The Sony Xperia U comes with a 5 megapixel camera, the same as the Sony Xperia Miro, which is disappointing given the 8 megapixel unit Sony managed to fit into the Xperia P, and the 12MP on the Sony Xperia S.
And if you want to take your shots in 16:9 ratio, you have to bust that down to only 3MP size, which is bordering on the budget phone range. But at least you get a flash.
What is nice is the camera button quick-launch system that's found in the Sony Xperia S. Holding down the camera button automatically unlocks the phone and boots the camera app, plus you can toggle a further option to have the Sony Xperia U instantly take a photo once it's opened.
We found we invariably ended up with a photo of our hand when using that option, so it's best to just have it open the camera up so you can line up the shot properly, or balance it on something and use the self-timer.
The Sony Xperia U's camera app is quick and responsive, plus you get a little pop-out preview gallery of recent shots along the bottom-right.
The main scene modes are accessed through that icon list down the left, but there are more options behind the Menu button, too. This is a bit fiddly, but you'll soon remember where the things you need are.
You get to enable smile detection, with four types of smile! Plus there's single or multi-spot autofocus options, face detection and a touch-to-focus toggle for taking a little more manual control, along with an exposure slider, ISO choices (100, 200, 400 and 800), and a few white balance modes for helping the sensor cope with your kind of light bulbs.
Photos are very nice and colourful, given the 5 megapixel maximum. Detail's pretty good, images are quite sharp and certainly good enough to print and share at modest sizes.
What you don't get is any form of image filter. There are zero silly colour modes in the Sony Xperia U, which is OK by us, since they're useless.
The face recognition option helps produce great portrait shots, which appear surprisingly clear given the 5 megapixel rating.
Sony's photo stitching software tool is on the Xperia U, which does a fine job of building up a super-wide scene as you slowly move the camera from left to right. There's a 3D option too, should you have a DLNA-enabled 3D TV to share the resulting 3D stills with.
There's no particularly noticeable benefit to be gained from engaging Sony's Bravia Engine display option. Images look great on the phone's sharp screen whether it's on or off, so no complaints there.