Sony Xperia XZ1 Review

November 7, 2017 | Amy Davies | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The XZ1 follows on from the Sony XZ Premium, but is designed to sit alongside it as a separate offering, rather than replace it. It’s one of the first Android phones in the world to use the new Oreo operating system.

In terms of appealing specifications for photographers, the Sony XZ1 has a high-resolution, 19 megapixel 1/2.3-inch Exmor RS for mobile memory-stacked sensor - one of the highest resolutions for mobile phones currently on the market. The lens is an f/2.0 Sony G lens, which offers an equivalent of 25mm.

On the front of the camera, there’s also a high-resolution sensor, this time offering 13 megapixels on a 1/3.06-inch Exmor RS sensor. The lens is is 22mm f/2.0.

There are other useful specifications which are aimed at those with an interest in photography. This includes 4K video recording, super-slow motion video at 960fps, predictive capture, autofocus burst shooting and a mode which allows you to control various settings, such as ISO.

We were loaned the Sony Xperia XZ1 by Vodafone for the purposes of this review.

Ease of Use

The Sony Xperia XZ1 has a very plain look about it, which will be to some tastes, but not to others. Unlike some of the other flagship smartphones on the market, namely the Samsung Galaxy S8, iPhone X and Huawei Mate 10 Pro, there’s a bezel around the screen. This seems a little old-fashioned at the moment, but that comes down to personal taste. One thing which is good is that the back of the phone has a smooth matte finish, which unlike many of the metal backed or glass phones, doesn’t seem to attract fingerprints.

On the left hand side of the phone you’ll find a door which hides the Micro SD card slot. Very handily, you don’t need a special extraction tool to get this out as you do with many phones, instead simply sliding a fingernail underneath the door will open it up. This could be very useful for photographers wanting to quickly swap out memory cards regularly.

Sony Xperia XZ1
Front of the Sony Xperia XZ1

There’s a dedicated camera button on the bottom right hand side of the phone - or on the top right hand corner if you’re using the phone in landscape format. If you hold down the button for a couple of seconds when the screen is locked, you’ll automatically launch the native camera app. You can also swipe up from the bottom of the screen to launch the app, or select the camera app from the icon list on the main home screen.

Once you’re in the native camera app, you’ll see that there’s a range of different options and shooting modes for you to choose from. By default, the app launches in Superior Auto, which, as the name suggests selects the key settings for you. Across the top of the screen (or left when holding it horizontally), you’ll see the other shooting modes. There’s Manual, Superior Auto, Video and finally “camera apps” which gives you access to things like AR effect, Panorama and Creative Effect.

Sony Xperia XZ1
Front of the Sony Xperia XZ1 / Image Displayed

If you choose manual mode, you’ll be able to change key camera settings. To do this, tap the sliders button, and you’ll see you can change focusing mode, shutter speed, ISO, exposure compensation and white balance. To change a setting, tap the one you want, and then either use the slider to adjust a setting, or tap an appropriate icon. At any time you can tap reset to take the setup back to the default shooting settings. There’s a good range available here, but as is common with mobile phone cameras, you can’t alter aperture. There’s also no raw format shooting here, which seems like a strange choice for a phone which is otherwise so squarely aimed at photographers.

Whatever mode you’re shooting in, you can access extra settings by clicking on a cog icon in the bottom left hand corner (bottom right in landscape format). For example, when in manual mode, you’ll find settings here including self-timer, resolution, Auto Capturing and more. It should be noted that you’ll have to unlock the phone to access all of the different settings on offer.

Sony Xperia XZ1
Front of the Sony Xperia XZ1 / Camera App

When you want to shoot a photo, you have three different options. You can use the dedicated camera button as a shutter release, the virtual shutter button displayed through the app, or you can use the volume rocker switch. This is a good range of options which comes in useful no matter what angle you’re holding the phone in. Using the camera button makes it feel more like a “real” camera than perhaps other phones offer.

The shutter button can be configured to either take a single shot, or to fire off a burst of shots. The XZ1 features “autofocus burst shooting”, which ostensibly means that it will keep focus on the subject while taking a burst of rapid-fire shots. This it does very well, and is impressive for a mobile phone. It is able to keep up with relatively predictably moving subjects, with a decent hit rate. It’s not exactly going to be a substitute for sports photographers, but for every day shots of pets and kids, it’s very helpful.

Sony Xperia XZ1
Rear of the Sony Xperia XZ1

A couple of other settings of note. The flash can be switched on and off by tapping the flash icon in the corner of the screen. You can choose between Auto, Fill Flash, Red-eye reduction, Off, and using it as a torch. Another icon on the top of the screen is to switch to using the front camera for selfies. In order to engage the digital zoom, you use a pinch motion on the screen - digital zoom up to 8x is available.

