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Sony Xperia Z5 vs Xperia Z5 Compact vs Xperia Z3/Z3+ camera test

We test Sony’s new 23-megapixel camera packed inside the Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 Compact and compare with the old 21-megapixel snapper from the Xperia Z3+, Xperia Z3 and other prior Xperia phones.

We’ve already fully reviewed the Xperia Z5’s all-new camera, and put it up against the best Android has to offer right now: the Galaxy S6, the LG G4 and the Moto X Style. But how does Sony’s upgraded 23-megapixel camera actually improve on the old 21-megapixel snapper found in the Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3+, and is it any different from the camera in the Xperia Z5 Compact? Check out our vs camera comparison review to find out.

Read next: Sony Xperia Z5 review and Sony Xperia Z5 Compact review

Xperia Z5 vs Xperia Z5 Compact vs old Xperia camera test

The Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 Compact both rock the same 23-megapixel camera, so picture quality should theoretically be the same from both phones. And both new Sony handsets should of course be a step above last year’s Xperia Z3. So, is that really the case? To test all three phones, we took them on a tour of London – here’s our camera samples.

First up, the Xperia Z5…

Next, the Xperia Z5 Compact…

And finally, the old Xperia Z3…

First of all, the Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 Compact do indeed take more or less identical photos as expected. So if you’re after the best possible camera experience, you’ll be just as happy with Sony’s mini machine.

We found that in terms of detail and general sharpness, there was very little to distinguish the Z5 shots from those taken on the Xperia Z3. All of these phones produce crisp, clear shots in a range of conditions. However, the Xperia Z5 and Z5 Compact perform a little better in high contrast situations, with less dark and murky areas. In street scenes shot against a bright sky, for instance, the surrounding buildings were brighter with more detail.

However, our motion shots showed no real difference, with about the same amount of blur from all three phones when attempting to snap moving objects. That said, the Xperia Z5 and Z5 Compact focus almost instantly, so you’re less likely to miss an action shot.

And when it came to low light snaps, we were surprised to see that the Xperia Z3 actually performed a little better than the Z5 family using Superior Auto mode. The Z3’s shots were clearly brighter and more detailed, as you can see in the above galleries. We tried fiddling with the Xperia Z5 in manual mode and discovered that you can take better low light shots if you select a low light scene setting and maybe also tweak the ISO level, which results in brighter, more detailed pics. But that’s an extra step that most people won’t bother with.

In artificial light the result is about the same with all three phones, with realistic tones when shooting faces.

As for selfies, the Z5 and Z5 Compact were clear winners. They boast a 5.1-megapixel front-facing camera compared with the Z3’s 2.2-megapixel shooter and as a result they capture more facial detail (bad news if you’re a bit hungover) as well as more detailed backgrounds. Built-in HDR means that they can handle dodgy lighting too.

Xperia Z5 vs Xperia Z5 Compact video test

We also shot Full HD and 4K video on both the Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 Compact to see how they stack up. First, Xperia Z5:

And now the Xperia Z5 Compact:

Both phones boast excellent image stabilisation and capture sharp, detail-packed video, whether you’re shooting in HD or 4K. However, in 4K mode you only get ‘standard’ Steady Shot to cut down on motion juddering (which essentially just crops the picture a little), instead of the intelligent mode in HD.
 
The Xperia Z5’s lens snaps to focus quickly and can handle sudden changes in lighting conditions well, just like the Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3+. So your home movies should look great, no matter where you roam.
 
As for the old overheating issue, the Xperia Z5, Z5 Compact and Xperia Z3 can both shoot around 12 minutes of 4K video before the phone gets too hot and the camera app shuts down, or pretty much unlimited HD video. The Xperia Z3+ suffers from much worse heating issues, often shutting down well before the ten minute mark.
 

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