The XZ2 doesn't have an OLED panel nor the 4K resolution of Sony's Premium range. In fact, it ships with a 5.7" 1080 x 2160 LCD screen, but it is HDR video compliant. On paper, that resolution might seem lacking, especially when you look at it alongside the numbers from some of the XZ2's competitors.
In real life use, however, you are really unlikely to ever want more. You can't see individual pixels, and the display is bright and vibrant, even if it can't match the inky blacks of OLEDs. The panel is definitely readable in sunny conditions without a hitch.
The auto-brightness works well in general, although for our taste it makes the screen a little too bright indoors and too dim outdoors. You can manually adjust the slider when this happens, of course, but a better-tuned algorithm would be welcome.
It's a shame that more companies aren't aping Samsung's system which remembers how you manually altered the brightness and will from that point on apply that setting when encountering the same level of ambient light. It's smart and it means that even if you hate the way auto-brightness is tuned from the factory, within a few weeks of manual tweaks it will learn to suit you in all occasions.
One thing to note is that even when the slider is at the minimum, the display is still quite bright, which may become very annoying if you use the phone in pitch darkness, say before going to bed. The blue light filter helps reduce strain on your eyes but doesn't seem to affect brightness in any way (not that it necessarily should we just found that on other devices it does slightly lower it).
Despite the fact that Sony makes the cameras found in a lot of flagship smartphones from other brands, the company's mobile arm hasn't really ever found a way to have its handsets featured in any Top 3s when it comes to output quality. It's still up for debate whether the specific choice of hardware is the culprit (Sony makes a lot of different sensors, after all), or only Sony's software and algorithms in this area.
Regardless, when you think of the best smartphone cameras of the moment (any moment over the past couple of years), you don't bring up a Sony phone unless you're talking about a specific niche feature or another - hello, 960fps video capture for less than a second.
So how much have things changed in the camera department with the Xperia XZ2? Well, not that much. Sony has been introducing iterative changes to its established camera system, which has been around for a few years now.
The improvements this year come courtesy of a new image processor (ISP). The new noise-reduction system seems to dial back the noise reduction a bit, as a whole, resulting in a more coarse and grainy rendition of noise but the level of the resolved detail is now higher. In low-light, the difference is even more pronounced with photos coming out looking substantially sharper and with better colors.
It's probably safe to say that the phone produces the best pictures to ever come out of a Sony device, and for the first time in a few years, the quality is competitive to the one produced by the iPhones and Galaxy flagships of the world.
We were tempted to define Sony's insistence on sticking with one sensor on the rear as just another case of its propensity to buck trends and go its own way, but this can't be a criticism in and of itself given how highly Google's Pixels have fared in camera shootouts despite also having only one snapper on their backs.
Before we show you some samples, let's talk a little bit about the experience of taking photos with the XZ2. Sony is still the only manufacturer (among the big, recognizable names, at least) to use a dedicated camera shutter button, and that's something we really appreciate. The location of said button isn't perfect, as it's a bit too low on the right side, but this is something you can get used to.
There's a manual mode in the camera app for those who have all the time in the world on their hands, but as usual, we've only used Auto, to give you an accurate impression of how things come out using the default settings.
When turned on, Predictive Capture will try and do just that - if the camera detects movement it will snap a few shots even before you hit the shutter button, and then present you with all of the images (the predicted ones and the one you captured), letting you choose which to keep. This is handy, but we've only had it show up once.
Xperia XZ2 camera samples
In terms of the XZ2's camera output quality, you can judge for yourself from the assortment of images below. We've captured most of the daytime samples in overcast conditions because the sun has been missing in action around these parts, but overall we'd say they are definitely good shots. There's plenty of detail in good lighting, colors are accurately reproduced, and the dynamic range is quite wide.
In handheld low light scenarios, the improved processing in the XZ2 shines and takes Sony's 19MP camera from lacklustre (as it was in its previous flagships) to very good. OIS would have helped even more in this area, and we're really confused as to why it wasn't included.
Anyway, the nighttime shots we captured are all perfectly usable, with noise reduction doing an adequate job. The XZ2 doesn't produce the best low-light images we've ever seen, but it's certainly a big step forward for Sony in this respect. Make a note we didn't use a tripod for any of these shots which as our earlier reviews have found out, allows the XZ2 to really shine. But we don't normally carry a tripod when we walk around and we approached this exactly this way.
Selfies come out okay, with decent detail levels. They're sharp and the dynamic range is reasonable, if not mind-blowing. Of course when ambient light levels go down things won't be as rosy, but you'll still get usable results.
All of our samples were shot with the setting that favors image quality over reducing distortion. The latter is prone to occur because the XZ2's 19MP sensor is quite wide-angle (despite not being marketed as such), and distortion in the corners is one of the unfortunate downsides of such a solution.
Still, it's not as bad as what we've seen from the dedicated wide-angle cam of the LG V30S ThinQ, for example. In fact, unless you're specifically looking for it, we'd venture a guess and say you're unlikely to notice it - and switching that setting in the Camera app to reduce distortion will result in a slight downgrade of image quality.