Another useful feature which we’ve only touched upon briefly so far is Predictive Capture, which can be set to either “Auto” or “Off”. With this feature, the phone detects when you’re photographing a slightly moving subject and takes a few photos before you fully press the shutter release. You’ll then be able to choose (in camera), which of the four options you want to choose. This is good way to help ensure you capture certain expressions and the like, but occasionally the XZ1 believes you’re photographing something moving when you’re not - which is less helpful. Worse than that, occasionally it misses when you’re photographing something which moves, where it would have been handy. It would be good if the option to leave the feature switched on for an extended period was available, such as if taking a photo of a child.

Sony Xperia XZ1
The Sony Xperia XZ1 In-hand

To view images you’ve taken in playback, tap the preview of your last shot. If you launched the camera from a locked screen, you’ll only be able to view the photos you’ve taken in that current session.

For video, you can shoot up to 4K resolution. The XZ1’s display is only capable of displaying Full HD though, so it’s only really worth shooting in 4K if you have another display to view it on. This is a marked difference from the XZ Premium which offers a 4K display. Super slow motion video allows you to shoot at speeds up to 960fps. In order to record the super slow motion, you have to tap a button on the screen while it is recording normal video.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 19 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6Mb.

Considering the XZ1 is made by Sony, which makes excellent “proper” cameras, the quality of imagery from the XZ1 is, at times at least, a little underwhelming.

In good light, it’s capable of producing some vibrant images which are packed with detail - particularly if you’re restricting your viewing of the images to a phone screen.

However, as soon as the light drops, the XZ1 puts in a less than favourable performance. Images are smudgy, with a loss of detail particularly noticeable when you examine at 100%.

Generally speaking, exposures are well balanced, but it’s definitely worth tapping around the screen to force the camera to meter from a different point in the scene at times. Automatic white balance tends to skew slightly towards warm or yellowish tones - use Manual mode to switch to a more specific white balance setting if you’re finding it to be a problem.

The selfie camera is good, producing some good shots which are more detailed than the average low resolution front-facing camera - especially again in good light.

Video quality from the XZ1 is very good, but not particularly amazing. The 960fps is one of the XZ1’s unique selling points, but the quality of the video when you’re using it is pretty low - it feels like something which you’ll barely use once the novelty factor has worn off.


The Sony Xperia XZ1 has 7 manually-selectable ISO sensitivity settings ranging between ISO 50 and ISO 3200.

ISO 50 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso50.jpg iso100.jpg

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso400.jpg

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

iso800.jpg iso1600.jpg

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)


Focal Length

The Sony Xperia XZ1's fixed focal length lens is equivalent to 25mm in 35mm camera terms. An 8x digital zoom is also available when shooting at the full 13MP resolution.






The Sony Xperia XZ1 will focus accurately for close-up shots down to around 10cm from your subject.




With just a small LED flash, it's no surprise that the Sony Xperia XZ1 struggled to overcome the ambient light when shooting this white surface from a distance of 1.5m, although the flash burst does have good spread. With the flash set to standard Fill Flash, it produces a slight hint of red-eye, but you can avoid that by switching to red-eye reduction flash.

Flash Wide Off

Flash Wide On

flash_wide_off.jpg flash_wide_on.jpg

Flash Tele Off

Flash Tele On

flash_tele_off.jpg flash_tele_on.jpg


Flash Rear

ISO 64

Flash Front

ISO 64


The following night photo was taken at ISO 50 for 1 second.



Creative Effects

The Sony Xperia XZ1's camera app includes nineteen filter effects: Normal, Brightness-Contrast, Hue-Saturation, Mirror, Old Film, Motion Effects, Mosaic, Motion Trail, Nostalgic, Miniature, Vivid, Tint, Fisheye, Colour sketch, Comic, Partial colour, Harris Shutter, and Kaleidoscope. This is an unusually extensive and attractive selection of effects to be included with a standard camera app. All effects are previewed live, but it's a pity they're only recorded at 1920 x 1080.

filter-normal.JPG filter-brightnesscontrast.JPG
filter-huesaturation.JPG filter-mirror.JPG
filter-oldfilm.JPG filter-motioneffects.JPG
filter-mosaic.JPG filter-motiontrail.JPG
filter-nostalgic.JPG filter-miniature.JPG
filter-vivid.JPG filter-tint.JPG
filter-fisheye.JPG filter-coloursketch.JPG
filter-comic.JPG filter-partialcolour.JPG
filter-harrisshutter.JPG filter-kaleidoscope.JPG

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Sony Xperia XZ1 camera, which were all taken using the 19 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movies & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 3840x2160 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 17 second movie is 110Mb in size.

