Sony is one of the few manufacturers left to stick with a single-lens rear camera on its flagship smartphone and that's exactly what we see on Sony Xperia XZ3. It reserves a dual camera setup for higher-end Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium device, while Sony Xperia XZ3 has a 19 MP Motion Eye camera with an f/2.0 aperture. There have been some refinements from Sony Xperia XZ2, but hardware is same, which means there is no optical zoom and no wide angle, as you'll find on Samsung Galaxy S9+ and Apple iPhone X.
Sony Xperia XZ3 benefits from Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) for super steady shots. Sony's effective predictive phase-detect and laser autofocus setup is also included. In use, though, camera performs phenomenally well. Images taken outdoors in unusually-bright September weather are packed with detail, with subjects outside, such as walls, trees and statues picked up beautifully. HDR mode also effectively helped subtly boost images by brightening up shadows, without losing intricate details such as cloud layers and shadows. Colors looked nice and natural, especially in low-light conditions, and images are packed with contrast. I just had one thing to say once I entered camera app, this is a great camera for stills photography!
Sony has changed front camera on this device to a 13 MP sensor offering a f/1.9 aperture and it comes with beauty modes and bokeh effects. Camera app has also been updated, something that has been a long time coming and Sony has also expanded its AI camera functionalities beyond Superior Auto and Predictive Capture with a new feature called Smart Launch, which will automatically open camera when it thinks you're picking up your device to take a photo. You'll also be able to touch the side of the curved display to take a photo.
In terms of video capture, Sony continues to offer super slow-motion at 960fps, but Sony Xperia XZ3 can do this in Full HD whereas most competitors only offer 720p. It also offers 4K HDR video capture on this device, which is a great feat for any smartphone. Videos look crisp with loads of detail and, although 4K HDR footage is capped at 30fps, I didn't notice any framerate fluctuation issues.
Overall, there's an important thing that I noticed with Sony Xperia XZ3' camera experience. There's no doubt Sony has skills to turn out excellent camera hardware, as evidenced by the fact that so many manufacturers use its sensors, but it's software and tuning that really elevates camera performance to the next level and that's where Sony falls down. Sony needs to work on camera software and post-processing of images to really transform their camera results to the level of devices like Huawei P20 Pro, Googles Pixel 2, Samsung Galaxy Note 9 or Apple's iPhone X.
Sony Xperia XZ3 is one of the first few smartphones to ship with Android 9.0 Pie out of the box, however, it sure isn't a stock Android experience. To my surprise, however, Sony reduced software duplication, offering a more stripped-back experience with a nice Android feel without too many unnecessary extras. Phone does come with a few pre-loaded apps including 3D creator, Netflix and Sony apps for gallery, music and videos. Sony's software continues to be fast and clean, following footsteps of Google Pixels albeit with a little extra Sony style, something most people either love or hate.
There are a couple of extra software additions with Sony Xperia XZ3 as well, one of which is called Side Sense, which takes advantage of that new curved-edge display. Double tapping side of display will offer access to apps, a little like swiping side of Samsung Galaxy Note 9 will bring up Apps Edge and People Edge.
What's good about Side Sense is that you can double tap anywhere on side of the display and either side of the device too, but there's also a "More Apps" option allowing you quick access to all apps installed on your device, as well as access to settings. It will also learn what apps you use and when, ensuring you see those first when you open Side Sense. For example, if you regularly watch YouTube on your morning commute, you'll see YouTube if you double tap side in morning, while if WhatsApp is most used app, that's what you'll see first when you double tap then.
Unfortunately, I spent several minutes trying to get it to consistently trigger and just couldn't make it happen with anywhere near 100% accuracy. You need a pretty firm double-press, which can be tough on a phone with such a thin metal edge. It's a very neat idea that could be incredibly useful if Sony fine tunes this system and makes it more configurable. Unlike HTC U12+, it isn't a core part of phone's navigation, so I'm willing to give it a "wait and see" pass for the moment.
Other than that, things are as they were on Sony Xperia XZ2 so you should get a smooth and stable experience on with Sony's latest flagship offering.
Sony Xperia XZ3 will be available in market on 5th October for around 800 Euros. It'll be available in four different colors: Black, Silver White, Forest Green and Bordeaux Red. A welcome return to form, following an abundance of middling handset launches from Japanese firm, Sony Xperia XZ3 successfully ticks most boxes that matter, notably, top-tier performance, screen quality and a beautiful redesign.
However, I won't easily recommend this phone to everyone out there, especially non-Sony fans. Why? Well, £800 is asking a lot for a phone that doesn't do anything significantly better than its cheaper rivals. OnePlus 6 is just as good in all departments, if not better in some, and it costs a whopping £330 less. I would have loved to have seen Sony Xperia XZ2 Premium's dual camera on board on this device, but I have to say that there are some things really attracting about this phone, especially its lovely design and curved display. Being able to rival top-end devices from Samsung and Google with a brand-new OLED screen is impressive. Few days into use and every time I take it out of my pocket, screen impresses me all over again. Rest of phone has plenty of potential as well, with a speedy performance, a much better software experience and slightly improved camera software. Only thing that really bothers is battery on this phone, but if you are forgiving of that, then this phone has everything a good flagship should carry.
To sum it up in a few words, Sony Xperia XZ3 is without a shadow of a doubt the most exciting Xperia device for years. Welcome to the game, Sony. It might have taken a few years longer than others but you're finally in it.