Sony decided to step up its mid-range camera game noticeably with the Xperia 10 II. Not only does it pack a triple camera setup, but it is a very versatile one, in the sense that it combines a telephoto and an ultrawide along with the main camera.
Both of these snappers have a resolution of 8MP and 1/4.0" sensors. The telephoto is rated at 52mm, or 2x optical zoom, compared to the main 26mm camera. It has an aperture of f/2.4 and PDAF.
The 8MP ultrawide has a slightly brighter lens, at f/2.2, with a 120-degree field of view.
The few notable omissions, on a hardware level, include no autofocus on the ultrawide, as well as no OIS on any of the three snappers. Though, you could also view these as wishful thinking on our end.
Before we move on to actual camera quality, we should mention a few things about the camera app on the Xperia 10 II. The UI is simple and straight-forward. With just a few exceptions here and there. But, generally, very user-friendly, like the rest of the Xperia software.
Most of the options are self-explanatory. The second to last icon on the left toggles portrait mode on and presents a slider for the intensity of the effect. Two icons up - the sun symbol brings up two nondescript sliders on the right. One of these offers arbitrary control over white balance, while the other - exposure.
Thankfully, that's about the only cryptic bit in the camera UI we found. Sony has created a very "guided" experience for novice users here, as well. There are prompts in various places throughout the app that take you to a nifty list of basic feature explanations. Starting some modes for the first time, like Portrait selfie also triggers a tutorial.
Sony's camera app tries to be helpful in another way, which we appreciate. Its intelligent scene and condition recognition algorithms are nice enough to inform you of their current state and decisions with little icons and text in the bottom left corner of the camera UI. That makes it easy to spot the occasional inconsistency or misdetection and adjust the camera slightly until the software re-thinks in decision.
Manual mode is present on the Xperia 10 II. Don't expect anything too crazy though, just the typical set of options. Autofocus, shutter speed and exposure compensation are all on arbitrary sliders, without specific values. While balance has an icon-based selection menu and ISO goes from 50 to 3200. There is an HDR toggle on the left side of the UI, which the keen-eyed among you might have noticed is absent from the main camera UI. That's a slightly odd decision. So is the fact that there is no Auto HDR option in this menu. Our best guess is that Sony's presumption is that once in Manual mode, the user can be tasked with this entirely.
The video recording UI is very simple. You still get optional sliders for exposure and white balance. The LED flash can be turned on as a torch. And the zoom control button is still on the right, next to the shutter key. It goes 0.6x, 1x, and 2x. If you are shooting in 1080p, that is.
There is no 4K recording the ultrawide. Perfectly understandable, since 8MP 4:3 sensor is hardly enough for 4K equalling 16:9 8 megapixels. 2x 4K video is simply handled by the main camera. In fact, so is 2x at 1080p. But, more on that in the video section.
There are more video mode idiosyncrasies to note on the Xperia 10 II, as well. Most of these listed in the Video size menu, within settings. Smile Shutter and Object tracking can not work at 4K, while video stabilization is unavailable in 60fps. Other than that, EIS seems to work across the board on all cameras, in their supported resolutions.
In order to access the still camera settings, you have to go into the menu from photo mode. There are a few things to potentially set-up here right off the bat. Soft Skin Effect applies a smooth skin filter, regardless of camera mode, so you might want it off. We also left lens correction to Off to get the best possible sharpness out of this camera but we would probably have it On in day-to-day use.
Let's kick things off with the main 12MP camera. In good lighting conditions, outdoors, the Xperia 10 is competent. Colors are nice and so is contrast. But, stills just don't hold up to closer scrutiny. Noise is a bit too high for our taste.
As we already mentioned, the Xperia 10 II does not offer convenient access to HDR settings in its main camera UI. You can only get to a manual On and Off switch through Manual mode. Forcing HDR to On managed to noticeably boost shadows and bring out some detail there. Highlights remained mostly unaffected. Overall, the mode brightened up the exposure, which was beneficial to the overcast scenes. The HDR mode also applies sharpening generously.
In case you were wondering, you can't use HDR on the telephoto or the ultrawide. Once you go to Manual mode, you are locked to the main camera. Any zoom you do then is simply a crop from the main sensor. You can apply HDR to that, but it's not really the same thing.
Since there is no autofocus on the ultrawide, you are stuck with the main camera of the Xperia 10 II for macro shots. It can focus at a fairly short distance, but is a bit reluctant to do so by itself in regular Auto mode. You can either use the dedicated Macro mode or the focus slider in Manual mode to get even closer to the subject.
Before we move on to the other two cameras on the Xperia 10 II, we should mention the "Bokeh effect" toggle, as Sony calls it. It is a dedicated portrait mode that seems to use the telephoto camera as its primary image source. We are sure it leverages data from at least the main camera, as well, since there is clearly an active process of subject detection taking place, complete with hints on framing and distance.
The resulting portrait shots, themselves, have a surprisingly convincing bokeh effect. The surprising part being that the shot capture process itself is often wonky, takes a very long time without any visual indication of what is going on and the live bokeh effect applied to the viewfinder is very sub-par.
This is as good a time as any to mention that the Xperia 10 II is not a speedy photographer. Shots often take a long time, without offering any indication of what is going on to the user. This experience can definitely be improved.
The best way to describe the experience we had with the 8MP telephoto camera would probably be - unreliable. Elaborating a bit, while in 2x mode, the Xperia 10 II has a tough time deciding which camera it wants to use. On occasion the phone would randomly decide to switch to a crop of the main camera, instead of using the actual telephoto for 2x shots, without lighting conditions really necessitating it. This way you end up with consecutive shots with noticeably different exposure, detail, noise and sharpening applied.
Once everything falls into place and you are using the telephoto camera with proper exposure and no excessive oversharpening, shot look very decent.
It is worth noting that both the telephoto and the ultrawide produce 12MP images, despite their native 8MP resolution. So, you will always have a little bit of upscaling.
We can't really shower the 8MP ultrawide on the Xperia 10 II with praise. Shots come out nice enough when there is enough light.
The ultrawide really underperforms in challenging lighting conditions. Colors get desaturated and shot come out looking really soft and with low contrast.
And, of course, we have added samples from the Xperia 10 II to our extensive photo compare database. All for your pixel-peeping pleasure.
The Xperia 10 II has an 8MP, f/2.2 selfie snapper at its disposal. Nothing too fancy. No dual-camera setup, no depth sensors, no autofocus. Still, it manages to deliver consistent, solid results. Sharp, with plenty of detail and nice colors. Dynamic range is limited, but that's just par for the course with many selfies.
Noise increases very rapidly in worse lighting conditions. But other than that, selfies remain perfectly usable.
Sony decided to package its bokeh effect for the selfie inside Portrait selfie mode, alongside the beauty filters. You can leave all the beauty filters turned off if you just want to make use of bokeh. Unsurprisingly, with no real way to properly measure depth, subject detection and separation are not great.