We review the 23-megapixel Xperia X camera and 13-megapixel selfie camera, just two of the highlights of Sony's latest smartphone. Check out our full thoughts, along with photo and video samples.
The Xperia X is one of the first Sony phones of 2016 and Sony is taking a fresh approach this year, cutting back on pointless premium features that most people don't need to trim the cost. Thankfully Sony knows that most people use their phone as their full-time camera too, so the Xperia X's 23-megapixel snapper is one of the best you'll find on a modern mobile.
What's new with the Sony Xperia X's camera, compared with the Xperia Z5?
Firstly, the Xperia X's camera is bloody fast. Hold down the shutter button when the phone is asleep and it'll wake up, boot the camera app and (if you like) take a shot in roughly a second usually. That's great news if you're always missing those spontaneous photo opportunities, which parents and pet owners will know only too well.
The camera also boasts Sony's latest 'predictive autofocus' tech. This tracks your subject's movements and then predicts its future behaviour, to keep them sharp and cut down the time wasted on refocusing when you hit the shutter button.
The 13-megapixel selfie camera has changed too, with an f/2.0 six element lens in place for snapping your mug. The large sensor and some neat features help to produce sharp low-light shots, with limited grain and more natural skin tones. Six pictures are actually taken in low light situations and then stitched together to produce finer detail, while pixel binning cuts the grain (although also makes the end image smaller). Finally, the Xperia Z5's ISO 3200 camera has been boosted to ISO 6400, sucking up more light.
Sony Xperia X Camera Review: Photo quality
The first thing I noticed when looking back through my (many) photos was the incredible detail picked up in every shot. I was able to zoom right into a snap of a street scene and clearly read the license plate of a car that must have been a few hundred feet away, and that's just one of many examples. My photos look great on a big screen too, remaining perfectly crisp.
Daytime shots are not just sharp, they also boast realistic colours that accurately represent the scene, no matter the lighting. And as the lens boasts quite a wide-angle capture, you're able to fit a hell of a lot into every photo. Macro shots are also great, with the lens picking up all kinds of tiny details.
Low light performance on the Xperia X is almost as strong as the Galaxy S7's excellent camera. There's impressively little grain to ruin your snaps and a spot of light touching in Photoshop will brighten them up a bit, if you're not willing to jump into manual mode and tinker with ISO levels and the rest.
As for the predictive focus, it seems to work well at least half of the time. You need to tap your subject before snapping away, at which point the camera app places a yellow box around them and tries its best to track them. Usually it manages to keep up, although fast moving objects such as cars are almost immediately lost. However, the predictive focus can usually handle humans and does seem to speed up the photo taking process, while occasionally cutting down on blur.
Sony Xperia X Camera Review: Photo samples
Here's a slideshow of some of my test photos from Tokyo and London and scroll down for some larger shots that you can click to expand to their full resolution.
Click the following photos to see a full-sized image:
Sony Xperia X Camera Review: Video performance
The Xperia X can't shoot 4k video, but you have a Full HD option in 30 or 60 frames-per-second. Sony has also included its usual 'SteadyShot' image stabilisation, to cut the jitter from your home movies. At 60FPS you can have standard SteadyShot activated, while Sony's Intelligent Active SteadyShot mode is available for 30FPS movies. In both cases, the stabilisation software makes a big difference, cutting down on irritating shake when moving and shooting.
Here are some video samples shot on the Xperia X.
Xperia X selfie camera review
The 13-megapixel front-facing snapper is a strong rival to those found on the Galaxy S7, Huawei P9 and so on, and perfect for anyone who's constantly posting selfies from the club.
In normal light, our test shots at first appeared overly touched-up, with very soft, blemish-free skin. Then I realised that the 'soft skin effect' feature was activated by default. I knocked this off and every pic from then on was sharp and packed with detail (a little too much detail, as you can tell from my sleep deprived appearance), with natural colours shining through.
Drop the lights and the results are even more impressive. The Xperia X uses all of that clever tech mentioned in the first section and produces some clear, bright images that even beats what human eyeballs can see, in terms of clarity, detail and authentic skin tone. Here are a few examples.
Check out our video review of the Xperia X's cameras, including photo and video samples.
You can grab the Xperia X from O2 from £32 per month, with no upfront cost.