Sony Xperia Z2 Review

September 29, 2014 | Amy Davies | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Sony Xperia Z2 is an update to the Z1, and features a 20.7 million pixel 1/2.3 inch Exmor RS CMOS sensor. It includes an 8x digital zoom, along with a front facing 2.2 million pixel camera. Like the Z1, it has a 27mm f/2.0 Sony G lens. HD video recording at 1080p is also available, but more excitingly, 4K video recording is included. There’s a burst mode if you’re shooting action sequences, as well as an HDR mode for both picture and film. Other features include Sweep Panorama, a built-in flash, touch to focus and capture and the ability to alter white balance and metering. Although there’s a “manual” mode, the ability to change the aperture and shutter speed is not included. The Sony Xperia Z2 features a 5.2 inch TRILUMINOS touchscreen display, and accepts Micro SD cards if you want to boost the inbuilt memory capability. You can use the camera with the inbuilt camera app, as well as a wide range of different apps available for Android on the Google Play store, such as Instagram. Within the native app, there is the option to shoot panoramas and with different effects added. There’s also an AR option for adding special effects and masks. The Sony Xperia Z2 costs around £599 / $799.

Ease of Use

With its large screen, theSony Xperia Z2 only just about fits in a trouser pocket. On the plus side it is fairly thin so the overall weight of the device doesn’t feel too bad. The phone is waterproof and dustproof, making it both useful for dealing with rainy weather and also means you can use it underwater.

As with most smartphones there’s not too much in the way of buttons to be found on the Z2. There’s an on/off button, a rocker switch which can be used for the digital zoom, and a button which you can use to fire off the camera’s shutter release. If you prefer, you can use a touchscreen version of the shutter release button from within the camera app.

Sony Xperia Z2
Front of the Sony Xperia Z2

The large size of the Sony Xperia Z2 means it’s fairly unwieldy to use when photographing one handed, or when using it in landscape format. The lens is also perilously close to the edge of the device making it easy to accidentally obscure it with your finger. It’s likely that you’d get used to holding and using the phone with time though.

On the plus side, the touchscreen is nice and responsive and once you’ve become accustomed to the different options available via the camera app, it’s easy to tap and swipe your way through those that are available.

Sony Xperia Z2
Rear of the Sony Xperia Z2 / Image Displayed

Getting to the camera app is easy from the home screen making it almost as quick to boot up as a compact camera. There a few different shooting modes available, but by default the camera shoots in Super Intelligent Auto. To change between the different shooting modes, tap the icon in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. There’s a manual control mode, which is actually a bit of a misnomer as it’s more akin to a Program Auto mode - you can change the white balance, sensitivity and metering, but not the aperture or shutter speed.

In order to make these changes, you’ll need to tap an icon on the left hand side of the native camera app. There’s one which allows you to change white balance and exposure compensation, while other settings are found in the more extensive menu reached by tapping the three dot icon. This makes it a little bit fiddly if you want to quickly change between different settings, such as changing from one ISO value to another - you can leave it on ISO Auto though.

Sony Xperia Z2
Front of the Sony Xperia Z2 / Camera App

Also while in Manual mode, you can change through different scene modes. For instance, there’s landscape and night scene mode available. Another interesting mode is Background Defocus - this promises to deliver “DSLR like” images. This gives you the option to photograph and object and set the amount of background blur to give a shallow depth of field effect. Use the slider on the screen to control how much blur you want to add - too much can look a little unrealistic, and doesn’t work as well when the outline of the object contains lots of fine detail - such as hair.

Timeshift burst is a pretty innovative feature which allows you to choose the best photo from a sequence taken in quick succession - which is useful if photographing action, such as a sports day.

Sony’s Sweep Panorama mode, which is found in lots of compact cameras, is also available on the Xperia Z2. All you need to do, once in this shooting mode, is hold down the shutter release key and move the phone across a scene - it will automatically capture and stitch the required images. Also something which we’ve seen in compacts and the like is Sony’s HDR function - this is useful when shooting difficult lighting conditions to even out the exposure for better balance.

Sony Xperia Z2
Front of the Sony Xperia Z2

As with the previous model, face recognition and smile shutter are included. Face recognition will give settings bias to any faces the camera detects in the scene, setting the exposure and white balance based on the face for instance. Meanwhile, smile shutter will trigger off the shutter release when it detects a smile - this works fairly well, but it’s not foolproof - it’s useful when composing group shots or selfies though.

