Thursday , October 19 2017

Sony Xperia Z5 vs Samsung Galaxy S6 — Camera Shootout

s6vsz5

The Xperia Z5 isn’t yet released in the Australian market, and Sony is making some bold claims about the quality of its camera, and not without good cause; the camera can produce some amazing results, but is it really the market leader? Last night in Sydney at the local launch, we saw some video footage shot on the Xperia Z5 vs Galaxy S6 (and vs an iPhone 6 too), and the difference was astounding … but that’s video.

What about photos, the thing we shoot most of on our phones? We’ve taken a little walk with both phones and matched up what the Xperia Z5 and Galaxy S6 are capable of … and the results might surprise you.

Spec comparison

Before we jump into the photo comparisons, let’s compare what’s actually in the two devices.

Xperia Z5 Galaxy S6
Megapixels  23 mp  16 mp
Aperture f/2.0 f/1.9
Focal Length

(35mm equivalent)

24mm 28mm
Camera sensor size 1/2.3″ 1/2.6″

On paper, the Sony is of course capable of more megapixels, but really, that doesn’t mean much these days — megapixels aren’t everything. The Galaxy S6 has a wider maximum aperture, but the Xperia Z5 has a shorter focal length … or so you’d think — in performance terms, it’s not quite as simple. The Xperia Z5 does have a larger image sensor.

On paper, I think you’d have to give it to the Xperia Z5. It is also six months younger than the S6, so you’d expect it to be probably ahead on the specification race. However, what difference does this make in the real world?

Let’s take a look.

Photo comparison

In the series of photos we’ve shown below, the Samsung Galaxy S6 photos are on the left, and Sony’s Xperia Z5 to the right. In case you forget as you navigate down, hover your mouse over a photo, and it’ll show you which camera took it. We’ve tried — as much as possible — to capture the exact same photo on each camera, though obviously with moving subjects (kids, ants, etc) this isn’t always 100% accurate. Still, we think this is a pretty valid test, so take a look and see what we came up with.

S6: On the pot plant photos, i think you’d have to give the best photo to the S6. The colours are more close to life and more vibrant; the Z5 feels like it has washed out the photo a little.

Z5: On this macro shot of our balcony with the stairwell in the background, I think the results are a lot closer, perhaps even a dead heat. However, colour representation probably skews it in favour of the Z5, only because that is how the balcony actually looks; the S6 has darkened it a bit, perhaps to compensate for the bright background, whereas the Z5 seems to have handled the contrast better.

Z5: Here’s a photo of the tree out the front of Ausdroid’s office. To me, the clear winner here is the Z5 because it’s avoided the lens flare suffered by the S6, and it has a more realistic, moderate representation of the colour of the scene — the S6 appears to have overcompensated again, and as a result the hue has shifted yellow rather than staying more centered as with the Z5.

Z5: Taking photos of Captain Jack are a bit more stark; the S6 has flared quite a bit, despite the lens being clean. It does, however (and perhaps by virtue of this flare) capture a bit more detail of Jack’s face, whereas the Z5 photo is a bit darker, but overall a bit clearer. I give the Z5 the win here, though the focus could be clearer.

S6: Here I took two photos of Flynn on the stairs; of course, being a moving subject (and a child, at that) trying to get the exact same shot on both cameras was a bit difficult, but they’re close enough to be somewhat comparable. In this instance, the S6 took a significantly better photo. The light for the stairwell came through an amber window, so there was a yellow tinge to the light, which the S6 captured and the Z5 didn’t.

Neither photo is great, in that there’s a lot of noise in the background of the image, but the S6 did better.

S6: Here’s another example where the S6 captured a more rich, vibrant photo, and the Z5 washed the photo out. Equally, the Z5 didn’t focus well. I don’t know how it stuffed this photo up, because it wasn’t a complex scene, but it just butchered it.

S6 wins this one.

Z5: Here’s a closeup of a succulent plant, and both cameras struggled with this. There was a lot for them to try and focus on, and in my opinion, neither got it quite right; I would’ve focused on the top of the centred leaf, but the cameras fluffed about a bit. Overall, though, the Z5 did the better job here — its focus was not so narrow, so more of the plant was clear, and the colours were a bit more realistic; the light was white, not yellow here, and the Z5 captured this accurately.

S6: Here we’ve got two photos of grass, and if you look closely, there’s an ant crawling around on the grass. The S6 did a better job of getting closer to the subject, and it captured the warm light a little more accurately. Another comparison point is the out of focus areas; on the S6, they look very … unpleasant … whereas on the Z5, the out of focus areas aren’t quite so harsh on the eyes; look at these images at full size to see what I mean.

I’m giving this one to the S6, only on better macro performance. The Z5 couldn’t get as close and focus.

