Camera

“Sony colors” no more, as the camera takes very natural-looking photos, while the software video stabilization rivals that of some OIS systems.

At first brush, Sony's newest flagship sports the same 20.7 MP 1/2.3” Exmor RS sensor with 1.12 micron pixels as its predecessor, the Z2, but Sony touts that the kit now has a new 25mm G Lens optics (f2.0), and other improvements under the hood, such as boasting up to 12800 ISO sensitivity. The most intriguing aspect of this camera package remains the large 1/2.3” sensor though . It is considerably bigger than the sensors found in most flagship smartphones out there. For example, the iPhone 5s and One (M8) have sensors of 1/3”, while the Galaxy S5's one is 1/2.6”. The massive Lumia 1020 has a larger 1/1.5” sensor, but it's way thicker and bulkier than the rest of the high-end crop. The Xperia Z3 camera records a shot, and is ready for another one almost instantaneously, for a fraction of a second. Since there is a two-stage shutter key on the right, you can also set it to fire up the camera app and take a picture from a locked screen, which takes just about a second or two.

The Sony Xperia Z3's camera user interface is mostly easy to use, especially when you're sticking with Sony's Superior Auto mode, which attempts to automatically pick the best settings for you, depending on the scene you're trying to photograph, and tends to be pretty accurate most of the time. By default, the Sony Xperia Z3's Superior Auto mode shoots at 8 MP. It does use the full resolution of the 20 MP sensor, but scales the pictures down - this way, the user ends up with high-quality 8 MP photos of 'easy-to-share' size that don't exhibit less visible artifacts when viewed in actual size. Furthermore, the Superior Auto mode enables you to use the camera's Clear Zoom feature, which produces good-looking, lossless-like digital zoom. Having in mind that one rarely needs a gigantic, 20 MP shot, we believe the Superior Auto mode is the more appropriate shooting mode for most consumers, due to its more easily manageable photos and the lossless zoom capability. Sony has also included a Manual mode, which allows you to shoot HDR photos, and tweak a variety of different settings on your own, and also lets you take 20 MP photos, if you happen to need this. We've used the Superior Auto mode to capture most of the sample images that can be seen in the gallery below, though at full resolution.

There are also some other interesting camera modes in the Z3. For example, there's Info Shot, which will attempt to give you useful information about the object that you're photographing. Or, there's also Social Live (powered by Bambuser), which lets you livestream up to 10 minutes of video directly to your Facebook feed. There is, of course, a number of picture effects, as well as the gimmicky AR (augmented reality) effects, which attempt to blend the real scene in front of you with a 3D scene of your choice. Some other cool shooting modes include Background Defocus, which aims to achieve the trendy shallow depth of field effect that's also possible with the HTC One (M8)'s Duo camera, or the Galaxy S5's Selective focus. Another nice feature is the Timeshift video mode, which lets you create slow-mo video. Sony's implementation of this mode is mighty fine, as it allows you to create 720p video with only certain moments of your choosing being rendered in slow motion. A couple of new regimes wiggle their way into the Z3 as well. Live on YouTube does exactly what it says, streaming up to 10 minutes of video directly to a YouTube channel in real time. The Multi Camera option allows you to record with another Xperia, or an NFC-equipped Sony camera, and see the scene from different angles simultaneously. Face in is another mode, resembling Samsung's Dual Camera, as it can record your face with the front camera, while commenting on something you shoot with the rear one, picture-in-picture style.

We were, frankly, surprised to see how natural the color representation of images taken with the Sony Xperia Z3 is. Sony usually boosts the color saturation and contrast a bit (or a lot), resulting in flashy hues, which are not representing the scene in front of the lens in a completely credible manner. With the Z3, however, Sony tweaked takes a what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach, producing natural colors. The automatic white balance measurements are valid with most every shot, leaving no weird overcasts in the scene. Last, but not least, the phone is able to grab a fine amount of detail..

Indoors, color presentation stays mostly natural. The images become a tad softer than they should be, and noise rears its ugly head, though not to a glaringly visible level. The LED flash does a decent job at illuminating a small scene in a fairly even manner, without casting weird shadows or changing the colors significantly.

The 2.2-megapixel front-facing shooter does a pretty good job when taking selfies, with natural colors, enough detail, and correct exposure most of the time outdoors. Indoors selfies become slightly softer and noisier, but are perfectly usable. We only wish that Sony had put a wide-angle front camera, as now it's only you and half of another friend's face that can fit in the frame comfortably, so it's hard to take the trendy “usie” group selfie with two or more people.


