Xperia 1 ii Photography [Auto mode, Camera Apps, Special Modes]

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stsdema28

Member
Nov 26, 2012
24
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It has been four weeks since I received my device. One of the reasons I purchased this device was the nice features around the pro mode of its camera.
After I saw the comments from the reviewers/press regarding the standard Camera App and the Auto mode, I was curious to test the AUTO mode myself.

In this post I will try to share my findings around the AUTO mode, explain how I interpreted the different apps around the camera and share some thoughts. I hope you will find it useful.

Device Software (Build number): 58.0.A3.39

Thoughts around AUTO Mode
I have noticed that many reviewers kinda refused to use the Photo Pro app when they did compare this device with other devices. Their explanation/reasoning for that was that many times the users (even the pro users) will need to capture something fast and straight away without spending five mins in the settings or using a tripod. Now, If you check the comments in any of these reviews/videos, you will find at least ten guys screaming about the fact that Photo Pro has AUTO mode as well.

Personally, even I do enjoy the program mode etc I do agree that having a decent AUTO mode (no matters the app) it’s very important for any smartphone.
I took multiple shots with the standard camera app (which provides only the default mode, the AUTO mode) and the Photo Pro AUTO mode. I think I managed to understand what's the main difference between these two.
(for the rest of this post, please assume that any reference to the Photo Pro is regarding the AUTO mode unless I specify a different mode)

Standard Camera App vs Photo Pro AUTO
As long as you don't change the focus point by touching on the screen, the results from the two apps (standard camera app and the Photo Pro in AUTO) are almost identical.
Both applications will use HDR when it is required and they will provide decent results. You can't control whether the HDR will be used or not, you can’t turn it off, but it's there, fully automated.

In order to prove my findings around the HDR, I compared photos taken with AUTO (both apps) with photos taken with the P Mode in Photo Pro with everything in default settings(auto) by setting the HDR OFF. I did that as it’s not possible to control HDR in AUTO mode.
For the Photo Pro you can go to Menu -> Exposure/Colour -> DRO/AUTO HDR and set your preference: a) D-Range Optimiser, AUTO HDR, Off but this is applied only for the special modes (P, S, M). 
For the AUTO mode the DRO/AUTO HDR is set to AUTO, which it seems to be a special config just for the AUTO mode. I guess that it will apply the D-Range Optimiser, or HDR or none of these depending on the scene.

Quick test for the HDR in AUTO modes:
Standard Camera App: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/2FgY1d
Photo Pro AUTO: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/08z99k
Photo Pro P Mode, default, HDR Off: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/1rf185
As you can see, the results from the two apps are similar for AUTO and in both cases HDR was applied. If you compare them with the third image where the HDR was set to off, it’s quite obvious.

Things are getting interesting when you touch the screen with the aim to change the focus point - lets use Sony’s term for now on: “touch to adjust”.
For the standard app, it's not possible to configure what will be happened on that action but it seems that it adjusts the focus and the brightness/exposure. In the Photo Pro you can choose whether the application will adjust only the focus or the focus and the brightness (Settings -> Touch to Adjust). That choice will be applied in all modes including the AUTO mode. Btw, adjusting both, the focus and the brightness is a common/expected behaviour and you will find it in other apps by other manufactures or developers.

Based on the above, someone would expect that if you choose for the Photo Pro to adjust both the focus and the brightness (as the standard camera app does), the results from the two apps would be identical when you touch to adjust. The reality is: not always!
The reason is that the HDR gets disabled in the standard app when the following two things happen at the same time: a) you touch to adjust and b) there is enough light in the scene so no special mode (low light or night mode) is applied. This is not the case for the Photo Pro AUTO where the HDR remains on auto (only if it’s required as described above). I have to add that the standard app provides you the ability to adjust the brightness/exposure for the focus point once you apply touch to adjust. This is not possible in Photo Pro AUTO - If you want to have this kind of control, you will need to switch to P mode. Based on that, it's obvious that the two apps follow different approach for the particular scenario.

Before I continue with further analysis of that scenario, I need to provide a clarification for the low light cases: you should expect similar results from both apps (AUTO) no matter if you touch to adjust or not. Low light or Night mode will be applied in both cases.

So, let’s discuss further the behaviour of the standard app for the touch to adjust and when it will result to a different outcome in comparison to the Photo Pro.
Based on what I mentioned above, if you “touch to adjust” and there is enough light in the scene (so the app can achieve correct exposure for the focus point without applying any special mode), the HDR will go off. The application adjusts the ISO and the shutter speed in the attempt to achieve the right exposure for the specific point. The truth is it does that correctly most of time. However, the outcome depends on the scene (basically the light) and on the user’s choice regarding the focus point.
Usually it is a photo with the right exposure for the focus point but with blown highlights for the brightest parts of the scene e.g the sky. If you understand the concept around the exposure, I guess it’s quite clear why this is the case. The focus point becomes the reference for the right/correct exposure, so anything brighter than this point will appear over exposed. In the case of really bright parts - light sources e.g sun, clouds etc, that over exposure causes blown highlights. A possible solution to mitigate that effect is to adjust the exposure manually for the focus point in an attempt to capture some of the missing highlights.
Quick example/test:
Without touch to adjust: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/bo9TL6
With touch to adjust: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/8eZ4ZX

In the Photo Pro AUTO mode, just because the HDR doesn’t go off during the above scenario, the outcome will be a photo without blown highlights. However, the reference for the exposure will still be the focus point (assuming you selected the touch to adjust to adjust focus and brightness), so the result won’t be the same with a photo that was taken without applying touch to adjust. It’s usually a brighter photo and this is because the HDR is applied with the provider point as a reference for the exposure.

You can observe all the above in the following test I did: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1mlqKaFObgkV6ZyV2X7B1y1kYzmpNBrtZ/view?usp=sharing (pdf file with the photos)
I tested the touch to adjust for both, the standard camera and Photo Pro in AUTO. 
You can see from the results that the photos from the Standard Camera are similar to the photos taken using the P mode with the HDR off, while the photos from the Photo Pro AUTO are similar to the photos from the P mode with HDR on AUTO.

