Camera shootout: iPhone 4S versus Xperia arc

by XB on 16th October 2011

in Imaging, Xperia arc

Xperia arc sample shotOne of the new features in the newly released iPhone 4S is its 8MP camera sensor. Interestingly, it was confirmed a couple of days back that this sensor is manufactured by Sony. At this point, we naturally became curious as to how the iPhone 4S fares in its imaging capabilities against the Sony Ericsson Xperia arc, with its 8.1MP Exmor R camera sensor.

Thankfully, Chinese site ePrice has some comparison images of the two smartphones. Whilst the sensor may be similar in each handset, there are likely to be other differences including the lens and imaging processing algorithms used that will affect overall image quality. Looking at the sample pics, you can see that there are differences between the handsets, but choosing a winner is less clear cut. See the images below, you can click on each image to enlarge. Which one gets your vote? Let us know in the comments below.

Camera samples: iPhone 4S versus Xperia arc

In all camera samples below, the iPhone 4S is on the left and the Xperia arc is on the right.








Pink Flower

Purple Flower





Via ePrice.

  • Narflynn

    Arc for the win! Has clearer images and renders colors more accurately/naturally. Focusing is superb, too!

  • Anonymous

    arc gets my vote. pictures are sharper.

  • @fqdeb

    Arc does better imo, except for the one with the yellow flowers, the leaves look oversatured and unnatural. For the other pictures, the Arc does better in the shadows (Exmor R FTW!). Especially with the tree and the first picture. On the iPhone, one part is just black, the Arc displays colours.

  • Arc is a tiny bit better IMO. Allthough, I would rather see Iphone 4S vs Xperia Ray since Ray often tends to grab better pictures than Arc.

  • Agreed. I do think Arc overall did better representation. Some of the iPhone4S pics look like everything was turned up for that saturated look people generally like and think is better (Food – sushi in back on Arc has details, iPhone – not so much). A couple photos for the iPhone appear darker and *maybe* has slightly better contrast, like the people sitting at the table. But overall, yes: Arc FTW! 

  • Kauf Dir ne Brille und guck mal besonders auf People … Wie kann man nur so ideologisch verbort sein!

  • Asa

    in some pics iphone is better,in others arc..

  • Xperia FTW :X
    Arc, Neo and Ray have the same lenses anyway..

  • Anonymous

    really hard to choose each pic is diffeerent some darker some lighter than the iphone either way their both sony

  • Ashrafhumax

    i have xperia arc but apple wins

  • Anonymous

    Very similar overall imho.  For some pictures I preferred the 4S such as the people shot, and some I preferred the Arc such as the food picture picture (just see how the yellow food, and the white string stuff in the distance is much more detailed, where the 4S shots look blurry).  Overall the 4S seems to be tuned darker than the Arc, which sometimes helps (see the extra detail through the skylight roof at the mall) but sometimes you lose details such as the object in the stand picture, which you can make out better in the Arc shot.

    Both great camera’s for phones anyway!  I would have been interested to see the SGS2 (my phone!) alongside these pictures also – I suspect it would have been very similar also!  I can say after printing out pictures from my phone that we are finally at the stage where camera phones are good enough to use as a point-and-shoot!

  • Kore_sar

    I’m an Xperia owner, however iPhone pictures have better colouring. And can’t decide which one is sharper.

  • Reptile1980

    LOL! I’d love to believe that cause i hate iphone and i love my Arc BUT.. the iphone’s camera has more accurate colours and better details with less compression. :-(
    Check the picture above at 100% zoom level.

  • betatesterz

    The Arc’s more sharper and has more detail. Though most of its photos tends to be over exposed as compared to the 4s

  • Asad Mulla

    look at the bread its more chicken picture, the arc has more definition. and the green plants below is a clear winner with the arc. Both very good but my biased opinion goes to ARC

  • Boost3d

    I have both devices and looking at those pics, it is a dead heat.  The Arc has more settings you can customize, but generally the colour representation is better with the iPhone.
    The Arc maybe has a little more detail but it does have some pretty harsh edges, etc at times.

