The Sony Xperia Z2 comes with a range of pre-installed special modes and features. Most of them we've already seen on the Xperia Z1 but Background Defocus is a completely new function. The Z2 is also the first Xperia to offer a 4K video mode, which we will have a closer look at in the video section of this review. 

Most of the Xperia Z2's special modes can be accessed via the Mode button.

As before most special modes are accessed via a menu that opens after you hit the Mode button in the bottom right corner of the camera screen. Here can also download and install further imaging apps, such as a spheric panorama, timelapse or scanner mode. Those are basically stand-alone apps but installing them through the camera app means they will be accessible through the mode button. 

In this section we have focused on the most used and new features. The Xperia Z2 also comes with the HDR video, AR Effect and Info-Eye functions that we already had a close look at in our Xperia Z1 review.

Panorama Mode

The panorama mode guides your panning using a small picture-in-picture window. 

The X2's panorama feature remains unchanged from the Xperia Z1 which is slightly disappointing since the mode cannot quite keep up with the competition in the top-end bracket in terms of either image size or stitching quality. Compared to panoramic images from the Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5 and Apple's iPhone 5S the Xperia Z2 panoramas are very small, at 4912x1080 pixels. The stitching isn't great either and at a close examination most images, even when taken in bright light, will show softness, stitching errors and ghosting artifacts on moving subjects. 

Clicking through to the full-size version of this panorama will reveal stitching errors and ghosting artifacts.
Even panoramas captured in bright light will show softness in some areas of the image.

HDR Mode

Like on many cameras the Xperia Z2's HDR mode combines several exposures into one in order to increase the captured dynamic range of a scene. Unfortunately the mode is a little difficult to locate on the the Z2. To set it manually you have to be in M mode and have the resolution set to 8MP or less. Then the option appears in the settings menu. Once it is activated it does a decent job though and, as you can see in the high-contrast samples below, manages to recover a noticeable amount of highlight detail. Shadows are lifted just slightly which means the end result still looks pleasantly natural. 

HDR off
HDR on
100% crop
100% crop

Background Defocus

In the Background Defocus interface you can adjust the blur strength and shape.

Background Defocus is a new feature on the Xperia Z2. Like Nokia's Refocus app or Selective Focus on the Samsung Galaxy S5 it merges several frames that are captured in quick succession at different focus settings. It then attempts to simulate the bokeh of a DSLR and fast lens by blurring the background. Both blur strength and direction can be adjusted in the app. 

Like with most software-based solutions of this kind the simulated results cannot quite keep up with the real thing. The foreground/background separation on the Sony is pretty good compared to the competition but the focus transition tends to be very harsh, giving the images a slightly unnatural appearance. Output images are 8MP in size.

Background Defocus works reasonably well with portraits.
But as you can see the in this sample the focus transition can be very harsh.