When it comes to AUTO mode, I am not convinced what would be the right thing to do around HDR for that particular scenario - the touch to adjust. Both options/behaviours (HDR to go off but be able to adjust the exposure vs HDR on AUTO) can be valid depending on the use case. My personal preference would be to have the control around the HDR.
We can’t say that there is an issue or a bug with any of the two AUTO modes. It seems to me that the two apps were developed separately and different decisions have been made. Atm, If you would like to have some control around the HDR but you don’t bother about anything else, you can still use the P mode with everything in the default config and adjust DRO/AUTO HDR, as I demonstrated in my tests.

Just for completeness: In Photo Pro, If you select the touch to adjust to adjust only the focus, the results won’t be similar as the tests above. In that case, when you touch to adjust, the exposure doesn’t change based on the focus point. As a result, the exposure of a photo taken with that setup will be identical to the one taken without applying touch to adjust.

I will close this part around that particular scenario with a quick tip/advice: if your aim is to have everything in focus and have balanced/correct exposure across the whole photo, there is no reason to try to focus on something in a distance (e.g the mountain in a landscape, a building etc) using the touch to adjust feature. Due to the fact that smartphones camera sensors are small in general, the depth of field is large/wide so everything will be in focus (this is applied for any smartphone, it’s not only for this device). Use the touch to adjust for things in close distance unless you intentionally want to adjust the exposure of the photo based on a particular point.

Overall, I would say that the AUTO mode is decent and I can trust it, especially if I want to snap something quickly.
I saw comments from reviewers mentioning blown highlights and this is the reason I spent some time to explain the touch to adjust.
If someone experienced blown highlights in AUTO mode without applying touch to adjust, I am really curious to see that.

Thoughts around the camera apps
It’s more that obvious that Sony targets the enthusiasts with this device. You can see in the product’s page that they target photographers, cinematographers, cinephiles etc
When it comes to camera, they want people to use the Pro apps. However, I am not convinced that the Cinema Pro can be used by everyone.

So, this is how I interpreted the three apps:
  1. Standard Camera app (video): that’s easy. The default app for video for most of the people.
  2. Cinema Pro: 100% for people interested to shoot mini projects and happy to use tripod, gimbal, maybe filters etc and they are happy to spend reasonable time to take the right clip. There is a room for improvement, mainly around the fix exposure after starting recording, so more people can use it.
  3. Standard Camera app (photos): I saw people saying: forget about this one, use Photo Pro only. I kinda disagree. If this device is your daily driver, it means that you take a lot photos with that camera beyond the nice shots of different memorable scenes. I believe that this app is intended for the moments when you want to take a quick photo without thinking too much. Possibly this is the reason they chose to have all the special modes be applied automatically (HDR, low light, night mode etc). If you don’t have time, you don’t want to mess with settings, just point and shoot. It does provide decent results.
    For the daily stuff this is a no brainer. Examples: random photos of items that you need to show to people , a meal you cook etc
    For more “critical shots”, between missing the shot, and having the perfect shot after 3 mins in the settings, I choose to take the shot.
    So let’s say you have spent some time taking photos of a landscape using the Photo Pro. Job done, phone in the pocket. Suddenly you see something nearby that you want to photograph. What do you do? Photo Pro is in M/P/S mode as you left it 5 mins ago with the configuration for that scene. Yes, you are 2 clicks away from setting it to AUTO but you may miss the shot. Standard camera is your friend in that case.
  4. Photo Pro: My default option if I want to shoot anything and I have reasonable time. It can be AUTO mode, it can be the P mode and taking multiple shots by experimenting with HDR off/AUTO etc. It can be any other mode. It depends on the amount of time I want to spend on taking the shot and my mood :D

General thoughts
HDR
I do like the convenience of computational photography, however I am not a big fun when camera apps end up over-processing the photos. The usual example: taking a photo of a landscape during a cloudy day and the HDR makes the photo looks like you are in the middle of a hurricane.
Fortunately, Sony’s HDR appears to be not that aggressive and I really like that part.
Having that said, I still believe that there is room for improvement/optimisation with:
a) the algorithm that calculates whether the HDR will be triggered or not.
b) the HDR algorithm itself on how it blends the images and what images should be taken (how many stops above and below)
It’s really good but not perfect. There is no perfect anw.
As mentioned above, it would be nice for Sony to provide the users the option to adjust HDR in the auto mode.

Portrait Mode
I still try to understand why Sony chose to add that mode in the standard camera app. I don’t see the reason of adding a non well optimised mode to a device that is advertised so much about its photography capabilities.
For now, If you want to take some portrait photos, switch to the 70mm lens and that’s it. Nice natural portrait photos with decent bokeh effect. That bokeh effect is not comparable to any portrait mode that uses computational photography, but it still look good enough. The nice thing about that is that you get consistent results cause it's 100% natural effect by the lens (no issues with hair etc).
Not the best example: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/m2152a

Night Mode - low light
These modes are triggered/applied automatically. I took some decent shots under low light. I can see that Sony didn’t follow the path of the other manufactures. Similar to the HDR, the night mode algo is not that aggressive. Sony tries to remain close to reality and avoids over processing. Maybe this is not something that everyone will appreciate but I think it's nice to have different approaches by different manufactures. It results to more options for the consumers, more competition and innovation etc. Personally, I don't really understand why some reviewers are giving credits to manufactures for over processing.
Back to Sony, It would be nice to provide the users the option to enable/disable night mode during the auto mode or provide a dedicate night mode.
Some photos:
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/5fZ25B
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/0rfGPZ (I was a bit surprised looking that one)
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/vK61N9
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/A4U34R

Macro
At Auto, both apps are able to recognise a macro shot and actually in the standard app if you enable the photography hints, the app will guide you to "move further away" in case you are too close. Photos look natural, there is not any kind of computational photography processing in that mode. The blur parts in the photo is a natural outcome from the lens and it happens when parts of the scene lie outside of the depth of field.
Some photos (main lens - 24mm, standard app):
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/BM00v8
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/s6p1Sh
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/257gts
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/H75112
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/396Ac0
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/Z83oh4

Hardware
Through my tests I did notice that the zeiss optics help a lot by reducing reflections and flares especially when I was pointing directly to a source of light (e.g sun, lamb etc). I compared it with Pixel 2 xl and Samsung s9 (whatever I had access) and the difference was obvious.
However, I noticed that when there is light coming from a particular angle (it's an edge case), there is a specific type of lens flare only for the main lens, 24mm.
Example: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/vp48Jd

The album with all the photos in the post and some additional photos: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/K343dG
Sony released an update while I was writing this, I will try to update the post if they changed anything around the stuff I covered.

