Monday, November 17, 2014

Sony Xperia Z2

Yard Sale - Sony Xperia Z2 Smart Phone Camera
It seems like forever since I last posted - it has been over three weeks. I guess I must be slowing down, and it concerns me that I'm down to posting only when I get something new. I suppose Mr. Rockwell does the same, but then, he's in the favourable position of getting something new at least twice a week, and I see he's doing a lot with Audio lately. If I were to follow suit (hmmm... why not?) I could add a few Audio reviews here too, having recently acquired a Zoom H4n Digital Recorder, and a pair of vintage Realistic Headphones - so vintage in fact they're actually made in the USA!!

But back to Photography, for now. The time came up for me to upgrade my Smart Phone, with almost three years having passed - at least enough that I didn't have to buy out my old contract. There are a lot of great phones out there now, which are better in every way compared to what was being offered in early 2012. I've switched brands, having hung up my old Samsung Galaxy S2 for a Sony Xperia Z2. The Z2 came out earlier this year, but a mere six months later, Sony is now offering the marginally improved Z3 model. I got the Z2 because it allowed me in at $0.00 down on a two year plan. It is true - the new phones are bigger, brighter, faster, and have more processing power and better cameras than they did even a couple of years ago - all of which makes for a better user experience. They can all multi-task now, whereas in 2012, there were only a few models with enough power to do that. I guess from a sales perspective, Apple is still king of the heap, but with some experience a few years ago with both an iPod Touch and Nano (remember those), I couldn't stand the high entry prices, both for the Hardware and the iTunes nonsense. In spite of the fact that I only use these devices 99% to play music and for GPS navigation, with only occasional browsing, and E-Book use, I need more autonomy than Apple can deliver, and to my way of thinking, any Android phone offers autonomy up in spades.

Once I saw that even Panasonic's least expensive Optical Zoom Compact Camera took a noticebly better picture than my Samsung Galaxy S2, I never used it's camera again; instead I got "the best" Panasonic compact - the DMC-LX5, which is now in fact, the camera I use the most (which has now been replaced by the extremely well reviewed LX100).

But now I have this >> Sony Xperia Z2, << which boasts a 21 MegaPixel camera! Imagine! Talk about a numbers game! My real cameras only can boast 12 MP for my big clunky Canon EO 5D, and even this super nice new Panasonic LX100 "only" offers 16 MP - and my now 4 year old LX5 gives a mere 10 MP. But every photographer these days knows what this is all about, so I won't get into it.

So, what do I think of the Xperia Z2's camera? Well, for starters, one glance shows how much it blows the Samsung Galaxy S2 out of the water for image quality - if you want to know how it compares with Samsung's new S5, or even Apple's iPhone 6, read here. There's no doubt, this new (Z2) and newer (Z3) Sony line-up is getting top marks. But how does it do against my 4 year old Panasonic "real camera"? Can I now say that the Sony Phone-Cam will become the only camera I will always have with me? Sadly, no, but before I explain why, here are some more pictures from the Sony:

(Note - this is NOT mine!)

First off, you gotta love that colour! It's brilliant, and of course it looks even better when viewed on the phones state-of-the-art 5.2" display. I would say that it's a great lens too, being a very wide angle 25mm which couples extremely well with the camera's native 16:9 widescreen. I am a real sucker for light and shadow - and texture, all of which are what I mainly compose my pictures for, and the Z2 really delivers. It also handles direct sunlight like a real trooper. The Z2 also sports a dedicated camera two-step shutter button, while retaining the on-screen touch button too. Yes, it ticks a lot of the right boxes, and if you really want one of the greatest Phone-Cams out there, this one is truly top-class. I've yet to try some of the many features offered, some of which are quite novel, like the blurred background feature. I also imagine the Digital Zoom makes great use of all those 21 MegaPixels too, but I've not tried it yet; so far, I've rather enjoyed shooting at the native 25mm.

Why then, would I say that I still prefer carrying a compact digi-kam with me all the time as opposed to a phone-kam? Here's the main reason. I know, many studies have been done which determine cell-phones as "safe", but I'm overly cautious with my own health, thank you very much! No matter how you look at it, a cell phone is a very "hot" device, and with recent additions of LTE, Wi-Fi, Blue-Tooth and NFC connectivity, they just keep getting hotter. So, I suppose I could carry my Xperia Z2 on my person switched off - that would solve the problem - but what would be the point of buying a $700 device whose primary purpose is communication, only to have it shut off so it won't communicate? On the other hand, I got my Panasonic compact camera for under $200, and it takes better pictures, turns on, ready-to-go much more quickly, produces RAW files and it's smaller - I can carry it in my shirt pocket with no danger to my personage. I could also mention that it is a real camera, complete with a nice rubber grip - it would've been impossible for me to have taken a whole series of spectacular through the wind-shield shots like this with a phone camera:

Through The Wind-shield, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5
There isn't a phone-kam on the market that handles well enough to safely pull a stunt like this! Did somebody say "dashboard cam"?

So, why am I still buying a new Smart Phone, camera or no camera? Pretty much the same old reasons - to play my MP3's in the car, and have access to GPS. Also, I like reading E-Books while waiting at an appointment. I don't mind having a phone turned on in the car, where it's safely stowed in the centre console, somewhat away from my delicate bodily tissues. Finally, there are those extremely rare times when I must take, or make a phone call when not at home - I guess I need a cell phone for that ... or do I??