Camera


The 20-megapixel camera of the Xperia Z2 captures great images with lively colors and sharp detail. The Note 3 has a great 13-megapixel camera as well, but it’s one step behind.

The Xperia Z2 comes with a 20-megapixel camera, while the Galaxy Note 3 sports 13-megapixel main shooter. The Xperia Z2 can brag about having the largest sensor of any Android phone - its 1/2.3” backside-illuminated sensor is nearly 30% larger than the 1/3.06” sensor on the Note 3. Why is this important? A larger sensor comes with the physical advantage of having more space to collect light (and that could be a sizable advantage for, say, low-light images). As for the optics, the Z2 features a wide 27mm G lens with f/2.0 aperture, while the Note 3 sports a 'slower' f/2.2 lens with narrower focal length of 31mm.

It’s worth pointing out, that in the default Superior Auto shooting mode, the Sony Xperia Z2 shoots 8-megapixel photos instead of 20MP ones. We prefer having high-quality 8MP photos instead of not-so-good 20MP ones. They are also smaller in size and you can share them around quicker. You can still shoot full 20-megapixel images (without this processing benefit) in Manual mode, but they often turn out not so sharp, noisier, have some artifacts and generally are pleasing. That's why we have shot our Z2 camera samples in the Superior Auto mode at 8 megapixels.

In terms of pure ergonomics, both phones are a bit cumbersome as their large size makes certain tasks like shooting with one hand hard. The Z2, however, has the advantage of a dedicated 2-way shutter key with nice travel that makes the task much easier.

The camera app on the Xperia Z2 fires up quickly and you can also wake the phone directly into the camera by holding the dedicated camera shutter key. The actual interface is fairly simplistic with large separate buttons for still and video capture in the Superior Auto shooting mode. You also have Manual mode for more control over settings such as ISO, white balance, and so on. Those manual settings are a bit deeper in the menus than we’d like so it’s not all that convenient to quickly make adjustments.


The Xperia Z2 also comes with a new Background Defocus option that allows you to blur the background in images. This is an effect similar to what we’ve seen on cameras like the HTC One (M8), and in Google’s new Camera app, but on the Xperia Z2 the implementation is poorer, as the phone fails to blur some parts of the images, leaving your images with patches of blurred and focused areas scattered around.

The Note 3, on its part, also features a fairly standard and rich camera app with separate buttons for image and video capture, but unlike the Z2, it does not automatically switch between shooting modes, and instead offers you to manually select the appropriate shooting mode.


The actual quality of captured images on both is among the better we’ve seen out of a smartphone, but we prefer the images from the Xperia Z2 slightly better. The Z2 captures photos with consistently great, vivid colors, rich detail, and reasonable levels of noise outside. The Z2 is not perfect, though: it tends to have softer detail around the edges of the image, it often burns the whites, and there are some artifacts in the pictures. The Note 3, on its part, has a bit less consistency in colors, sometimes skewing towards the yellow, but a bit more pronounced (larger) detail but its images are not that sharp and clean. On the plus side, both have a very snappy auto-focus.

Indoors, in low light conditions, the two cameras behave very differently. The Xperia Z2 fires up the flash in even strong indoor light and cranks up ISO up high to achieve brighter images at the expense of more noise. These brighter images have more pleasing colors (less of the typical blue-cast of flash-lit pictures), though, as the flash is used more as a fill light, not as the main one. On its own, the flash is strong and capable of illuminating darker scenes well. The Note 3, on the other hand, automatically uses the flash only in darker scenes, and while noise is much less obvious on the Galaxy, its colors are artificially cold and images don't look as good. The flash on the Note 3 is a bit weaker as well, but still capable enough to light up objects that are not too far away.

The Xperia Z2 and Note 3 also both sport 2-megapixel front-facing cameras that are good enough for the occasional selfie, or for some video facetime with friends or family.



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
Sony Xperia Z2 3
No data
452
398
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 2.7
No data
494
353


In terms of video, both the Xperia Z2 and Note 3 can record 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160 pixels) footage at 30 frames per second. If you are among the 1% who actually have a 4K monitor, you’d see much finer detail and texture in 4K videos. It is also handy for people who do post-processing. The Z2 also has the capability to record HDR video, which makes a great difference in some conditions, boosting details in the shadows that would otherwise be lost. Neither camera has optical image stabilization, but the Xperia Z2 does a good job of digitally stabilizing video.


Multimedia


The large and vivid displays, and excellent codec support, make both the Xperia Z2 and Note 3 great for watching videos on the go. The stereo speakers on the Z2, however, are on the quiet side.

Both sporting large sharp and vivid displays, the Z2 and Note 3 are great devices to watch a movie on the go or look through photos. Sony includes a great gallery app that supports pinch to zoom to resize thumbnails, so you can either quickly browse through lots of small thumbnails, or quickly spot the details of an image in large thumbnail view. The Note 3 gallery does not fall behind and also supports this handy feature. Both galleries can also break down your image collection by folders, but Sony’s has even more advanced options to show you pictures by location or detected faces.



Both ship with their own custom video player: Sony’s one has the more eye-catchy looks with a featured preview of one video running on top, but in functionality both are similarly capable of running all common video codecs.

For music, the Z2 has the Walkman player that is also rich in options, and looks great with large album art. The Note 3’s music player is equally capable of playing back and categorizing your music, but just lacks that sleek finish and style of the Sony player.



The Sony Xperia Z2 sports front-facing stereo speakers, but our big hopes for them quickly took a cold shower, as while sound from them is pleasingly clean with even some depth to it, they are simply not powerful enough and are on the quiet side. The Note 3 might not sound as clean and lacks that slight depth to its sound, but its speaker is at least loud enough.