Update: added macro shots.
 
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Geoffxx

Senior Member
Apr 2, 2013
536
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great detail and time spent, very much appreciated, post of the year IMO

it is obvious that certain reviewers didn't quite understand what simple PAS is

and I agree totally with your night shot comments - who wants a night shot that doesn't look like night and is way over exposed and processed

again many thanks and looking forward to further experiences from you my friend as the phone receives a few updates going forward, I am now hoping Sony don't change too much as it seems perfect as is
 
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stsdema28

Member
Nov 26, 2012
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@stsdema28 Great post! Do you know how I can calibrate white balance in pro mode? I have seen the adjust button in P mode for white balance but how do I get it right? In Photo Pro auto mode, photos look red-ish to me.

I am not sure what you mean/expect when you are saying "how can I calibrate WB". White balance can be different even between two clicks in the same scene when the light changes significantly. So there isn't a concept of calibrating the WB of the camera once so it can be right every time. What you can do is to adjust WB every time based on the scene. Another option is to adjust WB in post processing (this is what I usually do when I shoot with my DSLR, but I shoot RAW).

Back to the Xperia, I usually use AWB but I tried some of the predefined options (cloudy, daylight, incandescent etc) and they were quite accurate. Did you try any of them? It's important to choose the right option for the scene.
short article about WB: https://www.nikonusa.com/en/learn-and-explore/a/tips-and-techniques/setting-white-balance.html (it's by Nikon, but it doesn't really matter)

If you are not happy with the predefined options, you can try to set and use one of the custom options but you need to remember that it would be valid/correct only for the scene you set it for. Check the following video how you can do that: https://youtu.be/ehK8zJ2up98?t=454 (I set the exact moment he describes the WB options)
 
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billybobjones

Senior Member
Jun 2, 2008
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one of the reasons I was looking at this phone is because sony mentions its supposed to be good at capturing motion shots. How is it in your experience? Is it as good as the pixel in being able to capture a motion shot with one snap in auto?
 

stsdema28

Member
Nov 26, 2012
24
33
one of the reasons I was looking at this phone is because sony mentions its supposed to be good at capturing motion shots. How is it in your experience? Is it as good as the pixel in being able to capture a motion shot with one snap in auto?

The motion feature of pixel has nothing to do with burst shooting.

The Xperia 1 ii can shoot up to 20fps with autofocus and auto exposure. It's all about capturing the right photo. You can see the burst shooting in the following videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQEXla29P9A https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVJtmP8Ckfg
The motion feature in pixels (or similar feature in other apps) captures several frames or a short video with sound before and after you take a photo. The idea here is to capture additional material to accompany the photo for future reference with the aim to help the user to recall that moment.

So, it depends what you are looking for. There is no other phone that is able to shoot 20fps with autofocus and auto exposure (as far as I know). But given that you referred to pixel's feature, I guess you are looking for "motion" photos.
 
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Geoffxx

Senior Member
Apr 2, 2013
536
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So, it depends what you are looking for. There is no other phone that is able to shoot 20fps with autofocus and auto exposure (as far as I know). But given that you referred to pixel's feature, I guess you are looking for "motion" photos.

the difference is video frames vers 20 actual full res photos

and there is a huge difference
 

billybobjones

Senior Member
Jun 2, 2008
220
44
The motion feature of pixel has nothing to do with burst shooting.

The Xperia 1 ii can shoot up to 20fps with autofocus and auto exposure. It's all about capturing the right photo. You can see the burst shooting in the following videos: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQEXla29P9A https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVJtmP8Ckfg
The motion feature in pixels (or similar feature in other apps) captures several frames or a short video with sound before and after you take a photo. The idea here is to capture additional material to accompany the photo for future reference with the aim to help the user to recall that moment.

So, it depends what you are looking for. There is no other phone that is able to shoot 20fps with autofocus and auto exposure (as far as I know). But given that you referred to pixel's feature, I guess you are looking for "motion" photos.

sorry i meant a moving object. for example a dog running or a bicyclist or a kid running. with a pixel you can take 1 shot and get a good photo. With other smartphones when you take one photo you usually get a blurry mess. How is the sony?
 

stsdema28

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Nov 26, 2012
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Gigio755

Senior Member
Jul 9, 2013
236
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www.consolelab.org
anyone notice that with Camera Pro, raw and 70mm lens ... it produce a 13,8mpx photo?

if you save it in jpg it's a 12,2mpx, if you select raw, it produce a 13,8mpx with 4288x3216 resolution :confused:

I'm on XQ-AT52 HongKong with 3.88 firmware
 
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starepiernikowe

New member
Sep 22, 2020
2
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my thoughts

This is very faithful review by stsdema28, great job thank you.
I have come to the same conclusion as stsdema28 while testing it.

I have my xperia 1II for a week now and after testing it I'm sure that I made a good chose buying it.
There are some things that are important to me while taking pictures with a phone and I like to share them with you.

First of all I think that main camera app does amazing job in recognising scenes, focus, white balance, it's reliable.
It's fast and convenient; for me, I don't see s reason to use Pro app.
In my opinion using Pro is good for RAW output if someone needs it.
I personally have used raw in cameras for years but I consider it a waste of time for me right now.

