Sony confirms Xperia Z3 camera functionality affected by unlocking bootloader

by XB on 2nd October 2014

in Imaging, Xperia Z3 series

Xperia Z3 cameraSony Mobile has confirmed some bad news for Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact owners who are looking to unlock their bootloader. In doing so, Sony says that you will lose some “advanced camera functionality” from your camera.

The reason behind this is that Sony’s latest devices have some camera algorithms that are protected by DRM. Of course, when you unlock the bootloader this will wipe the DRM keys. In particular, unlocking the bootloader will remove camera noise reduction algorithms as well as affecting the camera performance in low-light conditions.

The camera is one of the key selling points of the Xperia Z3 series, so you should think long and hard before unlocking your bootloader – at least until there is some way to back up these DRM keys.

Addition to ‘Risks’ section on Sony’s Bootloader Unlocking site

“For high-end devices running recent software versions, for instance Xperia Z3, the removal of DRM security keys may affect advanced camera functionality. For example, noise reduction algorithms might be removed, and performance when taking photos in low-light conditions might be affected.”

Low-light comparison of Xperia Z3 Compact (Unlocked Bootloader) and Xperia Z1 Compact (Locked Bootloader)

[Z3 Compact on Top; Z1 Compact on Bottom]


Picture taken with Xperia Z1 Compact (Locked Bootloader)

[Click to enlarge]

Z1C-Superior Auto-with DRM.jpg

Picture taken with Xperia Z3 Compact (Unlocked Bootloader)

[Click to enlarge]

Z3C-superior auto-No DRM

Via XDA.

Thanks @DooMLoRD!

  • Kabuto Kouji

    will this applys for Z2 also???? anyone?

  • Daniel D.

    Oh Sony, you are taking the wrong direction.

  • Mvx

    Dissapointing results either way.

  • John Zakaria

    I remember yes
    it disables the BIONZ image processing algorithm i believe it like having the hardware without software drivers ,,,,

  • Kabuto Kouji

    i thought only the x reality was broken, bro so are u sure the bionz is gone too? were could we check to know for sure bro?

  • Dmitry Perets

    So the camera is one the strongest selling points? Funny, because it seems to be also one of the very few weak points of Z3. Dry numbers sound good, but the resulting pictures are hardly good comparing to the competition. As usual, issues with exposure and colors… And still no exposure-on-tap…

  • John Zakaria

    For me I tested on 4.4.2 And my BE was working in the unlocked bootloader state but on 4.4.4 People claim it doesn’t work again I didn’t test as I have re-locked my ZR
    Read this thread it is not very clear but the closest i can get

  • Kabuto Kouji

    thanks man i ve got the z2 and when unlocked it it wiped out my DRM keys and x reallity still can be selectable but does nothing, the thing is how can it be checked if the bionz procesor engine is working ? i mean i relocked it but even relocking x reallity still doesnt do shit even with the checkmark, so its gone forever… i just need to know how to test the bionz engine…

  • John Zakaria

    The only way is to compare 2 pics or 2 Z2’s
    Did you backup your TA or Did you root right away ..

  • Kabuto Kouji

    sad to say but i didnt backed up… damm!

  • Xperian

    I want Sony to change the Camera UI, it uglies and sucks!

  • Abdul Ghani

    hey check this out meizu mx4 using sony z1 z2 z3 sensor killed sony in camera performance

    check it in colour poster z3 is grainy and mx4 is natural with details

  • ImmaculateChimp

    what if those of us in the u.s. plan on buying the Z3 Compact from the sony website? those will almost certainly be unlocked just like the Z1 Compact is… so, here in the u.s. our Z3C’s will have worse picture quality because of the technicality that we bought it direct from sony?? :( I hope someone will be able to dump just the drm keys for those camera algorithms so we can restore picture quality.

  • Arturo Pastrana

    You bought it, but the bootloader is locked always, you need to unlock it

  • thoughts

    This not about a sim lock, it is about the the part that boots the Phone up wich is locked to protect the operating system, if you unlock the bootloader you can boot customised kernels wich are the core of an operating system.

  • Stanley08

    Dear Sony, walk forward. Not that way

  • paul4id

    From my experience with the Z1 Compact, I thought the camera was better after unlocking the bootloader. I always found the noise reduction too aggressive and resulted in a loss of detail.