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 60 frames per second. Please note that this 18 second movie is 67Mb in size.

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 19 second movie is 42.4Mb in size.

This is a sample slow-motion movie at the quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 10 second movie is 14.9Mb in size.

Product Images

Sony Xperia XZ1

Front of the Sony Xperia XZ1

Sony Xperia XZ1

Front of the Sony Xperia XZ1

Sony Xperia XZ1

Rear of the Sony Xperia XZ1

Sony Xperia XZ1

Front of the Sony Xperia XZ1 / Camera App

Sony Xperia XZ1

Front of the Sony Xperia XZ1 / Image Displayed

Sony Xperia XZ1

Front of the Sony Xperia XZ1 / Main Menu

Sony Xperia XZ1

Front of the Sony Xperia XZ1 / Main Menu

Sony Xperia XZ1

Front of the Sony Xperia XZ1 / Manual Mode

Sony Xperia XZ1

Front of the Sony Xperia XZ1

Sony Xperia XZ1

Front of the Sony Xperia XZ1


Sony Xperia XZ1

Rear of the Sony Xperia XZ1


Overall, the camera on board the XZ1 is a little underwhelming considering its provenance. That said, it has some very useful settings which work very well - which give it an extra slice of appeal. 

While the camera performs well in good light, producing nicely saturated and well detailed images, in low light, it suffers from smudginess and loss of detail. Therefore, if you think you’re likely to be taking a lot of low light shots, the XZ1 is perhaps not for you. 

However, if you mainly take photos during the daytime, and perhaps you take a lot of photos of pets and kids, then the other functions of the camera - particularly Predictive Capture and Autofocus Burst can come in very handy. 

Sony has clearly aimed this phone towards photographers - evidence of which can be seen in the fact that there’s a specific camera shutter release button. There’s also a manual mode which gives you control over key camera settings. The omission of raw format shooting in the native camera app seems a little odd for this reason, and a shame when you consider that low light photographs are lacking detail. 

The look of the phone itself is quite basic and unassuming. Some will love this, some will be less bothered. Lots of modern smartphones don’t have a bezel, meaning the screen can take up the whole face of the phone - the XZ1 isn’t one of those phones, so it can perhaps look a little old-fashioned as a result. 

On the other hand, some aspects of the XZ1’s design are great for photographers - namely the dedicated camera button, and the fact that you can very quickly access the slot for a Micro SD card. 

You can buy the XZ1 for around £600 sim-free, or of course, there will be a variety of different contract options available. This makes the XZ1 great value when you compare it with other similarly specced models. 

On the whole, the XZ1 offers a good camera, with some intriguing functions for a phone. It’s a little disappointing in low light, and while images are good when the light is bright, they’re nothing to get overly excited about - a bit of a disappointment considering Sony is the manufacturer. Still, if you mainly shoot in good light - and like to photograph moving subjects - it’s a good choice worthy of your consideration. 

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 3.5
Value for money 4.5

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Sony Xperia XZ1.

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

The Apple iPhone 7 Plus is the first version of the most popular smartphone in the world to offer not one, but two integrated cameras. The iPhone 7 Plus also offers photographers 12 megapixel resolution and 4K video recording, plus the intriguing new portrait mode which uses both lenses to recreate the defocused look of a DSLR with a wide aperture lens. Read our in-depth Apple iPhone 7 Plus review, complete with full-size sample images, test shots, videos and more...

Apple iPhone 7

The Apple iPhone 7 is the newest version of the most popular smartphone in the world, offering photographers 12 megapixel resolution, an f/1.8 28mm lens with optical image stabilisation, and 4K video recording. Read our in-depth Apple iPhone 7 review, complete with full-size sample images, test shots, videos and more...

HTC 10

The HTC 10 is a new flagship Android smartphone with a 12 UltraPixel sensor, OIS in both its front and back cameras, bright f/1.8 lens, 24-bit Hi-Res audio recording, RAW file support and 4K video recording. Read our HTC 10 review to find out if it's the best smartphone for avid photographers...

HTC One (M9)

The HTC One (M9) is a new flagship Android smartphone with a conventional 20 megapixel sensor, 5-inch screen, RAW file support and a MicroSD card slot. Read our HTC One (M9) review to find out if it can satisfy the photographer in you...

Huawei Mate 10 Pro

The Mate 10 Pro is the latest flagship phone from the Chinese manufacturer Huawei, and as with a lot of new smartphones these days, it promises a lot for the keen photographer, not least Leica-branded f/1.6 lenses and dual colour / monochrome image sensors. Read our in-depth Huawei Mate 10 Pro review for photographers now...

