The greatest thing about the 12MP Exmor R sensor on the Xperia S is how quickly it can be accessed. The camera interface is the same rich in camera functions UI as in the Xperia arc S, down to the 3D Sweep Panorama mode, whose results can only be watched on Sony's 3D HDTVs via the HDMI port.

There is also a 3D Sweep Multi Angle panorama mode now, taken directly from the Sony Cybershot camera series, which has a narrower frame range, but can be previewed directly on the phone by tilting the screen left and right for a nice stereoscopic effect

We were amazed by the new Quick Launch mode which is on by default - the phone goes from a locked state with the screen off to taking a picture in a little over a second, claims Sony, and it is indeed so. Well, maybe two seconds if it is darker, but this is as fast as it can get, and a wonderful achievement by Sony’s camera engineers. The iPhone 4S, for example, is very fast to focus and take a photo or video too, but you still have to unlock the screen first to reach the camera. The Xperia S is the fastest smartphone snapper out there, period, and this was confirmed in a cowboy shootout.

Moreover, the pictures themselves are nothing to sniff at - sharp, with true colors, a very good amount of detail and accurate white balance. We only had trouble when trying to shoot during the night by frantically pressing on the camera key - it often locked focus unusually slow and then just froze on us, taking at least ten seconds to register the captured frame, hopefully a glitch with our unit. Also, the night pics from the Galaxy S II we carried with us turned up with a little less blown up highlights like street lamps, neon signs or car headlights in automatic shooting mode.

Indoors the Xperia S shots tend to turn a bit softer and yellowish when the light dwindles, and add some noise in low light situations, but nothing out of the ordinary for such conditions happened. When the light was enough, indoor photos turned sharp, with good colors and enough detail. The LED flash does a decent job from about 5 feet distance. 

The 1080p video capture is very smooth with 30fps average, and the videos exhibit a lot of detail, accurate colors and clear sound. The nighttime videos were rather noisy and with blown highlights, which tends to be the problem with most phone camera sensors.   

Sony Xperia S Sample Video with image stabilizer ON:

Sony Xperia S Sample Video without image stabilizer:


The music player has a more minimalistic interface now, with Metro-style “tiles” under the My Music tab that categorize your songs by artists, albums, playlists and so on. Even the back button in the player’s interface has an uncanny resemblance to the back button in Windows Phone. There is a “Sense Me” category that can pick tracks based on your mood, and the Music widget appears on the lock screen so you can control your playback faster from there.

We report with delight that the trademark powerful loudspeaker we are accustomed to in most Xperias is here, capitalizing on Sony’s years of experience in building musical gadgets. It is strong, clean and doesn’t sound tinny like most smartphone loudspeakers.

The phone played all MPEG-4 files we threw at it, up to 1080p definition, but the default video player is pretty bland - no loop function, subtitle support, battery life indicator, or any other additional eye-candy for that matter, only basic playback. The player does DivX/Xvid files, but with only software rendering, so they look pixelated, and we ended up downloading a player off Android Market.

It does allow you to lock the screen while playing, though, and you can access the video editor quickly from its settings for some basic trimming and inserting, which, however, works only with 720p footage and below.

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