Headphones output power (Volts) Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z2 0.29
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 0.43
Loudspeaker loudness (dB) Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z2 71
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 76


FEATURED VIDEO

68 Comments

66. jellmoo

Posts: 2701; Member since: Oct 31, 2011

Seems pretty straight forward: If you want a fun toy that you can take in the bathtub, get a Z2. If you want a productivity machine that's great for the office, get the Note 3.

57. gigaraga

Posts: 1454; Member since: Mar 29, 2013

Well the Z2 is more like a Z1S already exists...it's more like a Z1S2. ..whereas the Note 3 is true upgrade and way better in terms of basically everything that makes a smartphone a smartphone. Z2 doesn't stand a chance. People should just face the truth rather than just blindly commenting that the Z2 is much better.

52. Owlet

Posts: 450; Member since: Feb 21, 2011

PhoneArena, Note 3 doesn't have a speaker on the back. Really? How bad do you know your phones??? It's on the bottom edge to the right of the charging port last time I checked.

62. Victor.H

Posts: 1117; Member since: May 27, 2011

Thanks, it's fixed now.

42. isprobi

Posts: 797; Member since: May 30, 2011

I am tempted to replace my Xperia Z Ultra with the Z2 mainly for hte camera and stereo speakers. But I think the 1.2 inch reduction in screen size would be hard to live with now.

40. Immolate

Posts: 310; Member since: Jun 17, 2011

Really not fair to the Z2 to compare it to a phone that it's not designed to compete with. The screen is way too small and it doesn't have a stylus. Now if they could increase the screen size to 5.7ish without increasing the size of the already massive footprint, they'd be able to compete with the G for second place.

35. wilsong17 unregistered

Note 3 amazing battery life and speed

29. JayBEE

Posts: 182; Member since: Apr 03, 2014

I suggest comparing the Z2 to the Oppo Find 7, whenever the latter is released. Even though I have the Note 3, I really want the Oppo Find 7, but got tired of waiting. My only complaint with the Note 3 is that it is a wee bit large for one-handed usage.

34. wilsong17 unregistered

Have you try turning on one hand use

27. vuyonc

Posts: 1094; Member since: Feb 24, 2014

Both are probably the best in their respective classes right now and you can't go wrong with either but dang the N3 has really stood the test of time (well about 8 months anyway).

20. papss unregistered

These are two great phones.. I've owned a note3 and would love to get my hands on a z2. Those complaining about size can always buy a iphone 5s for your baby hands

21. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

There is size and there is ridiculously unacceptable size. The Note 3 size for a 5.7 inch screen and a stylus/Wacom digitizer. Perfectly acceptable. The Z2 size for a 5.2 inch screen is freaking ridiculous.

44. isprobi

Posts: 797; Member since: May 30, 2011

I see so many people post opinions like this. But I think Sony put the large bezels on the phone to make it easy to hold in landscape mode. The Note 3 is mainly a portrait orient device. Owning a Xperia Z Ultra I can tell you that I need those bezels to hold the phone in landscape comfortably.

46. Arte-8800

Posts: 4562; Member since: Mar 13, 2014

When you hold these 2 phones on the ear it looks like a joke. But I always use a good bluetooth instead of looking weird holding a big phone

18. redmd

Posts: 1967; Member since: Oct 26, 2011

PA, we want S5 vs Z2 review comparison.

16. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

Holy crap the Z2 and M8 are huge. No way a 5.2 inch screen phone should come anywhere near the size of a Note 3 and yet the Z2 is near enough. Disgusting how bad the current crop of 2014 flagships are.

47. splus

Posts: 174; Member since: Nov 26, 2011

Everyone is raving how S5, M8 and Z2 are good, but I couldn't agree with you more! Just a bit larger screens than 2013 crop, but much larger phones overall. If I'm buying a phone of that size then I want to have larger screen! I wouldn't be surprised if G3 is smaller than Z2, even though it has a much larger screen...

15. StraightEdgeNexus

Posts: 3689; Member since: Feb 14, 2014

Both are excellent phones. All comes down to size preference.

10. drazwy

Posts: 378; Member since: Jan 15, 2014

Summed up in 4 words. One exists, one doesn't.

11. DEATHSTROKE9

Posts: 399; Member since: Nov 09, 2013

What does that even mean?

24. drazwy

Posts: 378; Member since: Jan 15, 2014

Just what it says. I can buy a Note 3. I can't buy a Sony Z2. Most of the people that have ordered one in the extremely limited release areas, are still waiting for it. And those that did actually get one, have build quality issues. So I guess it technically exists, but it's not a real viable purchase.

58. cheetah2k

Posts: 2341; Member since: Jan 16, 2011

spot on drazwy. Sony released the Z2 in Feb, yet no one can get one without paying huge prices on ebay.... And then there are dead pixel and overheating issues... Another Sony fail..

56. TheGenius

Posts: 339; Member since: Mar 06, 2014

Look at artsim98. He has been waiting for his z2 for ages now and there's no sign of it yet. ! :p

65. drazwy

Posts: 378; Member since: Jan 15, 2014

He preordered one?

67. TheGenius

Posts: 339; Member since: Mar 06, 2014

Yup. Look at comment #8

8. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Sonera is the worst carrier their delivery takes forever.

9. jaytai0106

Posts: 1888; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

still waiting for your Z2? That's taking forever I said!

36. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Yep. This is horrible I'm so nervous all day just waiting for the message to come lol

6. mokhtar

Posts: 405; Member since: Jan 06, 2014

z2 is clear winner here .. better display , better camera , better design ,and better sound experience .. and WATERPROOF .. SO no chance to note 3 here .. Z2

12. refillable

Posts: 1071; Member since: Mar 10, 2014

I am speechless about those fake statement...

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