Sony Xperia V review: Bondís wetsuit
13 MP Camera comes with its own interface
The Xperia V sports a 13 megapixel camera with a backside-illuminated Exmor R sensor and a single LED flash. It's capable of producing stills with a maximum resolution of 4128 x 3096px.
The camera controls on the Xperia V are available on two taskbars on either side of the viewfinder. On the left you get four shortcuts to various settings, while the still camera/camcorder toggle, the virtual shutter and a thumbnail of the last photo taken are on the right.
The menu key brings up two pages of extra settings - scenes, resolution, smile detection, geotagging, image stabilization and focus mode among others. You can customize three of the shortcuts on the left (the shooting mode shortcut is fixed).
With the Xperia V Sony is debuting its new Superior auto mode, which determines the best scene depending on the conditions. It basically does the same as the old Auto mode, but reportedly even better. However there is a trick, under Superior auto the Xperia V will only shoot 12 MP stills so if you want the full 13 MP resolution you should take pictures in Normal.
Sweep Panorama is also here. You can choose the direction of capture and upon a press of the shutter all you have to do is steadily move the phone to capture. Scene selection gives you a manual choice of Backlight correction HDR, Night scene, sports, etc.
The Xperia V features a Quick launch option, which lets you customize the default behavior of the camera slider in the lockscreen. The default option is Launch and capture - it unlocks the phone, starts the camera and instantly snaps a photo. It's not the best option as the camera doesn't take the needed time to focus properly.
It's also hard to frame the first shot right from this mode, but you can quickly take another photo as the camera reloads quite fast. The other option is to just unlock the phone and start the camera, or you can just disable this feature altogether.
The 13 MP sensor on the Xperia V is a capable one. Stills look good with great exposure and nice levels of detail. Colors are also on the good side and we're impressed with the Xperia V's shot to shot times - it's a really fast camera.
Images are sharp and the software is fine-tuned to deal with cloudy or too bright conditions with ease. Here are some samples below.
We also snapped a couple of macro shots with the LED turned on. The Xperia flashes the LED to focus and then re-flashes again during image capture. Here the level of detail is also impressive.
Since most of samples were captured with the Superior auto, which caps the resolution to 12 MP we're posting two 13 MP samples for comparison's sake. Aside from the actual pixel count the quality is virtually the same.
We'd easily recommend the Xperia V to a friend in need of a cameraphone. It's fast and produces nice images. Users that want larger prints of their photos will be pleased with the 13 MP maximum resolution.
Image quality comparison
We're putting the Xperia V against its slightly-older sibling, the Xperia T, and LG's front-runner Optimus G. You can choose other adversaries as you please.
Passable video recording
The Sony Xperia V captures 1080p video at 30 fps, which is the norm nowadays for most upper-class smartphones.
The camcorder has similar settings to the still camera, including focus mode, metering, exposure value, image stabilization and so on. The layout of the shortcuts can be customized here, too.
The Xperia V camcorder features continuous autofocus. It may take a few seconds to refocus after you re-frame but that's better than repeatedly attempting to lock focus and ruining your video. Focusing during video recording is done smoothly and doesn't interfere with the overall fluidity of the clip.
FullHD videos are stored in MP4 format (19Mbps bitrate) and the framerate is very stable at just a notch below the 30fps mark. The Xperia V videos come with stereo sound recorded at 127Kbps bitrate and 48kHz sampling - all pointing to on-par video recording compared to the Xperia T.
The Xperia V records smooth 1080p videos but they lack sharpness and turn out unpleasantly soft. Shooting at specific objects isn't a problem as the sensor is constantly focusing on the right thing but scenes filled with moving cars, people, etc. proved a problem for it as it didn't really know where to focus.
Here is a 1080p video sample captured with the Sony Xperia V:
If you want to look closer at the video quality, you can download an untouched sample right here.
Video quality comparison
We've added the Xperia V to our video comparison tool. See how it fares against the likes of the Galaxy S III and the iPhone 5.