This week Sony unveiled its Xperia 5 V, a camera-centric phone which, while not the smallest smartphone out there, is still one of the most compact ones featuring a flagship chipset and premium camera setup. And as we thought back to some of Sony’s coolest camera phones, we came up with the Xperia XA Ultra, a phone with an incredible camera that was at the opposite end of the size spectrum.
Sony Xperia XA
This model arrived in mid-2016 and was an absolute giant, it had a 6.0 1080p display with the then-standard 16:9 aspect ratio. For comparison, a Galaxy Note7 from the same year had a 5.7 16:9 display. The XA Ultra towered over the Note at 164mm tall and proved challenging for one-handed use at 79mm wide, 8.4mm thick, and weighing 202g.
While Sony prided itself on its slim side bezels, the top and bottom bezels were a different matter. Only this time there was a good reason and it’s the same reason we came up with this phone.
The Sony Xperia XA Ultra is one of the very few smartphones with optical image stabilization (OIS) on the selfie camera. It was almost the first phone to do it as well, except two HTC 10 phones beat it to the punch (that said, the Xperia had the last laugh, but we’ll get to that).
The front facing camera had a fairly large 16MP (1/2.6) sensor and a large 23mm lens, as well as its own LED flash for late night selfies. It could record 1080p video at 30fps, which, while not impressive for 2016, was every bit as good as what the main camera on the back could do.
Sony Xperia XA Ultra: HDR Selfie Selfie
Image quality was impressive for its time, shots were detailed and low noise, dynamic range was good and could only get better with HDR enabled. There were fun modes to play with, and the front flash even had a fill light mode. The camera, however, struggled in the dark and had trouble producing sharp photos.
Sony Xperia XA Ultra low light: automatic flash Fill light
While not bad, the rear camera wasn’t worth spending more than a paragraph on. It had a 21.5MP sensor (which was only slightly larger at 1/2.4) and interestingly enough, this module lacked OIS. The XA Ultra was really all about the front camera.
You’d think the OIS made the front-facing camera perfect for vlogging while walking and while the stabilization was decent, it wasn’t perfect and there were other issues. For example, the wide-angle lens created a fish eye effect, which was corrected on photos, but the MediaTek Helio P10 chipset was not powerful enough to do this for videos as well.
Performance was average and despite having a large 6 1080p display to work with, games could only render at 720p resolution, the Mali-T860MP2 GPU simply wasn’t up to serious gaming.
Aside from that, the display was pretty cool. It was bright and had a good contrast ratio, the colors weren’t very accurate but the Super Vivid mode made the images pop. And there was the Mobile Bravia 2 engine which added image processing like noise reduction and sharpening to videos.
Despite its imposing stature, the XA Ultra had a small battery with a capacity of 2,700mAh – the same capacity as the Xperia Z5 Compact 4.6! Battery life was about half that achieved by similarly sized phones. We weren’t sure how this had come about, the Ultra was neither thin nor light, why that little battery?
Of course, given the phone’s size and aluminum frame, it was never going to be light. That bezel made the phone look quite sophisticated, although even the premium Xperia X Performance had a plastic bezel (and an aluminum back panel). Had Sony managed to fit in a bigger battery and go with a faster chipset, this would have been one of the best mid-range devices ever.
We loved the XA Ultra for its screen, and it had the best selfie camera at the time. Sure, HTC 10 did the OIS selfie cam first, but its 5MP sensor left something to be desired. At the time, Oppo marketed a phone called the F1 Plus as a selfie expert, but that wasn’t as good as the Sony either. It goes without saying that the HTC cost more than the XA Ultra, while the Oppo F1 Plus was about the same price.
The Sony Xperia XA Ultra was launched in the UK in May 2016 at $300, a month later it also arrived in the US at $370 and was also available in India.
There were two sequels, the Xperia XA1 Ultra and XA2 Ultra, in 2017 and 2018 respectively. The XA1 provided a slightly faster Helio P20 chipset but kept the battery at the same 2,700mAh capacity. It was still one of the biggest phones of the time with one of the best selfie cameras, but it was still a mild disappointment.
Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra
The Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra was much better. It has upgraded to the Snapdragon 630 chipset and has a 3,580mAh battery. Even better, the 16MP front-facing camera with OIS was paired with an 8MP 120 ultra-wide-angle camera. It was so good that we could cover it in more detail in its own article.
Remember the Sonyx Xperia XA Ultra phones? Do you think smartphone makers did enough to improve selfie cameras in the intervening years or did they peak in 2016?
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Image Source : www.gsmarena.com