Sony Xperia XA2 Hands-on: All About the Cameras

Editors' Note: We posted information about Sony's Xperia XA2, XA2 Ultra and L2 when the phones were announced on January 8. Now that we've had a chance to go hands on with the phones at CES 2018, we've updated our report.

LAS VEGAS — To get you excited about its midrange phones, Sony is switching to new processors, adding improved cameras and ushering in a slightly new look for its displays.

Sony's Xperia XA2 (left) and XA2 Ultra

Sony's Xperia XA2 (left) and XA2 Ultra

The Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra will run on Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile processors after MediaTek CPUs powered the previous generation. Sony is also putting a more powerful camera on the back of the 5.2-inch Xperia XA2 while adding a second front camera to the big-screen XA2 Ultra. Meanwhile, the Xperia L2 is getting the same wide-angle selfie cam found on the XA2 and XA2 Ultra.

All three phones are slated to hit the U.S. in February, with pricing still to be announced. Until then, here's what you can expect from Sony's latest phones.

Selfies Take Center Stage

The biggest difference between the Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra can be found with the camera on front of the phones. The XA2 offers an 8-MP selfie cam that includes a 120-degree wide-angle lens that Sony says will let get more of the background — or extra people — into your self portraits.

When we tested the wide-angle front camera (on an XA2 Ultra), we were easily able to fit in three people while still capturing some of the faux Grand Canyon background. I did notice some curving around the edges of the photo however.

As noted, the XA2 Ultra has that 8-MP front shooter, too, but it's joined by a second camera — one with a 16-MP sensor and optical image stabilization. Sony thinks that will come in handy if you like to be the star of your own handheld YouTube videos. Meanwhile, a display flash on the XA2 Ultra will let you snap those selfies at night.

The 16-MP front camera on the XA2 Ultra took a pretty impressive self-portrait in the dark, as I found when I starred in a photo captured in a darkened room. You can just make out the details on the wall behind me and you can read my name on my CES badge. That said, my face does look a little smoothed out, so I'm curious to see if that's something you can adjust in settings.

You manually toggle between the two front cameras on the Xperia XA2 Ultra, tapping an icon for the 16-MP or 8-MP shooter.

Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra Design and Specs

With the 5.2-inch Xperia XA2 and 6-inch XA2 Ultra, Sony is promising something of a departure from the look of past Xperia phones. The boxy look is still there, but Sony says that both phones have reduced top and bottom bezels. The displays on both phones stretch edge to edge, so that there's little wasted real estate on the sides of the screen.

The bezels are still fairly pronounced compared to some other mid-range Android phones like the Honor 7X. And we've seen other midrange phones at CES this week moving to the 18:9 aspect ratio popularized by phones like the Galaxy S8, LG G6 and iPhone X. These latest Xperias still have a 16:9 ratio, which a Sony rep argued gives you a place to hold the phone when you're viewing it in landscape mode for gaming or watching videos.

Xperia XA2 Ultra

Xperia XA2 Ultra

One thing Sony has changed which you notice once you have a chance to hold the phones is that there's a slight curve around the edges of the XA2 and XA2 Ultra. The phones haven't entirely shed the boxy look of the Xperia line, but they definitely feel easier to grip.

The bigger change may be inside the phones where the Helio P20 that powered the Xperia XA1 has given way to a Snapdragon 630 inside both the XA2 and XA2 Ultra. Sony promises a 3x improvement to upload speeds and 2x faster download speed over the previous XA models.

On the back of the Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra, you'll find a 23-megapixel camera, an upgrade from the 13-MP sensor in the Xperia XA though the same megapixel rating on the XA1. The rear camera now offers 12800 ISO for improved sensitivity in lower-light settings, so pictures shot at night should be less noisy. The camera also can shoot 4K video, including 120fps slow-motion video. That's not quite the 960fps super slow-motion that Sony's Xperia XZ1 can capture, but it still should allow XA2 and XA2 Ultra owners to live up videos with slow motion effects.

MORE: Best Smartphone Cameras

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ModelXperia A2Xperia A2 UltraXperia L2
Screen Size (Resolution)5.2 inches (1080p)6 inches (1080p)5.5 inches (720p)
CPUSnapdragon 630Snapdragon 630Quad-core 1.5GHz CPU
MicroSD Slot?YesYesYes
Rear Camera23-MP23-MP13-MP
Front Camera8-MP (wide-angle)16-MP (with OIS); 8-MP (wide-angle)8-MP (wide-angle)
Battery3,300 mAh3,580 mAh3,300 mAh
Size5.6 x 2.8 x 0.38 inches6.4 x 3.1 x 0.37 inches5.9 x 3.0 x 0.39 inches
Weight6 ounces7.4 ounces6.3 ounces
Android VersionAndroid 8.0 OreoAndroid 8.0 OreoAndroid 7.1.1 Nougat
ColorsSilver, Black, Blue, PinkSilver, Black, Blue, GoldBlack, Gold, Pink

The XA2 offers a 3,300 mAh battery while the XA2 Ultra has a 3,580 mAh power pack. Those are capacity increases of 40 percent and 32 percent over the batteries that powered their predecessors, Sony says. More important than the bigger batteries, the two phones feature Sony's Smart Stamina feature for extending use as well as technologies aimed at managing the long-term health of the battery that have become a standard among Xperia phones.

Xperia XA2

Xperia XA2

One of our consistent complaints when we've tested Sony's phones is the lack of a working fingerprint sensor on U.S. versions of the phone. That's changing with the Xperia XA2 and XA2 Ultra, which both have a rear fingerprint sensor located underneath the camera. Even better, Sony says the feature will be available on the versions of the phones that hit the U.S. this February.

When the Xperia XA2 and XA2 ship, they'll both have the latest version of Android, with Oreo pre-installed on both phones.

Xperia L2

The Xperia L line is a step down from the XA series, and that's reflected in some of the specs found in the new Xperia L2. It will ship with Android Nougat, for example, and Sony's not specifying what kind of processor powers this phone. All Sony says is to expect a quad-core 1.5GHz CPU. The resolution on this 5.5-inch phone tops out at 720p.

Sony's Xperia L2 lineup (Credit: Sony)

(Image credit: Sony's Xperia L2 lineup (Credit: Sony))

But there's still some interesting features to be found in the Xperia L2, starting with the camera. While the rear camera features a 13-MP sensor just like the Xperia L1, Sony upgraded the front camera on the new phone to match the XA2 lineup. The Xperia L2's front camera is an 8-MP shooter with that 120-degree wide-angle lens.

The Xperia L2 has a bigger 3,300 mAh battery, which Sony says is a 25 percent improvement over its predecessor. Like the X2A and X2A Ultra, the L2 has a rear fingerprint sensor that U.S. owners will get to enjoy.

Editors' Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the specs for the older XA1 smartphone. We've corrected the processor and rear camera featured in that model.

Credits: Tom's Guide

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.