Main camera app also in my opinion has flawless noise reduction, jpg's from Pro mode have different noise reduction; more looking like "alfa" camera output.

So, what is important for me with this camera phone:
-all 3 cameras output same resolution 12mpix photos
-colours are true to life on all 3 cameras and they remain the same on each one of them
-auto white balance is correct in different scenes where I had problems before with my Huawei p30pro
-pictures have natural look, not overprocessed
-there are no artifacts when the light is to bright on a shiny surface and around red light sources in the dark
-glow around light sources look natural like from a real camera, don't know if this is due to good optics or the lens coating

When it comes to video all that I can really say is that I have no complaints and find it very high quality.
What I need to point out is audio quality which is on par with video quality.
Wind noise filter does awesome job, all that is left of wind in strong wind; is something like old low bitrate mp3 artifacts but very faint.
Sound positioning is very good too.

Selfie camera take sharp shots, no artifacts in bright light, I almost never use it, but if I did; I would be happy with the results.


Thx
Paweł
 

hi2shy

Member
Sep 30, 2009
25
0
Thanks to @stsdema28 and @starepiernikowe for the excellent real life reviews of the phone. It is so helpful and so much better than watching the YouTube reviews.

---------- Post added at 09:25 AM ---------- Previous post was at 09:25 AM ----------

Thanks to @stsdema28 and @starepiernikowe for the excellent real life reviews of the phone. It is so helpful and so much better than watching the YouTube reviews.
 

starepiernikowe

New member
Sep 22, 2020
2
0
ISO3200 PRO and default app

Just wanted to show the differences in jpg from PRO app and default camera app noise reduction.
The exposure is different on those pictures, so the colors are too.
Left is PRO right is default camera app.

https://
freeimage.host/i/26zkCJ


Sorry I have problems with putting links here since i don't have enough posts.



Thx
Pawel
 
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robin.bennett

New member
Mar 14, 2021
1
0
It has been four weeks since I received my device. One of the reasons I purchased this device was the nice features around the pro mode of its camera.
After I saw the comments from the reviewers/press regarding the standard Camera App and the Auto mode, I was curious to test the AUTO mode myself.

In this post I will try to share my findings around the AUTO mode, explain how I interpreted the different apps around the camera and share some thoughts. I hope you will find it useful.

Device Software (Build number): 58.0.A3.39

Thoughts around AUTO Mode

I have noticed that many reviewers kinda refused to use the Photo Pro app when they did compare this device with other devices. Their explanation/reasoning for that was that many times the users (even the pro users) will need to capture something fast and straight away without spending five mins in the settings or using a tripod. Now, If you check the comments in any of these reviews/videos, you will find at least ten guys screaming about the fact that Photo Pro has AUTO mode as well.

Personally, even I do enjoy the program mode etc I do agree that having a decent AUTO mode (no matters the app) it’s very important for any smartphone.
I took multiple shots with the standard camera app (which provides only the default mode, the AUTO mode) and the Photo Pro AUTO mode. I think I managed to understand what's the main difference between these two.
(for the rest of this post, please assume that any reference to the Photo Pro is regarding the AUTO mode unless I specify a different mode)

Standard Camera App vs Photo Pro AUTO
As long as you don't change the focus point by touching on the screen, the results from the two apps (standard camera app and the Photo Pro in AUTO) are almost identical.

Both applications will use HDR when it is required and they will provide decent results. You can't control whether the HDR will be used or not, you can’t turn it off, but it's there, fully automated.

In order to prove my findings around the HDR, I compared photos taken with AUTO (both apps) with photos taken with the P Mode in Photo Pro with everything in default settings(auto) by setting the HDR OFF. I did that as it’s not possible to control HDR in AUTO mode.
For the Photo Pro you can go to Menu -> Exposure/Colour -> DRO/AUTO HDR and set your preference: a) D-Range Optimiser, AUTO HDR, Off but this is applied only for the special modes (P, S, M). 
For the AUTO mode the DRO/AUTO HDR is set to AUTO, which it seems to be a special config just for the AUTO mode. I guess that it will apply the D-Range Optimiser, or HDR or none of these depending on the scene.

Quick test for the HDR in AUTO modes:
Standard Camera App: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/2FgY1d
Photo Pro AUTO: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/08z99k
Photo Pro P Mode, default, HDR Off: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/1rf185
As you can see, the results from the two apps are similar for AUTO and in both cases HDR was applied. If you compare them with the third image where the HDR was set to off, it’s quite obvious.

Things are getting interesting when you touch the screen with the aim to change the focus point - lets use Sony’s term for now on: “touch to adjust”.
For the standard app, it's not possible to configure what will be happened on that action but it seems that it adjusts the focus and the brightness/exposure. In the Photo Pro you can choose whether the application will adjust only the focus or the focus and the brightness (Settings -> Touch to Adjust). That choice will be applied in all modes including the AUTO mode. Btw, adjusting both, the focus and the brightness is a common/expected behaviour and you will find it in other apps by other manufactures or developers.

Based on the above, someone would expect that if you choose for the Photo Pro to adjust both the focus and the brightness (as the standard camera app does), the results from the two apps would be identical when you touch to adjust. The reality is: not always!
The reason is that the HDR gets disabled in the standard app when the following two things happen at the same time: a) you touch to adjust and b) there is enough light in the scene so no special mode (low light or night mode) is applied. This is not the case for the Photo Pro AUTO where the HDR remains on auto (only if it’s required as described above). I have to add that the standard app provides you the ability to adjust the brightness/exposure for the focus point once you apply touch to adjust. This is not possible in Photo Pro AUTO - If you want to have this kind of control, you will need to switch to P mode. Based on that, it's obvious that the two apps follow different approach for the particular scenario.

Before I continue with further analysis of that scenario, I need to provide a clarification for the low light cases: you should expect similar results from both apps (AUTO) no matter if you touch to adjust or not. Low light or Night mode will be applied in both cases.

