Our studio shots confirm what we've already seen in our real-life samples and the DxOMark lab tests. While overall exposure and color rendition don't give any reason to complain in this well-lit scene it's clear that, despite its 13MP pixel-count, the Sony Xperia Z cannot keep up with the competition in terms of captured detail. Noise reduction is smearing most fine detail away but there is still some noise visible in areas of plain color. When examined close-up compression artifacts in combination with noise reduction make the Xperia output look like a crossing between a watercolor painting and a 16-color GIF image.

To make things worse the image is blighted by weird processing artifacts that we haven't really seen in this form before. Something funny appears to be going on around hard edges where the camera creates a kind of hazy border that is various pixels wide and clearly visible. At the same time in the corners a "feathering effect" is softening the hard edges of the black and white resolution patched in our test chart. Overall the Sony Xperia Z delivers some of the worst pixel-level image quality we have seen in a while. 

The Samsung Galaxy S4 on the other hand, which also comes with a 13MP sensor, captures an image that is pretty clean of artifacts with very little noise. The iPhone image is a little softer and grainier overall, with more luminance noise in plain-colored areas of the scene and more moire artifacts than the Samsung but  Apple strikes a decent balance of noise reduction and preservation of detail, generating an overall pleasant image. The HTC One’s sharpening is fairly strong and the lower 4MP megapixel count means it can’t nearly capture as much detail as the Samsung Galaxy S4 or iPhone 5 but delivers a by far cleaner image than the Sony Xperia Z.