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Sony Xperia XA2 Camera Review: The best £300 smartphone snapper?

The 23-megapixel camera slapped on the back of Sony’s Xperia XA2 smartphone is one of the best you’ll find for the £300 asking price. We’ve been testing the XA2’s shooting prowess for a few days now and here’s our full thoughts, plus photo and video samples.

Sony continues to impress us with its smartphone cameras as we dive into 2018. Even quite affordable Xperia mobiles tend to deliver dependable everyday shooters, which can capture attractive photos across a range of conditions.

For instance, last year’s Xperia XA1 costs under £300, yet would suit even quite demanding daily photographers. Thankfully these sharp shooting skills have translated to the fresh new Xperia XA2 as well. This updated model was just launched and hits the UK this month, with a £299 asking price. And considering what you get in return, that’s strong value for money.

Note that the Xperia XA2 Ultra uses the same rear camera tech as the standard Xperia XA2. However, the selfie camera is significantly different. On the XA2 you only have a single 120-degree 8-megapixel lens, while the Ultra model combines this with a 16-megapixel secondary lens (complete with Optical Image Stabilisation).

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Sony Xperia XA2 camera review: Specs and features

On paper, the Xperia XA2 camera tech seems identical to last year’s Xperia XA1. You once again have a single-lens 23-megapixel shooter on the back end, complete with Sony’s Exmor RS sensor. Meanwhile, around the front is an 8-megapixel selfie camera for snapping your beautiful mug.

However, the low light sensor has been updated, which in theory should make for better night shots. Not to mention improve photos taken in dimly lit bars and restaurants.

Flick to the video mode and you’ll notice a new feature on the Xperia XA2. The slick Slow Motion Mode allows you to shoot a video at 120 frames-per-second and then edit it afterwards, to add in a slow-mo effect. This can only be applied to a single section, and it can’t quite match the incredible results from Sony’s Super Slow Motion capture (found only on premium Xperias). However, it’s still a great addition and can produce some awesome results.

Likewise, the Xperia XA2 also offers up more shooting settings for standard home movies. You can now record Full HD video at 60 frames-per-second, for a more realistic feel, or bump up to 4K resolution.

Sony Xperia XA2 camera review: Photo quality

With decent lighting conditions, the Xperia XA2’s rear camera certainly doesn’t disappoint. By default you’ll shoot 20-megapixel images with a 16:9 aspect ratio, so our test photos packed plenty of detail when blown up onto a TV screen. You can also expect quite natural colour reproduction, rather than a bunch of overly-processed hues.

For the most part, scenes with tricky contrast are well handled. Only very bright skies and the like prove a problem, with some slight oversaturation occurring. Low light snaps have their own limitations, with a bit of grain creeping in when things start to get dark. However, keep a steady hand and you can often get a usable shot. Just make sure your subject stays still as well, or you’ll end up with a headache-inducing blur.

Selfies taken with the standard Xperia XA2’s 8-megapixel front-facing camera are also prone to oversaturation and can be blotchy or blurry in low light. However, that wide angle lens means you can capture plenty of scenery, or a group of mates in one shot. And if you go for the Ultra model, you can swap between that lens and a secondary 16-megapixel snapper. This doesn’t have the same wide-angle benefits, so the view is more limited. However, the built-in Optical Image Stabilisation means this lens is better suited to taking photos in dim conditions.

Xperia XA2 Ultra camera test

XA2 Ultra selfie cameras: 16MP on left, 8MP on right

Another benefit of the Ultra model is the front-facing LED flash. This can be activated at any time to illuminate your mug, for much better results in darker conditions. That’s a feature you won’t find on the standard XA2.

You can check out some of our sample photos in the Xperia XA2 camera test gallery below.

Sony Xperia XA2 camera review: Video quality

Video quality is decent for this price point too. The Xperia XA2 captures reasonably sharp Full HD movies, with the lens quickly snapping onto your subject and keeping them in focus. You can freely move and shoot too, as the SteadyShot image stabilisation really helps to cut down on shudders and shimmers.

If you bump the Full HD frame rate up to 60 frames-per-second, you’ll want to stand as still as possible. That SteadyShot feature isn’t available with these settings. That fluid finish gives a more realistic result however, and our footage came out well (as long as we stood still).

The Xperia XA2 also offers the option of shooting at 4K Ultra HD resolution. That’s still relatively rare at this price point, so it’s great to see on Sony’s mid-range mobile. Results are again solid, with some basic digital stabilisation again reducing the tremors as you move about.

Check out our Xperia XA2 video samples below.

Sony Xperia XA2 camera review: Verdict

The Xperia XA2 is a perfectly good tool for snapping your everyday existence, if you’re on a tight-ish budget. We were rarely disappointed by our photos and home movies are good enough to share, especially on that 4K resolution setting. Only the low light functionality is limited, especially with moving subjects.

You can grab the Sony Xperia XA2 from O2 on contract.

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