Once you’ve pressed the shutter release (either physical or touchscreen), the Sony Xperia Z2's screen will blank out for a brief second and the image will be visible in a small preview window at the bottom of the screen. You can tap this to view all of the images you’ve taken - simply swipe through to move through those stored in the memory.

Sony Xperia Z2
Memory Card Slot

In order to set the focus point, you simply tap the area on screen you wish to focus on. In good light, the AF is pretty snappy, but fairly often, the camera will struggle to focus - but it will still let you take a picture - you may therefore find that you’re taking some out of focus shots - this is especially true for close-up shots. To get a better lock on focus, half press the physical camera key before holding it down fully to take the shot. While there’s a macro mode in Superior Auto, you can’t switch it on yourself - it will automatically activate when you get close to a subject.

Video recording is available in variety of frame rates, and you can also record in 4K format. In reality, you’ll often find that the unit stops recording as it heats up too quickly, so it’s unlikely you’ll be able to create very long 4K clips - it’s interesting to see the technology available on a consumer smartphone though.

If you want to add some different digital filter style effects, you’ll find these in the mode menu - tap the bottom right hand corner of the screen and choose Creative effect. You can use these effects in both video and stills, and there’s quite a few to choose from - such as partial colour, nostalgic, old film and some more wacky options such as kaleidoscope. Of course you can also download hundreds of different photography apps from the Google Play store - such as Instagram - which also give you lots of image editing possibilities.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 20 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6Mb.

Sony has put the same sensor in the Xperia Z2 as you can find in many compact cameras. Sony has been producing impressive sensors for some time now, so it comes as no surprise that the Z2 puts in a pretty good performance when it comes to image quality - putting it on a par with a similarly specced compact camera (in almost every area except zoom and flash).

Colours have a nice level of saturation directly from the camera, while detail is also resolved pretty well. You’ll want to avoid using high sensitivities if you can though - at ISO 1600 and ISO 3200, there’s so much noise as to make an image more or less unusable at all but the smallest of sharing sizes.

While there’s an inbuilt flash on the Sony Xperia Z2, results when using it can be a little hit and miss. While it provides a useful level of light, it can also result in red-eye when photographing people - so unless you’re willing to remove that in post-production, you might be disappointed with the results.

On the plus side, the Sony G lens is capable of stopping down to f/2.0, so you might find you don’t need to use the flash all that often anyway - the Z2’s camera fares pretty well in low light thanks to this lens and you’ll find yourself with more natural results if you stay flash free.

Automatic white balance fares reasonably well, but if the camera is faced with strong artificial lights, you will see an orange-yellowish tone. When shooting in manual mode, you can set a specific white balance setting which is useful in these situations.

Occasionally the Sony Xperia Z2’s all-purpose metering mode can struggle when photographing high contrast scenes - this can be helped out when shooting in manual mode by changing the metering setting, or by using the HDR shooting mode.

Although there is a digital zoom available, images taken at the far reach of the digital zoom’s capability suffer from a reasonably severe loss of detail, so it’s best avoided unless you’re really desperate.

There’s a range of digital filters available, which are fun to experiment with if you don’t want to step out of the native camera app and install further apps. Sweep Panorama mode is also good fun, but if you examine at 100% or want to share the image with a large file size you may be disappointed with the amount of detail resolved.


There are 7 ISO settings available on the Sony Xperia Z2. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

ISO 64 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso64.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 Z2's fixed lens offers a wide-angle focal length of 27mm in 35mm camera terms, as illustrated by this example:


81mm (3x clear zoom)

focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg


Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are sharp enough and don't really benefit from further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

The Sony Xperia Z2 handled chromatic aberrations well during the review, with a little purple fringing present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg


The Sony Xperia Z2 has a close-focus distance of 8cms. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.


Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


The flash settings on the Sony Xperia Z2 are Auto, Fill Flash, Red-eye Reduction and Off. As you can see, both the fill-flash and red-eye reduction modes suffered from obvious red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Redeye Reduction

Flash Redeye Reduction (100% Crop)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Picture Effects

The Sony Xperia Z2 offers an extensive range of creative Picture Effects.