So, let’s discuss further the behaviour of the standard app for the touch to adjust and when it will result to a different outcome in comparison to the Photo Pro.
Based on what I mentioned above, if you “touch to adjust” and there is enough light in the scene (so the app can achieve correct exposure for the focus point without applying any special mode), the HDR will go off. The application adjusts the ISO and the shutter speed in the attempt to achieve the right exposure for the specific point. The truth is it does that correctly most of time. However, the outcome depends on the scene (basically the light) and on the user’s choice regarding the focus point.
Usually it is a photo with the right exposure for the focus point but with blown highlights for the brightest parts of the scene e.g the sky. If you understand the concept around the exposure, I guess it’s quite clear why this is the case. The focus point becomes the reference for the right/correct exposure, so anything brighter than this point will appear over exposed. In the case of really bright parts - light sources e.g sun, clouds etc, that over exposure causes blown highlights. A possible solution to mitigate that effect is to adjust the exposure manually for the focus point in an attempt to capture some of the missing highlights.
Quick example/test:
Without touch to adjust: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/bo9TL6
With touch to adjust: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/8eZ4ZX

In the Photo Pro AUTO mode, just because the HDR doesn’t go off during the above scenario, the outcome will be a photo without blown highlights. However, the reference for the exposure will still be the focus point (assuming you selected the touch to adjust to adjust focus and brightness), so the result won’t be the same with a photo that was taken without applying touch to adjust. It’s usually a brighter photo and this is because the HDR is applied with the provider point as a reference for the exposure.

You can observe all the above in the following test I did: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1mlqKaFObgkV6ZyV2X7B1y1kYzmpNBrtZ/view?usp=sharing (pdf file with the photos)
I tested the touch to adjust for both, the standard camera and Photo Pro in AUTO. 
You can see from the results that the photos from the Standard Camera are similar to the photos taken using the P mode with the HDR off, while the photos from the Photo Pro AUTO are similar to the photos from the P mode with HDR on AUTO.

When it comes to AUTO mode, I am not convinced what would be the right thing to do around HDR for that particular scenario - the touch to adjust. Both options/behaviours (HDR to go off but be able to adjust the exposure vs HDR on AUTO) can be valid depending on the use case. My personal preference would be to have the control around the HDR.
We can’t say that there is an issue or a bug with any of the two AUTO modes. It seems to me that the two apps were developed separately and different decisions have been made. Atm, If you would like to have some control around the HDR but you don’t bother about anything else, you can still use the P mode with everything in the default config and adjust DRO/AUTO HDR, as I demonstrated in my tests.

Just for completeness: In Photo Pro, If you select the touch to adjust to adjust only the focus, the results won’t be similar as the tests above. In that case, when you touch to adjust, the exposure doesn’t change based on the focus point. As a result, the exposure of a photo taken with that setup will be identical to the one taken without applying touch to adjust.

I will close this part around that particular scenario with a quick tip/advice: if your aim is to have everything in focus and have balanced/correct exposure across the whole photo, there is no reason to try to focus on something in a distance (e.g the mountain in a landscape, a building etc) using the touch to adjust feature. Due to the fact that smartphones camera sensors are small in general, the depth of field is large/wide so everything will be in focus (this is applied for any smartphone, it’s not only for this device). Use the touch to adjust for things in close distance unless you intentionally want to adjust the exposure of the photo based on a particular point.

Overall, I would say that the AUTO mode is decent and I can trust it, especially if I want to snap something quickly.
I saw comments from reviewers mentioning blown highlights and this is the reason I spent some time to explain the touch to adjust.
If someone experienced blown highlights in AUTO mode without applying touch to adjust, I am really curious to see that.

Thoughts around the camera apps
It’s more that obvious that Sony targets the enthusiasts with this device. You can see in the product’s page that they target photographers, cinematographers, cinephiles etc
When it comes to camera, they want people to use the Pro apps. However, I am not convinced that the Cinema Pro can be used by everyone.

So, this is how I interpreted the three apps:
  1. Standard Camera app (video): that’s easy. The default app for video for most of the people.
  2. Cinema Pro: 100% for people interested to shoot mini projects and happy to use tripod, gimbal, maybe filters etc and they are happy to spend reasonable time to take the right clip. There is a room for improvement, mainly around the fix exposure after starting recording, so more people can use it.
  3. Standard Camera app (photos): I saw people saying: forget about this one, use Photo Pro only. I kinda disagree. If this device is your daily driver, it means that you take a lot photos with that camera beyond the nice shots of different memorable scenes. I believe that this app is intended for the moments when you want to take a quick photo without thinking too much. Possibly this is the reason they chose to have all the special modes be applied automatically (HDR, low light, night mode etc). If you don’t have time, you don’t want to mess with settings, just point and shoot. It does provide decent results.
    For the daily stuff this is a no brainer. Examples: random photos of items that you need to show to people , a meal you cook etc
    For more “critical shots”, between missing the shot, and having the perfect shot after 3 mins in the settings, I choose to take the shot.
    So let’s say you have spent some time taking photos of a landscape using the Photo Pro. Job done, phone in the pocket. Suddenly you see something nearby that you want to photograph. What do you do? Photo Pro is in M/P/S mode as you left it 5 mins ago with the configuration for that scene. Yes, you are 2 clicks away from setting it to AUTO but you may miss the shot. Standard camera is your friend in that case.
  4. Photo Pro: My default option if I want to shoot anything and I have reasonable time. It can be AUTO mode, it can be the P mode and taking multiple shots by experimenting with HDR off/AUTO etc. It can be any other mode. It depends on the amount of time I want to spend on taking the shot and my mood :D

General thoughts
HDR

I do like the convenience of computational photography, however I am not a big fun when camera apps end up over-processing the photos. The usual example: taking a photo of a landscape during a cloudy day and the HDR makes the photo looks like you are in the middle of a hurricane.
Fortunately, Sony’s HDR appears to be not that aggressive and I really like that part.
Having that said, I still believe that there is room for improvement/optimisation with:
a) the algorithm that calculates whether the HDR will be triggered or not.
b) the HDR algorithm itself on how it blends the images and what images should be taken (how many stops above and below)
It’s really good but not perfect. There is no perfect anw.
As mentioned above, it would be nice for Sony to provide the users the option to adjust HDR in the auto mode.

