Sony Xperia XZ Review

February 28, 2017 | Amy Davies | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Xperia XZ is Sony’s flagship smartphone. It features a 23-megapixel rear camera, along with a 13-megapixel front camera. Other features of the rear camera include a 24mm Sony “G” lens, 5x Clear Image Zoom (digital zoom), a high ISO speed of 12800 and BIONZ image processor. Also capable of recording 4K video, the Sony Xperia XZ has 5-axis stabilisation to help keep your footage steady. Other features of the phone which may be of interest to photographers include the ability to increase the 32GB inbuilt storage with a MicroSD card, a full HD Triluminous display and it is water and dust resistant.

Ease of Use

If you’re familiar with the Android operating system, using the onboard camera on the Sony Xperia XZ will be very straightforward.

There are a couple of ways to access the camera. On the side of the phone is a specific button for the camera, which you can hold down to start up the camera. You can then use this button to focus, by half pressing, and to release the shutter, by pressing all the way down. The button is placed to mimic a shutter release button on a normal camera - being on the top right hand side (when holding the phone in landscape mode).

Alternatively, from the lock screen, you can swipe up from the bottom right hand corner to access the camera. If the phone is already unlocked, you can tap the camera app from the home screen. If you are using any third party apps, such as Instagram, you can access the camera via that too.

Sony Xperia XZ
Front of the Sony Xperia XZ

Unlike the iPhone iOS camera, there’s quite a few options for you to choose from once you are within the camera app. By default, the Sony Xperia XZ will shoot in fully automatic, leaving you free to concentrate on composition and so on.

On the left hand side of the screen (if holding the camera in landscape format), you’ll see you can switch between the different shooting  modes that are on offer. If you move downwards, you can select M for manual, which gives you access to a variety of advanced settings. If you move upwards, you can choose between video mode, and a wide variety of different camera apps. If you choose this latter option, you’ll see a host of options appear on the screen

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

Generally, this is where you’ll find the “creative” options, such as Sweep Panorama, Sound Photo, Creative Effect, AR Effect and so on. It’s also where you need to head if you want to shoot 4K video - shooting video in the standard video option will limit you to shooting Full HD (1080) video.

When shooting in Superior Auto, you still have choices you can make. You can switch the flash on and off by tapping the flash icon in the bottom left hand corner of the screen. If you tap a settings icon in the bottom right hand corner (it looks like a cog), then you’ll see a range of other choices available. There’s Self Timer, Colour and Brightness, Resolution, Object Tracking, Auto-Capturing and Touch to Adjust.

Self-Timer has three options - off, three seconds and 10 seconds. Brightness and Colour allow you to change the exposure compensation and hue/saturation of your image, but in simpler terms. You do this with sliders that appear on the screen if you select the option. Resolution gives you the choice between 23MP (maximum), at 4:3, or, if you prefer you shoot at 20MP at 16:9, 8MP at 4:3, or 8MP at 16:9. The last two options could be useful if you’re trying to save memory space.

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

Object Tracking is just a simple on/off, Auto Capture allows you to switch on Smile Shutter - the Sony Xperia XZ should automatically take a shot if it detects a smile, while Touch to Adjust gives you the option to let you change focus point with a touch, or to also be able to change Brightness as well.

When shooting in Superior Auto, you should see at the bottom of the screen the scene mode is displayed, for example, Macro or Low Light. This will change depending on what you point the camera at, and can’t be set manually in this mode. Also on the left hand side of the screen while in auto mode, you’ll find that you can switch the flash on and off, and you can switch from the rear camera to the front facing one.

If you switch to shooting in manual mode, you’ll find that you can change quite a lot of settings - but this is not a phone which allows you to shoot in raw format. Just underneath the shutter release icon (if you’re holding the phone in landscape orientation), you’ll see an icon that looks like a group of sliders. If you tap that, you’ll be able to alter white balance, exposure compensation, shutter speed and focus - you can use autofocus or you can manually.

