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Sony Xperia Z1 impresses in DxOMark Mobile Report


DxOMark Mobile Report: Sony Xperia Z1

The Sony Xperia Z1 was launched in September at the IFA consumers electronics trade show in Berlin and replaces the Xperia Z, which itself was only launched at CES in January, as Sony's top-of-the-line smartphone. The new model comes with the same impressive build-quality and waterproof body as its predecessor. With Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 processor and a 5-inch 1080p screen the Z1 offers top-end specs all-around.

However, for photo-centric users the really big news is the Z1's camera.  At 1/2.3-inch the sensor in the Sony's camera module is the same size as you would find in most consumer level compact cameras and therefore larger than the 1/3-inch sensors that are common in the current crop of smartphones. 

The comparatively large sensor is combined with a high pixel count of 20.7MP, a fast F2.0 lens and a physical shutter button indicating that Sony, like Nokia and HTC with their latest high-end models, has identified camera performance as a key differentiator in the highly competitive smartphone market.

Our partners at DxOMark have put the Sony Xperia Z1's through their comprehensive image quality testing regime. Read on to find out if the Z1's impressive specs translate into great image quality. For a more more hands-on evaluation of the Xperia Z1 also have a look at our smartphone shootout.


  • 20.7 MP 1/2.3 Exmor RS CMOS sensor
  • F2.0 lens
  • 1080p/30 fps video
  • HDR video
  • Snapdragon 800 quad-core 2.2GHz processor
  • 5-inch 1080p Sony TRILUMINOS display (441ppi)
  • Android 4.2
  • 2GB of RAM
  • Waterproof body (IP55/58)
  • 16 GB internal memory
  • microSD up to 64GB
  • 3,000 mAh battery, non-removable


With a DxOMark Mobile score of 76 the Sony Xperia Z1 takes the number two spot in the DxO smartphone rankings, just above the Apple iPhone 5s and the Samsung Galaxy S4. With a score of 77 only the Nokia 808 has done better so far.

The DxOMark team reports that the Xperia Z1 images show "good overall exposure, excellent detail preservation outdoors, pleasant colors and low noise levels in all situations". "Noise is pleasant (no chroma component) with a very small grain size". The autofocus was found to be "fast and precise in most situations". The Z1's also performed well when using its flash, with "precise autofocus, good exposure, good color rendering and white balance and good detail preservation".

On the downside: "Slight color shading is sometimes noticeable" and "excessive exposure times in low light under 20 lux can be a source of motion blur". Images show "strong ringing" (halos around high-contrast edges) and "low-contrast detail is slightly smeared in low light conditions.

In video mode the Xperia Z1 displayed a good overall performance, with "good noise reduction especially in low-light conditions". However, the "autofocus lacks stability and a residual high frequency motion is visible in indoor conditions for walking movements".

Still Photography

Color, Exposure and Contrast

The DxOMark team found that the Sony Xperia Z1 images show "good overall exposure, nice colors in all situations and stable white balance"

However, the Xperia Z1 also displayed "very slight color shading, sometimes noticeable both indoors and outdoors" and "in extreme low light, exposure time is too long (1/10s under 20 lux when other camera phones do not use longer exposure than 1/15s)".

Overall DxOMark awarded the Sony Xperia Z1 scores of:

  • 4.4 out of 5 for Exposure
  • 4.3 out of 5 for White Balance accuracy
  • 3.5 out of 5 for Color shading in low light*
  • 3.8 out of 5 for Color shading in bright light*
  • 3.0 out of 5 for Color Rendering in low light
  • 4.5 out of 5 for Color Rendering in bright light

*Color Shading is the nasty habit cellphone cameras have of rendering different areas of the frame with different color shifts, resulting in pictures with, for example, pinkish centers and greenish corners.

Noise and Details

DxOMark's engineers reported that the Sony Xperia Z1 image output shows "very low noise levels with a small grain size, even in low light conditions, and very good detail preservation. Outdoors, more details are visible than with other current 8 Mp mobile cameras". "Most noise is luminance noise".