Portrait Mode
I still try to understand why Sony chose to add that mode in the standard camera app. I don’t see the reason of adding a non well optimised mode to a device that is advertised so much about its photography capabilities.
For now, If you want to take some portrait photos, switch to the 70mm lens and that’s it. Nice natural portrait photos with decent bokeh effect. That bokeh effect is not comparable to any portrait mode that uses computational photography, but it still look good enough. The nice thing about that is that you get consistent results cause it's 100% natural effect by the lens (no issues with hair etc).
Not the best example: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/m2152a

Night Mode - low light
These modes are triggered/applied automatically. I took some decent shots under low light. I can see that Sony didn’t follow the path of the other manufactures. Similar to the HDR, the night mode algo is not that aggressive. Sony tries to remain close to reality and avoids over processing. Maybe this is not something that everyone will appreciate but I think it's nice to have different approaches by different manufactures. It results to more options for the consumers, more competition and innovation etc. Personally, I don't really understand why some reviewers are giving credits to manufactures for over processing.
Back to Sony, It would be nice to provide the users the option to enable/disable night mode during the auto mode or provide a dedicate night mode.
Some photos:
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/5fZ25B
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/0rfGPZ (I was a bit surprised looking that one)
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/vK61N9
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/A4U34R

Macro
At Auto, both apps are able to recognise a macro shot and actually in the standard app if you enable the photography hints, the app will guide you to "move further away" in case you are too close. Photos look natural, there is not any kind of computational photography processing in that mode. The blur parts in the photo is a natural outcome from the lens and it happens when parts of the scene lie outside of the depth of field.
Some photos (main lens - 24mm, standard app):
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/BM00v8
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/s6p1Sh
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/257gts
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/H75112
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/396Ac0
https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/Z83oh4

Hardware
Through my tests I did notice that the zeiss optics help a lot by reducing reflections and flares especially when I was pointing directly to a source of light (e.g sun, lamb etc). I compared it with Pixel 2 xl and Samsung s9 (whatever I had access) and the difference was obvious.
However, I noticed that when there is light coming from a particular angle (it's an edge case), there is a specific type of lens flare only for the main lens, 24mm.
Example: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/vp48Jd

The album with all the photos in the post and some additional photos: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/K343dG
Sony released an update while I was writing this, I will try to update the post if they changed anything around the stuff I covered.

Update: added macro shots.
Really appreciate that detailed info, thanks!

Quick question from me - in the Photo Pro app Auto mode, if RAW or RAW+Jpg is the selected format, have you found that the phone doesn't use HDR? Seems to be my experience. Make sense, but I wondered if it might still use HDR for the JPG and perhaps save each of the RAW files it generated, too. Doesn't seem so.
 

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  • 29
    It has been four weeks since I received my device. One of the reasons I purchased this device was the nice features around the pro mode of its camera.
    After I saw the comments from the reviewers/press regarding the standard Camera App and the Auto mode, I was curious to test the AUTO mode myself.

    In this post I will try to share my findings around the AUTO mode, explain how I interpreted the different apps around the camera and share some thoughts. I hope you will find it useful.

    Device Software (Build number): 58.0.A3.39

    Thoughts around AUTO Mode
    I have noticed that many reviewers kinda refused to use the Photo Pro app when they did compare this device with other devices. Their explanation/reasoning for that was that many times the users (even the pro users) will need to capture something fast and straight away without spending five mins in the settings or using a tripod. Now, If you check the comments in any of these reviews/videos, you will find at least ten guys screaming about the fact that Photo Pro has AUTO mode as well.

    Personally, even I do enjoy the program mode etc I do agree that having a decent AUTO mode (no matters the app) it’s very important for any smartphone.
    I took multiple shots with the standard camera app (which provides only the default mode, the AUTO mode) and the Photo Pro AUTO mode. I think I managed to understand what's the main difference between these two.
    (for the rest of this post, please assume that any reference to the Photo Pro is regarding the AUTO mode unless I specify a different mode)

    Standard Camera App vs Photo Pro AUTO
    As long as you don't change the focus point by touching on the screen, the results from the two apps (standard camera app and the Photo Pro in AUTO) are almost identical.
    Both applications will use HDR when it is required and they will provide decent results. You can't control whether the HDR will be used or not, you can’t turn it off, but it's there, fully automated.

    In order to prove my findings around the HDR, I compared photos taken with AUTO (both apps) with photos taken with the P Mode in Photo Pro with everything in default settings(auto) by setting the HDR OFF. I did that as it’s not possible to control HDR in AUTO mode.
    For the Photo Pro you can go to Menu -> Exposure/Colour -> DRO/AUTO HDR and set your preference: a) D-Range Optimiser, AUTO HDR, Off but this is applied only for the special modes (P, S, M). 
For the AUTO mode the DRO/AUTO HDR is set to AUTO, which it seems to be a special config just for the AUTO mode. I guess that it will apply the D-Range Optimiser, or HDR or none of these depending on the scene.

    Quick test for the HDR in AUTO modes:
    Standard Camera App: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/2FgY1d
    Photo Pro AUTO: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/08z99k
    Photo Pro P Mode, default, HDR Off: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/1rf185
    As you can see, the results from the two apps are similar for AUTO and in both cases HDR was applied. If you compare them with the third image where the HDR was set to off, it’s quite obvious.

