Sony Ericsson Xperia active review: The Rainmaker
Camera is acceptable
The Xperia active offers a 5 megapixel snapper with a single LED flash. There is a handy dedicated shutter key too just like on the Live with Walkman and the Xperia mini.
The user interface of the Xperia active's camera is quite intuitive. You have a bar with five shortcuts to popular features on the right, a bar with the latest captured images on the left and still camera/camcorder switch at the bottom. You can hide or expand both bars with swiping gestures.
The five most used shortcuts allow you to change the capturing mode, resolution, to enable/disable touch capture and turn on flash.
Upon pressing the menu key (or dragging the left bar to the right side) you get some extra customizable options like focus mode, touch capture, white balance, geo tagging and image stabilization. The Xperia active also boasts face detection and smile shot.
Image quality is okay on the Xperia active. The produces photos have good color reproduction but the amount of captured detail isn't impressive. Detail gets smeared the further away from the center of the picture you look - just like on the Live with Walkman.
There is a panorama option too, like on other models from this year. But the actual sample we made doesn't deserve an audience.
Noise is very low but due to the aggressive noise reduction algorithm much of the detail is lost. We also took a couple of close-ups with the Xperia active. The result isn't too impressive as you can tell for yourselves in the photos below.
Photo quality comparison
We’ve also added the Sony Ericsson Xperia active to the database of our Photo Compare Tool. The Tool’s page has a quick how to guide and also what to look for.
The Xperia active does okay against competition such as the Wildfire S and Motorola DEFY but faced with true cameraphone competition in the 5 MP class, like the iPhone 4 or the Samsung Galaxy Ace it fails badly.
HD video recording not impressive
HD video recording is getting to be something of a must in recent smartphones and the Xperia active enters a league full of competitors. It’s framerate circles around the 30fps and is quite steady too. As some previous Sony Ericsson devices, the active also captures a few duplicated frames, but not that much to ruin the video.
The Xperia active camcorder supports continuous autofocus. Its approach is the same as on the Xperia X10, Arc, Neo, etc: it may take a few seconds to refocus after you reframe instead of fast and constant re-focusing. It’s certainly the approach we prefer.
The video app
Quite expectedly, the video quality is on par with the Live with Walkman. The videos run smooth, but the captured detail is low and there's a pinkish spot in the center. On the positive side, the color rendering is spot on. The HD samples look good on the small display, but they are not that great on a bigger screen.
Just like with the 720p video samples captured by the Live with Walkman and the Xperia mini we are happy only with the smoothness. We guess that the camera sensor is identical in the three models as they all suffer from the same shortcomings - both in stills and video recording. On the Xperia active detail is very low and the elements in the video look soft focused and not sharp.
Check out the untouched 720p sample that we captured with the Xperia active.
Video quality comparison
We added the Xperia active samples to our Video Compare Tool database too and put it head to head with the other 720p mobile camcorders we have tested.
The lack of fine detail is evident when compared to competing products plus there's a pinkish spot in the center of the frame. Comparison with the Live with Walkman further suggests the same sensor.