Why you can trust TechRadar
The camera app is the same as we've seen on all of Sony Ericsson's Android smartphones this year. The default option is to sense scenes automatically with its Scene Recognition option, but toggle that off and you can manually pick from the usual modes such as Landscape, Portrait, Party, Sports, Beach and Snow, and one specifically for capturing text called Document.
You also get the same 2D and 3D Sweep Panorama tool in here that also featured on the Xperia Arc S and will soon arrive via software updates on Sony Ericsson's other phones. It attempts to piece together a super-wide shot either horizontally or vertically, resulting in massive pictures that are stitched together very well indeed.
It's a right pain to make work, though, with endless error messages complaining you're moving too fast or slow, plus half-broken shots full of grey areas appearing.
SWEEP PANORAMA: If you can put up with its eccentricities and don't mind taking shots six or seven times, it does a good job of capturing wider scenes.
MACRO MODE: The macro does a good job, too, letting you capture all manner of tiny detail.
LANDSCAPE: The Xperia Active's camera is good at capturing the general mood of a scene, with light and dark coming across well. But detail's not great when pics are viewed at full size on a desktop, with organic features turning to mush and losing some sharpness.
ZOOM: There's a digital zoom that really flies in, but there's a big drop in quality.
PORTRAIT: But face shots are great. Red-eye isn't much of a problem, plus the Active seems to like capturing human skin tones more than brighter colours.
FLASH: The flash is a bit aggressive. It's fast and the camera manages to focus well enough in low light, but we found it produced super-bright results when the LED fired.
INDOOR: Again, with the flash active, indoor shots are rather harsh.
Elsewhere, you can turn off the Sony Ericsson Xperia Active's shutter sound effect completely, toggle its digital image stabilisation on or off, plus there's a self-timer, the option to completely turn off the touchscreen shutter button if you're a bit clumsy, and a nice slide-in gallery of recent photos.
It's also very fast to use, firing off shots quickly without lag. In low light it'll take a little longer to focus, but you still feel the camera's generally quick and responsive.