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This photo encapsulates what #LAB-testing, #WETnesday and Sony XPERIAnce is all about. A particular madam is holding the Xperia XZ1 Compact and testing its new Autofocus Burst on us. 
Six months past when I first laid my paws on the Sony Xperia XZs and after much bonding time with that trusted phone, boom! Sony Mobile released the XZ1 - I call it the upgraded version of XZs.

I forget how fast technology moves.
A little too fast for old man me.

I am a tech-dinosaur, remember? 😏

For those who read my 'Top 10 Sony XPERIAnce' Part 1 and 2, it was clear that I am now a big fanboy of Sony Xperia phones. Before March this year, I was still a hard core user of the iPhone. And from being an absolute anti-Android user, I have been converted. Thank you Sony Mobile. Now I live in trepidation of my future without Xperia.

Drama becomes of me.
I learnt it from Frodo Choo.

Dear phone-a-holic anonymous, 
I am addicted to my Sony Xperia phones.
xxoo Flapper Choo



DISCLAIMER (just because its a FAQ)
I am not paid to write these reviews. I am not required to write these reviews. I do not get commission from any sales (if any... ha!). I do it because I want to and it truly is a good product.

The main focus of this review is the XZ1's new camera functions so if like me, you are fanatical about good phone cameras, I welcome you to read on.

And I need to re-emphasize that I am no tech-expert who speaks all that tacky techy language. I personally don't really give two hoots what's on paper. It lies - I learnt that a long time ago.

My review is purely based on tech-dinosaur end-user experience and that's that.



What's New, Xperia XZ1?

Miss J decided to select me (again), Flapper Choo, to test their then-upcoming Sony Xperia XZ1. I was super duper excited. I secretly put on my reading glasses and started reading the specifications of this new phone before meeting up with Miss J to discuss about this new collaboration.

A boy gotta impress the ladies, no? 😏

On paper screen, the improvements from the XZs seem negligible. In fact, someone commented, "Nothing impressive".  The Xperia XZs and Premium were revolutionary and exciting because of its boastworthy incorporation of the 'RX Super Slow Motion' function and Predictive Capture. I gawked for the Premium just because of it was running on Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor versus 820 on the XZs.

And the word 'Premium' just sounds darn good.

HOWEVER!

When I finally met up with Miss J, it was finally divulged the new camera functions of the XZ1 -
  1. Autofocus Burst Mode - this was the main function Miss J wanted me to test.
  2. 3D Scanning - This tickled my tail and made me wag in excitement. I couldn't wait to test this!
  3. Smile Shutter - Great for selfie/wefie fanatics. You smile, it takes. Handsfree.
Okay Miss J. Now you got me very very excited. 3D scanning! I opened my eyes wide and battered my blonde lashes at Miss J but she warned me 3D scanning may not be easy for dogs.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!



1. Autofocus Burst Mode
Personal pick for best Autofocus Burst with 'Object Tracking' mode turned off.  Shot in 19MPS. Once again, the image is unadulterated. as is. No filter, no editing, no enhancements etc. etc.
Burst mode is nothing new. For as long as I owned a DSLR and iPhone, I always knew of burst mode. So imagine my surprise when I found out the XZs made burst mode obsolete in place of predictive capture. It did not bother me very much with the lack of burst mode but it was one of Uncle Nic's biggest gripe which I did mention in my XZs review. For a professional pet photographer like Uncle Nic who has his artistic eyes set on different shots, it was a function he respects and wants.

The minute I found out that Sony Mobile has updated the Xperia XZ1 with burst mode function, I immediately messaged Uncle Nic to let him know. It tickled his fancy - A LOT.

The function name itself is self-explanatory. Of course Sony Mobile would not settle for just plain 'ol burst mode. It had to push innovation with 'autofocus' burst mode. Conceptually, what this means is the camera is fast enough to track a moving object and produce multiple in-focus images.
If a camera can capture good images of dogs (or animals), it is a darn good camera and worth investing. - Flapper Mummy
I must say this. Sony Mobile Singapore is very brave to use dog as a test subject especially when the end-user is no photography expert. The mummy is a 'point-and-shoot' type who cannot even be asked to edit the colours of the photos. Very brave, Sony Mobile Singapore!

So off to test the effectiveness of Autofocus Burst Mode, I did.

Note: The camera takes up to 100 shots (in full resolution) per burst which yields 10 seconds of Burst Animation. I will explain more about Burst Animation in a bit.

Warning: Burst mode uses up storage space very quickly. A set of 100 burst shots in 19MP can use up to around 640MB of storage space.