Sony Xperia XZ
Rear of the Sony Xperia XZ

In this mode you can also choose a scene mode - tap the icon marked SCN just above the shutter release button (again if you are holding the phone in landscape orientation). Here you’ll have lots of choices including landscape, night portrait, high sensitivity, pet, snow and so on.

There are further changes you can make if you click the cog icon in the bottom right hand corner. Here you can switch on (or off) the self timer, choose an ISO rating, switch on HDR, change the resolution (up to 23MP, the default is set at 8MP), change metering, switch on object tracking, and switch on the smile shutter. Further down the list if you tap the “more” option, then you’ll be able to activate Touch capture, switch on grid lines, decide whether you want to use the volume key as (zoom by default), switch on or off sound, and choose where to save your pictures.

If you’re thinking you’d like this phone because of it’s manual control - there are some oddities that you need to be aware of. For example, while you can set ISO, and you can set shutter speed - you can’t do both. If you change the ISO to anything other than Auto, then try to change the shutter speed, ISO will automatically switch back to Auto - which can lead to incorrect exposures and is a little frustrating if you don’t notice it happening.

Sony Xperia XZ
Front of the Sony Xperia XZ / Shooting Modes

Like many Android phones, the Sony Xperia XZ can take Micro SD cards. You’ll find this in the drawer which also holds the SIM card. It’s probably easier to connect your phone to your computer when you want to transfer a lot of images at once rather than release the Micro SD card, but you have that option if you need it. To get your photos from the phone, you can plug into your computer via a USB cable - you should be prompted by the phone to decide whether you want to simply charge the phone, or whether you want to transfer files. If you install Android file transfer onto your computer you can quickly and easily grab the photos you need.

Focusing in bright light is generally quick and accurate. Most of the time it will automatically lock onto the correct subject, but occasionally you may have to change the AF point with a tap on the screen - particularly so if you’re shooting something close-up. Also on occasion you may have to attempt to focus a couple of times before you get it to focus on a close subject - it can be tricky to know the correct distance you need to be until you’ve tried it a few times. In lower light, focusing can be a little slower, but generally it gets there in the end apart from in extremely dark situations.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 23 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 7Mb.

As is so often the case with mobile phone cameras, the Sony Xperia XZ performs extremely well in bright light - putting it in close competition with a dedicated camera when conditions are favourable.

Colours are well represented, with a good amount of saturation without going too far. Metering for most scenarios is also pretty good, producing good balanced images unless the subject is drastically high contrast.

While it’s arguably unlikely that you will be examining images at 100% from this kind of device, if you do so for images taken at low ISOs, you can see a reasonable amount of detail - while the overall impression of detail while looking at images on a phone or computer screen at standard sizes is pretty good. There’s arguably a little too much sharpening for some tastes, but again it’s only really visible if you examine very closely.

When the light drops however, images are less impressive. From around ISO 800, you can see a reasonably high degree of image smoothing when viewing images at a normal size on a computer screen. They look decent on the smaller phone screen, so if you’re not intending on looking at images large all too often it may not be too much of a concern for you.

At the highest ISO setting of ISO 3200, you’re left with a very painterly effect, with smudgy areas and a visible loss of detail even at reasonably small sizes - if you can avoid shooting at this speed it’s recommended.

There’s a digital zoom available if you want to get closer to the subject - it’s OK if you’re desperate, but there’s a very visible loss in quality, so again, it’s best avoided if at all possible.

The automatic white balance setting is very good, producing images which are on the warmer side under artificial light, but in a pleasing way. If you shoot in manual mode, you can set a specific white balance setting if you prefer a colder or more accurate look.


The Sony Xperia XZ has seven 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 XZ's fixed focal length lens is equivalent to 24mm in 35mm camera terms. A 3x digital zoom is available when shooting at the full 23MP resolution, and this can be upped to 5x magnification if the resolution is dropped to 8MP.