S6: Another macro photo, and the results are basically the same as with the grass/ant photos above; the S6 is slightly warmer (which reflected the setting sun shining on our scene), and did a better job of getting closer to the subject while retaining focus. At the same distance, the Z5 struggled a little, and that shorter (wider) focal length came into play here.

Z5: On these photos of Flynn outside this time, there’s no argument in my opinion; the Z5 has simply captured the moment, and the S6 has failed. A lens flare and resultant darkening of the image have made it unrealistic; Flynn’s face was not actually dark, and the background — the hedge — was clearly lit and not in shade as the S6 would have you believe.

The Z5 captured the bright scene, though it flared slightly, but the lighting, colour and whole scene were just better.

Z5: Here’s some photos under our building, and it was quite dark, and you can tell because both images got a bit noisy trying to capture the subject in the dark. The S6 over compensated, lightening the image more than was justified in the circumstances, but by doing so, it did capture more of the subject.

The Z5 didn’t lighten as much, and while the periphery was about as noisy as the S6, the subject itself was less so, and more accurately represented.

Z5: Here’s Flynn standing in the garage. This was a tricky shot; it was dark, not well lit (especially from the front) but there was light leaking in from behind. This tested the cameras, and I think the winning result is obvious.

The S6 fell for the backlight, resulting in a dimly lit image with very little detail, and lots of noise, and even out of focus because it couldn’t work out what to do. The Z5 handled the rear light source, and yet kept the subject of the image well lit, in focus, and (somewhat) free of noise.

No competition here. Z5 wins it.

Draw: Here’s a final photo where I’m going to call it a dead heat. Both cameras captured the scene almost identically, and there’s just nothing between them.

Conclusion

The Xperia Z5 wins this shootout, 7 photos to 5, with one photo lost to a draw. The Xperia Z5 is capable across a wider range of scenes – light, dark, tricky lighting and unusual colouring – whereas the S6 excels in certain circumstances; it handles ultra-macro shots better, with better colouring, and it did surprisingly better on the inside stairwell shot, when I had actually expected the Z5 to do better.

How do you wrap this up? What are your thoughts on the photos and which way I’ve drawn them? Would you give the Z5 the victory here as the better all-round camera, or do you think Samsung’s S6 does a better job?

 

Chris Rowland   Editor and Publisher

Chris publishes one of Australia's most popular technology websites, Ausdroid. His interests include mobile (of course), as well as connected technology and how it can make all our lives easier.

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35 Comments on "Sony Xperia Z5 vs Samsung Galaxy S6 — Camera Shootout"

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saleem mohammad
Valued Guest

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Ahmad Khan
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Ahmad Khan

Z5 much better

Willauume
Valued Guest
Willauume

Hi,

Just wondering if you shot the z5 using 23 megapixels or left it at the default 8 megapixels?

Thanks!

Edit: I know you said you used auto mode, but as far as I’m aware you can use both 8 and 23 in auto mode, so wasn’t sure whether you bumped it up or not. Photos look great though!

ack
Valued Guest

Adjust for the 24 mm wide-angle lens on the Z5 (i.e. step a bit closer), and the focusing issue should be fixed. Not comparing the same picture if the FOV on the two cameras aren’t the same.

Nokia Rox
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Nokia Rox

Z5’s pics looks little better…..

Damon Lewis
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Damon Lewis

I’ve heard some bad things about the speed of opening the camera, up to 10s in some instances!

Any feedback on that?

Lucas Berger
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Lucas Berger

Not as much as 10s, but yes, I can confirm that opening the camera takes some time.. Like 1 to 3 seconds, and that’s quite long if you compare it to other phones.

Brad
Valued Guest
Brad

Not sure I’d be able to find the $$$ for the Z3 🙁 but does the M5 have the same camera & software in it?

Brad
Valued Guest
Brad

(Z5, not Z3)

Member

Were these photos taken in Auto mode on both phones. I have a Z3C and Auto mode is atrocious, so it gives me high hopes.

I see significantly better dynamic range from the Z5 as well.

Chris
Valued Guest

Yes auto mode on both to make it fair

Member

The S6 has HDR ON, HDR OFF and HDR Auto. Did you use HDR Auto Chris?

Edit: I can’t remember having any issues with lens flares on my S6 as HDR usually activates and compensates for it.

On my Z3C I usually shot in intelligent Auto. It does show a small icon to denote the shooting mode used but doesn’t show whether HDR is used or not. I’m hoping Sony’s camera UI has improved on the Z5 because Manual mode was so difficult use.

Chris
Valued Guest

HDR was off on both phones. Manual mode on the Z5 is similar to the Z3. It’s not nearly as intuitive as the LG G4 (which I think redefined how a mobile camera should work).

Z5 camera launch is not quick, though the autofocus is fairly quick once the camera app is loaded.

