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The Sony Ericsson Satio packs the first 12 megapixel camera we have seen on a mobile phone. With maximum image resolution of 4000 x 3000 pixels, both xenon and LED flash, it truly is exciting news for cameraphone imaging.
However everyone with a basic idea of photography will tell you that image quality is not all about the pixel count. It will be the general performance (things like amount of resolved detail, noise levels, color reproduction, and lens quality) that will be decisive for the Satio's imaging success or failure.
The Satio camera interface is decently comfortable with the viewfinder occupying only the central part of the screen when regular 4:3 aspect ratio photo resolution is selected. When shooting in 16:9 aspect ratio (9MP) however the whole display is put to use from side to side.
On the right side of the viewfinder there are five shortcuts. Those include Scenes, Shoot mode, Flash settings, Exposure compensation and Auto mode. When Auto mode is selected all the other icons disappear leaving only the bottom one for switching it back off. The handset then takes care to select the most proper scene mode for each of your photos and apply the proper settings.
Opening the settings menu gives you a real load of customizable options. Those include focus mode, white balance, effects, image stabilizer and self-timer. You can also choose whether a preview of every shot captured should appear and if the image orientation should be recorded in the EXIF info. The camcorder part of the camera supports a very similar set of customizable settings.
A heavily camera-oriented high-end handset, the Sony Ericsson Satio naturally comes with image geo-tagging too. There is also face and smile-detection onboard, as well as panorama mode and Touch capture. As the name suggests, Touch capture allows you to focus any particular subject in the frame by simply clicking on it in the viewfinder. The Satio will automatically focus on it and take a shot.
The easiest way to see how far Sony Ericsson have gone with the Satio image quality is to compare it to one of the best examples currently on the market - the Samsung i8510 INNOV8. The 8 megapixel slider easily produced some of the highest quality photos in our 8 megapixel shootouts upsofar so it should be quite a good reference.
As we found out, the Satio manages to outperform the INNOV8, albeit by not such a wide margin. Satio managed to resolve more detail with pretty much similar noise levels while in all other aspects the two handsets were virtually on par. Considering the pre-release version of the Satio, this is quite an achievement.
In practice, the extra 4 megapixels do make a difference even if not a 50% improvement as some might guess. However, with the Satio still in development, it'll hardly be a surprise if it opens a wider gap on chasers when it actually gets released.
Here is how the Sony Ericsson Satio compares to the Samsung i8510 INNOV8.
And here goes a 100% crop from two of the photos above illustrating the resolution advantage that the Satio has over the INNOV8.
And there go some more 12 megapixel samples from the Satio camera.
Sony Ericsson Satio will come with VGA videos, equaling XPERIA X1's achievement. While our early pre-release sample cannot quite handle the 30 fps framerate it gets pretty close and we're confident that this will be sorted out before the handset hits shelves.
The quality of the videos is really great with almost unmatched amount of resolved detail, very good contrast and precise colors. While the HD capabilities of the Samsung Omnia HD still remain unsurpassed, the Satio is definitely among the top contenders for the world title in the VGA category (once they sort out the nagging framerate issue).
Here is a Sony Ericsson Satio camera video sample for you to enjoy.