The 5 megapixel autofocus shooter offers a good range of niceties as face detection, image and video stabilizer, BestPic, auto-rotate, macro mode, camera images geo-tagging (based on cell-ID), Photo Flash, etc.
Of course, the unique camera feature is the eight touch sensitive camera controls that backlight in blue around the display. They are active only in camera mode and are responsible for switching between video and still camera, accessing the photo gallery, changing the autofocus mode, shoot mode, scenes, timer and flash mode.
The C902 camera viewfinder with touch controls
The camera has the latest user interface. Its pop-up sub-menus enhanced with icons and the Multi Menu packing all the available settings known since K850 are here to facilitate the user experience. The touch-sensitive controls are haptic-enabled, and vibration can also be turned off from the settings multi-tab menu.
Cyber-shot v2.0 camera user interface • settings menu with the haptic feature
The camera toolbar gives access to shoot mode, scenes, picture size, focus, flash, self-timer, metering mode, white balance, effects, and settings Multi Menu. Sadly, an ISO setting is not available in C902, as compared to K850.
The focus mode however has an extra feature - Face detection. The face recognition system allows you to simultaneously track as many as 3 faces but focus is locked on the cutest face in the shot. Just joking, even if it's quite random at times, the one that's closest to the center of the frame usually gets the focus.
Face detection on, icon in the toolbar
The image stabilizer is supposed to keep images from blurring in dark environments but, as in all phone cameras so far, it's purely a software tweak of questionable efficiency. Plus no stabilization can help you if your subjects are moving.
The ultra quick-snapping BestPic mode has two varieties - fast and slow. In fast mode it produces 9 full-size 5 megapixel images for about 1.3sec, each of them of approximately 1MB of size. Saving all the images on the memory card afterwards takes about 15 seconds. The slow mode takes 9 images again but in a larger interval of about 2.5sec.
BestPic mode in the settings menu
Finally we get to the geo-tagging issue. Sony Ericsson C902 doesn't have GPS on-board but is capable of putting standard GPS coordinates in images based on cell tower triangulation. This seems to work quite fine with accurate GPS data in dense city areas, where cell towers are closely positioned. We are somehow uncertain about this level of accuracy in other areas with cell towers quite apart.
When browsing tagged images in the gallery, you have access to a "View on map" tab from the options menu, which displays your location directly on the preinstalled Google Maps. If you pair the phone with an external GPS receiver, the geotagging feature automatically starts to use it to collect exact GPS coordinates for the images.
The Add position setting in the menu
We were unable to test the official claims that the new Photo flash LED is able to provide 3 times more power that the regular LED. Nevertheless, the flash photos came out well and it might be a good trade-off - substituting the xenon flash for a photoflash LED that works in BestPic mode.
The dedicated macro mode in C902 allows you to take images from as close as 10 cm (focus lock is reported in the viewfinder even at 8 cm but the image is actually a bit blurred). The silent shooting mode completes the worth-mentioning features of the C902 camera.
Thanks to the built-in accelerometer the camera is also able to auto-rotate your images when you are previewing them.
Two shortcomings are worth pointing out with the user interface. The first one is that closing the active lens cover results in loss of the latest settings, unless you have taken a photo with these values.
The other one concerns the menu one-way layout - to reach the Multi Menu you have to pass all the other settings on the toolbar, as it's the last item there. Browsing items on the toolbar reversely should be an option, as with the camera interfaces of competing brands.
The C902 camera is a capable shooter. The images are crisp with nice contrast though with an obvious tendency of oversharpened edges, especially in high-contrast areas. Noise level seem relatively high, especially with sufficient light. The autofocus camera does very well at close-ups. Color rendering is relatively good; yet all colors are a bit cold. We think they need some 10% more saturation to ride high. And finally, as usual for Cyber-shots there is a lot of purple fringing - due to imperfection of the lens used.
The trademark red-to-pink conversion that all recent Sony Ericsson cameraphones manifest is kept under control and we see well balanced reds and pinks (have a look at the images below).
Sony Ericsson C902 camera samples
As usual, photos at 100% should not be indicative, as even mid-range digicam quality suffers at full size. Just to give you an idea of what the C902 photos can turn out with just a wee bit of photoediting, here are their versions downsized to 1024x768 pixels.
Sony Ericsson C902 camera samples downsized to 1024 pixels
Of course, the C902 is also capable of capturing video, even if it's only limited to QVGA resolution at 30fps. The clips are recorded in mp4 format and take about 3 MB for every minute of recording. Interestingly enough, the C902 camera is officially quoted to record stereo sound to video clips.
Here is a sample video for you to check out.
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