On the downside "low-contrast detail is slightly smoothed out compared to the edges and noise levels are not constant in the image: edges are noisier than areas of plain color; image corners are noisier than the center".

Texture Acutance

Texture Acutance is a way of measuring the ability of a camera to capture images that preserve fine details, particularly the kind of low contrast detail (textures such as fine foliage, hair, fur) that can be blurred away by noise reduction or obliterated by excessive sharpening.

Sharpness is an important part of the quality of an image, but while it is easy to look at an image and decide visually whether it's sharp or not, the objective measurement of sharpness is less straightforward.

An image can be defined as "sharp" if its edges are sharp and if fine details are visible, but in-camera processing means it's possible to have one of these (sharp edges) but not the other (fine details). Conventional MTF measurements tell us how sharp an edge is, but have drawbacks when it comes to measuring fine detail preservation. Image processing algorithms can detect edges and enhance their sharpness, but they can also find homogeneous areas and smooth them out to reduce noise.

Texture Acutance, on the other hand, can qualify sharpness in terms of preservation of fine details, without being fooled by edge enhancement algorithms.

A detail of  target made of a dead leaves pattern, designed to measure Texture Acutance. It is obtained by drawing random shapes that occlude each other in the plane, like dead leaves falling from a tree. The statistics of this model follow the distribution of the same statistics in natural images.

In this example from a DSLR without edge enhancement, sharpness seems equal on edge and on texture. Many details are visible in the texture.

In this second example edges have been digitally enhanced, and the edge looks over-sharp, with visible processing halos ("ringing"). On the texture part, many details have disappeared.

At first sight, the images from these two cameras may appear equally sharp. A sharpness measurement on edges will indeed confirm this impression, and will even show that the second camera is sharper. But a closer examination of low contrasted textures shows that the first camera has a better preservation of fine details than the second. The purpose of the Texture Acutance measurement is to qualify this difference.

Note: Acutance is a single value metric calculated from a MTF result. Acutance is used to assess the sharpness of an image as viewed by the human visual system, and is dependent on the viewing conditions (size of image, size of screen or print, viewing distance). Only the values of texture acutance are given here. The measurements are expressed as a percentage of the theoretical maximum for the chosen viewing condition. The higher the score, the more details can be seen in an image. 
For all DxOMark Mobile data presented on we're showing only the 8MP equivalent values, which gives us a level playing field for comparison between phone cameras with different megapixel values by normalizing all to 8MP, suitable for fairly large prints. DxOMark also offer this data for lower resolution use-cases (web and on-screen). For more information on DxOMark's testing methodology and Acutance measurements please visit the website at
Luminance texture acutance is very similar under daylight and tungsten illuminant and pretty much constant across light levels. 
In terms of texture acutance the Xperia Z1 scores well at low light levels but lags behind the competition in brighter conditions. 
Edge Acutance
Edge acutance is a measure of the sharpness of the edges in images captured by the phone's camera, and again we're only looking at the most demanding of the three viewing conditions that DxOMark reports on, "8MP equivalent."
The Sony Xperia Z1's ability to retain sharp edges in images is excellent across all light levels. 
In terms of edge acutance the Sony Xperia Z1 is up there with the very best..
Visual Noise

Visual Noise is a value designed to assess the noise in an image as perceived by the human visual system, depending on the viewing condition (size of image, size of screen or print, viewing distance). The measurements have no units and can be simply viewed as a weighted average of noise standard deviation for each channel in the CIE L*a*b* color space. The lower the measurement, the less noise in the image.

Noise levels in daylight conditions are low across all light levels.
Noise levels under tungsten light are similar to daylight conditions.
The Sony Xperia Z1's noise levels are lower than its competitors' at all light levels. 