Brightness Contrast


creative-brightness-contrast.jpg creative-clean.jpg

Colour Sketch


creative-coloursketch.jpg creative-comic.jpg


Harris Shutter

creative-fisheye.jpg creative-harris-shutter.jpg

Hue Saturation


creative-hue-saturation.jpg creative-kaleidoscope.jpg



creative-miniature.jpg creative-mirror.jpg


Motion Effects

creative-mosaic.jpg creative-motion-effects.jpg

Motion Trail


creative-motion-trail.jpg creative-nostalgic.jpg

Old Film

Partial Colour

creative-old-film.jpg creative-partial-colour.jpg

Pencil Sketch


creative-pencil-sketch.jpg creative-tint.jpg




Sweep Panorama

The Sony Xperia Z2 allows you to take panoramic images very easily, by 'sweeping' with the camera while keeping the shutter release depressed. The camera does all the processing and stitching and even successfully compensates for moving subjects.


Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Sony Xperia Z2 camera, which were all taken using the 20 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample video from the Sony Xperia Z2 camera at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 20 second movie is 43.5Mb in size.

Product Images

Sony Xperia Z2

Front of the Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

Rear of the Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

Front of the Sony Xperia Z2 / Image Displayed

Sony Xperia Z2

Front of the Sony Xperia Z2 / Turned On

Sony Xperia Z2

Front of the Sony Xperia Z2 / Main Menu

Sony Xperia Z2

Front of the Sony Xperia Z2 / White Balance

Sony Xperia Z2

Side of the Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

Side of the Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

Side of the Sony Xperia Z2


Sony Xperia Z2

Top of the Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

Front of the Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

Front of the Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

Memory Card Slot


Overall, the Sony Xperia Z2’s camera is very capable for a mobile phone camera with some obvious limitations. Although it is billed as having a compact like camera on board thanks to the larger than average (for a phone) sensor and Sony G lens, it’s pretty safe to say that dedicated cameras can still outshine the performance of the Z2.

If you’re photographing in good light then the Sony Xperia Z2 is great and you’ll be very pleased with the images it produces. Colours are warm and vibrant while there’s plenty of detail on display. There’s lots of fun elements about the camera, including digital filters, sweep panorama and the gimmicky but cute artificial reality feature.

However, if you want to use it a serious camera to replace your compact camera, you might be a little disappointed. With only a digital zoom - that’s not particularly impressive at the telephoto end and a flash which leaves subjects with red-eye, don’t rush out to bin your compact just yet.

Moving on to the video features, it’s pretty exciting to see 4K video recording in a consumer smartphone, but the fact that the device overheats if you try to use it for any length of time makes it a little less than perfect in practice. This also happens sometimes when using the artificial reality feature too, suggesting that the Sony Xperia Z2 has some processing issues.

One of the best things about this phone is that it’s waterproof making it ideal for lots of shooting scenarios that perhaps your compact camera can’t deal with - it’s the kind of credentials that also make it good as a family camera, you can be confident of letting your kids loose with it without worrying about damage.

Of course one of the other fantastic features is the hundreds of apps available from the Google Play store - with such a wide variety to choose from, you can make the Sony Xperia Z2 work in the best way for you.

4 stars

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

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Sony Xperia Z2.

HTC One (M8)

The HTC One (M8) is a new flagship smartphone with not one, but two cameras, using the second one as a depth sensor that allows you to change the point of focus after taking a photo and achieve DSLR-like shallow depth-of field effects. Does this make the HTC One (M8) the best smartphone for avid photographers? Read our HTC One (M8) review to find out..

Nokia Lumia 1020

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is a new 41-megapixel smartphone - yes, you read that right, 41 megapixels. The Lumia 1020 also offers built-in optical image stabilisation, a 3x loss-less zoom for stills and 6x for movies, a 26mm fixed lens with fast f/2.2 aperture, and 1080p video at 30fps with stereo sound. Read our Nokia Lumia 1020 review to find out if it can replace a compact camera.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Introducing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom. Is it a camera? Is it a phone? No, the Galaxy S4 Zoom is Samsung's attempt to bring both together in one device - but have they succeeded? Read our Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review to find out...

