It is well-established that any flagship smartphone camera can perform reasonably well in good light. In the past year, what has set the best mobile shooters from the merely adequate is low-light performance – how well the camera on your smartphone handles challenging situations. It is through this lens that we begin exploring the imaging capabilities of Sony’s latest flagship smartphone that is unashamedly focused on photography, featuring a relatively large 1/2.3″ 20.7-megapixel Exmor RS image sensor, BIONZ image processing engine and a 27mm wide-angle f/2.0 Sony G Lens. By default, the Sony Xperia Z1 captures 8-megapixel images in Superior Auto mode, with an option to switch to 20-megapixel image capture in Manual mode. This allows the Z1 to offer lossless digital zoom and seemingly PureView-like image processing, resulting in low-light photos that are well-exposed, low in noise and high in clarity. All the photos in this gallery have been shot in Superior Auto with no manual settings adjustments done.
The photos shown below were shot between 7.30pm and 9.30pm in Tiong Bahru in Singapore, a district that features some of the earliest public housing blocks that were built by the British on this island. If you’re interested, here’s a captivating write-up on the history of the area.
With that, I shall let the images speak for themselves. You can click on each image to view it in full size (on its Flickr page); you can also view the full gallery, which contains even more images than what I’ve included here.
Very balanced-looking images here; noise levels are low and there’s sufficient detail.
The Xperia Z1 puts out unquestionably impressive results where direct artificial light is involved.
This building is not lit directly at all, but the Z1 still comes through with a very decent photo.
This is a photo of a back alley with the only source of lighting being the lamps on the walls. Very impressive result here.
The only source of lighting in the photo above is a streetlamp on the opposite side of the street.
Where there is no light at all (this segment of a building was completely unlit, the Xperia Z1 produces a photo that reminds me of what Nokia’s PureView cameras do on the Lumia 920 and 925.
This lime green Ford Fiesta looks fantastic in this photo.
The Xperia Z1’s lossless digital zoom springs into action here. Detail is retained in the photo above despite the use of digital zoom. The technique Sony used seems to be similar to what the Nokia N86 did in video mode.
The single LED flash on the back saves the day when there is no light at all; the garden table and seats were in complete darkness.
Another photo where digital zoom has been used.
Yet another example of digital zoom being used on the Xperia Z1. Note the clarity of the “Air Raid Shelter” text on the sign.
The sheer detail captured in this close-up shot is very pleasing.
A dimly-lit corridor.
A zoomed-in photo of a lit window.
What do you think of these Xperia Z1 photo samples? Personally, I think this is the best camera I’ve ever used on an Android smartphone.