Noise and Detail Perceptual scoring

DxOMark engineers don't just point camera phones at charts, they also take and analyse scores of real-world shots and score them accordingly. Their findings for the Sony Xperia Z1 were:

Natural scene

  • Texture (bright light): 4.8 out of 5
  • Texture (low light): 3.0 out of 5
  • Noise (bright light): 3.8 out of 5
  • Noise (low light) 3.8 out of 5
Bright light sample shot 
100% crop: "a lot of very fine detail is noticeable everywhere in the frame, more than for other 8MP mobile cameras."
Low light (20 Lux) studio shot
100% crop shows "low-contrast detail is slightly less visible than in bright light conditions and noise is more visible near edges."
100% crop 20 lux: "noise level is low compared to other cameras and noise grain is very small." 


Phone cameras, like entry-level compact cameras, tend to suffer from artifacts such as sharpening halos, color fringing, vignetting (shading) and distortion, which can impact on the visual appeal of the end result. DxOMark engineers measure and analyze a range of artifacts. Their findings after testing the Sony Xperia Z1 are shown below:


  • n/a


  • Strong ringing noticeable near edges
  • Slight color fringing sometimes visible

Perceptual scores

  • Sharpness 4.0 out of 5
  • Color fringing 4.0 out of 5

Measured findings

  • Ringing center 15.3%
  • Ringing corner 8.6%
  • Max geometric distortion -0.3%
  • Luminance shading 30.8%

Distortion and Chromatic Aberrations

The graph shows the magnification from center to edge (with the center normalized to 1). The Sony Xperia Z1 shows a slight pincushion distortion, which you are not going to notice in normal photography.
The Xperia Z1 shows some lateral chromatic abberations which is slightly visible in some pictures.


DxOMark also tests autofocus accuracy and reliability by measuring how much the accutance -- sharpness -- varies with each shot over a series of 30 exposures (defocusing then using the autofocus for each one). As with other tests these results are dependant on the viewing conditions (a little bit out of focus matters a lot less with a small web image than a full 8MP shot viewed at 100%). Using the 8MP equivalent condition the Sony Xperia Z1 is much better, especially in low light, than its predecessor, the Xperia Z. The overall score is 72/100 in bright light and 73/100 in low light.


  • Fast and reactive autofocus
  • Good overall repeatability and precision.


  • Occasionally pictures are completely out of focus in outdoor conditions
Autofocus repeatability - average acutance difference with best focus: low light 6.4%, bright light 11.35%


DxOMark scored the Sony Xperia Z1 84/100 overall for its flash performance.


  • Good flash performance: precise autofocus, good exposure, good color rendering and white balance, good detail preservation


  • Slight change of white balance in presence of tungsten lighting.
  • Some noise noticeable

Overall DxOMark Mobile score for Photo: 77 / 100

Video Capture

DxOMark engineers put phone cameras through a similarly grueling set of video tests, and you can read their full findings on the DxOMark website here. We'll simply summarize for you. DxOMark found the Sony Xperia Z1's overall video performance to be good, with good noise reduction in low light. However, the autofocus exposure to be the best of any device which the lab has tested to date. However, some instability of the autofocus was observed. 


  • Good overall video performance
  • Good noise reduction, especially in low-light conditions


  • Autofocus lacks stability
  • A residual high frequency motion is visible in indoor conditions for walking movements

Overall DxOMark Mobile score for Video: 74 / 100

DXOMark Mobile Score

DXOMark Image Quality Assessment

The Sony Xperia Z1 has improved in almost all areas over its predecessor, the Xperia Z, and with a DxOMark Mobile score of 76 is taking the number two spot in the DxO smartphone rankings, between the Nokia 808 on the top spot and the Apple iPhone 5s at number three.

In still image mode the DxOMark team found the Xperia Z1 to get the exposure right and produce excellent detail and color in good light. Noise levels are low across all light situations. The autofocus is reliable and the testers were also pleased with the  Z1's flash performance.