How to set the camera to 'Burst shot' mode.
Personally, I prefer to turn on "Auto Tracking" too.
By default, the camera is set to 'Take a photo'. Unlike the iPhone, you will need to change the camera setting to activate burst shot. Also, I tend to shoot in 19MP just because I had better success with 'predictive capture' on the XZs and have stuck to that mode since. Purely personal preference.

The beauty of using Xperia phone cameras is the option between using the on-screen shutter button or that fabulous shutter button at the top right of the phone. I have come to love the latter a lot as it allows me to shoot certain shots easily without having to battle with the screen (especially underwater shots!).

So. Once the camera has been set to burst shot mode, the rest is brainless. Just tap on the screen to determine tracking object then just press and hold.

CLICK ON IMAGE TO VIEW ALL 37 BURST SHOTS (RAW. UNEDITED. WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET).
Yep! This was our latest WETnesday LABtest. There's Uncle Nic on the left testing the new Sony RX0 which he rented. I don't think I am ever getting the RX0 to test. Anywoof, mummy was testing the Autofocus Burst Mode with 'Auto-Tracking' off. Not too shoddy I must say. She wanted to track me but it captured Frodo decently too.

Click here to view the full set of photos.

Apologies for the front few repetitions. Mummy had to throw tennis balls and shoot in burst mode at the same time. Give her some credit. Not bad for a juggling mummy. 😂

To review images recorded -
I appreciate the fact that it is neatly filed under individual 'Burst' thumbnail rather than an entire series of photos mish-mashed with the main album library. Makes reviewing the photos a lot easier. 

Selecting images(s) to save -
The cool scrolling gallery to review each individual set of burst recorded. I have to admit though, my old man eyesight finds the main image a tad bit to small to see without enlarging it.
I truly appreciate that I can just press and hold to select multiple images from a set of burst images to save.
Burst Animation

Yes yes. I know. Some other phones have this feature already, or so I was told. But I do want to brag about it just because I do love it. It just adds that oomph of fun to this burst mode thing.

Burst animation is akin to creating timelapse videos except it caps at 10 seconds max. As mentioned above, a set of 100 burst images yields a 10 seconds footage = every 10 frames to 1 seconds of video.

The end result is pretty cool. Has a GIF type of feel to it. The burst shots individually may not capture 100% sharp images but when pieced together as an animation, it actually works and the images are pretty darn sharp. Fun-o-meter - I will give it an 8!

How To Create Burst Animation
And here is the burst animation of the above set of 37 images which I decided to convert into GIF format for easy viewing purpose.

via GIPHY




Xperia XZ1 (shot at 17MP with Object Tracking) versus iPhone 8 Plus (12MP) Burst Shots

I was actually done with my review on the Autofocus Burst mode and even gave a modest rating. I have to confess I was none-too-impressed. I said it was 'Okay'.

That was two weeks ago before Flapper Nightingale ruled by night and daddy got a brand spankin' new iPhone 8 Plus.

My techy-paw could not resist the urge but to conduct a #LAB-test of the iPhone's burst versus the XZ1. After all, I was once a diehard iPhone fan and the call to test its camera was too strong.

I was nervous.
Very nervous.

Based on past experiences, I was [almost] certain the test would favour the iPhone.

The camera specifications and impressive megapixels on paper usually mean nothing. The end result is all that matters.

I reminded mummy to turn on the 'Object Tracking' on the XZ1 BUT switch the resolution back to 19MP. So we ended up doing this test shooting in 17MP. Oh mum! 🙄

TEST CONDITIONS
  • Same lighting condition/direction
  • Same user (aka mummy)
  • Similar start points (I did not have markers!)
  • To be completely fair since the iPhone has no manual camera mode, the test conducted is 'Point-and-shoot'. The XZ1 is set on normal 'auto' camera mode, no manual adjustments whatsoever.
  • All photos are unadulterated.
Disclaimer:
This comparative review is based on personal opinion = what I like out of a phone camera and the end results. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. My unbiased review is based purely on a non-professional user and dog owner's perspective. What I look for fundamentally is the ease of use and image end-result based on personal preference.

Let's begin with Single Shot Test

Of course I had to do a Single Shot #LAB-Test to compare! The iPhone is stark on the contrast and carries a strong yellow hue in its photos. Uncle Nic was very quick to point out that the XZ1 'quietened' the noise which is especially obvious with the muted ground texture and 'quietened' tongue textures when zoomed in.
Burst of the One-Armed Swordswoman Dogswoman

Mummy decided to do a true-to-life camera test both cameras which means she holds the phone in one hand to take photos while throwing the ball on the other.

Aye aye.