    Things are getting interesting when you touch the screen with the aim to change the focus point - lets use Sony’s term for now on: “touch to adjust”.
    For the standard app, it's not possible to configure what will be happened on that action but it seems that it adjusts the focus and the brightness/exposure. In the Photo Pro you can choose whether the application will adjust only the focus or the focus and the brightness (Settings -> Touch to Adjust). That choice will be applied in all modes including the AUTO mode. Btw, adjusting both, the focus and the brightness is a common/expected behaviour and you will find it in other apps by other manufactures or developers.

    Based on the above, someone would expect that if you choose for the Photo Pro to adjust both the focus and the brightness (as the standard camera app does), the results from the two apps would be identical when you touch to adjust. The reality is: not always!
    The reason is that the HDR gets disabled in the standard app when the following two things happen at the same time: a) you touch to adjust and b) there is enough light in the scene so no special mode (low light or night mode) is applied. This is not the case for the Photo Pro AUTO where the HDR remains on auto (only if it’s required as described above). I have to add that the standard app provides you the ability to adjust the brightness/exposure for the focus point once you apply touch to adjust. This is not possible in Photo Pro AUTO - If you want to have this kind of control, you will need to switch to P mode. Based on that, it's obvious that the two apps follow different approach for the particular scenario.

    Before I continue with further analysis of that scenario, I need to provide a clarification for the low light cases: you should expect similar results from both apps (AUTO) no matter if you touch to adjust or not. Low light or Night mode will be applied in both cases.

    So, let’s discuss further the behaviour of the standard app for the touch to adjust and when it will result to a different outcome in comparison to the Photo Pro.
    Based on what I mentioned above, if you “touch to adjust” and there is enough light in the scene (so the app can achieve correct exposure for the focus point without applying any special mode), the HDR will go off. The application adjusts the ISO and the shutter speed in the attempt to achieve the right exposure for the specific point. The truth is it does that correctly most of time. However, the outcome depends on the scene (basically the light) and on the user’s choice regarding the focus point.
    Usually it is a photo with the right exposure for the focus point but with blown highlights for the brightest parts of the scene e.g the sky. If you understand the concept around the exposure, I guess it’s quite clear why this is the case. The focus point becomes the reference for the right/correct exposure, so anything brighter than this point will appear over exposed. In the case of really bright parts - light sources e.g sun, clouds etc, that over exposure causes blown highlights. A possible solution to mitigate that effect is to adjust the exposure manually for the focus point in an attempt to capture some of the missing highlights.
    Quick example/test:
    Without touch to adjust: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/bo9TL6
    With touch to adjust: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/8eZ4ZX

    In the Photo Pro AUTO mode, just because the HDR doesn’t go off during the above scenario, the outcome will be a photo without blown highlights. However, the reference for the exposure will still be the focus point (assuming you selected the touch to adjust to adjust focus and brightness), so the result won’t be the same with a photo that was taken without applying touch to adjust. It’s usually a brighter photo and this is because the HDR is applied with the provider point as a reference for the exposure.

    You can observe all the above in the following test I did: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1mlqKaFObgkV6ZyV2X7B1y1kYzmpNBrtZ/view?usp=sharing (pdf file with the photos)
    I tested the touch to adjust for both, the standard camera and Photo Pro in AUTO. 
You can see from the results that the photos from the Standard Camera are similar to the photos taken using the P mode with the HDR off, while the photos from the Photo Pro AUTO are similar to the photos from the P mode with HDR on AUTO.

    When it comes to AUTO mode, I am not convinced what would be the right thing to do around HDR for that particular scenario - the touch to adjust. Both options/behaviours (HDR to go off but be able to adjust the exposure vs HDR on AUTO) can be valid depending on the use case. My personal preference would be to have the control around the HDR.
    We can’t say that there is an issue or a bug with any of the two AUTO modes. It seems to me that the two apps were developed separately and different decisions have been made. Atm, If you would like to have some control around the HDR but you don’t bother about anything else, you can still use the P mode with everything in the default config and adjust DRO/AUTO HDR, as I demonstrated in my tests.

    Just for completeness: In Photo Pro, If you select the touch to adjust to adjust only the focus, the results won’t be similar as the tests above. In that case, when you touch to adjust, the exposure doesn’t change based on the focus point. As a result, the exposure of a photo taken with that setup will be identical to the one taken without applying touch to adjust.

    I will close this part around that particular scenario with a quick tip/advice: if your aim is to have everything in focus and have balanced/correct exposure across the whole photo, there is no reason to try to focus on something in a distance (e.g the mountain in a landscape, a building etc) using the touch to adjust feature. Due to the fact that smartphones camera sensors are small in general, the depth of field is large/wide so everything will be in focus (this is applied for any smartphone, it’s not only for this device). Use the touch to adjust for things in close distance unless you intentionally want to adjust the exposure of the photo based on a particular point.

    Overall, I would say that the AUTO mode is decent and I can trust it, especially if I want to snap something quickly.
    I saw comments from reviewers mentioning blown highlights and this is the reason I spent some time to explain the touch to adjust.
    If someone experienced blown highlights in AUTO mode without applying touch to adjust, I am really curious to see that.

    Thoughts around the camera apps
    It’s more that obvious that Sony targets the enthusiasts with this device. You can see in the product’s page that they target photographers, cinematographers, cinephiles etc
    When it comes to camera, they want people to use the Pro apps. However, I am not convinced that the Cinema Pro can be used by everyone.

