We test drive the 23-megapixel camera on Sony’s mighty Xperia XA1 Plus, a mid-range mobile that can capture detail-packed photos and Full HD video without breaking the bank.
One of our favourite affordable phones of 2017 is Sony’s Xperia XA1, a well-crafted handset that boasted one particularly killer feature. Namely, the solid 23-megapixel rear camera, with f/2.0 aperture lens and Exmor RS sensor.
Now the Xperia XA1 has been boosted in size, in the form of the 5.5-inch Xperia XA1 Plus. The Plus-sized model offers a Full HD display, which is better suited to a bit of Netflix streaming on the move, while keeping that same rather good camera tech.
We’ve spent a few days testing out the Xperia XA1 Plus’ camera, just to make sure that photo and video quality is once again impressive for the price. Here’s our full review.
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Sony Xperia XA1 Plus camera review: App and features
Sony’s camera app offers a reasonably streamlined shooting experience, with plenty of settings and features buried away for those who want them.
You can boot up the camera at any time, even when the phone’s hibernating, simply by pressing and holding the dedicated shutter button on the right edge of the XA1 Plus. This generally loads the app in just a second, so you’re ready to snap away. You’re straight into the Superior Auto mode too, so another quick tap of that shutter button – or the on-screen virtual effort – will immediately take your first photo.
Dive a little deeper and you’ll find some manual controls, accessed by a swipe up the screen. This is definitely for experts only, allowing you to tweak factors such as the white balance to get just the snap you need. There’s no hand-holding, although you can at least see the effects right there on screen before you shoot.
Swipe down instead from Superior Auto and you enter video mode. This allows you to record up to Full HD resolution video at 30 frames-per-second; quite basic, although it’ll do the job for your home movies. Of course you don’t get any Super Slow Mo, which is restricted to more premium devices such as the Xperia XZ1.
One more swipe from video mode opens up the camera modes menu. This offers a small selection of bonus features, including Sony’s standard AR mode (adds dinosaurs and funky effects to your photos; great for kids). You also get a panorama mode and timeshift video mode.
Sony Xperia XA1 Plus camera review: Photo quality
As well as loading in the blink of an eye with that nifty shortcut feature, the Xperia XA1’s camera also captures photos without hanging about. Good news if you’re trying to take an impromptu action shot. The focus often snaps reasonably quickly onto your target, with delays only occurring with more challenging conditions.
That said, our old friend the post-shot processing lag is once again present and slightly irritating. That means you can’t burst shot or even take loads of photos in quick succession by hammering the shutter button, as you need to wait for the camera to be ready again.
Because of the reasonably quick shutter action, action shots usually only suffer a little blur – as long as lighting conditions are fine. Once the light drops, you can expect the shutter to struggle to keep focus, with quite blurry results more often than not.
Everyday still snaps come out looking as great as they did on the original Xperia XA1, thankfully. Colours really shine, with realistically reproduced hues that stand out especially well against basic backgrounds. You get plenty of detail packed into every snap as well. That means your photos will look great when blown up onto a big TV screen, for those inevitable family holiday slideshows.
High contrast situations do suffer a little, with less detail in darker areas compared with more premium smartphone snappers. However, for this price point the Xperia XA1 Plus performs well enough, producing keepers more often than not. You’ll want to limit your shots at night time however, as the results are always grainy. Colours and saturation levels also suffer, with quite ugly results.
Check out some of our samples photos in the gallery below.
Sony Xperia XA1 Plus camera review: Video quality
While you don’t have the option to shoot 4K Ultra HD footage on Sony’s affordable handset, unlike on Motorola’s Moto G5s Plus, our sample video came out well enough at Full HD resolution.
Audio quality is decent, with voices clearly picked up even in windy conditions. The lens generally copes well with changes in lighting conditions although the focus does seem to struggle with changing between near and far focal points, at short notice. There’s no way to manually focus while shooting either.
Sony’s SteadyShot image stabilisation does a decent enough job of smoothing things out. You can walk and shoot without too much judder, although the results are not quite buttery smooth.
Check out our test footage below.
Sony Xperia XA1 Plus camera review: Selfie camera
Around the front of the Xperia XA1 Plus you’ll find an 8-megapixel snapper that’s decent enough for those essential selfies.
Shots can be taken using the on-screen shutter button or dedicated hard button, although a much easier method is Sony’s effective palm gesture. This detects when your palm is raised and starts a quick countdown before taking a shot. No fumbling and possible phone drops, which is always a good thing.
The viewing angle is pretty wide, so you’ll easily fit in a few faces – or yourself stood in front of some majestic vista. Detail levels are decent and the only real struggle comes with low light environments and high contrast situations, as before. There’s no kind of flash feature using the screen, so you’ll need to find a light source to snap your mug – and occasionally you’ll get soft-looking shots with artificial lighting.
Check out our samples below.
Check out our in-depth Xperia XA1 Plus review for all you need to know about Sony’s mid-range mobile.