Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra Review
Lots of pixels, decent photos, but finicky autofocusing
Sony just loves boasting about its cameras, and the XA1 Ultra is no exception: it’s equipped with an impressive-sounding 23 MP rear shooter and a 16 MP front one. But in true Sony fashion, the high pixel count doesn’t necessarily imply high quality.
The camera app is okay but somewhat confusing, as a number of different shooting modes, like panorama or burst for example, are delegated to separate, independent “apps” within the camera app. Another annoyance is the two-second delay between taking a picture and being able to preview it, as the gallery initially only shows a low-quality preview before loading the real thing. On the other hand, the dedicated camera button can be used to quickly launch the camera from stand-by, which is nice.
And speaking of delays: when using the dedicated shutter button, the camera would randomly decide not to immediately take a picture, but instead keep on focusing for as long as several seconds, ruining not just one or two shots. Also, focusing is problematic even when it supposedly works: more often than not, particularly in close-up shots, the XA1 Ultra’s camera would focus on a background object, even when you’ve manually tapped on one in the foreground.
For a mid-ranger, the Xperia XA1 Ultra is perfectly adequate in terms of camera quality, though it isn’t nearly as good as Sony would like you to believe. Small sensors just don’t mix that well with high megapixel counts, and the XA1 Ultra proves it under more difficult conditions, such as low-light photography.
The XA1 Ultra records grainy videos and also has some troubles focusing. The rear camera doesn’t feature OIS like the front one does, and Sony’s SteadyShot does little to fix that problem. And lastly, the best available shooting option is full HD @ 30 FPS.
Being nearly the size of a small TV, the XA1 Ultra is a great way to enjoy a movie or TV show on the go, thanks to the surprisingly good-looking full HD screen. Being a mid-ranger, of course, it isn’t HDR-certified, but we’ll take what we can get.
Looking at the front of the device, one might mistake the top and bottom grilles as a placement point for front-facing stereo speakers. This, however, isn’t the case – the XA1 Ultra’s speaker is a single mono one, and can be found on its bottom. It’s sufficiently loud, but sound quality is, unsurprisingly poor, and sometimes prone to slight distortion. In headphone mode, the XA1 Ultra can easily reach painfully loud levels, and sound quality is sufficiently good.