Sony's cameras in the Xperia Z1 and Z1 Compact have been disappointing, despite the oversampling 20MP, 1/2.3" sensor - although not matching the specs inside the Nokia camera flagships, images from the two Z1s should have been somewhere in the ballpark - and they weren't. Sony, it seems, was still learning about smartphone camera image processing and electronics.
By reputation, at least, the Z2, ostensibly with the same hardware, produces much better results. I'll be doing a more in depth comparison at some stage, but I wanted to get up some data points, first in this feature going head to head with the Nokia Lumia 1020, running Windows Phone.
As usual, there are some caveats. The Z2 does everything it can to force users to spit out images at 8MP, which is, to be fair, a very sensible choice. While the 1020 does the same, but for 5MP. Although these resolutions are different, so are the fields of view of the two camera lenses, so however I do it, I can't use the 1-for-1 interactive comparator. I've thus settled for 1:1 crops from the centre detail in each case.
Also, note that these were all shot on a wet, dim and stormy UK spring day - light levels were low, though you could argue that this makes for a better 'ultimate' test of a smartphone camera!
Test 1: Distant detail
Here's the overall scene, as viewed by the Lumia 1020:
Despite the lower resolution (5MP versus 8MP), I prefer the 1020's photo, with greater detail and consistency, though I'll admit that the 1/2.3"-sensored Z2 does get very close. Both phone cameras did well here under very trying conditions.
Test 2: Distant detail (take 2)
Something a little closer, flood boards around 25 metres away. Check out the ford - getting on for 1.5m deep etc! Here's the overall scene, as viewed by the Lumia 1020:
Comments welcomed here - the lower output resolution definitely counts against the Lumia 1020 here, with slightly less resolved detail - yet somehow the Z2 photo doesn't satisfy - it's clearly heavily processed, to be lighter and sharper than the scene was to the naked eye. In contrast, the 1020's image is much more natural and true to life - which is, probably, what most people go for when shooting a photo in the first place?
Test 3: Close detail
Some animal skulls, around 2 metres away, in the same dingy light and with rain starting(!) Here's the overall scene, as viewed by the Lumia 1020:
The same story is repeated here - with pretty good detail in the Z2's 8MP image, yet with greater real world accuracy and satisfaction from the 1020's 5MP version. I'd emphasise that I'm being really picky here, but then isn't that the point of pixel-peeping comparisons?
Test 4: Indoors, very low light
A clock in an alcove and with flash disabled on both devices, the light levels falling on the clock face were really pretty low, despite how well lit the camera phones try to portray the subject! Here's the overall scene, as viewed by the Lumia 1020:
A stunning result from the Lumia 1020 here - considering the conditions, the clarity and purity of face and details are just incredible. Helped by the OIS keeping the image free from shake during the long 1/12s exposure. Unbelievable. And yes, we're 1020 fans on AAWP, but still.... The Xperia Z2 photo isn't terrible, but you can see noise and very slight loss of clarity. It seems that if the Z2 does implement oversampling from the underlying 20MP camera then it doesn't do a very sophisticated job, being blown away by the 1020's version.
Test 5: Indoors, low light and moving subject
Ah yes, my standard moving subject shot, complicated here slightly by this being done during the daytime - so there was both natural light coming in through a window, plus fill-in flash from each camera phone. Here's the overall scene, as viewed by the Lumia 1020:
As usual, the Lumia 1020's OIS and Xenon flash produce a very crisp image, though extremes of movement (look at the edges of my fingers) show slight ghosting because of the natural light also registering on the sensor during the 1/50s exposure. The Xperia Z2 image isn't too bad, though the facial features and fingers show typical blur from a LED-flash-equipped device.
No doubt readers will have their say below in the comments, after grabbing the JPGs for themselves... I'd say that the Z2 camera is, indeed, better tuned than that in the underperforming Z1 and Z1 Compact. All photos from the Z2 here were taken in 'Superior Auto' mode, the default and, in theory, most intelligent, but, ultimately:
- the 1/2.3" sensor and optics are roughly half the size of those in the 1020
- the oversampling seems rudimentary at best, certainly not in the 1020's PureView class - more work is needed by Sony here
- the LED flash is typically weedy and leagues apart from the 1020's Xenon flash
Across all images, the Nokia Lumia 1020 comes out on top by most metrics. Perhaps a better question to ask is whether the Z2 is now good enough for most users - I think this has to be 'yes'. And, after all, coming second to the Lumia 1020 isn't much of a slight - it's like lagging behind Usain Bolt in a running race(!)
I'll be looking at the Z2 camera in more detail as part of review material in a few weeks.
PS. Watch for a similar piece on AAS, comparing the Z2 with the famous Nokia 808 Pureview(!)