Sony Xperia Z3+ vs Sony Ericsson C905

I sometimes read people being nostalgic about the old Sony Ericsson devices - suggesting they're even better than Sony's current camera technology. Since I'm not just interested in the future but also in the history of smartcams I bought the C905 a few months ago and this seems like a good time to see how they actually compare.

So this is going to be a somewhat strange post, comparing a few shots from two devices that are no less than seven (!) years apart. In case you don't remember (or maybe never even saw) the Sony Ericsson C905, here it is, proudly showing the Cybershot brand.

Back in the day, I was quite fond of the Sony Ericsson smartcams and this was the first with an 8.1MP sensor. In case you're interested how it was welcomed back in 2008, here's a long review from GSMArena.

To compare the results from the Sony Ericsson C905 with those of the brand new Sony Xperia Z3+ I used the 8MP setting on that as well, in 4:3 aspect ratio, which is the only one available on the C905. Choosing not to use the largest resolution (15.5MP) on the Xperia Z3+ isn't only fair, it also allows me to change the ISO settings, which you couldn't do on the C905 of course (but not in maximum resolution on the Z3+ either). 

Moreover, I do tend to get better results using the manual settings on the Z3+ anyway - I'm not a fan of the "Superior Auto" setting, in fact, I hardy ever see what's superior about it. All the results you will see here from the Z3+ are captured using the manual settings. Everything from the C905 is on auto anyway, since you can't change much in the settings apart choosing "macro" etc.

I'll share the shot I got from the Xperia Z3+ first, directly followed by the one from the C905. Below those, you'll find crops in the same order; Z3+ and C905. First you'll see two close-ups with flowers.

The colour of the C905 is off (a bit too much on the orange side) but detail is better. Why is the colour too bright in this case? You can tell by the berch in the background, which clearly shows sunlight - wish I could think of a way to control the clouds in this country ;-) Here are the crops from the sharpest part of both - Xperia Z3+ first, C905 second.

Detail on the C905 is pretty amazing for a seven year old device, isn't it? Not sure why the Z3+ didn't perform as good as I expected though - I think it's my fault, as we will see in the next close-ups. Let's have a look at the next flowers, purple this time, Z3+ first again.

This kind of colour is always hard to capture and I do think the Z3+ did a better job, the C905 being a bit too blueish this time - this time there was no sunlight to explain why the colour rendition is a bit too bright. Guess I should have used some of the exposure correction, which is possible on the C905. What about the crops? Again Z3+ first.

Detail looks impressive on the C905, but that's mainly because of the difference in focal length, which makes the subject look "closer". I fact, detail isn't as good this time - the Z3+ clearly has a large advantage with its much bigger sensor. 

Even if I did try to capture the purple flowers above in about the same way, the difference in focal length is immense, as you will see below. The next shots were taken from the exact same distance. Xperia Z3+ first, C905 second.

Can't recall seeing a difference this large before in fact - my guess is there must be about 30% missing in the view coming from the C905 it looks like I've been using its digital zoom function, which I'm sure I didn't. Let's not forget there's seven years in between... What about the crops? Of course, again the result looks "zoomed in". Z3+ first, C905 second.

​Now of course I could zoom in on the Z3+ result, but it wouldn't be that interesting since after all we are comparing 8MP shots here. One gives a quite wide result, the other appears to be closer - I'm quite sure which one I prefer. To "prove" I didn't use any zoom - not even by accident - on the C905, here's a shot of what how both devices captured the keyboard of my laptop:

There obviously is a huge difference. To conclude this post, I'll share one scene you will see in a future comparison as well - an old car in a quite dark parking garage. Again: Z3+ first.

For this shot, I manually set the Z3+ to ISO 200, also since I didn't have a clue what the C905 would choose - it appeared to be ISO 400 afterwards. No wonder there's a lot more noise in the crops I got from the C905 (second crop below)

So what's the conclusion of this somewhat unusual post? Of course, I wouldn't trade a Xperia Z3+ for a C905 - for which I have nothing but respect I might add. I think it's very interesting to see what mobile imaging looked like in 2008. 

The settings are surprising (it does have a Xenon flash (!), red eye reduction, exposure correction, auto timer and even 16x digital zoom) but quite limited as well (like we've seen in its focal length, you can't change aspect ratio, ISO settings, etc). In low light it doesn't perform very well either (not using the flash that is). For close-up shots it did surprisingly well though. I'm quite sure that back in the day people must have been very enthusiastic about the images they got from their Sony Ericsson. 

So if you are being nostalgic about the once so great devices, just remind yourself they were great back then. The only disappointment might be that Sony Ericsson used to be leading in the imaging department, together with Nokia in those days. Both companies have changed and lost their leadership. Sony still claims to offer the best imaging in smartphones though, and in my next comparison you will see if that holds true.

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