Cameras Compared: The Apple iPhone 5S vs. the Sony Xperia Z1 (Updated)

Flash & User Experience


We decided to test the iPhone 5S’ new True Tone flash to see if the marketing holds true, and in general we think it works well. The scene below is a little difficult; we’re throwing a yellow light on my mugshot, while the indoor lights are blue.

The iPhone 5S manages to retain the warm glow on my face while managing to render the white spot on my color chart white, as well as keep the room’s interior lights white behind me. The finished effect actually looks quite pleasing.

iPhone 5S, f/2.2 at 30mm, 1/33 sec, ISO 80.

The Sony Z1’s flash is straight on white however, giving everything a flatter appearance. The 8MP capture looks okay, but the 20MP capture is washed out.

Sony Z1, 8MP, f/2 at 27mm, 1/100 sec, ISO 200.

Sony Z1, 20MP, f/2 at 27mm, 1/32 sec, ISO 160.

User Experience

This is the most subjective part of the review. The iPhone 5S’ interface is simple - which is great for the everyday user. For the power user however, you sometimes wish you could set exposure and focus points differently, or dial exposure compensation in yourself - to get at those settings, you'll need to look for third-party apps.

Essentially, the iPhone 5S is a point and shoot experience, but the 5S is generally smart, the AF is usually spot on and it can recognize faces most of the time. If you tap to focus but don’t shoot, the camera will automatically go back to multi-area focus after a few moments. Shot to shot response is quick, and you can now hold down on the shutter release icon to shoot in bursts. That’s both a blessing and a curse, as you can accidentally shoot bursts of images without meaning to, luckily the 5S presents you with the one it thinks turned out to best (while saving the rest).

The Z1 opens up more options with Manual settings, with which you can set white balance, exposure compensation and ISO. Shot to shot response is quick – as is AF, most of the time. AF can hesitate sometimes, especially in low-light. And the Z1 has a disturbing tendency to rack in and out of focus in low-light, shooting when the screen displays an out of focus image – you never know if the final shot is actually in focus or not, forcing you to check each time.

There’s also a tap to focus bug (at least, we hope it’s a bug) in both Superior Auto and Manual, once you tap to focus, the focus point remains locked in the same position, even after you take the picture – the camera never returns to multi-area AF. You have to exit the mode, or exit the Camera app in order to have the camera let go of the focus point, which gets tedious pretty fast.

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