  • Klobyk1

    definitely TIE!!3 wins arc and 3 iphone,others the same

  • Anonymous

    It’s pretty funny how people are trying to compare between these two. Almost all the image, the person who took it focused at a totally different place, causing different light. iPhone 4S has a larger focusing range in the middle than the Arc, so focusing will almost always be different. They use the same sensor for crying out loud. There’s absolutely no point in trying to argue for either one.

    Take a look at the chicken and sushi picture for example, iPhone is focused at a near object, while the Arc took the infinite focus, which is why the picture is much darker. Whoever took those comparison pictures is a complete noob, and shouldn’t be doing reviews…

  • iPhone has Auto-Exposure (AE) lock which wasn’t utilized in couple of these pictures judging by dark vs light spots. Not an objective test. Though in some of these photos iPhone still comes out ahead.

  • Anonymous

    Hell yeah!!!

  • Anonymous

    You exactly summed up my opinion of this test. They couldve made some of those pictures way better on the 4s if they knew how to use the features. My iPhone 4 takes pictures better than some of these, but I know how to use HDR and exposure settings. And also they are focused/angled differently in every picture so there’s different lighting and it’s not a fair test at all.

  • Anonymous

    Galaxy S II > ALL

    Galaxy S II vs Xperia ARC.

  • Faruk Abou Rafeh

    Its proven Iphone 4s camera sensor is A SONY !!!! 

  • Camera man

    And this is coming from the most ass kissing samsung website mobilereview! Thanks but I’ll pass.

    Both The Arc and iphone4 kicks the GS2 easily in the camera’s department. Sorry, I know the GS2 is a great overall device but it is still behind in the camera department and auto focus in video mode is just a joke! The only good thing is macro mode, I admit that it’s ok.

    Enjoy your over saturated screen :)

  • chris

    Sony wins ;)

  • Mick

    I don’t agree, the iphone images almost look like they are post processed versions of the Arcs. The Arc is producing far more natural photos so it is mostly a draw. I do agree that the arc compresses a bit too much, but that could change easily enough.

  • Anon

    I downloaded some and checked the photo properties, although it shows as LT15i as the camera model, the file size is around 3+MB and the “Program name” in properties is Adobe Photoshop CS5, not the usual SE build number e.g. 4.0.1.A.0.283_2d_f200

    From my arc, the largest file size of my photo is only 1.79MB, in full 8MP resolution.
    Any post prepossessing under the hood? Hehehe

  • Anon

    Oh yes. The pictures have different ISO speed, exposure time and metering mode.
    Can’t compared objectively with different settings used for the images.

  • Anon

    *Any post processing under the hood? Hehehe
    Damn the autocorrect spell checker :D

  • Hansip87

    IPhone is better IMHO, no grainy color there.. Wish ARC has much less compression :(

  • Wael Faddah


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  • Diego130487

    el ARc fue mejor

  • Chong Benedict

    Definitely the Arc Camera wins, the colours are more natural and vibrant compared to the iphone 4s.

  • Emo

    And of course this is also true for the Arc, when you know how to adjust it you get better photos. The fact is that the two phones offer very similar pic quality (same camera after all) but this comparison could have been done better.

  • Anonymous

    Of course

  • Anonymous

    The arc is much much better at detecting light.

  • TTI


  • ismail

    Arc is better in color and brightness ,but all Sony fans disappointed as they shared the lens technology to 

    iPhone 4s! why Sony why? and now all ifan says that they got the best camera

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  • Spam

    NO point Comparing – Iphone uses optics made by Sony erriccson, infact they are the same one as in the xperia arc.

