Features

To access most of the Xperia Z5's special modes you'll need to get to the special modes screen via the new mode swipe control. Like its predecessors the Z5 comes with a number of pre-installed special shooting modes and features, most of which we have already seen before. Some of them you aren't likely to use very often, but of course the essential panorama and HDR modes are available as well. The latter is accessed through the settings menu.

You can also download and install additional imaging apps, such as a spherical panorama, timelapse and scanner mode. They're basically stand-alone apps, but installing them through the camera app means they will be accessible via the mode button. 

Sweep Panorama

Tapping the arrow icon on the left lets you change the direction of panorama capture.

Panorama mode remains unchanged from previous versions. When shooting horizontally the capture angle is limited to 180 degrees. In vertical orientation you can capture almost a full circle, but the output image size is always the same at 4912 x 1080 pixels. Unfortunately, there is no way of stopping panorama capture manually. You'll have to resort to cropping in an editor if you've captured a larger angle than you had intended to.

Image quality isn't great. The images aren't large to start with and are often visibly soft, even when shooting in bright light. When shooting in low light it's virtually impossible to avoid image blur. You'll also find stitching errors and artifacts on moving subjects. Overall, the Sony panorama mode's images aren't anywhere close to the large and detailed panoramas you can produce with an iPhone 6 or 6s or the latest Samsung Galaxy S models. Click on the thumbnails below to see the full-sized versions.

Bright light panorama, 4912 x 1080 pixels: softness in some image areas
Bright light panorama, 4912 x 1080 pixels: ghosting on moving subjects
Low light panorama, 4912 x 1080 pixels: strong blur and softness

HDR mode

The Xperia Z5'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. On previous Xperia Z models it was limited to the 8MP resolution mode, but now works with the full 23MP resolution. You can only select HDR mode while in Manual mode but have to dive into the settings menu to activate it. 

In our testing its effect was fairly subtle. As you can see in the sample below only a small amount of clipped highlight has been preserved. Shadows are lifted slightly as well but you have to look pretty closely to spot the difference. When shooting in full-resolution mode there is also a noticeable processing delay when shooting with HDR activated, so it's arguably best to only activate the setting when shooting in very high-contrast scenes.

HDR off
HDR on
100% crop
100% crop
100% crop
100% crop