We gave award-winning wildlife photographer Chaitanya Deshpande an Xperia Z5. Find out how he managed to use a smartphone camera to capture DSLR quality images:
Let me tell you a bit about what I like to photograph: nature & wildlife has been a passion for me ever since childhood – I used to spend hours watching wildlife documentaries on the TV and marvel at the incredible pictures. Today, I feel fortunate that I can share this appreciation of nature and wildlife with people through photography.
If you told someone you wanted to shoot wildlife images with your phone, they would probably admire your sense of humour. And I would too but taking an Xperia Z5 in to the field with me really changed this. It’s fair to say that Xperia Z5 has changed the way I look at smart-phone photography in general.
(Before I get into the details, please note that no filters have been used, and none of the following Xperia Z5 images have been processed in any way. They are straight out of camera.)
Focus and Touch Capture
London’s Royal Parks are one of my favourite haunts for wildlife and landscape photos so I decided to take the Z5 with me on a few outings.
Because wildlife seldom stays stationary, the touch screen focus & capture ability on Xperia Z5 are very useful – you’ll immediately wonder why other phones don’t do this so efficiently. What’s better, you can click anywhere on the screen to focus and capture your image! And if you’re missing your DSLR you can also use the purpose-built shutter release button, which feels almost exactly like a DSLR including the half-press-to-lock-focus functionality.
The phone really does focus in the blink of an eye – it beat my DSLR on most occasions and I had sharp focus every single time. Anyone interested in photographing birds will find this feature invaluable.
Xperia Z5 boasts of enhanced low-light performance without blur.
Shooting in low-light does not mean shooting in the dark (and in fact even a professional DSLR would struggle in that respect). Good low-light conditions examples are dawn and dusk and again, Z5 came out looking best-in-class. A quick comparison between these two images will show you what I mean.
The top image was taken with my Z5 and the bottom image with my DSLR – but you would never know if I didn’t tell you!
Another example of superb low-light handling is this dawn image of a swan family – You can see that the left of the image starts getting a little grainy but you have to remember that this is a phone camera we are talking about.
Manual Mode, Image Quality and Dynamic Range
Much to my delight, the camera has a manual mode where you can control
Exposure Value (EV), 4 stops
Metering (Face, Multi, Centre, Spot)
Resolution (23MP, 20MP, 8MP, 3MP, 2MP in 4:3 & 16:9)
Self-timer (0.5, 2, 10 seconds)
Some of these are also available in other modes but the manual mode was the one I used the most. The photos below just wouldn’t have been possible without the features in the manual mode, especially EV control and white balance control.
I had to look twice at my screen when I took this shot. The way the sensor has handled light, shadows and colours in this frame was close if not equal to the image from my DSLR!
I absolutely love the 16:9, 20-megapixel resolution setting on this phone. It delivers edge-to-edge (of your mobile screen) images that are quite stunning.
Another image that showcases this phone’s dynamic range is this landscape shot taken in the woods. The light and shadow play is not easy to balance for any sensor, but, in my opinion, it doesn’t look like Xperia Z5’s camera had any trouble.
Fast (f/2.0) Aperture & Impressive Macro capability
Early autumn mornings are great for capturing dewdrops on spider’s webs. I tested the Z5’s macro capability in this area and it blew my socks off. You can see how the main subject is in sharp focus and isolated from the background, which is aesthetically blurred. The large aperture at f/2.0, delivers artistically pleasing images – when viewed large, you can distinctly make out each droplet on the spider-web. Absolutely ace!
Size & Weight, Manoeuvrability, Water Proofing & Speed
Probably the greatest advantage over a DSLR is the Z5’s size, weight & speed. You can shoot from almost any angle you want and get as low or as high as you need.
Often I like to be as close to the water level as possible to get intimate shots of my subjects – with this phone, you can actually get right down to the water level and not worry about splashes.
The images in this triptych are a perfect example of ‘feels-like-I’ve-stepped-into-the-image’ intimate points of view.
Using ‘Touch Capture’ I was able to quickly focus on my subject; you will notice that the foreground in the images on the extreme left and extreme right is not in focus but the bird is, ensuring that the shot leads you from the front of the frame towards the back, to your tack sharp subject.
Talking of agility of the phone, this image of a spider’s web at dawn was impossible to take with my DSLR – I just wasn’t able to position it low enough to get this angle, without pulling something a muscle that I didn’t know existed.
With Xperia Z5 however, it was an easy manoeuvre actually leaving me with a free hand.
Xperia Z5 has a handy 5x zoom, which can be adjusted either by pinching the screen ‘out’ or ‘in’ or by using the volume buttons on the phone. I found that using the buttons gives you more control and that up to 3x zoom was the sweet spot for the Z5 – anything above that and picture quality could suffer if the light is not optimum.
I like to take pictures of animals in their setting, so while zoom is important it is essential for me to portray the environment that the subject is in and how the subject relates to or interacts with the surroundings.
Printing Your Phone Images
A not so evident benefit of the 23 megapixels on the phone is that you can actually print images taken with your Z5. The sharpness and colour rendition is very impressive and there’s no doubt you could easily print at A4 or even A3 size without any worry. Ask any photographer and they will tell you that the real joy of looking at an image is when you see it in print.
In conclusion it was a real pleasure to use Sony’s Xperia Z5 and I would urge any aspiring photographers to seriously consider it as their first camera. You will be amazed at what this phone can do!