Huawei P10 Plus

The new Huawei P10 Plus smartphone has once again been co-developed with Leica, this time around focusing on delivering "stunning artistic portrait shots in the Leica image style". Is this the best smartphone for photographers? Find out by reading our in-depth Huawei P10 Plus review...

Kodak Ektra

The new Kodak Ektra is billed as the perfect smartphone for keen photographers, from enthusiasts to experts, but does it offer enough to replace the smartphone that's currently in your pocket? Find out by reading our Kodak Ektra review...


The LG4 is a smartphone that focuses on image quality, with a 16 megapixel sensor and f/1.8 lens onboard, along with Raw format support and even a manual shooting mode. Is this the smartphone that every photographer has been waiting for? Read our LG4 review to find out...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1

Is it a camera? Is it a smartphone? No, it's the new Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1, which is bravely offering both in one device. Can the Panasonic CM1 replace a high-end camera and a premium smartphone? Read our Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 review now to find out...

Samsung Galaxy S6

The Galaxy S6 is Samsung's flagship smartphone, offering photographers a 16 megapixel sensor, a 28mm f/1.9 lens with optical image stabilisation, and UHD movie recording. Can the Samsung Galaxy S6 replace a compact camera? Find out by reading our in-depth Samsung Galaxy S6 review...

Sony Xperia XZ

The Sony Xperia XZ is a new photography-focused premium smartphone, featuring a 23-megapixel primary camera with a 1/2.3"-type Exmor RS imaging chip. Read our in-depth Sony Xperia XZ review now...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Sony Xperia XZ1 from around the web. »

The Sony Xperia XZ1 is just as solid, and just as frustrating, as its recent predecessors. Sony has made another flagship smartphone that gets the core elements right – display, camera, battery, power – but none really excel.
Read the full review » »

The Sony Xperia XZ1 has some interesting aspects going for it such as the 3D creator and Android Oreo out of the box but when you boil it all down it's just more of the same from Sony. Fans of Sony's design and hardware will enjoy the XZ1 but for everyone else, there are plenty of better options available.
Read the full review » »

IFA 2017 means new gadgets and you can rely on Sony to bring a fair few to the party. This year is no exception and there are three new Xperia phones to tempt you with. Here's our Sony Xperia XZ1 review.
Read the full review »


Memory and storage

64GB UFS internal memory
microSDXC support (up to 256GB)

SIM capability

Single SIM
Dual SIM
Nano SIM

Operating System

Google Android™ O

Processor (CPU)

Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 835 Mobile Platform


2700 mAh
Smart Stamina 3.0
Qnovo Adaptive Charging
Battery Care
Qualcomm® Quick Charge™ 3.0
USB power delivery


Water resistant (IP65/68)
Corning® Gorilla® Glass 5




148 x 73 x 7.4 mm


Moonlit Blue
Warm Silver
Venus Pink


5.2" FHD HDR Display
TRILUMINOS™ Display for mobile
X-Reality™ for mobile
Dynamic Contrast Enhancer
sRGB 138%

Main camera

19MP Motion Eye™ camera
1/ 2.3” Exmor RS™ for mobile memory-stacked sensor
Pixel Pitch 1.22μm
25 mm wide Sony’s award-winning G Lens F2.0
BIONZ™ for mobile image-processing engine
960 fps Super slow motion video
Predictive Capture (motion / smile)
Autofocus burst
x8 Digital Zoom
HDR Photo
0.6 sec Quick Launch & Capture
Low-light photo: ISO 12800
Low-light video: ISO 4000
Predictive Hybrid Autofocus
Anti-distortion shutter
Triple image sensing technology
SteadyShot™ with Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stablization)
4K recording

Front camera

1/ 3.06”  Exmor RS™ for mobile image sensor
22mm wide angle lens F2.0
Low-light photo: ISO 6400
Low-light video: ISO 1600
SteadyShot™ with Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stablization)


LTE (4G) Cat16 with Gigabit-class speeds


WiFi Miracast
Bluetooth® 5.0 wireless technology
DLNA Certified®
Google Cast
USB 3.1 Gen 1/ USB Type-C™

Fingerprint sensor

Fast and secure unlock


High-Resolution Audio (LPCM, FLAC, ALAC, DSD)
Digital Noise Cancelling
Clear Audio+
Stereo speaker with S-Force Front Surround
Stereo Recording
Qualcomm® aptX™ HD audio
Automatic Headphone Optimisation
Virtual Phones Technology


PS4 Remote Play


3D Creator
Movie Creator
AR effect
What's New
Xperia Lounge

Key accessories

Style Cover Touch SCTG50
Style Cover Stand SCSG50
Stereo Bluetooth® Headset SBH24

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