The Xperia XZ Premium is Sony’s current flagship smartphone and comes with a 19MP 1/2.3-inch image sensor that is based on Sony’s 3-layer stack technology for smartphones, allowing for fast readout speeds and a 960 fps slow motion video mode that can record 720p footage. In addition the technology reduces the rolling shutter effect in both still images and video. Other imaging features include a laser-assisted AF, an RGBC-IR sensor for natural color rendering and Sony’s SteadyShot 5-axis digital video stabilization.
Key camera specifications:
- 1/2.3-inch 19MP stacked BSI CMOS sensor with 1.22μm pixel size
- f/2 aperture lens with 25mm (full-frame equivalent) focal length
- 4K video support
- 960 fps super-slow motion
- ISO up to 12,800 (Photo) and 4,000 (Video)
For a traditional single-camera design, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium does a good job of capturing both still images and video, but without breaking any new ground or seriously challenging our benchmark leaders. Its poor performance on our new Zoom and Bokeh tests pulls down its overall score. The camera does have several innovative features, however, including a 960 fps mode for super-slow motion videos that help it stand out. On the plus side, the XZ Premium features relatively strong autofocus performance for both photography and video, as well as very good stabilization for video.
The XZ Premium does a good job with exposure in bright light, but suffers somewhat from limited dynamic range and a susceptibility to flare that affects its performance in back-lit or harshly lit scenes. Users will be rewarded with better images if they can get the sun out of the frame as much as possible. XZ Premium images also sometimes suffer from subtle color casts, even in good lighting conditions.
Indoor lighting gives the XZ Premium some trouble with exposure, and its limited dynamic range also causes blown-out highlight areas in our high-dynamic-range scenes. Indoor scenes sometimes suffer from slight color shading as well.
Flash photos are adequate, with accurate white balance in flash-only scenes — although under-exposure is an issue. In addition, photos suffered from visible noise and poor detail preservation. Flash exposures are also inconsistent, sometimes varying from frame to frame in low light.
As illustrated by its overall Video score of 84, the XZ Premium has fairly well-rounded Video performance. In particular, it has effective stabilization and generally good target exposures. However, its video performance is marred by inconsistencies in sharpness when, for example, the user is walking while recording. While walking indoors, white balance can also be inconsistent. In addition, the XZ Premium has a tendency to refocus even when it isn’t needed.
Photo sub-scores explained
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium achieves an overall Photo score of 82, which is calculated from its sub-scores in tests that examine different aspects of its performance under different lighting conditions. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at these image quality sub-scores.
Exposure and Contrast (83)
The XZ Premium does a good job of providing accurate exposures in most cases, although it can underexpose slightly indoors or in low light. Its contrast scores are reduced because it has limited dynamic range compared to some other similar phones.
In general, the XZ Premium does a good job of rendering colors outdoors, although sometimes even outdoor images suffer from a slight color cast. Indoor images often suffer from a slight pink color cast.
Accurate autofocus in good light is one of the strengths of the XZ Premium, giving it quite a good score in this category. In low light, however, only some images in our repeated shooting tests are completely in focus.
Texture / Detail (68) and Noise (58)
The XZ Premium suffers from texture rendering irregularities across the visual field, which detracts from overall image quality. This is particularly true in low light. Similarly, noise performance suffers in low light when there is motion in the scene or if the camera moves while being held.
The XZ Premium suffers from a number of significant image artifacts. The most significant is flare in brightly-lit or back-lit scenes. However, lens shading, ringing, and some distortion also contribute to a low score here.
The XZ Premium’s flash performance has similar characteristics both when flash is used as the sole light source and when it is mixed with a low level of indoor light. In both cases, exposure is good (although slightly low when flash is the only light), as is the white balance. There is also relatively little light fall-off when the camera’s flash is paired with some ambient light. However, the images suffer from a lack of detail and from strong noise. When flash is the only light source, there is also some visible color shading. Another issue is that exposure varied from frame to frame in our repeated shooting tests.
For outdoor scenes, the relatively high resolution of the main camera helped provide the XZ Premium with solid results. Noise performance is acceptable, but there is some loss of detail. In lower light, though, it didn’t perform as well as phones with larger pixels or faster lenses.
Bokeh mode (20)
With its small sensor, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium has a relatively large depth of field and it also doesn’t have any computational imaging features to improve the way the image renders out-of-focus areas. So it is not surprising to see that it has a poor Bokeh sub-score.
The Sony Xperia Premium XZ achieves a total Video score of 84. As with the photo scores, this is calculated from the sub-scores it achieves in a number of categories of tests that help define its overall video capabilities, specifically: Exposure and Contrast (73), Color (79), Autofocus (78), Texture (47), Noise (69), Artifacts (80), and Stabilization (87). Of particular note, Video clips show noticeable ringing, and there is some inconsistency in frame rate, as well as some judder, that impacted the Artifacts sub-score.
Sony’s Xperia XZ Premium features a capable smartphone camera that gets the job done — especially in good light — but which doesn’t rise to the heights of the top phones from other manufacturers. In particular, it is sensitive to harsh lighting conditions outdoors, and finicky in low light and indoor situations. Video performance is also competent, but marred by problems with loss of detail. The stacked sensor does allow the XZ Premium to support a novel 960 fps slow-motion mode, but even at 19MP, it doesn’t produce overall better images or video than many other phones with lower or similar-resolution sensors.
- Generally good exposure both indoors and outdoors
- Low noise in low-light conditions
- Accurate autofocus both outdoors and indoors
- Very limited flash falloff when mixed with indoor lighting
- Effective stabilization
- Good target exposure in most conditions
- Accurate and stable white balance outdoors
- Susceptible to flare
- Texture-rendering irregularities
- Slightly limited dynamic range
- Slight color casts both indoors and outdoors
- Exposure irregularities when using flash mixed with indoor light
- Frame-to-frame differences in sharpness when walking
- Inconsistent white balance indoors
- Frequent unnecessary refocusing