  • rzero21

    @inmmaculatechimp… you’re confused…this is about the software used to boot the phone, nothing to do about SIM and carriers.

    Since it seems you know nothing about bootloader, you can buy the phone safely since you’re not going to modify it anyways.

  • Angry Customer

    I pre ordered the Z3 coming from a Nexus 4 (which I enjoyed and probably fixed some problems in it with rooting) i dont see this as a smart move and i hope that down the line i wont have to change the phone because of this annoyance. Also i ordered it a week ago with express delivery and it hasnt arrived yet, the support have been unhelpful and nobody knows where my phone is right now!!! I’m seriously beginning to regret this!

  • ImmaculateChimp

    well….I can’t promise I won’t modify it eventually, but it’s good to know I won’t have to worry about that in the mean time. ;) btw, I’m really only noob-ish when it comes to smart-phones..never had anything but cheap, super-crappy pre-paid “feature phones”, and I’ve got my heart set on changing that with a Z3 Compact; I’m actually quite comfortable with computers and technology in general & I intend on exploiting the possibilities of the Z3C eventually. :)

  • Xcall

    Rooting != Unlock Bootloader…If Sony wants their code to be accessible to other manufacturers, then that’s stupid of them to allow them to do so…

  • Angry Customer

    No I understand what it means, i just dont understand why it has to break something in the process, I mean even SAMSUNG dont have problems with unlocking bootloader and rooting in terms of the device working as it should…

  • karma

    sshitsung is a piece of shit anyways, ppl have to wipe everything to reinstall everything because it is a piece of shit.

  • GregLu

    I wanted to buyt a Z3c, now I will keep my S4 until Z4c arrives … Maybe with a 810 and a Adreno 420. And I hope without this again ! Unlocking the bootloader may give a sercond life to the phone but it’s not a smart move here Sony. Not at all !! :(

  • Chaturanaga Manchanayake

    I pointed this out in XDA and nobody wanted to believe. So I believe karma is a bitch. If you buy Sony and if you want root and locked bootloader you’ll always have stick with locked bootloader to backup TA and unlock it to test CM or other stuff.

  • b6

    You’re all saying its a bad idea etc – but if you don’t protect the algorithms, I guarantee you they’ll show up on the next samsung

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  • syed faisal

    i agree with u guys…sony needs to improves their software….previously..i downloaded snap camera apps in xperia z..make some test…and snap camera apps comes as a winner….

    and today..i bought snap camera in z2…and again…snap camera apps wins!!!so..this shows that sony sensor is good..but sony’s own software is not that good…other phone maker n software juz take advantage of sony sensor n make it better than sony itself…

    so sony…plsssss…wake up….

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  • Jack

    Very interesting. 1.2um pixels vs 1.1

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  • HardyHarHar

    Funny you mentioned that though… Samsung seems to have a better algorithm than Sony. Don’t think they would even think of stealing it even if it’s right in fron of them :p

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  • S.H.U.R.O.

    Sony must change not only camera, Sony must immediately change their fucking programmers! Programmers are big and main problem for Sony.

  • Eduardo Otero

    Samsung steals anything they can take, just think about the iPhone design that Samsung CAN’T leave…

  • Jaywalker

    As I can see that secret super algorithm for noise reduction isn’t doing much of a job. So what’s the big fuss about it? With or without it there’s no much difference. They can keep their secret algorithm. And the photos are pretty much alike so…It’s a show about nothing :D
    And I don’t think camera is one of the key selling point for any Sony mobile. That super sensor or 20MP camera doesn’t do what it supposed to do so…If they don’t know it by know they should read more often this or their forum. Maybe that’s why they don’t make any changes with the camera, they think is a good camera.

  • Jaywalker

    And when I say camera I mean that soft (noise compression focus etc) that makes the photos looking under the market average level.

  • Jeff Martinez

    For low light images? Ha your kidding right?

  • Franciscus Michael Panggabean

    It’s for people who unlock their bootloader, not carrier unlock.

  • If unlocking removes their noise reduction algorithms, pictures might even improve! :)

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  • OF123

    One question though, does relocking it improve the camera again or is it a one time thing and no going back?

