Camera Operation

The default Superior Auto screen: you can switch to video or manual mode by swiping up and down, while grid lines and white balance and exposure compensation sliders can be activated in the settings.

When the Xperia Z5 was first presented to the public at the IFA trade show in Berlin it came with the same camera app that dated back to the Xperia Z1, and was long overdue for an update. Luckily, not too long after the Z5 became available in retail Sony provided a software update that improved structure and usability of the app, but some quirks remain. For example, manual ISO only works with camera resolutions up to 8MP, and 4K video is still a separate camera mode rather than just another video resolution.   

On the upside, the full 23MP resolution is now available in Superior Auto mode which had previously been limited to 8MP and 16:9 aspect ratio. You can now choose between 8MP (16:9), 20MP (16:9) and 23MP (4:3).

You can open the camera app via shortcuts on the lock and home screens or by long-pressing the camera button. However, as before, using the latter makes the camera app default to Superior Auto mode. If you want your previous camera settings preserved you have to open the camera via one of the icons. In the new version of the app you can now switch between Superior Auto, manual and video modes by swiping up and down the screen, in a very iPhone-like fashion. Unfortunately for launching special modes, such as Sweep Panorama, 4K video or Timeshift video, you still have to access a special modes screen first.

Manual mode actually doesn't offer that much more manual control. You get larger WB and exposure compensation sliders, and ISO and scene modes can be selected manually. There is still no control over shutter speed.

As before, Superior Auto is a full-auto mode that offers very little control over shooting parameters. That said, you can control the flash and activating the Color and Brightness controls in the settings brings up a small exposure compensation and color slider on the screen. The focus point can be set by tapping on the screen, but it is not linked to exposure. Touch capture can be activated in the settings.

In Manual mode the options are not as different as you might expect. Exposure and white balance sliders can be activated by hitting the corresponding icon on the right, and in addition you get manual ISO and control over HDR mode activation in the settings menu. As before, you can also choose from different focus modes but there is still no manual control over shutter speed or Raw capture. Overall, the new camera app looks like a rather superficial update to the old version. Mode selection is a little less clunky, but on the whole the camera app still comes with most of the quirks and the slightly cluttered structure of previous versions. Stock camera apps from other manufacturers often offer better control and are more intuitive to use.

In manual mode you'll find ISO control and an HDR switch in the settings. 
All resolution options are now available in Superior Auto Mode.

The Xperia Z5's camera button is a clear advantage over the competition though. Just like on a real camera it offers two-stage action that allows for locking focus and exposure with a half-press. It also allows for more stable shooting than tapping on a virtual button on the screen which, in combination with the Z5's angular shapes, makes for easy and comfortable shooting.