Features

The Sony Xperia Z3 comes with a large selection of pre-installed special shooting modes and features, most of which we have already seen on the Xperia Z1 and Z2. some of them are of a rather gimmicky nature and not too useful in daily photography but of course the often-used panorama and HDR modes are available as well. Like its predecessor the Z3 also comes with a 4K video mode that we are having a closer look at in the video section of this review.  

A press of the mode button gives you access to an extensive range of shooting modes.

As before most special modes are accessed via the shooting mode page in the menu app. Here you can also download and install further imaging apps, such as a spherical panorama, timelapse and scanner mode. Those are basically stand-alone apps but installing them through the camera app means they will be accessible via the mode button. 

Panorama mode

The Xperia Z3's panorama mode remains unchanged from the version we have seen on the X2 and X1 and cannot quite compete with the excellent panorama modes on some of the Z3's closest competitors, such as the Samsung Galaxy S5 or iPhone 6 Plus. Capture angle is limited to approximately 180 degrees and at 4912x1080 pixels the output size is comparatively small. Stitching quality isn't great either and at a close examination most images, even when taken in bright light, show softness, stitching errors and ghosting artifacts on moving subjects. Panoramas taken in low light indoor environments are often too soft to use, as you can see in the second sample below. 

Bright light panorama, 4912 x 1080 pixels
Low light panorama, 4912 x 1080 pixels

HDR mode

The Xperia Z3's HDR mode works in what has become the conventional way, by combining several exposures into one image in order to increase the captured dynamic range of a scene. As before the mode is a little hidden in the menu structure. To set it manually you have to be in M mode and have the resolution set to 8MP or less. Then the option becomes selectable in the settings menu. Once it is activated it does a decent job and, as you can see in the high-contrast samples below, recovers highlight detail that would be clipped in a conventional single exposure. Shadows are lifted as well but only to a fairly moderate degree, so the end result still looks natural. 

8MP, HDR Off
8MP, HDR On
100% crop
Noticeable highlight clipping
100% crop
Recovered highlight detail and lifted shadows.

Front Camera

Like all of its peers the Xperia Z3 comes with a front camera for self portraits and video calls. However, resolution is limited to 1920 x 1080 pixels and, as you can see in the sample below, the images are soft with noticeably smeared fine detail, even in very bright light. If the image quality of the front camera is an important buying criterion you'll find better options on some of the Sony's competitors.

Front camera capture, 1920 x 1080 pixels, ISO 50, 1/1250 s