She is the One-Armed Dogswoman with very tiny hands.
  • iPhone 8 Plus - 158.4 x 78.1 x 7.5 (mm) / 202 grams
  • Xperia XZ1 - 148 x 73 x 7.4 (mm) / 156 grams 
"Urgh... your phone does not have the camera button at the top!", mummy lamented to daddy with a huge frown on her face. "I am so scared I am going to drop your phone...."

Both phones were 'unprotected' and with mummy's tiny hands, she really struggled with the One-Armed Dogswoman test with the 8 Plus.

When I first browsed through the photos, I was 'wowed' by the colour intensity that jumped right out to me, the details (including my teeth in the 3rd burst), overall photo clarity and that final close-up shot of the ball in my mouth. I was absolutely certain that 8 Plus had won handsdown.....
Then I saw this on big screen from my XZ1 (and all the others). The object-tracking had validated Sony Mobile's claims of 'Autofocus Burst Shot'. The colours aren't as stark as the 8Sand I started to notice there is an odd 'softness' to the photos....

Verdict of the 'One-Armed Dogswoman' Test:
The Sony Xperia XZ1 wins on one-hand usability with its precious remote camera button (see image on right).  If one is going to argue about using the 8 instead of 8 Plus, I can tell ya mummy will still vote the XZ1 (she struggles with that size too!) on this test just because THAT camera button makes taking photos that much easier.



But in terms of end result, I am still very undecided which I actually prefer better.... Both have its own merits.


It Takes Two To Snap

The 'One-Armed Dogswoman' act is hard work. Now it is time to test what happens when mummy finds back her 'other arm' so no phone juggling and no shaky hands. Daddy throws the ball. I catch. Mummy snaps.

Again, my first response was 'wow' just because the intensity of the colours really jump out and the overall image sharpness and clarity are present. Jump shots is always trickier as the camera may or may not track the movements fast enough. One thing I must say though, the iPhone shutter speed has always been fantastic which is why it is the 'IT' phone camera for taking animals. To my untrained eye, I truly appreciated what the 8 Plus captured and by this point (before seeing the XZ1 photos), I actually declared the 8 Plus burst won hands down. I was proven wrong. Very wrong.
This set of burst truly opened my eyes to Uncle Nic's many MUMBLES about tracking and background focus. With object-tracking on, the focus point was set on me (obviously). So in this burst set, three noticeable differences compared to all my other usual photos - 1. Frodo is out-of-focus;  2) The background is muted/mildly blurred; and 3) It draws the eyes into the subject matter. My OMG epiphany moment and it gave me new eyes to Sony Mobile's camera technology.

Ready, Get, Set.... i-Run!

After testing both phone cameras on the jump shots, it was time to see how both phones will capture my sprints. Just FYI, it usually takes about 4-5 bursts and we, the dogs, are out of frame. That's how quick we are in our movements and actions.

I was very tempted to show the entire set of burst but I held my paw down and decided to select only 4-Burst of the main action per set per camera.

With running shots, more often than not, either the head and/or the or the legs/paws are motion-blurred. So the main thing was to see which phone camera can capture a successful burst set of me running - clarity, sharpness, expressions, movements and action.

That's not much to ask for a phone camera, right?

Old man CAN run! I was quite blown away at first review of this set of burst by the 8 Plus. Yes. Camera slanted. User problem. But just looking at the clarity and sharpness of the images, I was impressed. For a phone lacking in snazzy camera settings, the iPhone delivered. As usual.
After my initial test with the XZ1 Burst (without object tracking) that yielded mediocre results, I honestly thought the XZ1 would have lost this Burst battle. And I admit I never for a moment doubted the 8's camera capability. Clearly, the object tracking is a MUST for the XZ1 Autofocus Burst to work like magic. This set of burst , I love. I was truly impressed by the XZ1 tracking capability which is more distinct on big screen.

And The Derp-Face Moment Award Goes To....

Last but not least, we had to test not one... but two dogs in action!

Once again, I had full confidence in the iPhone. I was a little more worries about how the XZ1 would perform against the iPhone due to my mediocre initial tests. I sound so bias huh? But you can't blame a blonde boy for trusting the iPhone. I was, after all, a diehard iPhone fan before the Xperia invaded my life and swept me off my blonde paws.

I really liked this set of burst even though our faces were motion-blurred. However, at such close-ups and high speed dash, it was impressive it captured the burst of our actions. It was also blatant that the camera was background-focussed in this series.
BURST SHOT OF THE DAY! The Derp-Face Moment Award goes to none other than my brother, Frodo Choo! Mummy missed her 'clicks' and did not manage to capture a full set of burst but numbers don't matter when one has captured that 'million dollar shot' of Frodo's derp face... never mind the camera ended up tracking me. *guffaw*

Burstin' To Decide....

