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Sony Xperia XZ Premium Camera Review

Sony’s first 2017 flagship phone, the Xperia XZ Premium, boasts a truly stunning 19-megapixel ‘Motion Eye’ camera. With the ability to shoot Super Slow Motion footage as well as detailed snaps and smooth 4K video, the XZ Premium’s camera is one of the best mobile snappers around. Here’s our review, complete with photo and video samples.

Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium may stand out from the flagship phone crowd thanks to its gorgeous 4K HDR screen, a world first for mobile visuals. However, equal attention should definitely be applied to the excellent Motion Eye camera, housed on the Premium’s rear.

We had the chance to play with our own Xperia XZ Premium for a full 24 hours, where we focused our attention on that shooter and its innovative features – including the ability to shoot Super Slow Motion video at a stunning 960 frames-per-second. Here’s our early Sony Xperia XZ camera review, complete with photo and video samples shot on the day.

Check out our full guide to the best smartphone cameras in 2017 and see what we think of the Xperia XZ flagship six months on in our long-term Xperia XZ review

Sony Xperia XZ Premium camera specs

19-megapixel camera

F/2.0 aperture lens

1 /2.3” sensor

Phase Detection Autofocus

Laser Autofocus

Up to 4K resolution video recording

SteadyShot image stabilisation

Super Slow Motion recording at 960 frames-per-second

Sony Xperia XZ Premium camera app and features

If you’ve handled a Sony Xperia smartphone such as the Xperia XZ in recent times, the XZ Premium’s camera app will be immediately familiar.

Boot up the app (which takes under a second usually) and you’re thrown straight into Sony’s Superior Auto mode. This is where the majority of users will spend most of their time. Superior Auto can intelligently determine the best settings for a given photo based on the environmental conditions. The result is good-looking, detailed photos.

Flick up and you get full manual controls, if you fancy yourself as a bit of a pro photographer. The Xperia XZ Premium allows you to mess around with the likes of white balance and ISO levels, to get a very particular shot.

If you flick down instead, you’ll switch to the XZ Premium’s video mode. From here you can shoot up to Full HD video at 30 or 60 frames-per-second. You can also turn on the Super Slow Motion mode, which we’ll cover in detail later.

If you wish to shoot 4K resolution video, you’ll have to flick down once more. This takes you to the special camera modes section. From here you can turn on Sony’s long-standing AR feature (which adds cartoon effects to your snaps), as well as shoot panoramas and record audio notes with your photos. And of course, there’s the option to record 4K Ultra HD footage.

Overall the app is solidly designed and user friendly. The fact that you have to swipe and tap to start shooting video means you might miss an impromptu action shot, but this problem exists in many mobiles, including Apple’s iPhone camera. It’s strange to see 4K presented as a separate option from the resolution settings, but this is perhaps to highlight the feature to users who might otherwise miss it.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium camera photo test and samples

The Xperia XZ Premium’s Motion Eye camera is hands-down one of the best mobile snappers around right now, if our first 24 hours are anything to go by.

While not the speediest of cameras, hampered in part by the processing time after each shot, the Xperia XZ Premium is nevertheless fast to focus. We only got blurry results when attempting a couple of adventurous macro shots. For the most part, that lens locks onto your subject in no time and keeps them in focus, helped by the excellent object tracking.

You can click on the following XZ Premium photo samples to enlarge them to their true size.

Moving subjects also pose little problem. If lighting conditions aren’t too weak, the XZ Premium can produce crisp results even if attempting to snap an animal in motion. Apparently this is achieved by the phone’s camera capturing four photos at a time and choosing the best-looking results to save. Good news for us parents and any dog lovers out there.

With a decent bit of light, you can expect absolutely stunning results from your photography sessions. Colours are reproduced to perfection and the amount of detail crammed into every shot is impressive. Shooting at 19-megapixels, your photos will look pleasingly crisp when viewed on a massive TV screen.

We’re even more impressed by the results in low light or high contrast situations. Our candle and sunrise tests were easily handled; the resulting photos offer plenty of detail despite those tricky conditions. You only start to see grain creeping in when shooting inside a dimly lit room or at night. Even then, the Xperia XZ Premium holds up well compared with rivals such as the iPhone 7 Plus.

Check out some of our XZ Premium photo samples in the gallery below.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium camera video test and samples

We’re just as impressed at the quality of our video samples, shot using all of the available resolutions.

Full HD footage shot at 30 frames-per-second looks fantastic when viewed back on a big screen. You once again have realistic colour reproduction and plenty of detail packed into each frame, with smooth results when capturing motion. The focus deals with sudden changes in focal distance and light with reassuring ease, for a consistent look.

Even better is the Xperia XZ Premium’s SteadyShot intelligent image stabilisation. This irons out pretty much all jerky motion caused by hand shakes and moving while shooting, for sublimely smooth results.

Bump up to 60 frames-per-second and the video results are incredibly lifelike. You don’t get full intelligent SteadyShot stabilisation, but Sony’s standard EIS does a great job still, eliminating almost all of the tremors and trembles.

Even 4K mode boasts some of the best stabilisation we’ve seen on a mobile camera. And of course the level of detail is simply incredible. There’s no denying, the Xperia XZ Premium is a serious step up compared with the original Xperia XZ.

Check out our Xperia XZ Premium video samples below.


Sony Xperia XZ Premium camera Super Slow Motion mode

We spent quite a bit of time with the Super Slow Motion mode, which can capture footage at a rather incredible 960 frames-per-second. To put that in context, the iPhone 7 is only capable of 240 frames-per-second, as are most other flagship devices.

To enter Super Slow Motion mode, you need to tap the special button in video mode before you start shooting. There’s no way to activate the feature if you’ve already started filming without turning it on. You then begin shooting as usual, except you’ll notice a special Super Slow Mo button has appeared on screen.

Any time you wish to capture some slow motion footage, simply tap that button. The Super Slow Mo recording will then kick in, for all of 0.2 seconds. This incredibly narrow window of opportunity is the only real problem with the Xperia XZ Premium’s funky feature. You have to be incredibly precise with your timing, as there’s no way to adjust the slow motion sections once you finish recording.

Factor in a ‘cool down’ period after each burst, which lasts roughly a second, and it’s all too easy to miss the killer footage you were after. Of course, we expect this is a problem that will be solved with a lot of practice. Get that timing just right and you can’t help but be blown away by the resulting video.

Stay tuned for our full Super Slow Motion footage, alongside a comparison with the iPhone 7 Plus’ slow motion results.

Sony Xperia XZ Premium camera review verdict

Sony Mobile has really delivered with the Xperia XZ Premium’s awesome camera tech. You can shoot seriously stunning photos and video footage in almost any kind of conditions, with utter ease – no kind of photography knowledge necessary. Manual controls are of course available if required, however. And that innovative Super Slow Motion feature is another big draw, even if the method of capture requires expert timing.

You’ll be able to pick up the XZ Premium in the UK from June, including in a fetching pink colour.

Check out our full Xperia XZ Premium camera review in video form below and stay tuned for our in-depth review.

You can grab the Sony Xperia XZ Premium from O2 from June 1.