    So, this is how I interpreted the three apps:
    1. Standard Camera app (video): that’s easy. The default app for video for most of the people.
    2. Cinema Pro: 100% for people interested to shoot mini projects and happy to use tripod, gimbal, maybe filters etc and they are happy to spend reasonable time to take the right clip. There is a room for improvement, mainly around the fix exposure after starting recording, so more people can use it.
    3. Standard Camera app (photos): I saw people saying: forget about this one, use Photo Pro only. I kinda disagree. If this device is your daily driver, it means that you take a lot photos with that camera beyond the nice shots of different memorable scenes. I believe that this app is intended for the moments when you want to take a quick photo without thinking too much. Possibly this is the reason they chose to have all the special modes be applied automatically (HDR, low light, night mode etc). If you don’t have time, you don’t want to mess with settings, just point and shoot. It does provide decent results.
      For the daily stuff this is a no brainer. Examples: random photos of items that you need to show to people , a meal you cook etc
      For more “critical shots”, between missing the shot, and having the perfect shot after 3 mins in the settings, I choose to take the shot.
      So let’s say you have spent some time taking photos of a landscape using the Photo Pro. Job done, phone in the pocket. Suddenly you see something nearby that you want to photograph. What do you do? Photo Pro is in M/P/S mode as you left it 5 mins ago with the configuration for that scene. Yes, you are 2 clicks away from setting it to AUTO but you may miss the shot. Standard camera is your friend in that case.
    4. Photo Pro: My default option if I want to shoot anything and I have reasonable time. It can be AUTO mode, it can be the P mode and taking multiple shots by experimenting with HDR off/AUTO etc. It can be any other mode. It depends on the amount of time I want to spend on taking the shot and my mood :D

    General thoughts
    HDR
    I do like the convenience of computational photography, however I am not a big fun when camera apps end up over-processing the photos. The usual example: taking a photo of a landscape during a cloudy day and the HDR makes the photo looks like you are in the middle of a hurricane.
    Fortunately, Sony’s HDR appears to be not that aggressive and I really like that part.
    Having that said, I still believe that there is room for improvement/optimisation with:
    a) the algorithm that calculates whether the HDR will be triggered or not.
    b) the HDR algorithm itself on how it blends the images and what images should be taken (how many stops above and below)
    It’s really good but not perfect. There is no perfect anw.
    As mentioned above, it would be nice for Sony to provide the users the option to adjust HDR in the auto mode.

    Portrait Mode
    I still try to understand why Sony chose to add that mode in the standard camera app. I don’t see the reason of adding a non well optimised mode to a device that is advertised so much about its photography capabilities.
    For now, If you want to take some portrait photos, switch to the 70mm lens and that’s it. Nice natural portrait photos with decent bokeh effect. That bokeh effect is not comparable to any portrait mode that uses computational photography, but it still look good enough. The nice thing about that is that you get consistent results cause it's 100% natural effect by the lens (no issues with hair etc).
    Not the best example: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/m2152a

    Night Mode - low light
    These modes are triggered/applied automatically. I took some decent shots under low light. I can see that Sony didn’t follow the path of the other manufactures. Similar to the HDR, the night mode algo is not that aggressive. Sony tries to remain close to reality and avoids over processing. Maybe this is not something that everyone will appreciate but I think it's nice to have different approaches by different manufactures. It results to more options for the consumers, more competition and innovation etc. Personally, I don't really understand why some reviewers are giving credits to manufactures for over processing.
    Back to Sony, It would be nice to provide the users the option to enable/disable night mode during the auto mode or provide a dedicate night mode.
    Some photos:
    https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/5fZ25B
    https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/0rfGPZ (I was a bit surprised looking that one)
    https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/vK61N9
    https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/A4U34R

    Macro
    At Auto, both apps are able to recognise a macro shot and actually in the standard app if you enable the photography hints, the app will guide you to "move further away" in case you are too close. Photos look natural, there is not any kind of computational photography processing in that mode. The blur parts in the photo is a natural outcome from the lens and it happens when parts of the scene lie outside of the depth of field.
    Some photos (main lens - 24mm, standard app):
    https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/BM00v8
    https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/s6p1Sh
    https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/257gts
    https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/H75112
    https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/396Ac0
    https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/Z83oh4

    Hardware
    Through my tests I did notice that the zeiss optics help a lot by reducing reflections and flares especially when I was pointing directly to a source of light (e.g sun, lamb etc). I compared it with Pixel 2 xl and Samsung s9 (whatever I had access) and the difference was obvious.
    However, I noticed that when there is light coming from a particular angle (it's an edge case), there is a specific type of lens flare only for the main lens, 24mm.
    Example: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/vp48Jd

    The album with all the photos in the post and some additional photos: https://www.flickr.com/gp/[email protected]/K343dG
    Sony released an update while I was writing this, I will try to update the post if they changed anything around the stuff I covered.

    Update: added macro shots.
    3
    Very nice review of the cameras! Wish tech reviewers could understand 10% of what you wrote here
    2
    Great post and write up. After coming here and just browsing for a couple years I literally signed up because of your post. Thanks for taking the time.
    1
    great detail and time spent, very much appreciated, post of the year IMO

    it is obvious that certain reviewers didn't quite understand what simple PAS is

    and I agree totally with your night shot comments - who wants a night shot that doesn't look like night and is way over exposed and processed

    again many thanks and looking forward to further experiences from you my friend as the phone receives a few updates going forward, I am now hoping Sony don't change too much as it seems perfect as is
    1
    @stsdema28 Great post! Do you know how I can calibrate white balance in pro mode? I have seen the adjust button in P mode for white balance but how do I get it right? In Photo Pro auto mode, photos look red-ish to me.

    I am not sure what you mean/expect when you are saying "how can I calibrate WB". White balance can be different even between two clicks in the same scene when the light changes significantly. So there isn't a concept of calibrating the WB of the camera once so it can be right every time. What you can do is to adjust WB every time based on the scene. Another option is to adjust WB in post processing (this is what I usually do when I shoot with my DSLR, but I shoot RAW).

    Back to the Xperia, I usually use AWB but I tried some of the predefined options (cloudy, daylight, incandescent etc) and they were quite accurate. Did you try any of them? It's important to choose the right option for the scene.
    short article about WB: https://www.nikonusa.com/en/learn-and-explore/a/tips-and-techniques/setting-white-balance.html (it's by Nikon, but it doesn't really matter)

    If you are not happy with the predefined options, you can try to set and use one of the custom options but you need to remember that it would be valid/correct only for the scene you set it for. Check the following video how you can do that: https://youtu.be/ehK8zJ2up98?t=454 (I set the exact moment he describes the WB options)