Sony Xperia Z1 Hands-on: 20.7-MP Camera, Waterproof, 5-inch Display

After weeks of teasers, Sony finally announced its long-rumored Xperia Z1. The handset, which made its debut here at IFA 2013, features a stunning 20.7-megapixel rear camera, a beautiful 5-inch display and a quad-core processor. All of this comes wrapped in a waterproof chassis that can be used in up to 3 feet of water for as long as 30 minutes.

The Xperia Z1 has more to offer than just hardware, though. The handset also has a massive camera suite and a variety of Sony-specific media apps. So how good is the Xperia Z1? We went hands on to find out.

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Measuring 5.7 x 2.9 x 0.33 inches and weighing in at 5.96 ounces, the Xperia Z1 is both bulkier and heavier than the original Xperia Z, which measured an already large 5.5 x 2.8 x 0.31 inches and weighed 5.15 ounces. Unfortunately, the Z1’s increased size and weight coupled with its boxy design means that the handset is both difficult to use with one hand and relatively heavy compared to the competition. The Samsung Galaxy S4 weighs in at a svelte 4.8 ounces, while the HTC One weighs 5.1 ounces.

The big story about the Xperia Z1, though is the rear camera. The shooter uses Sony's own G Lens technology, which offers a 27mm wide shooting angle and bright F2.0 aperture. Meanwhile, its Exmor RS  CMOS image sensor (optimized for low light) shoots 20.7-megapixels and should help you capture beautiful photos in most lighting conditions. We particularly like the physical camera button located on the side of the handset, but our favorite feature is the IP57 water-resistance rating for taking photos under water.

The Xperia Z1's camera also features a variety of settings to help you capture your perfect photo including Superior Auto, Manual, AR Effect, Info-eye, Social Live, Picture Effect, Sweep Panorama and Timeshift Burst. Superior Auto automatically adjusts the camera’s setting depending on your shooting environment, while Manual lets you adjust the settings on your own. The whimsical AR Effect adds augmented reality elves and dinosaurs to your images.

Info-eye is a photo search feature that looks online for information about objects in your pictures. Social Live lets you automatically stream your photos to Facebook and Picture Effect lets you add some artistic flare to your shots. Sweep Panorama captures panoramic images. But the camera’s coolest app is its Timeshift Burst, which can capture an impressive 61 successive photos in a mere 2 seconds.

The Xperia Z1’s 5-inch,l 1920 x 1080-pixel Triluminous TFT display offered stunning visuals. A video prepared by Sony for the handset looked gorgeous, as colors seemed to jump off the screen. Viewing angles were also impressive, something that original Xperia Z was lacking.

Inside, the Xperia Z1 packs a 2.2-GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM. Storage capacity is limited to 16GB onboard, though that can be augmented via an available microSD card slot. With that kind of firepower, the Z1 was easily able to handle anything we through at it during our brief hands-on.

So far, we’re excited with what the Xperia Z1 has to offer, but remain cautious due to its large footprint and heft. Sony hasn’t released any pricing or carrier information for the U.S., but the handset maker did say the phone Z1 would launch globally in September, and you can expect us to review it as soon as we get one.

Daniel P. Howley
LAPTOP Senior Writer
A newspaper man at heart, Dan Howley wrote for Greater Media Newspapers before joining He also served as a news editor with ALM Media’s Law Technology News, and he holds a B.A. in English from The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey.