Sony Xperia Z1 is officially here! Thin waterproof cameraphone boasts 20 MP sensor

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If you remember, last year marked a turning point for Sony’s mobile business, as it divorced amicably with Ericsson, and CEO Kaz Hirai announced the One Sony initiative, aiming to bring all the various departments and their inventions together for products that will embody the best Sony can offer in all their aspects.

Well, we can consider the just-announced Sony Xperia Z1 as actually the first One Sony phone embodying the results of this strategy, and it is every bit as exciting as it was rumored to be since day one.

We have to start with the “wow” part first – the Z1 indeed sports a 20.7 MP Exmor RS sensor, just as speculated in numerous leaks before. It is, however, 1/2.3″ in size, so don’t expect the wonders that some of Nokia’s cameraphones are capable of with their much larger sensors. Here we just have a lot of pixels stuffed into a sensor size that is about average for a smartphone. It is the lens and processing algorithms that are just as important, though, and Sony Z1 sports G lens branding, with 27mm wide angle and generous F2.0 aperture, BIONZ for mobile ISP, as well as promises for “world’s leading camera in a smartphone,” leading us to the thought that the company has put a lot of efforts to get it right this time.

The handset also sports a dedicated camera key with almost instantaneous sleep-to-snap times, so you’ll never miss that memorable frame. Interestingly, Sony also touts the camera as capable of “3x clear zoom,” which might jibe with the rumors that the Z1 will be using pixel-binning technology similar to the one found on Nokia’s 808 PureView or the Lumia 1020.

The upside of a regular-sized sensor and lens is that we don’t have a bulky abomination dubbed as cameraphone, but rather a thin 8.5 mm Android smartphone with a one-piece aluminum frame, the familiar OmniBalance design, and catchy tempered glass chassis that comes in black, white and purple colors. Not only that, but the whole kit is waterproof to boot, with IP58 certification at that, meaning it can survive more feet of water on top of it for more time than the Xperia Z, for example.

Sony has not only boosted the camera part, something that was much needed in the Android world, but it also equipped the Z1 with futureproof internals that will let it deal with any task you through at it for the foreseeable future. We get a 5″ 1080×1920 pixels Full HD display with Sony’s new Triluminous technology which we found to be of excellent quality in our recent screen tech comparison. Next up, the phone is powered by the top-shelf Snapdragon 800 performer in a 2.2 GHz quad-core setup. The 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB of internal memory round up the flagship offering, aided by an added microSD slot for 64 GB more storage, if needed.

A 3000 mAh sealed battery is of the capacity we only used to see in phablets until recently, so you can rest assured the phone will last you above the average Android crowd. Sony cites 14 hours of talk time and 6.5 hours of video playback from the juicer, which are pretty decent numbers for the category.

To top it all off, the phone is very compact at 144.4 x 73.9 x 8.5mm, and weighs 170g, making it a premium handset with extra camera abilities. If the 20 MP images aren’t good enough for you, and we’ll have to determine that when we get a retail unit to compare with the current kings, then you can always use Sony’s QX10 and QX100 lens-style camera modules it unveiled alongside the Z1 today. Alternatively, Sony also outed additional photo accessories for the Z1, such as the Smart Imaging Stand IPT-DS10M, or the Smartphone Tripod SPA-MK20M.

The phone will launch with Android 4.2 onboard, and to pepper things up on the software front, Sony has updated the PlayMemories Online app with the new All Sync option that will allow you to upload all photos taken with the Z1 without any storage limits. Another great idea is to expand the TrackID app with TV series information search and share, though for now this will only be present in Germany, UK, France, Japan and the US. The new Info Eye feature lets you snap pics of landmarks or your surroundings and the app will layer adequate info in augmented reality-style.

Sony Xperia Z1 will be available the same month it launches, marking quite the leap for the company, meaning you will see it in carrier stores and retailer shelves near you in September for a price yet to be disclosed. It is the second octaband LTE phone after the Z Ultra, so the handset supports quite the batch of 4G LTE frequencies. We have a full hands-on and comparison of the Z1 vs G2 or Z1 vs HTC One for you, complete with image samples from the next big cameraphone hope.

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