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Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact Camera Review: Mini Motion Eye Master

Sony’s latest flagship duo is finally upon us and we’ve been testing out the rather tasty snappers nestled on the smaller XZ2 Compact to see what they’re made of.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact camera review: Hardware

Like its bigger sibling, the XZ2 Compact rocks the latest build of Sony’s Motion Eye camera tech. The main 19-megapixel Exmor RS memory-stacked sensor boasts 1.22μm pixels, predictive hybrid autofocus and an f/2.0 aperture.

Thanks to the assistive power of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 chip, which lies at the Compact’s heart, you now also have the option of 4K recording with HDR (high dynamic range) visuals. The 960fps super slow motion video capture that we were first introduced to on last year’s XZ Premium has received a bump from 720p HD to Full HD resolution too.

The front-facer shoots with a comparatively paltry 5-megapixel Exmor R sensor but enjoys a 23mm wide angle lens with an f/2.2 aperture and the same five-axis SteadyShot electronic image stabilisation (EIS) chops as the main camera.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact camera review: Software

Sony’s camera interface remains relatively unchanged compared previous incarnations, with only minor tweaks to the interface design to accommodate some of the new functionality on board.

It’s important to note that the settings menu is dynamic; presenting different options like capture resolution, depending on whether you’re shooting stills or video. A little more confusing is the separate ‘Camera Apps’ tab, which holds some of the Compact’s more creative shootings modes; like artistic effects, the company’s signature augmented reality lenses and a standalone Bokeh tool which can also be accessed directly from the phone’s apps drawer.

General usability is governed by swiping, with which you can change modes or jump between the phone’s cameras, whilst manual controls are handled with taps and drags. The settings also let you bind certain actions like zooming to hardware buttons and there’s a dedicated dual-detent camera key on the side of the phone to work with too, which is appreciated.

Whilst Sony boasts about the XZ2 Compact’s eight times digital zoom, shooting through a single rear sensor means it’s lossy, so you’re degrading image quality the further you crop in.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact camera review: Photo quality

Whilst robust manual controls are on-hand, most of the time the phone’s default superior auto mode will serve you well. The XZ2 Compact doesn’t come with the fastest shutter around but the shots it captures are consistently pleasing to the eye, irrespective of whether they’re taken in low light or high contrast environments.

In naturally lit scenarios it can resolve fine detail exceptionally well and macro photography in such cases will guarantee impressive results. The Compact renders light nicely too, demonstrating the sensor’s competently wide dynamic range and accurate colour capture. Images taken in darker environments clearly undergo more heavily-handed softening and smoothing to minimise noise and grain but when stepping back to take in the overall shot, it makes for a natural, well-exposed and well-coloured final image.

The predictive capture feature impresses by presenting additional shots taken either side of your shutter press, making the XZ2 Compact a powerful choice for snapping action shots, sports or moving subjects like pets or kids.

When it works, the dedicated bokeh mode can also produce some really effective results, with creamy depth of field that you can adjust to your liking right after capture. The caveat at the start of that statement is needed, however, as sometimes it can seriously struggle to separate foreground subjects from the rest of the scene or just fail to offer background blurring altogether.

Despite the lower resolution front-facer, shots captured by the 5-megapixel selfie camera are actually very good. If you feel the need to jump into manual, your options are, by comparison to the phone’s main snapper, limited (you can only tweak exposure and white balance) but it takes a good selfie, the lens is nice and wide, and the soft skin mode is a simple but effective digital beauty boon.

Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact camera review: Video quality

Video is really where this camera’s main talking points lie. First up, the XZ range’s already excellent 4K recording now benefits from the addition of HDR capture too; a first in the mobile space.

You have the option to flip it on or off before pressing the record button and the difference when it’s in play is notable. Bright areas or high contrast scenes produce the most striking visuals whilst detail and colour otherwise lost in darker areas of a shot are kept visible.

Even at 4K resolution, you can see the five-axis SteadyShot EIS system working hard to keep footage stable and whilst it isn’t buttery smooth, it’s an unquestionably welcome inclusion.

You’ll likely have the most fun with the XZ2 Compact’s other video party piece. 960fps super slow motion was a big talking point on last year’s XZ and XZ1 handsets but now Sony’s upped the ante even further by raising the capture resolution to Full HD.

Having more pixels to play with is unsurprisingly awesome and in the right conditions, you can add drama to even the most mundane of things. Low light is the enemy of super slow motion video and that’s a glaringly obvious truth when looking at the XZ2 Compact’s low light slow-motion game, so keep it bright and you should be OK.

Dropping the resolution to 720p gives you twice as much slow motion capture time but you lose detail and the image is heavily cropped in too.

Read next: Sony Xperia XZ2 Review


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