The Sony Xperia XZ 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 XZ 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 On

ISO 64

Red-eye Reduction

ISO 64


ISO 64

Creative Effects

The Sony Xperia XZ'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.


Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Sony Xperia XZ camera, which were all taken using the 23 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 18 second movie is 121Mb in size.

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 18 second movie is 39Mb in size.

Product Images

Sony Xperia XZ

Front of the Sony Xperia XZ

Sony Xperia XZ

Rear of the Sony Xperia XZ

Sony Xperia XZ

Front of the Sony Xperia XZ / Camera App

Sony Xperia XZ

Front of the Sony Xperia XZ / Image Displayed

Sony Xperia XZ

Front of the Sony Xperia XZ / Main Menu

Sony Xperia XZ

Front of the Sony Xperia XZ / Shooting Modes

Sony Xperia XZ

Front of the Sony Xperia XZ / Manual Mode

Sony Xperia XZ

Front of the Sony Xperia XZ

Sony Xperia XZ

Side of the Sony Xperia XZ


Sony Xperia XZ

Rear of the Sony Xperia XZ

Sony Xperia XZ

Front of the Sony Xperia XZ

Sony Xperia XZ

Front of the Sony Xperia XZ

Sony Xperia XZ
Front of the Sony Xperia XZ
Sony Xperia XZ

Memory Card Slot


Considering Sony made quite the fanfare about the Xperia XZ when it was launched, regarding the camera, and considering Sony makes such excellent stand-alone cameras, the XZ is a little disappointing. 

Yes, it takes great photos in good light, but you’ll struggle to find a modern device which doesn’t. If you’re looking for a mobile phone purely based on the capability of the camera, it’s hard to recommend the XZ over anything else on the market. 

The quality of low light photos is a little disappointing, with smudgy details that are only really acceptable at very small sizes. 

Offering manual control should be something to be celebrated, but considering it’s not full manual control, and there are some odd quirks to using it, it’s hard to get truly excited about. Add to that the fact that the camera doesn’t shoot in raw, natively at least, and it’s not something which seems likely to particularly appeal to enthusiast photographers. 

That said, there are of course plenty of things to like about the Sony Xperia XZ. The camera app is easy to use, especially if you’ve been used to using other Sony Android phones before. There’s lots of extra options available, such as augmented reality, which is fun to experiment with, and, if that’s what you’re into, there’s 4K video recording, too. 

Although it’s a bit quirky, having some manual control is better than no manual control as we see on the iPhone, and it’s useful to be able to change some settings if you need to - for instance keeping the ISO low if possible. 

It’s also great that you can expand the storage of the camera via an optional Micro SD card - but of course that’s something that many phones (with again the notable exception being the iPhone) already do, so it’s not particularly unique. 

The construction, size and shape of the Sony Xperia XZ is also quite slick - it’s large without being unwieldy, and it’s nice to have a dedicated camera button, too. 

In the end, if you’re fond of the Sony phone brand, and want to get the latest model - the Xperia XZ is very capable of taking good photos in good light. However, if you often photograph things in low light, or you intend to examine things in close detail, don’t rely on this phone to get you the best shots possible. 

4 stars

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

Main Rivals

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

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...


The HTC One is a new flagship smartphone with some intriguing photography features up its proverbial sleeve. The HTC One has a 4 megapixel sensor, 28mm fixed lens with fast f/2.0 aperture, 1080p video, sweep panoramas, a range of picture effects and 8fps burst shooting. Read our HTC One review to find out if it's the best smartphone for photographers...

Huawei Mate S

The Mate S is Huawei's flagship smartphone, offering photographers a 13 megapixel sensor, a 29mm f/2 lens with optical image stabilisation, full manual shooting mode, and 1080p movie recording. Can the Huawei Mate S really replace a compact camera? Find out by reading our in-depth Huawei Mate S review...