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  • Fan of Xperia device

    Good job, Abdul, that’s some nice initiative you took. How the f::k iphone 6 with a puny 1/3 sony made sensor score better than xperia z3 with 1/2.3 sensor. Sony’s superior auto sucks. I’m getting really frustrated. Sony’s smartphone now have great screen, epic battery life and a camera mode (superior auto) that sucks. Every single Xperia fan who is dissatisfied with z series camera software should join sign the petition.

    Again good job Abdul.

  • Reza

    I know right, my Xperia Z1 as well suffer the same thing. It’s because the BIONZ image processor is not working. Luckily I’ve backed up my DRM keys so if i want to, i’ll just relock the bootloader

  • Kabuto Kouji

    i see but what if i relock and re install the stock rom, can i get my bionz working again?

  • Law Jin Hua

    What is bootloader? What happen if xperia z1 unblock bootloader? Does it affect the camera functionality also?

  • Abdul Ghani

    Even the verge agree that of camera sux

  • Abdul Ghani


  • Timbo1

    nope. its a separate partition that is specific to each phone unfortunately.

  • Timbo1

    the z3 and z3 compact will eventually get root without unlocking the bootloaders, be patient. Im surprised towelroot doesnt work, when was the kernal made in the z3 series, anyone know?

  • Timbo1

    yes. root first then backup TA, then unlock bootloader if you must unlock it. then when you relock the bootloader restore your backup of the TA files so you can have full use of the camera like you never unlocked the bootloader.

  • Timbo1

    once you lose the DRM keys they are gone. wait until root is available without unlocking the bootloader so you can backup the DRM keys, so when you relock the bootloader you can restore your DRM keys.

  • Petition

    stfu samsung will steal sony’s algorithm if sony does not protect it. i agree with sony. their algorithm must be protected otherwise that copycat shitty company will steal it. not only samsung but all other companies

  • Danny Xue

    A larger sensor does not equal better images. It’s a combination of good software camera algorithms (great digital image stabilization,) and hardware (the iPhone has FocusPixels, -a fancy word for Phase Detection Autofocus and the 6+ has good OIS). I’m not a huge fan for the iPhone but credit is due for where it’s deserved.

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  • Law Jin Hua

    So will you prefer xperia z1 user to root their phone?

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  • Fan of Xperia device

    You’re absolutely right and I know that , the point of my comment is Sony should improve their Post Processing Algorithms. Well, Lumia 1520 has almost the same size sensor 1/2.5″ (1.12 um pixel size) and in default mode (5MP shots) it takes much much better picture than Z3/Z2/Z1. Having a Great camera hardware means nothing if your software sucks. I look at pic taken with xperia P and S and all i can say is what a great post processing algorithms those phones has.
    IMO, Samsung, LG and Apple has the best camera software.

  • Chaturanaga Manchanayake

    You’ve gotta back up your TA partition for that. For that you’re gonna need Locked BL root. If an awesome dev would come up with a nice method we might get locked BL root.

  • Jumbo

    Well, for people who are not going to root their phones it’s nothing bad my friend. So i don’t see any wrong direction as most of the consumers will not root their phones.

  • Jumbo

    Are we suppose to sign a petition for the World’s Most Anticipated Bendable Phone too? Because I will definitely sign up for the iphone 6! It’s a living proof that a phone can be a living-boomerang! Anybody tried throwing that phone-boomerang and have it returned to you???? O_O

  • Fan of Xperia device

    I don’t care what you want to do with iphone 6 and i don’t care what kind of phone apple release. I care about Sony and i love xperia devices, i want xperia phones to be the best in the world and in order to become the best Sony must have superior camera software. Sony always produce beautiful looking device so design never is an issue for xperia Z series phones but they display, battery life and camera software was. While Sony fix their display and battery life they didn’t fix their mediocre superior auto mode. You can take great photo with Z2,Z3,Z1 with manual mode but average Zoe will most of the time use default mode. All the reviewers reviewed xperia Z3 said pretty much the same thing : Superior auto is unreliable . Picture came out of Z3 looks a bit wash out (overexposed), lack of contrast make the pic very dull and soft. Z3 camera software is a slight improvement over Z2 but not a major improvement we want to see.
    The point is all Sony need to do right now is fix their camera software. That’s the main reason we’re going to ask people to sign the petition.

