Of resolutions and claims - that Sony Z5 quote: "the best camera in a leading smartphone"

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I was interested to see Sony announce the Xperia Z5's new 23MP (ish) camera as "the best camera in a leading smartphone*". The presence of an asterisk should alert you to the fact that Sony has been flexible with its wording here. Now, I'm not knocking the Sony Z5 camera - if it's anything like the LG G4's then it'll be a power house of an imaging device, plus the 'Clear Image Zoom' is extremely reminiscent of Nokia's PureView zoom back in the day. A few thoughts below...

You'll remember the shock back in 2012, at MWC, when Nokia announced the 808 PureView, with a 41MP sensor? In a time when 5MP/8MP was standard, the news was shocking, though to this day I still don't think many people understand the concepts involved. "41MP? So why am I getting 5MP photos then?" And so forth.

Rinse and repeat for the announcement of the Lumia 1020 in 2013, with a slightly slimmed down but essentially similar camera, this time with OIS on board. Still the concepts of PureView oversampling, reframing and PureView zoom were lost on all but the most hardened imaging enthusiasts. Sadly.

In the meantime, Sony's 21MP cameras have always claimed some oversampling and zooming, though not to the same level of sophistication as in the Nokia pair of devices. And we now have Sony's claim, referring to the Z5's camera as "the best camera in a leading smartphone*". Clicking through the asterisk's footnote brings you to a Sony page with simple stat-based charts such as:

Sony chart

Well, at least the Nokia Lumia 930 was in the mix, but no sign of the 1020. Reading into the footnote to the footnoted chart, then reveals:

  • Nokia’s Lumia 1020 has a 41MP camera, however this device does not feature in the top selling smartphones of 2015

And no mention of the 808 PureView at all. The phrase "leading smartphones" is defined by Sony and Strategy Analytics as those with the highest sales in shops in 2015 - by which definition, of course, the two Nokia 41MP monsters aren't included. Which is convenient for Sony, as otherwise their chart would reveal the Z5 in third place!

Plenty of people are still using the 1020 actively, of course, and despite its quirks I'd definitely place it in a class of 'leading smartphones' - though I do, of course, know what Sony is trying to say. And as I say, I'm sure the Z5 camera will be excellent - bringing some oversampling and some PureView-like zoom to the Android world in a way that hopefully works, as opposed to the uninspiring, abortive rendition in the Z2, Z3, etc. And I'm looking forward to doing some camera head to heads between the Z5, the 1020 and whatever Microsoft announces next month.

There's more to photo taking on a phone than simple resolution, of course, I've proved that many times. Strategy Analytics did say that in claiming the original quote, that image quality had been taken into account as well as raw stats. Though one has to wonder the exact methodology and, again, the 1020 and 808 weren't included in the tests at all. PLUS the Xperia Z5 camera doesn't have OIS, which has proved so crucial to the Lumia 1020, 930, etc.

Ah well. Just take phone imaging claims with a pinch of salt until I and others put the hardware through some personal tests!

PS. The full Xperia Z5 video, with imaging examples, is here on YouTube, if you're interested.

Source / Credit: Sony