Sony Xperia X Review
A potentially great camera seemingly ruined by questionable camera software?
At the core of Sony's photography offering with the Xperia X is a homemade, 23-megapixel Exmor RS sensor with an aspect ratio of 4:3. To help with focus performance, the Sony Alpha team ensured the X offers Predictive Hybrid Autofocus for quicker locks. Up front, we've got a very generous, 13-megapixel Exmor RS sensor with wide, f/2.0 lens.
On the software side, we're treated to an experience identical to that with the Xperia Z5. The camera app is more minimalist than before, and offers easy and quick operation. Standout features include the ability to turn on the camera through the physical, two-step shutter key on the right, but also by double-clicking the power key (redundant, no?), along with some special modes. Included out of the box are Face in picture, Style Portrait (various filters and effects), and Timeshift video (slow motion). More modes can be downloaded through the camera app.
On paper, both the main camera on the Xperia X sound potentially competitive. And they probably can be, but we couldn't help feeling that its mostly software holding it down.
Shooting in the native (but not default), 23MP mode, we get shots that are very consistently characterized by a few glaring issues. First off, detail is soft and all kinds of muddy, and falls behind in terms of clarity when compared with stronger rivals in the field. More importantly, however, there seems to be a very serious problem with blur—the middle portions of images are sharp, sure, but towards the edges, and especially the left side, lens distortion is pretty significant. Noise is also a bit on the strong side, and noise-reducing algorithms only further soften very fine detail. As if not enough, dynamic range can sometimes be rather poor.
On the plus side, focus is really fast to lock, though Sony's claim of less than a second from standby to a focused image are highly exaggerated in our experience, even when using the physical shutter key to launch the camera as suggested.
To make sure this behavior is consistent, we went out again and took a number of snaps at the default, 8MP resolution. While some visual artifacts (noticeable only at very high levels of zoom) accompanying 23MP photos were no more, in general the same issues applied. Noise is sometimes through the roof when tons of light isn't hitting the sensor, and focus and detail sharpness continue to be a significant concern.
Low-light photography is no better, with more of the same. Added on top, however, the Xperia X just can't handle bright light sources at all, and snaps are even more blurry and detail mushy than before.
Despite the Snapdragon 650 being capable of 4K UHD video capture, such a mode isn't available with the Xperia X. Instead, you get 1080p capture at either 30 or 60 frames per second.
As for quality, we're actually very pleased. The SteadyShot tech works well, stabilizing footage, and overall video and audio quality is pretty good. Detail is decent, frame rate: stable, with great color fidelity and dependable exposure control.
With the Xperia X, Sony has gone for a dual, stereo speakers setup alike to the one available with the Xperia Z3 in terms of placement up front. The duo offers middling volume strength, though the stereo effect is obviously a nice extra when watching video or gaming.
In terms of audio fidelity, we're overall pleased with the Xperia X, with relatively deep and authentic sound being blasted by the loudspeakers up front. Unfortunately, Sony isn't including earphones with the box.