The Sony Xperia T3's camera uses one of Sony's standard-issue 8MP Exmor RS sensor. It shoots with a maximum resolution of 3264 x 2448 both Superior Auto and Manual mode. There is a LED flash to help you with the low-light scenes, too.
The Xperia T3 comes with a hardware shutter key. It's quite tiny and many people would probably find it uncomfortable. The good thing about it is that you can set it up to unlock the phone and start the camera. It can also snap a photo or start capturing video immediately. This might come in handy for those occasions when you want to capture something quickly.
The camera interface consists of two panes and is unified with the camcorder one - you can snap a photo or shoot a video without changing modes most of the times. Depending on the shooting mode you're in, the video shutter key may be replaced by a still/video mode toggle.
In the full resolution Manual mode you also get access to "manual controls" on the viewfinder, which sounds more impressive than it really is. There's an exposure compensation slider and a white balance selector. You can also control the ISO, metering and focus modes, turn on/off image stabilization, but those are buried in the settings menu.
The Superior Auto shooting mode is what we've already seen in other Xperia phones - this time around it can shoot in full resolution in addition to the lower-res 16:9 mode. There are no settings you can change besides the aspect ratio, everything is done automatically. Unlike the 20MP Sony Xperia phones, the images taken with Superior Auto have the same quality as the one shot in Normal (Manual) mode.
Manual and Superior Auto aside, the Xperia T3 offers several other interesting shooting modes.
There's Sweep panorama but, unfortunately, panoramas come out with 5MP resolution, lousy stitching and uninspiring quality.
Then, there are the Augmented Reality effects, which stamp one of several virtual worlds over your scene and you can even move around in this world thanks to some intriguing motion tracking effect (note that it needs visual cues to track your motion). Children will love this mode, but us bitter adults are unimpressed.
Other modes include the regular Picture effect mode, which creates a 3 x 3 grid that shows all the available effects in real time. Sony has also included a mode called Social streaming, which can live-stream the video feed from your camera directly on your Facebook profile. That's certainly not something you see every day.
Timeshift replaces the regular burst mode, it captures 30 shots in just 2 seconds. The intriguing thing is it starts shooting even before you've pressed the shutter button.
Finally, there is the Background defocus - it take a photo and blurs the background. This mode shoots a few shots with different focus and then blurs everything in the background but the object in focus.
Sounds like a nice thing on paper, but it fails quite often and you need to try again and again, and keep as steady as possible while shooting.
Both 8MP shots taken in Superior Auto and in Manual mode have plenty of detail - the resolved amount is very good though the images are a bit too noisy. Contrast is excellent, while the white balance is on spot. The produced colors are nice and punchy, accurate in Manual, but oversaturated in Superior Auto mode.
There is lots of noise in some pictures but it isn't that much intrusive. We guess it's better to leave the noise, rather than smudge the fine detail with a harsh noise reduction algorithm.
Here are the 8MP shots we've snapped:
And here are a few samples taken in Superior Auto mode. They have the same quality as the Manual ones, but the colors are slightly oversaturated.
While Superior Auto would occasionally activate the HDR mode when it decides it's needed, if you really want to force it, you'd have to go to Manual mode and choose Backlight Correction (HDR) from the Scenes sub-menu.
The HDR mode is conservative and rescues both the highlights and shadows without making the contrast too low. Despite that we find the effect somewhat unnatural.
Here are a couple of HDR samples:
We uploaded the full resolution 8MP photos to our photo quality comparison database to compare against other high-resolution smartphones. The resolved detail is good, but there is lots of noise and this time around it gets in the way. Still the Xperia T3 is far more capable than the Xperia M2, which we reviewed recently.
The Sony Xperia T3 is capable of capturing 1080p video at 30fps. The camcorder shares the same UI as the still camera. You can set a timer and fiddle with settings like exposure, metering, focus mode, etc.
For videos the T3 features a proprietary SteadyShot digital image stabilization, but there's a price to pay - the field of view (FoV) is reduced (it's how all digital stabilization systems work). The phone is smart enough to detect whether you are shooting hand-held or you have rested it on something stable but you get the reduced FoV either way.
If you go into video mode from the Manual shooting mode, you get an HDR option, as well as various preset scenes to pick from.
You can also snap stills during video recording but that's not of much use as you only get 1080p images, you might as well grab a frame from the video later.
The Sony Xperia T3 is a reasonably powerful camcorder. It captures 1080p videos at just under 30 frames per second with a good bitrate of 19Mbps with stereo sound recording with a bitrate of 96 Kbps and 48 kHz audio sampling rate.
The end results are good, but not perfect. The resolved detail isn't as much as we hoped for, colors and contrast are on par with still images as are the high noise levels. The videos are smooth with a framerate of 29-30 fps with minor variations. The continuous autofocus is much too eager and triggers too often though.
Here's a 1080p sample, which we've uploaded on YouTube.
And here is an untouched 1080p@30fps video sample for you to download.
The Xperia T3 is also capable of capturing 1080p@30fps HDR videos. The quality is the same as the standard video samples, though the HDR effect isn't working as we hoped for.
You can also check out the HDR samples we've uploaded on YouTube as well.
Here is a 1080p@30fps HDR video for you to check out.
The Sony Xperia T3 captures good 1080p videos. It also manages to resolve lots of detail in the background in good light conditions, but fails to do so in the foreground. There is lots of noise in the low-light scene, though the lack of a harsh noise reduction algorithm allows for keeping more detail. You can check out how it does against the competition in good and low lighting conditions and look at the ISO chart for a synthetic estimation of the resolved detail.