Samsung Galaxy S5

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is the latest edition of one of the most popular flagship smartphones of all time. Find out what it has to offer photographers by reading our Samsung Galaxy S5 review, complete with full-size sample photos, test shots, videos and more...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Sony Xperia Z2 from around the web. »

So here I am, it's a little over 12 months since the Xperia Z hit shelves and I'm checking out the third iteration of the Japanese firm's flagship series, the Sony Xperia Z2. While the timing may be a little odd, you've almost got to look past the Xperia Z1 completely, the Xperia Z2 is a flagship smartphone in its own right and it heralds the next generation for Sony.
Read the full review » »

Sony seems to be reducing its phone refresh cycle to crazy-low levels. The Sony Xperia Z2 is it's latest offering and it has a lot to prove, especially since its predecessor the Xperia Z1 was only released six months earlier, and it's little brother the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact just a few short months before.
Read the full review » »

It's been nearly three years since I reviewed the Xperia Neo, manufactured by what was then Sony Ericsson. The Neo represented just the second generation of Xperia phones running on Android, from a period when Sony was finding its feet in the world of mobile and still chucking out plenty of duds (I'm looking at you, Tablet P). Fast-forward to today and things have changed dramatically under Kaz Hirai's stewardship. I'll tell you this right now: The Z2 is an easy phone to recommend, at least for those living in countries where it'll definitely be available (a list that includes the UK and Canada, but not yet the US).
Read the full review » »

The Sony Xperia Z2 is the latest flagship super-phone from Sony, replacing the Xperia Z1 released last year. The new phone keeps the same aluminium-edged design, sexy glass front and back, Full HD display, quad-core processor and impressive 20.7-megapixel camera. Like its predecessor, it's completely waterproof.
Read the full review »


Camera and video

  • 20.7 MP Exmor RS™ for mobile image sensor, 4K video capture
  • Burst mode
  • HDR for both picture/film
  • 8x digital zoom
  • Front-facing camera (2.2 MP 1080p)
  • Geotagging
  • HD video recording (1080p)
  • Image stabiliser
  • Object tracking
  • Red-eye reduction
  • Scene recognition
  • Send to web
  • Smile Shutter™
  • Sony Exmor RS for mobile image sensor
  • Superior Auto
  • Sweep Panorama
  • Touch focus
  • Touch capture
  • White balance
  • Image capture, supported format: JPEG
  • Image playback supported formats: BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, WebP
  • Video recording, supported formats: 3GPP, MP4
  • Video playback supported formats: 3GPP, MP4, M4V, MKV, AVI, XVID, WEBM
  • Face detection

Design and display

  • 5.2”, 16,777,216 colours, Full HD 1920x1080 pixels
  • TRILUMINOS™ Display for mobile
  • X-Reality™ for mobile picture engine
  • Face Unlock
  • Gesture input
  • STAMINA mode
  • Touch gesture – multi-touch, up to 10 fingers supported
  • Screenshot capturing
  • Throw
  • Pan & zoom


  • RAM: 3 GB
  • Flash memory: Up to 16 GB*****
  • Expansion slot: microSD™ card, up to 128 GB (SDXC supported)

Pre-loaded applications

  • Google Maps for Mobile with Street view**
  • Google Hangouts**
  • Sony Select
  • Web browser (WebKit)
  • Google Chrome**
  • Google Play**
  • Google Voice Search**
  • Google Search**

Connectivity and communication

  • 3.5 mm audio jack (CTIA)
  • aGPS
  • ANT+ wireless technology
  • Bluetooth 4.0 wireless technology
  • DLNA Certified
  • MHL support
  • Native USB tethering
  • NFC
  • Screen mirroring
  • Smart Connect
  • Synchronisation via Exchange ActiveSync®, Facebook™, Google™ and SyncML™*
  • USB charging
  • USB High speed 2.0 and Micro USB support
  • Xperia Link
  • Wi-Fi and WiFi Hotspot functionality
  • Noise suppression
  • Voice enhancement
  • Xperia Socialife**
  • Miracast™


  • 3D and motion gaming
  • PlayStation Certified
  • FM Radio with RDS
  • SensMe and SensMe slideshow
  • Sony Entertainment Network (selected markets only)
  • TV launcher
  • “WALKMAN” application
  • 3D surround sound
  • Bluetooth stereo (aptX®, A2DP)
  • Clear Audio+, Clear Bass, Clear Phase™ and Clear stereo
  • xLoud Experience – audio filter technology from Sony
  • Audio recording, supported formats: 3GPP, MP4, AMR
  • Audio playback supported formats: AAC, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, FLAC, MIDI, MP3, PCM, Vorbis, WMA
  • YouTube**
  • Facebook application**
  • Twitter**
  • TrackID music recognition**


  • UMTS HSPA+ 850 (Band V), 900 (Band VIII), 1700 (Band IV), 1900 (Band II), 2100 (Band I) MHz
  • GSM GPRS/EDGE 850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz
  • LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 13, 17, 20)

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