Camera

Galaxy Alpha video has continuous autofocus and stellar audio, while the Z3 Compact gets better as the lights start dimming down.

The Alpha comes with a 12 MP camera module, while Sony's flagship sports a 20.7 MP sensor, as its larger sibling. Both come with the typical 2 MP front-facing shooters, capable of 1080p video recording. The handsets are adequately fast to shoot and record a snap, with Samsung's Phase Detection Autofocus System giving it quite the edge here, while the Xperia Z3 Compact adds a dedicated shutter button to the scale, so you can take a photo from locked screen in a second or two.

The two camera interfaces are anything but bland, as they sport a bewildering variety of shooting modes, color effects, and neat depth-of-field tricks. You can bet that there are all the basics, such as real-time HDR, Panorama, and so on. Samsung's interface is easier to use than the cluttered Xperia camera app, but if you are shooting in the default automatic modes, taking pictures with both phones is a breeze. The Alpha shoots in the full 12 MP by default, while Sony's SuperiorAuto mode snaps in 8 MP, and you have to switch to Manual mode for all the 20 megapixels to kick in, with the accompanying artifacts and huge file sizes.



Both phones produce high-quality photos, with tones slightly warmer on the Alpha, while the Z3 keeps hues a bit colder by default. The two phones chose quite the different exposure settings when shooting in their automatic modes – the Alpha usually goes a step higher, making the frame appear brighter but more washed-out, though in some cases the situation is reversed. Outdoors the phones manage to grab good amount of detail, with a slight preference going to Samsung's phone.

Indoors, the Z3 Compact camera does a better job, while not with digital noise, which is higher than on the Alpha, but with often sharper look, and more eye-pleasing colors, compared to the lifeless production from Samsung's phone. With the flash on we do get a very slight blue cast from the Z3 Compact (no dual-tone flash here), but on the whole picture quality is good, while the flash of the Alpha gives those “blueish” pics.


Taking a pic Lower is better Taking an HDR pic (sec) Lower is better CamSpeed score Higher is better CamSpeed score with flash Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Alpha 2.68
3.2
340
248
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact 3.3
No data
494
402

Both the Z3 Compact and the Galaxy Alpha support 4K video recording capabilities, which returns some amazing levels of detail, but you can't use extra modes like HDR or Sony's excellent digital stabilization. Still, we'll have to give one up to the Galaxy Alpha, as its continuous autofocus works splendid during the 4K footage, while Sony makes you choose a manual 1080p recording mode for the continuous autofocus to kick in. The more traditional 1080p footage can be recorded with either 60fps or 30fps on both, and comes fluid, without artifacts or skipped frames. The Samsung-produced colors are more appealing, though, while the Z3 Compact footage looks rather bland in comparison. The Alpha also records stellar audio with 256 bitrate, just like the Note 4, for instance, though it has two mics, not three like the big brother.


Multimedia


Both galleries offer grid thumbnail views, and allow for rich picture editing from within the apps, as well as sport plenty of sharing options. Video playback is excellent on both handset, too, as they support DivX/Xvid/MKV files out of the box, and the players offer plenty of extras like zooming, previews, and subtitles support.

When it comes to the music players, we'd have to give one up for the Xperia phone, as it has a much sleeker and more comfortable interface. Both Z3's Walkman player, and Samsung's TouchWiz one have plenty of equalizer and visualization options built in, but the graphical environment on the Sony looks much more stylish than the squarish Samsung UI.


Sony offers two waterproof stereo speakers at the front, which sound clean, but are somewhat average in loudness, while the Alpha only offers one speaker at the bottom, which emits quality tunes, but is with pretty unimpressive output strength.

Headphones output power (Volts) Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Alpha 0.623
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact 0.30
Loudspeaker loudness (dB) Higher is better
Samsung Galaxy Alpha 72.2
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact 72


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