the most part, that is likely thanks to the technical advantages of the camera Sony is using, such as the higher megapixel count and wider aperture. In low-light environments, however, the XZ's camera is held back by its susceptibility to digital noise, while the image processing that's supposed to clear that noise isn't making things any better. 

But then again, even though the iPhone 7 Plus and the Xperia XZ use completely different zooming techniques, all of the images I showed you above turned out perfectly usable. I guess whoever said that the best camera is the one you have was onto something.

If you liked this post, perhaps you'll like some of our other articles related to the iPhone 7 Plus and its awesome dual camera. Check them out below:


Full resolution samples of all the photos used in this comparison are available in the gallery below:

Related phones

iPhone 7 Plus
  • Display 5.5" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 12 MP / 7 MP front
  • Processor Apple A10 Fusion, Quad-core, 2340 MHz
  • Storage 256 GB
  • Battery 2900 mAh(21h 3G talk time)
Xperia XZ
  • Display 5.2" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 23 MP / 13 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 820, Quad-core, 2150 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2900 mAh(17.5h 3G talk time)

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24 Comments

1. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

first and fourth picture XZ is clearly more detailed.. But iphone seem to handle light and colors better overall.

2. ph00ny

Posts: 2031; Member since: May 26, 2011

You can't really comment on color without seeing the shooting subject in person. Things we can comment on like light sensitivity, detail, and noise, it seems to be give or take where iphone 7 plus does better in low light and xz being more sharper in detail for outdoor shots

3. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

"You can't really comment on color without seeing the shooting subject in person" Exactly that! I wonder how some people can comment about the camera of a phone having better color reproduction than another phone's camera by just looking at photo samples on the web, but without seeing the shooting subject in person or without witnessing the scene where the photos were captured in the first place.

13. ph00ny

Posts: 2031; Member since: May 26, 2011

We can always see that color temp is warmer or colder compared to each other but there is no way to tell which of the two is correct or incorrect

20. techperson211

Posts: 1280; Member since: Feb 27, 2014

Loading...

4. sissy246

Posts: 7112; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Well said

6. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

Hi sissy! How's it going with you? Happy New Year, by the way... Cheers.

14. sissy246

Posts: 7112; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Going good Happy New Year to you. Hope you have a good one. Its definitely going to be a interesting one.

23. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

I think is safe to say every single human being, over the age of 1, has seen grass, dirt, trees and concrete.

5. Feanor

Posts: 1365; Member since: Jun 20, 2012

So we are looking at pictures that are largely similar and useful both from the iPhone and the Xperia XZ. So, Sony cameras are after all not as terrible as the hype train makes them appear?

7. josephnero

Posts: 780; Member since: Nov 16, 2011

Xz has great zoom for no extra hardware

8. Joms_US

Posts: 200; Member since: Oct 02, 2016

You need to go back to school if you think iCrap 7+ has optical zoom. It DOES NOT have. It It has 2 camera modules with plastic lens and nanoscopic sensor. Xperia XZ has the REAL optical zoom and it DOES better job than iCrap 7+ secondary camera module.

10. Joms_US

Posts: 200; Member since: Oct 02, 2016

Correction: Xperia XZ uses digital zoom.

9. cnour

Posts: 2305; Member since: Sep 11, 2014

iPhone 7 plus wins as usual.

15. sissy246

Posts: 7112; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

Read post 3

16. darkkjedii

Posts: 31045; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

If Apple said the best color was blue, cnour would make blue his favorite color, and all other colors would suck.

18. sissy246

Posts: 7112; Member since: Mar 04, 2015

LMAO very true.

17. ShortFuse

Posts: 3; Member since: Oct 14, 2015

Where these shot in 8MP Mode or 20/23MP? As an XZ user, I've noticed 8MP heavily reduces detail.

19. SmartPhoneMobiles

Posts: 187; Member since: Oct 16, 2016

Of course your shagging beloved iPone gonna win for you .. Hey iPone Arena why u even bothering ?doing ONLY iPone vs's Just write one sentence "out ipone is best we love it so much . Ull save so much time effort..we will get u.. :DDD

21. andriodfanboy1

Posts: 168; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

Sony winner for me

22. Chuck007

Posts: 1410; Member since: Mar 02, 2014

I've got to be high. I find myself liking the XZ pics more than the ones taken with the iPhone 7.

24. Leo_MC

Posts: 7432; Member since: Dec 02, 2011

I think if there were a comparison between a photo taken by the best dslr- saying it's an iPhone photo - and a miserable camera - saying it's taken with an Android device - there will still be some dumb ass, saying the iPhone's sucks big time...

25. Beastmode1

Posts: 85; Member since: Feb 08, 2016

7plus wins here...

26. sceamgid

Posts: 25; Member since: Nov 12, 2015

so when xz's pics are better , it called a tie... lol

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