One of the Xperia L1's headline features is probably the 13MP camera on its back. Sony doesn't give us a specific model, but it confirms that it's not an Exmor sensor inside. The sensor is behind an f/2.2 lens, a decent setup for an entry-level smartphone.
The Xperia L1 uses Sony's latest camera UI, but cuts back on features. There is no section for shooting modes, which means you can't even capture a panoramic photo. You change between Auto, Manual, and video by swiping up and down (or left and right, if you're holding it in portrait).
Other than HDR override, in Manual mode you get access to shutter speed selection (1/4000s - 1s), exposure compensation, white balance, and a manual focus slider. The manual ISO setting (100-3200) is still tucked away in an extra settings menu.
The 13MP samples came out with enough resolved detail and above-average dynamic range. The contrast is good, though we've seen better, and the colors stayed close to real life. There is a lot of noise pretty much everywhere across the samples, but even with that in mind we will remember the Xperia L1 camera with mostly positive impressions.
While the Auto mode would occasionally activate the HDR mode (Backlit scene) when needed, if you really want to force it, you have to go to Manual mode and select HDR from the Settings. The HDR mode brought back detail in the shadows, while it prevented the highlights from clipping. There is less resolved detail in the HDR images, though, especially in the foliage, while the colors turned were often over-saturated. Note these happen only in the manual HDR mode, the Auto is much better in getting the right settings for a Backlit scene.
As we mentioned before - Panorama isn't available on the Xperia L1.
We also tested out the 5MP front-facing camera. Photos came out with nice colors, but mediocre detail and very high levels of noise. The selfie camera is no good at all in low-light conditions and the photos we tried to take came out way too soft.
Picture Compare Tool
Feel free to check how the Xperia L1 stacks against the Redmi 4a and Meizu M5 Note in our Photo Compare Tool. You will be able to clearly see its sharpness advantage in the corners.
Sony Xperia L1 is capable of recording videos at 1080p resolution with 30fps. The samples are encoded at about 16.8 Mbps - more than fine for the class. Audio is recorded in stereo at 128Kbps.
The video samples lack in detail and came out very soft and noisy. The colors are accurate, the contrast is good, while the dynamic range is about average.
You can download a short original 1080p video sample (10s, 20.7MB) straight out of the camera.
Finally, we give you the opportunity to compare the quality of the regular video recording mode of the Xperia L1 to any of the numerous phones and tablets we've tested. We've pre-selected the Redmi 4a and Meizu M5 Note to get you started.