We mentioned in the introduction that Sony's camera prowess should be well regarded, and the bundled 8MP rear-facing camera on the Sony Xperia SP is one of the phone's highlights, shooting at 3,264 x 2,448 pixels. It uses Sony's new Exmor RS sensor, which has shifted some of the circuitry behind each photodiode in the sensor to create a slimmer design.
The usual bells and whistles have been added including a scene selection mode, sweep panorama and the ability to add on-the-fly picture effects. The effects are pretty trivial, and will be bested by dedicated camera apps on Google Play, but it's nice to have some choice built in. You can select the likes of Fish-Eye, Kaleidoscope and Nostalgia, among others, to change your usual photo routine.
Other options include geo-tagging and a self timer, as well as the excellent Quick Launch option. This enables you to configure the Sony Xperia SP so that the physical shutter button acts as a launcher for the camera app.
So, if you want to quickly capture what's going on, you don't have to go through the business of unlocking the handset and navigating to the camera app. It was a feature Sony initially introduced back with the Sony Xperia S, and we're glad to see it remains in place here.
The front-facing VGA camera is sufficient, but little more than that. It'll allow for video calling but the image is a little on the grainy side and looked somewhat over-exposed to our eyes.
For the complete novice using the main camera, there's the illuminated Superior Auto setting, which selects optimal settings for 36 different types of scene to give you the best possible picture without the need to faff around with settings. Unfortunately, during our testing this was pretty hit and miss - the SP especially had trouble with motion blur.
Obviously the Sony Xperia SP can't compete with the top-tier of handsets, and a side-by-side comparison with the Ultrapixel-toting HTC One confirms this. But, taking into account its mid-level credentials and price tag, we feel the Sony Xperia SP is punching above its weight when it comes to the camera and can certainly stand in as a replacement for your regular compact.
These settings are a bit gimmicky, and while we don't think the Fish-Eye or Nostalgic settings impress, we quite liked the outcome of the Sketch setting. There are numerous other modes to play with on the Sony Xperia SP, and all your pictures can be edited with apps from the Google Play store.
The Panorama mode is included on most smartphones these days, and we were happy to see the stitching on the Sony Xperia SP was quite accurate - although there is still noticeable blurring of moving targets.