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  • Steven Khoo Skkl

    Okay…I am not being a complete fanboy here..But I honestly don’t know what the fuss of Sony camera post processing is about..On my old Z .I used to compete friends G2,Note 2 and SP and even an S4..All taking the exact same frame side by side at the exact same time..No variables here that can affect the outcome by a lot…And all of us were amazed at how much details and how big the frame of the shot was by my Z..The G2 and Note 2 had overexposed pics and had sunlight bleeding into the frame..The Z not so much.The S4 had just a little but it compensated by lowering the iso..The SP.Well it is a better Sony..Just not large enough frame..Now my sis has a Z1C and it takes amazing pics..Only grainy bits are indoor shots or when zoomed in..Mind you all..All pics were taken with superior auto..

  • George Z

    Yep… I myself wonder how for so many years, such famous company like Sony, has such stupid programmers,i even say that they are the worst. If Sony mobile wants to stay in the market, it must hire new programmers, because these noobs is main problem for sony, even if there will be a big sensor, without good software, it will be another shit like this . And of course, on xperia smartphones need more quality lenses.

  • Siberian Messenger

    Hi, everybody. Check out the latest Z3 camera review from a China website. The main criticisms are the camera UI and anti-dazzle of night shot. I’d like to add a new critism: spot meter not liking the selected auto focus point

  • Siberian Messenger

    Here Sony gives its excuse: all users complaining about our image quality and post processing software must have had your bootloader unlocked. LOL

  • jj

    I don’t understand people; bottom line, if you don’t like the direction Sony is going in or you dislike the bezel, the camera, etc, etc, then don’t buy a Sony!!! I find that to be SIMPLE!!

  • aligamz

    Considering that Sony’s camera’s algorithms are crap, unlocking the bootloader might be well worth it.

  • The Verge is the least reputable source to use in an argument. Try again.

  • cDh

    To be fair the camera is not the Z3 strongest suit.

  • teddymild

    same thing with xperia z c6602,

  • Niklas Kronwall

    I’m really disappointed of the Z3 compact camera. The foscus is horrible and takes ages to take a photo. All the close up photos gets blurry. Hopefully it’s just a software issue that will be fixed at the 5.0 update?

  • April J. MacDonald

    Show me a comparison between two equal devices, not a comparison between a Z1 and Z3…

  • Loan

    Sony Dafa Good

  • Rikard Jerner

    whats to protect really? i bought a z3 compact but man.. the camera… my lg g2 eats that camera for breakfast. Everything taken even in good light arent even near note 2 or lg g2. i know i can do manual settings but a mobile camera should really not work this way and is a bad excuse when pretty much every other company makes better camera software. I just use my work phone iphone 5s right now when i want stellar quality pictures. all in all… never a sony again.

  • Rodo Rangel Hernandez
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  • Damien

    As a general rule larger image sensors (larger pixels) DO equal better pictures. More light can be captured with less noise. The only problem is Sony seems to be doing a poor job at the processing of the image. Like Abdul posted, the Meizu MX4 has the same sensor but captures much better pictures in all situations. Which is really sad because the Z3 is a fantastic phone.

  • Damien

    It doesn’t matter, the image quality is lower than it should be! The sensor in the Z3 is an amazing piece of technology, judging by the photos taken with the Meizu MX4 (which uses the exact same sensor) And it is let down by rather sub-par metering and processing algorithms. FACT!

  • Damien

    Why would they want to? I love my Xperia Z2 but the camera is somewhat a let down. Look at the side by side comparisons from any phone blog! Most phones take better pictures than the Z2/Z3… And it’s not the sensor. It’s the algorithm!

  • Damien

    The Z3 might take better low-light photos but whats the point if they are blurry and the color balance is off. I don’t want to have to fix every photo I take in Snapseed. FYI the Note 4 currently has the highest rated camera on any Android phone. I really want to buy an Xperia but I will wait for the Z4 and see the camera reviews.

  • Damien

    LOL… Totally, and look at the iPhone 6 next to the HTC One M8

  • Damien

    Stupid argument…
    At least they got their camera right!

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  • divyam

    Can somebody tell that the same would happen if i unlock Z1 ?

  • Richard

    Did HTC have a button also? Samsung and apple do.

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