Huawei P9

The new Huawei P9 smartphone has been co-developed with none other than Leica, and promises to "reinvent smartphone photography" - a bold claim indeed. The P9 offers photographers a 12 megapixel sensor, not one, but two lenses (one colour, one monochrome), a fully manual shooting mode, 1080p movie recording, and a powerful 3000mAh battery. Is the Huawei P9 a dream ticket for keen photographers? Find out by reading our in-depth Huawei P9 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...

Nokia Lumia 1520

The Nokia Lumia 1520 is a new 20-megapixel smartphone with a massive 6-inch screen, a 26mm fixed lens with fast f/2.4 aperture and built-in optical image stabilisation, and 1080p video recording at 30fps with stereo sound. Read our Nokia Lumia 1520 review now...

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...

Review Roundup

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

The Sony Xperia XZ is a great premium handset offering everything you'd expect from a flagship phone. If you own a recent Sony phone though it might not be enough of an improvement to rush out and buy it on day one.
Read the full review » »

The Sony Xperia XZ is the last of 2016’s top Android phones. It’s Sony's equivalent of the LG G5 or Samsung Galaxy S7: a top-end phone with lots of features and the price to match.
Read the full review » »

Sony needs to get it together. I've reviewed its phones -- from the top of the line down to the most basic -- for several years now, and I hate to see the Xperia family decline. Hard truth: It just can't keep up with its competitors. Take this "flagship" Xperia XZ, for example. It looks good, the screen is great and the Xperia line was water-resistant before IP68 was a glimmer in Samsung's eye.
Read the full review »


Memory and storage

32GB eMMC (Single SIM)*
Up to 256 GB microSD™ card

SIM capability

Single SIM
Nano SIM

Operating System

Google™ Android™ N

Processor (CPU)

Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 820, 64-bit processor


2900 mAh
Qnovo Adaptive Charging
Battery Care
Quick Charge


Corning® Gorilla® Glass




146 x 72 x 8.1 mm


Forest Blue
Mineral Black

Display and design

5.2" Full HD 1080p
TRILUMINOS™ display for mobile
X-Reality® for mobile picture engine
Dynamic Contrast Enhancement

Main camera

23 MP
Triple image sensing technology
Predictive Hybrid Autofocus
Fast Capture
Low-light photo: up to ISO 12800
1/2.3” Exmor RS™ for mobile image sensor
24mm wide Sony’s award-winning G Lens
5x Clear Image Zoom
The BIONZ® for mobile image-processing engine
SteadyShot™ with Intelligent Active Mode (5-axis stablization)
4K video recording
HDR photo

Front camera

13 MP
1/3.06” Exmor RS™ for mobile image sensor
Low-light photo: up to ISO 6400
22Mm wide-angle lens F2.0


LTE (4G) Cat 9


Wi-Fi Miracast
Bluetooth® 4.2 wireless technology
DLNA Certified®
Google Cast™

Fingerprint sensor

Fast and secure unlock


High-Resolution Audio (LPCM, FLAC, ALAC, DSD)
Digital Noise Cancellation
Clear Audio+
S-Force Front Surround
Stereo recording


PS4™ Remote Play


Movie Creator
What’s New
Sound Photo
AR Effect

Key accessories

Style Cover Touch SCTF10
Style Cover Stand SCSF10
Quick Charger UCH12W
USB Type-C Charging Dock DK60
High-Resolution Audio Headset MDR-NC750


* Memory comprises approximately 12 GB of firmware, plus 20 GB of “Internal storage” for music, pictures, and movies, and downloaded applications and their data.
** Xperia XZ is water resistant and protected against dust, so don’t worry if you get caught in the rain or want to wash off dirt under the faucet water, but remember all ports and attached covers should be firmly closed. You should not put the device completely underwater; or expose it to seawater, salt water, chlorinated water, or liquids such as drinks. Abuse and improper use of device will invalidate warranty. The device has been tested under Ingress Protection rating IP65/68. For more info, see Note the Xperia XZ has a capless USB port to connect and charge. The USB port must be completely dry before charging.
*** This service is not available in all variants or markets.

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