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Sony Xperia E1 review

Small and convenient, but there's better budget options

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Sony has pulled out exactly none of the stops with the Xperia E1 camera hardware. It only has one camera sensor, just the rear one, and no flash.

You get a 3.2MP camera that's about as basic as they come in terms of core capabilities. With no autofocus and no manual metering, you have zero hands-on control over your photos in traditional terms. You can't pick a subject for your photos and can't choose whether to expose the photo to suit the sky or the foreground.

Sony Xperia E1 review
The 3.2MP camera

For photography fans, these are all big no-nos. What the Sony Xperia E1 offers instead is an unusually generous crop of extra modes and filters. It's a cut-down selection of what you get in an Xperia M2 or Xperia Z2.

As well as HDR and panorama, you get nine creative filters, some of which are a little more creative than the norm. The two Sony specials are the Harris shutter and kaleidoscope. A Harris shutter exposes different colours at slightly different times, letting you produce pretty funky results if you move the phone a bit while shooting.

Sony Xperia E1 review
Don't expect great things from the camera

Actually using the Sony Xperia E1 camera isn't masses of fun in a more basic respect, though. It's pretty slow, lacking that immediacy that is at the heart of mobile photography. There's no focusing delay as there's no focusing to be done, but there is shutter lag and processing lag.

Image quality is quite bad too, as you'd expect from a 3.2MPsensor. Detail is fairly low and dynamic range is pretty bad – that's the camera's ability to bring out detail in bright and dark areas of a single scene at the same time. There is an HDR mode to remedy the dynamic range issue, but it's far from the best.

Sony Xperia E1 review
The camera offers nine filters and effects

If you care about photos at all, this probably isn't the phone for you. The Nokia Lumia 520 is the most obvious choice at the same price for a phone with a significantly better camera, being one of the few truly low-cost auto focus cameras.

The Sony Xperia E1 isn't much cop for video either. Capture quality maxes out at 480p, which isn't really worth bothering to upload to Facebook, let alone keeping for posterity.

Harris Shutter Sony Xperia E1 review
Here we see the Harris Shutter mode in action, which exposes different colours separately, letting you create some cool motion effects

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Sony Xperia E1 review detail shot
In great lighting you can get reasonable shots, but zoom in and you'd see how little detail there actually is

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Sony Xperia E1 review close up
As the Xperia E1 has a fixed focus, it's impossible to takes photos of anything close-up. Everything ends up blurry

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Sony Xperia E1 review
There's something a little unnatural about the colours in this picture. Low-end phones often struggle producing convincing reds in photos

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Sony Xperia E1 review HDR
Even with HDR being used, this shot shows up how bad the dynamic range of the Xperia E1 camera is

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