Independent camera review website DxOMark benchmarked the Sony Xperia XZ3 this week and concluded that it's the second-best Sony smartphone to be tested, following the Xperia XZ Premium. Second best might sound good enough on paper but not when the Xperia XZ Premium was released more than a year before the Xperia XZ3 and when it, too, failed to impress.
Low-light performance is an issue
The camera benchmarking website discovered that one of the phone's weakest links lies in low light photography. Although the camera set up can achieve good white balance, textures, and details in typical conditions, quality and autofocus speeds suffer in low-light. High-contrast scenes also result in highlight clipping, making bright highlights or too-dark shadows look as uniform areas. Simply put, the Sony Xperia XZ3 has a considerably more limited dynamic range compared to most of its rivals on the market.
Autofocus suffers in low light conditions as well. It performs "mostly accurately" according to the source; however autofocus slows down considerably in poorly-lit environments, and when compared to devices like the Pixel 3 or Xiaomi Pocophone F1 it can have delays of more than half a second after refocusing.
The source also found that photos containing a strong light source tend to produce image flare, ringing, distortion, and noise. In these conditions, details tend to be lower around the edges of the frame than the center, and all of these characteristics combined lead to a very low artifacts score of 38, for a total of 76 points in photography.
A higher score in video recording
As for video recording, the Sony Xperia XZ3 appears to have performed better, topping a score of 85 points. DXoMark claims that the smartphone's camera setup benefits from decent electronic image stabilization along with accurate and reliable autofocus when recording videos, and delivers well-controlled noise levels as well as good exposure in most lighting conditions.
Video quality takes a bit of a hit when recording indoors or in low light, and once again dynamic range has its limitations much like in photography, leading to the same issues – such as highlight clipping – to reoccur more or less. Nevertheless, the unit handles artifacts with more ease while in video mode compared to stills mode.
Sony's smartphone cameras should be better this year
The Sony Xperia XZ3 has a decent camera for a smartphone, reckons DxOMark, as it's able to deliver good exposure, details, and colors, but its biggest issue is perhaps the single-camera setup coupled with lackluster imaging software, and it's simply outperformed by many of its rivals on the market.
But it's worth reminding that the Xperia XZ3 is not Sony's newest flagship phone, and this year the OEM made some big changes to the camera setup employed by its latest devices. The new Xperia L3 and Xperia 10 series, as well as the high-end Xperia 1, all have multiple cameras on the back panel.
The OEM recently admitted that the camera performance of its smartphones has suffered in part because of internal competition within the company, but claims to have changed its culture to a degree and brought its mobile and imaging arms much closer together in recent months for the creation of this year's lineup.
DxOMark has yet to benchmark Sony's newer models introduced at Mobile World Congress last month but chances of them outperforming the Xperia XZ3 and previous models are high.