Camera UI: Sony Xperia Z3

This post is about the extensive User Interface of the new Sony Xperia Z3. Although I will add some comments, it's not exactly a review like I recently wrote about the  Moto X 2nd Gen. Sony's camera appliication has way more possibilities than Motorola is offering "out of the box" for instance, so I think it deserves a seperate post. Important difference is of course that Sony has been running its camera division for many years, so it's able to bring much more to the table to begin with. 

Short history
In 2001 Sony's mobile division started a joint venture with Ericsson, and they already offered a small attachable camera (the "communicam") for their first product: the T68i. In 2006 Sony Ericsson introduced Sony's famous Cyber-shot brand in its K800i, developing it into a seperate product line, the C-series. The last was the C905 from 2008. The company was showing it was dead serious about offering the best camera technology in a phone - back in those days, Sony Ericsson and Nokia were serious competitors in mobile imaging. Nowadays, Sony has lost nothing of its ambitions and proudly communicates it's offering its own EXMOR back-illuminated sensor technology in its latest smartphones. Which brings me back to the Xperia Z3.

Camera settings
Although many of the readers here will be used to the impressive and versatile user interface of Nokia Camera, it's by no means standard that smartphones come with elaborated camera software - we've seen it in the new Moto X, and many iPhone users will install their own application to get the best out of the sensor. Sony is a notable exception, as I will show in this post. Again, this is not (yet) about its picture quality, just about the options Sony offers, as captured in many screenshots (all are black since I "blinded" the sensor). Here we go, this is what you will see when you start the camera application.

If you start the camera (by a long press on the dedicated camera button) in the righ hand corner you'll see it's activated in "Superior Auto". In the left corner, below the "selfie" buton, there are see three dots, symbol of "extra settings". There you will find the settings you have in "Superior Auto". These are "basic" settings like:
Aspect Ratio,
Self-timer,
Smile Shutter,
Burst with longpress and
Face registration.
In video, you'll find:
SteadyShot, and on/of settings for Microphone, Use volume key as zoom, Sound and where to store your video (device or micro-SD)

If you touch the button with the "Superior Auto" logo, you'll get all the other camera options installed on the phone. You'll see them below first.



Quite a set of different software, isn't it? Some is very useful, some is just for fun. And there's more, as you can see in the + symbol in the corner. Let's have a look what you'll find there as well:



Over thirty options to use the camera of your Xperia Z3 - I'm sure you'll understand I'm not going to describe them all. I think the most interesting of the extra applications are Timeshift video, Background defocus, Timeshift burst and Sweep panorama. But of course, most important for all more aspiring mobile photographers will be the button with Manual settings - so let's focus on that one with a few screenshots first.

Manual settings
First: the several options you have for scene selection - which is in fact an extension of the "automatic settings", allowing you to automatically load the best settings for a specific scene.


The next button is for white balance and exposure value are very simple to change, but you'll have to realize it's a slider next to five seperate buttons.

Third button from the top is for the ways you can set the flash:

The lowest button is for the other different settings - quite a few as well. First you'll find all different resolutions. Note you can shoot in "full res" in both different aspect ratios.

Below the resolution of your choice you'll find the following settings:

Except for some on/off options you'll see "Focus mode", offering:

Sharing screenshots from all options would be overdoing it a bit, so here I'll just write the other options you'll find are:
ISO (from 50 to 3200),
Metering (Face, Multi, Center or Spot),
Image stabilizer (on/off),
Preview (3 seconds to unlimited) and
Face registration.

Applications
Now let's have a look at some of the different applications I've shown in the screenshots above. Quite a few of those are about "fun", like "AR Fun" - makes you play with "augmented reality": virtual objects projected in your screen. The application "AR effects" allows you to capture virtual objects in your shot. I tested it a bit, it made me smile for a while even, but I don't really get why Sony is incorporating fun software like this in an ambitious device like the Xperia Z3. Children can't afford it anyway and I don't think many parents will let their children play with it. Anyway, you can capture a scene like this ("under water").

You can even shoot a video this way, but I have to add that this software will heat up your Xperia Z3 considerably, and although I didn't try it, I'm quite sure the same will happen when you choose to share your video live on YouTube.

Back to photography. One application offers an instant bokeh effect it seems:

Creative effect offers a large amount of ways to artistically (or dramatically) change the scene in front of you  - one example (screenshot).

Generally speaking it's wiser to me to capture the scene as good as possible and apply any effect afterwards, since you can't "undo"  them - but that's up to the user I guess. Moreover, you can only use these specific effects while capturing the shot (why not afterwards?).

Editing your shots
If you want to work on your shot later you can choose Sony's Photo Editor. It offers several possibilities like you'll see below. First: filters (there are more, I'll just share one screenshot):

Frames in all sizes:

Straighten, Crop, Rotate and Mirror:

Straighten? Like many of us probably know from Nokia Camera's "Reframe"? Well, similar - but you can't zoom in while you're using this effect (and I'm sure people would appreciate that kind of "Zoom Reinvented" possibility)

And last: Tiny Planet, Autocolor, Exposure,, Vignette, Contrast, Shadows, Vibrance, Sharpness, Curves, Hue, Saturation and BW Filter:


And this last screenshot concludes my post about the camera UI of the Sony Xperia Z3. Not everything it offers might be to your taste, but I think the amount of different imaging options is very impressive. Of course you want to know if the camera is actually any good in different circumstances. I shared some shots already in earlier posts, but I hope to write my Smartcam Review on the Xperia Z3 soon. I have several review samples to test at the moment in fact, all I need to buy is time... And I'll be writing more about Camera UI's as well, the next being that of the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom. As always, all your questions and remarks are welcome below! :-)