The phone itself is quite responsive .. mostly, though battery life isn’t as good as the Z3 series imho.

Member

Ahh. That explains some things!

The GS6 has a fantastic HDR. The Auto picks when it’s needed and when it isn’t. The HDR is real time in the preview too so you know what your result will look like.

Good to see some improvements in the Z line too. Even the reduced battery life will likely still exceed the GS6!

Thx Chris!

Samson Okoro
Valued Guest
Samson Okoro

You forget HDR was off as well for the z5, and if you delve into manual mode the z5 takes the s6 to the cleaners cause the manual modes of older xperias killed the equivalent Samsung. The strength of the Samsung phones over Sony in the past was the superior auto mode which were poor on the latter phones. This review was made to test what the average user is concerned with. I doubt i’ll use the superior auto much myself cause i am very conversant and used to the manual mode which gives me far more options.

Member
I used the OG Xperia Z for a year, the Xperia Z1 for a month, the Xperia Z3C for 6 months – which I still own and many people also own it based on my recommendation. I’ve owned a number of Samsung phones too, including the current S6. I’m familiar with both camera UIs intimately. I assure you, I haven’t forgotten how they work. The Galaxy S6 camera comes set to Auto mode, as does the Xperia Z3C (and I assume the Z5 range does too). However, the GS6 comes with HDR set to Auto, which is how Samsung expects… Read more »
Samson Okoro
Valued Guest
Samson Okoro
Don’t get me wrong brother, wasn’t in any way criticising your comment. I have used the s6 edge for a period testing the camera and all, I haven’t tested the Z5 cause it’s not yet available where I reside. Just made that comment based on the writer’s assertion and results shown which I think is precise and balanced without favoritism. I will eventually try out the Z5 premuim cause that’s the one I want to get. But from my experience with the old Z and Z2 I know how the Sony works and I know its strength is in manual… Read more »
Member

Fair enough. I find manual mode on the Z line pretty good but it takes a bit of work to get good results. Depends on the person I guess. I’m a bit lazy and time poor so I usually use Auto. If you’re into mobile photography I’ll have a post up on Ausdroid soon about the Panasonic Lumix CM1. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments when it goes up.

Chris
Valued Guest

You’re right there; the Z5 battery is better than the S6 .. but the Z3 was better than both of them :/

ㅎ.ㅎ
Valued Guest
ㅎ.ㅎ

The Z5 on auto mode will take lower MP photos. I think taking photos at their highest quality is more “fair”, because then consumers actually know what they’re getting for their $$.

Member

Where’s that damn ant….

Ravi
Valued Guest
Ravi

Great review.. Did you get any noise cancellation earphones in the box?

Chris
Valued Guest

No only premium has those.

SachmoJoe
Valued Guest
SachmoJoe

We can split hairs til the cows come home, but I’m just thrilled at the quality of some of the flagship Android cameras these days. We’ve finally caught up to (and maybe exceeded?) the iPhone, hallelujah!

Member
Luke Vesty

Exceeded. By a long way.

It’s brilliant.

Member

Not according to SuperSafTV.

See his video titled “iPhone 6s Plus vs Sony Xperia Z5 Camera Test Comparison”

Samson Okoro
Valued Guest
Samson Okoro

That’s a biased review, he’s a Samsung fan. Pls don’t bring such biased reviews here. That’s the worst camera comparison I have seen ever, if you want I’ll send u Recombu and phonearena comparison and u’ll see it has the same result as this.

Member

Samson, I couldn’t find a detailed side-by-side camera comparison of iPhone 6s vs XPeria Z5 on Recombu and Phonearena. Photo output and video output side-by-side like those of SuperSaf would be more convincing.

Samson Okoro
Valued Guest
Samson Okoro

There’s one with the i phone 6, Sony and S6 on phonearena. There’s no difference in camera quality between the 6 and 6s. All tests and reviews I have seen point out this, the major difference is in specs not quality. If you want a link to the i phone 6 comparison with the rest I can send it to u.

Member

Agreed, the iPhone 6 plus still maintain the edge in terms of camera quality. However, I think it’s more down to software rather than hardware so if Sony/Google bring out a software update that nails it then the Z5 can take the crown.

James Adina
Valued Guest
James Adina

last year I would have said hands down that the iPhone 6had the best camera but now… I wouldn’t even call an iPhone camera stunning anymore!

Tony Soprano
Valued Guest
Tony Soprano

Nah the iPhone still has a stellar camera. It’s probably on a similar level to the s6.

wutwutwut
Valued Guest
wutwutwut

without some sort of reference shot its hard to judge colour. But the s6 shots do look a little over saturated from what I think the picture should look like.

Me
Valued Guest

Too close to call, you’d be happy if you owned either phones.

Benjamin Dobell
Valued Guest
Benjamin Dobell

… and happier still if you owned both 😉

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