Sony Xperia SP – Good Lights, Camera, And Performance (Part 3)

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The Xperia SP has a primary 8MP camera with a backside-illuminated Exmor RS sensor and f/2.4 lens, which is capable of recording 1080p video at 30fps. Sony has chosen a paltry VGA (0.3-megapixel) camera for the front-facer that lacks any advanced settings or features save for snapping stills while recording video, but it'll do for selfies and video chat. However, the camera settings are numerous and deep. In normal camera mode, you can manually adjust the white balance, ISO, exposure value, light metering and focus style. There is image stabilization system as well as the HDR setting, but they can’t be activated together. A sweeping panorama mode that'll have you spinning almost 300 degrees, an obligatory filter mode, a Superior Auto mode and a scene-selection mode select additional situations where you use the camera. We only find use for the backlight correction + HDR scene mode to snap high-contrast pics in failing light.

The Xperia SP has a primary 8MP camera with a backside-illuminated Exmor RS sensor and f/2.4 lens

The Xperia SP has a primary 8MP camera with a backside-illuminated Exmor RS sensor and f/2.4 lens

Getting into the camera app can be done in one of many ways: launching it as normal, swiping an icon across the display from the lock screen or holding the two-step, dedicated camera button. The on-screen keys for switching between modes and change the settings lie on the left, with deeper menus open in the middle and over the top. It's easy to navigate and easy to fiddle inside the application. The on-screen keys for switching between modes and tweaking settings are located on the left-hand side, which are also accessible, but when in the right setting, we almost always use the well-placed physical key.

Picture taken with enabled “Superior auto” mode

Picture taken with “Superior auto” mode

Lovely, crisp images are easily achievable with the SP's primary camera, and the Superior Auto setting will work in your favor most of the time, taking the pain out tinkering with the individual settings in the normal camera mode. In all modes, we favored the automatic white balance setting, which only tricked reality slightly under artificial light. The Superior Auto setting only takes a maximum of 7MP images, but as all 8MP are available in other modes with the same aspect ratio (4:3), it's hard to notice any significant drop in quality. However, to achieve beautiful high-contrast HDR images, you should better use the normal camera mode. We do not tell the color saturation is bad with Superior Auto - just as you can’t have full HDR.

Picture taken with “Regular” mode

Picture taken with “Regular” mode

The low-light performance is better than expected, but apart from Superior Auto mode, it's hard to keep pictures in focus and anything but really steady hands results in blurry shots. Let the software take over, though, and you can snap at normal speeds with the sensor still managing to suck up every bit of available light. Despite the absence of burst-capture mode, the focus speed and shutter response mean you can be ready for the next picture in less than 1 second. The small pulsed LED flash tends to wash images out, but can provide extra burst of illumination at the proper distance if the low-light modes aren't enough.

Video quality at 1080p is also good on the SP, with no complaints of focus stuttering or jittery changes to exposure. As the front-facing camera, you can take photos while filming, but just 1MP's worth. With image stabilization system open, the screen shows a really smoothly clip while you're walking. When viewed on a computer, you can see the video warp in places where the software is compensating for your strides. Microphone collects any ambient sound that you want. Low-light video comes out noisy when viewed on anything other the SP's screen, but it really draws in a lot of light. You'd be surprised if you knew how dark it really was when we were filming the low-light sample footage in the clip below. By the way, there is no HDR video mode. It is one of the few things that the lesser Xperia L has that the SP doesn't. In short, the camera is steady and acceptable for normal use. It is a small improvement compared to the 8MP camera of the Xperia P with Exmor R sensor, but doesn't match up to the photo quality of the Xperia Z.

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