However, slight color shading is sometimes noticeable and slow shutter speeds in low light can lead to motion blur. Images also show some artifacts and low-contrast detail is being smeared in low light.

In video mode the Xperia Z1 showed a good overall performance but the autofocus lacks stability and a residual high frequency motion is visible in indoor conditions for walking movements". For a more detailed analysis, visit

Photo Mobile Score 77   Video Mobile Score 74
Exposure and Contrast 85   Exposure and Contrast 92
Color 77   Color 85
Autofocus 73   Autofocus 60
Texture 66   Texture 64
Noise 84   Noise 85
Photo Artifacts 74   Video Artifacts 75
Flash 84   Stabilization 59


Total comments: 17

All this blah blah around a camera phone and not even full sized samples? You got to be kidding me?

1 upvote

I find it frustating that you downgrade every picure to an iPhone's resolution before evaluation.

Who the heck wants a "level playing field"??? I really wish you would compare apples and apples and we could see the 41mp pureview sensors duke it out with this 20mp sensor at full resolution.

I barely pay attention to your dxomark phone data, with the exception that I point out this atrocity on every review I care to look at.

"For all DxOMark Mobile data presented on we're showing only the 8MP equivalent values, which gives us a level playing field for comparison between phone cameras with different megapixel values by normalizing all to 8MP"

1 upvote

You don't understand what normalization means.

If the resolutions were not normalized, a camera with the same per-pixel image quality, but higher resolution, would get exactly the same score as the low resolution contender.

Scaling down _increases_ dynamic range and color depth, and decreases noise. Nokias 40MP would count for nothing without the normalization.

Futher reading

Edited 7 minutes after posting

Hope that you'll also review the camera of LG G2


Oh, so phone makers have realized that 15 years or so of P&S development could be used.... Honestly, i'm surprised it has taken this long for someone to work out that an 1/2.3" sensor would take good photos, and not make the phone too big (similar to Sony's own T series). Pity about the MP count.

How about an image quality comparison between a current Sony P&S and this phone when you do the full review?


Wow, that doesn't make any sense. You forgot you still need to squeeze a lens covering 1/2.3" into that thin body.

Aero Windwalker

Sony and Samsung are the only two companies that have comprehensive line of cameras. It's not surprising that their mobile phones have better a camera feature.


Eventhough this is done by DxO i have to say that the "Video" part of the test should have AUDIO test too. I have seen, or should i say hear some really horrible audio on videos shot with really expensive and so called "good" smartphones, but no-one seem to care. Weird.

This is kind of same in really good P&S cameras too ... so called "enthusiasm" models. The audio just sucks.

Edited 26 seconds after posting
Lars Rehm

We'll look into audio quality in our forthcoming full review.

1 upvote

And the cellphone megapixel race is ON! Where were these companies the past TEN YEARS when the other companies who make cameras realized "we went to far and have to back pedal with our compact cameras"


In real-life scenario, only the 808 and 1020 should produce usable results. The rest of the phones will produce mediocre results at best.


Mediocre results would be quite a step up for some of the "experts " that plague the DPR site.


Well, it MIGHT be nice in the studio... however, it just sucks when it comes to, say, foliage rendering in real life. The camera, with the current firmware, is absolutely horrible at that. Even the G2 produces better results.

Edited 16 seconds after posting

I agree.

Mark Turney

Agree too. I recently compared foliage at a distance from my Xperia ZS1 and Ricoh GR ... NOT even close! The Xperia is good for quick snaps, but the details looks like a smeared mess.


Wow nice score and to think as I read this my Z1 has been updated 3 hours ago and the camera has been improved the amount of noise in shots has been lessened considerably and almost all artifacts are gone. Wonder what the score would of been like if the reviewer had the update.


Good to hear. I'm looking forward for updated reviews. (The reviewed / compared Z1's I referred to ran an earlier firmware.)

Total comments: 17
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