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 Z3 3.2
No data
452
395
Samsung Galaxy S5 2.5
3
300
243
LG G3 2.7
4.3
No data
No data


The 1080p video recording with the Xperia Z3 can be done with either 30fps, or smoother 60fps count. It is pretty good, too, with very natiral color presentation, right amount of detail, and quick exposure adjustments while panning around. Here we have to say some nice words for the software image stabilization tech of Sony, called Steady Shot, which is on by default while shooting 1080p footage at 30fps, and is so good, it can trick you that the phone has an optically-stabilized camera. The sound captured by the handset's microphone sounds lively, and isn't devoid of low frequencies. There's also 4K video recording on board, which looks great with the many details it captures, but will heat up the phone, and eat up your storage pretty fast. A heating warning appears when you fire up the 4K mode for the first time, and the thin phone indeed started warming up for the 30 seconds or so that we were filming. Moreover, those 30 second of 4K footage occupied the whopping 200 MB of storage at the end.



Multimedia


Sony separates itself in the audio department with Hi-Res quality upscaling, and active noise-canceling headphones support.

With the large, 5.2” IPS display, images, video and games really look gorgeous. The video player supports all the popular formats, and even if you manage to find a video that is not playable with the stock player, you should be able to fix this by downloading a capable third-party player from the Play Store.

The Walkman music player is quite cool and full with eye-candy. It sports some interesting features like ClearAudio+, which aims to give some more clarity to the sound, though it's basically a specific EQ preset. There are also some other sound enhancing tools like xLOUD, as well as a regular equalizer with many presents, including a custom option, allowing you to set your own equalizer, if you're feeling adventurous.

The Z3 includes Sony's DSEE HX (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) technology for the first time, which allows it to upscale tracks (MP3, AAC) that aren't in Hi-Res quality. It's like analyzing and enhancing the files' frequency range, reducing noise and distortion. Of course, the results aren't as if the file wasn't heavily compressed at all, but there is an audible difference with low-quality tracks.

The picture and video galleries present the user with a pleasant experience. The apps have a fresh and consumer-centric design – typical Sony – though they don't skip on the editing options, which are built right into the gallery interface.

The Sony Xperia Z3 comes with front-facing stereo speakers, but don't hold your breath for HTC BoomSound-like volume and quality. Indeed, the tones coming out of the speakers are pretty decent and having some nice depth to them, but they aren't very powerful at all. It's always cool having a duo of front-facing speakers, but in this case, Sony should have worked a bit more on squeezing some loudness out of it, if it's at all possible with such thin waterproof speakers

In some regions, the Xperia Z3 ships with no earphones in the box, in others it could come with the MH-410c model, which is capable of reproducing fine sound. They also have a convenient form-factor that makes them usable even for longer periods of time. Also, the Xperia Z3 can take advantage of the more premium, MDR-NC31E noise-cancellation in-ear headphones, which sound very nice and bassy. And, of course, they'll use the smartphone's processing power to negate ambient noise.

In addition, you can use the phone as a remote screen to connect to and control your games on PS4 with the so-called PS4 Remote Play for the Xperia Z3 series. Thus, when the TV is occupied, you can hook up the handset to the PS4 via Wi-Fi, and game with the DUALSHOCK4 controller, while the Z3 is resting in front of you on the separate Game Control Mount accessory.

Loudspeaker loudness (dB) Higher is better
Sony Xperia Z3 74
Samsung Galaxy S5 81
LG G3 81


FEATURED VIDEO

152 Comments

2. DogeShibe

Posts: 1121; Member since: Jan 10, 2014

Its good but kinds makes me feel like same old honestly. Come on sony. A new design is what i wish to see.

45. nohatenofanboy

Posts: 515; Member since: Jul 15, 2014

oh samsung does for 3 years and still gets 9 or above . this gets 8.5 ? not fair

70. Taters

Posts: 6474; Member since: Jan 28, 2013

Samsung's reboots are hardcore as hell. For example, the Galaxy S5 LTE A has QHD, SD805, LTE A etc.Plus its Korea only. This uses the SD801 and that's about it and is being released worldwide. No one could get two shots at their flagship for the year. That's cheating, hence the 8.5.

126. SuperAndroidEvo

Posts: 4888; Member since: Apr 15, 2011

Ok... Where is the video review? STILL, STILL waiting on it... PhoneArena.com you guys are really dropping the ball here!!!

139. MySchizoBuddy

Posts: 159; Member since: Aug 23, 2011

totally. 0.5 points less. rubbish. lets burn phonearena. they are sony haters /s

48. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

This design is way better dude.....this design is just for their flagship. And for compact but little tweaks. They will give some changes in Z4 for sure.... But any way Z3 is freaking gorgeous ....cant move my eyes from Z3.

53. DogeShibe

Posts: 1121; Member since: Jan 10, 2014

In my opinion , the last most stunning looking phone to me was Lenovo K900. I like this too...just wish that there were more vibrant colors and a NEW design.