I cannot decide. I'm on the fence on this. I REALLY cannot decide which I prefer better. I started out thinking the 8 Plus had won hands down. Then with the object tracking mode on, the Autofocus Burst phenomenon of the XZ1 hit me and then recognizing its tracking capability... I was blown away.

I am on the fence of this and I truly cannot decide which is better. Both are good. Both are impressive. Both captured action moments well. As that non-professional end user, I am happy with both!

The iPhone IS idiot-proof with its lack of additional settings and pretty much just point-and-shoot. The stark images (though I am not liking how heavy the contrast is) make it very appealing and pretty much social media ready with minimal editing required.

The XZ1, on the other hand, has more settings in place and when one forgets about turning the 'object tracking' on, the burst shots are merely mediocre. So for anyone looking for that 'idiot-proof' phone camera, the Xperia needs some fiddling around and testing. Not as brainless as the iPhone.

HOWEVER, I will give the Xperia 10 points just for the remote camera button and another 10 points for the tracking ability - it was apparent the camera was tracking the object and not the background. I think Frodo's derp face moment may have won them additional points too.

At this point, even though I am a lazy user, I am inclined towards the XZ1 - not because I am the 'Xperia Boy' but purely based on the end result of the test. True that the images have been 'quietened' which lost some textures and definitions. True that the image colours are flatter, which I understand professional photographers prefer for editing purpose, but even in its unedited version, call me weird but I am favouring the colours better. Acquired taste perhaps?

So yeah, I think for me, the XZ1 may have just won by that itsy bitsy tiny bit.





How Now, Blonde Dog?
Capture life in a new way with our Motion Eye™ camera. Built using know-how from our α™ and Cyber-shot™ ranges, the Xperia XZ1 reveals moments you could only imagine. - Sony Mobile

After remembering to turn on the 'object tracking' mode, my verdict on the Autofocus Burst changed from 'meh.... it's okay' to 'very respectable'.

I started out this never-ever-seem-to-get-finished Autofocus Burst review with the intention of only talking about the XZ1. Then daddy strutted home with his iPhone and my geeky paws could not resist testing it out.

Moment of truth.

Being an Apple boy since iPhone 3 till 6, I expected myself to, well, go gaga over the new iPhone 8 and even miss using an iPhone. I confess that I started out a little bias when I did the burst test and was sure the iPhone would win. Hands down. What surprised me was when I laid paws on the 8, I had become an iPhone-idiot! And it's only been some 7-8 months since I stopped using an iPhone. I have become so familiar navigating the Xperia that the 8 was underwhelming. I was truly shocked. Me? Flapper Choo? Not liking the iPhone? Noooooooooooooooo.

*Drama moment*

However, when it came to the camera test, the XZ1 surprised me - in a good way. I was very realistic in terms of expectations about this whole Autofocus Burst thing. Doing camera #LABtests with Uncle Nic opened my eyes to a whole new world of pet photography. To date, my vote of best camera goes to Sony A9. It used to be A7 till A9 came along. *guffaw*. The tracking on the A9 is out of this world. The details and expressions it captured caught me by surprise. I have been running #LABtests with Uncle Nic for quite a few years now so I do not get awestruck that easily but the A9 got my heart racing and still my favourite album to date.

Even though the XZ1 states of 'using know-how' from their α™ and Cyber-shot™ ranges', I was not expecting it to perform or product images akin to the A9. The XZ1, afterall, is a mobile phone. Not an actual camera. And the fact is, the A9 costs a mere $6,000-ish (SGD) while the XZ1 costs an $898 (SGD). So for what the XZ1 is worth, I cannot complain at all for how they have innovatively merged their different camera technologies into a mobile phone.

So yes, I dare say Sony Mobile lived up to its boast of its camera's technology and the XZ1 Autofocus Burst exceeded expectation especially when viewing on my big iMac screen. At first glance, I was blown away by the iPhone 8's images when I reviewed it on the phone itself. But as I review both phone images on big screen, the XZ1 Autofocus Burst images silently crept under my fur and I started to see the power of its object tracking. And surprisingly, I preferred the slightly muted colour tones of the XZ1 images and was oddly disturbed by the heavy contrast of the iPhone 8 images.

I stared at the images for a long long time and was truly undecided on which I preferred better. I had to study the images carefully and eventually, the XZ1 edged in as the winner - for me. Not because I am the 'Xperia' boy but it is the honest truth. My own verdict surprised me too! I really really REALLY thought the iPhone would win.

So yep.

Sony Xperia XZ1 autofocus burst won.

"If you only had that one chance in life, will you grab it in one shot?"
(Photo: Uncle Nic of Furry Photos using the Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact autofocus burst mode)

To be continued.... next up. That oh-so-awesome XZ1 3D scanning and more.

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