Being water- and dust-resistant, the Sony Xperia Z1 is probably the only smartphone you would dare to take to the beach or swimming pool.
With Sony's experience in Cyber-shot cameras, the design of the camera option in the Z1 is excellent.
A dedicated shutter release button sits on the right side of the Z1. Press it to start the native camera app.
This camera app is the best of the lot here. It does not offer voice control for shutter release but it has plenty of options - including augmented reality effect and manual mode - and settings such as white balance, metering, ISO and autofocusing mode can be changed.
One nice trick is that it allows you to use the flash as a torchlight for a consistent light source when taking a photo.
The colour reproduction is spot on, but photos taken in bright sunlight were unexpectedly soft when compared with those from the Nokia Lumia 1020 or even the iPhone 5s. But you can easily sharpen the image with post-processing.
In low light, the photos came out pretty well with the right colour tones and great details, despite the clear presence of image noise.
But it is the flash performance that really surprises. Without any dual-LED flash, the flash lit subjects correctly with the right skin tones while keeping the ambient colours accurate.
The HDR processing is a bit laid-back but better than that of the iPhone 5s or Lumia 1020, and its panorama feature is second only to that of the iPhone 5s with even exposures. However, I could still see wavy lines in the panoramic image.
The Sony Xperia Z1 strikes the best balance in terms of image quality in different lighting conditions, camera functions and handling.
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