54. Arte-8800

Posts: 4562; Member since: Mar 13, 2014

Love the design of that sharp edged phone.

134. Outdoorluvr

Posts: 1; Member since: Sep 26, 2014

If the Z3 looks just like the Z2, I bet the waterproofing is just as bad. My Z2 died after less than a month following a 1/2 hr swim in a pool. IP58 my ***. And beware... Sony doesn't warranty ANYTHING!

153. zenun12

Posts: 205; Member since: Oct 31, 2016

The Z2 and Z3 are certified only for submersion in freshwater to 1.5 meters for 30 mins. not 1-2 hours.

4. lee480 unregistered

iPhone 6 have a better camera? when u have not reviewed him? what a fair statement. Clear Daniel have a (false) impression of iPhone that affected the integrity. of the score. anyways, Daniel P is know for watering down Sony scores. Look how pathetic his list the nay factors. 'Hollow-sounding earpiece'? lol

7. GuitarPlayer

Posts: 63; Member since: Nov 15, 2012

iPhone 6 now comes with a much larger display, thinner body, better camera THAN IPHONE 5S, correct this PA!!!

10. Pattyface

Posts: 1658; Member since: Aug 20, 2014

I've read many reviews on the 6 and all are praising the camera so far. We shall wait and see but apple has always done good if not great in this area.

9. TimePass

Posts: 43; Member since: Feb 14, 2014

I feel its edges should me more curved then flat. my score 9 / 10.

11. RuiBacelar

Posts: 153; Member since: Feb 25, 2014

Just...How did the Z2 got 9.2 and Z3 8.5?

14. Pattyface

Posts: 1658; Member since: Aug 20, 2014

Read the review rules my friend. The z2 came out 6 months ago and many phones since then so the rating will change. It's still a great score and shouldn't change anyone's opinion of this phone.

15. anleoflippy

Posts: 596; Member since: Jan 03, 2013

I think it's because of the screen of the Z3,

23. pwnarena

Posts: 1129; Member since: Feb 15, 2013

yeah you know how they are picky with the display. i don't understand what happened to sony. they suddenly want a display that behaves like amoled. if that's their goal they should have just shifted to amoled.

77. Ashoaib

Posts: 3309; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

display is not sony's strength... display of Z was behind the competition... then display of Z1 was behind the competition.... finally they fixed it in Z2... but now again they are screwing it... when its LCD, let it be LCD... why try to make it punchy like SAmoled?

87. pyradark

Posts: 895; Member since: Jun 10, 2012

Just wring calibration. Their is a setting where u can adjust that. White balance

98. Ashoaib

Posts: 3309; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

I know that, I have the same calibration in my huawei phone... but still this calibration is not enough to make the display accurate... when you make the color temperature warm then the colors become greenish and when you make the color temperature cold then the colors become bluesh... white is not a perfect white with any adjustment

147. mohsen1231

Posts: 1; Member since: Jul 13, 2014

thats right why z2 got 9.2 and z3 8.5 ? why phonearena ?????

12. AppleJuice

Posts: 145; Member since: Sep 12, 2013

That display is a mess except the brightness.

13. anleoflippy

Posts: 596; Member since: Jan 03, 2013

Agreed. However, there is a dedicated setting to change the white balance.

16. RuiBacelar

Posts: 153; Member since: Feb 25, 2014

Upon carefull reading of the review I get it. The display colours and the somewhat lack of real big differences from the Z2 earned the Z3 the 8.5? That...makes sense actually. Some penalization for not being a worthy investment over the Z2. Btw, Z2 is my daily driver.

67. pwnarena

Posts: 1129; Member since: Feb 15, 2013

no, there are differences the close to accurate z2 display is now made to behave like a defective amoled in the z3 the inconscpicuous speaker slits near the sides are now made more prominent the marketing is now as childish as others could get (trolling apple whenever there's the chance)

17. alexvv

Posts: 165; Member since: Oct 16, 2013

And soon when they review the iphone 6 it will get almost 10/10. No logic at all. I have to admit though that the colour temperature is wayyy off. What were they thinking?

24. pwnarena

Posts: 1129; Member since: Feb 15, 2013

sony: look samsung's amoled display is being widely praised. let's make ours act like one and even brigther.

28. AppleJuice

Posts: 145; Member since: Sep 12, 2013

They wanted to make an Amoled but failed.

18. Classique

Posts: 73; Member since: Jan 10, 2014

Wow I love this phone is compelling I've been using WP for the past 2 years and it's my favorite OS (I've owned and used phones with the most recent phones for the Android and iOS) and unless something really compelling comes out from Microsoft by November this is my next phone

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

Xperia Z3
  • Display 5.2" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 20.7 MP / 2.2 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, Quad-core, 2500 MHz
  • Storage 16 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3100 mAh(14h talk time)

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