Sony Xperia Z2 vs Samsung Galaxy Note 3
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.
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.
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.