  • Ddfd

    I think It`s not fair…

  • RD

    Exmor R sensor causes photos to get overexposed in daytime. I am facing this overexposure problem with my arc in auto mode, however, with manual settings it clicks better than any phone I have seen. Both fones click pretty good images. Sony did great with both fones.

  • Seth Ramsay

    These pictures would have been taken with the default settings as its the only way to get a clear comparison. If you adjusted settings on the phones then the pictures would differ GREATLY.

  • Anonymous

    Kauf Dir ein Kopf!

  • Soarealb

    i’m willing to bet someone fvcked up the white balance on arc…its imposible the phone in auto mode would put so much bleach on the photos. ALSO without dslr for comparison the test is useless.

  • Hyper_cool_dude

    iPhone 4S has better photos. More Dynamic Range, Low Lens Glare and greater sharpness; lens is much superior to the Arc, Luminance Photo Noise (easy to remove, retains more details) while the Arc has the horrid Chrominance Photo Noise (Notoriously hard to remove, makes photos look blotchy), Lower Postprocessing (Retains much more detail while the Arc smoothes textures and details as a sideeffect of the necessary noise reduction required by color noise).

    Final thoughts. I don’t know who made the sensor for iPhone 4S , its not the same as the Arc because the noise pattern it introduces is completely different. The sensors are different. iPhone 4S has the better one, photos are pleasant, more detailed and lack overprocessing.

  • Hyper_cool_dude

    The sensor on the Arc is a Sony (obviously), not because Sony says it is, but objectively if you are a photographer, Sony sensors have ”always” had a distinct color noise pattern. It is obvious in all their camera’s , ranging from the SLRs to the most compact of camera.

    The iPhone 4S sensor (& iPhone 4 sensor) has a distinctly different noise pattern. Its ”DEFINITELY” not a Sony. My best guess would be Canon, because their sensors introduce Luminance noise patterns similar to the iPhone 4S. I might be wrong, its just a guess but its NOT a Sony, that much I am pretty darn sure.

  • Noocm

    Iphone 4s can do well with the background picture ,you can compair the mall picture that still can see the building but sony over light .

  • Sarah Thompson

    I’m a big fan of the iPhone 4S camera. The accessories you can get for it are amazing too. The Olloclip is genius!

  • if u cross-eye with the “Flowers” and “Shop” pictures, you will have an awesome 3d effect!!!

  • spunk monkey

    I’ve tried a little Adobe Lightroom-ing (version 3) of the Xperia Arc photos, noise reduction (luminance & colour) as well as sharpening. I applied the Apple iPhone 4 lens correction profile and selected remove all fringing, which seemed to help also. I adjusted exposure in some pics, and fine tuned white balance in some as well. It’s a 51MB zip file, but it goes to show how much one can reduce noise, increase sharpness and all round fidelity. FastPictureViewer ( is a great photo viewer by the way! There’s pics from another website as well, can’t remember the website. Hope the copyright owners don’t mind LOL!

  • Ashweng_86

    i see this one i almost cant believe this 2 phones has a vey nice quality of camera, i have an arc but not as good as this, maybe this one is a fake..

  • Gavin Matthew

    The iPhone 4S and Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc has equal sensors, both are made by Sony. The difference is that the software side of Apple’s iOS use the camera much efficiently than in the Arc. That’s Apple doing their job. Overall saying, the iPhone 4S does better. I hope Sony would fix their camera drivers in their later models, an update for the Xperia Mobiles of 2011 would be great too.

  • Farhan Ahmed

    Arc has more Detailed Camera Dont u see .. Arc Captures better than Apple from Far..
    Dont u see it Blind ..Dont talk about focus U idiot ..

  • Agreed, I can see from a lot of these photos that the person taking the pictures had no idea what they were doing.

  • nice

  • the thing is i’m totally sure that the arc is on normal mode personally i put in portraits and it makes really the difference about the noise and detailn iphone is good but i prefere my arc especially about the noise but about large detail i do reconize that the iphone is better but on video sony is much better.for example with the portrait mode

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