Hands-on with the 20.7MP Sony Xperia Z1
Lars Rehm | Published: Sep 5, 2013 at 14:19:12 UTC81
Camera module & hardware
While in terms of design the Xperia Z1 is very close to its predecessor the camera module has, at least on paper, made a huge jump forward and should make the Z1 worth a closer look for any photo-centric Android user.
The big news is not only the very high sensor resolution of 20.7MP, it's also the size of the backside-illuminated CMOS sensor. At 1/2.3 it's the same size sensor you would find in your typical Canon Ixus or Nikon Coolpix compact camera. In the camera world that's pretty much as as small as it gets but it's larger than the tiny 1/3 sensors that are common in smartphones. In combination with the fast F2.0 Sony G lens, this should make for better than usual low-light performance, despite the lack of an optical image stabilization system.
Other hardware specs are pretty much in line with what you would expect from the latest generation of high-end smartphones. The Android operating system is powered by Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 800 chip which is clocked at 2.2 GHz. 2GB RAM should ensure smooth running of all apps and the those with above average need for on-device storage can expand the 16GB internal memory with a microSD card of up to 64GB capacity.
The Xperia Z1 sports a 5-inch 1080p full-HD screen with a pixel density of 441 ppi. Sony's TRILUMINOS display technology promises natural colors and while the latter was difficult to confirm in the diffuse and weirdly-colored lighting at the Sony booth, it's fair to say that the Z1's screen is a beautiful unit that allows for precise framing and sharp viewing of your images. For clumsy users or those who carry their phone in the same pocket as their keys it's also covered by scratch-resistant glass.
Camera UI & features
The Sony-skinned version of Android 4.2 that runs on the Xperia Z1 will be familiar to anyone who has used a recent Android device before and you won't take too long to get your head around the camera interface either. The virtual shutter button and video/stills switch are located on the right, with the mode dial just underneath. Those who prefer a real camera feel will likely opt to use the hardware shutter button though.
On the left side of the screen you'll find a row of settings that open up super-imposed adjustment sliders and let you access the menu. A tap on the virtual mode dial opens a mode selection screen. Here you can select from the "Superior Auto" point and shoot mode or a manual mode that allows you to set parameters like white balance or exposure compensation manually. Picture effects can be previewed on a page of live-thumbnails. You can then select the one that best fits your scene.
"Timeshift burst" is a feature that we have seen in similar form on other devices before. It continually records a burst of images even before you press the shutter button which is why in this mode it's almost impossible the miss the decisive moment. You can then select your favorite from a series of pictures or keep all of them.
"Social live" allows for direct streaming to your Facebook profile and "AR effect" lets you add cartoon dinosaurs and other characters to your images. We didn't get a chance to try it out, but our guess is the "Info-Eye" feature will be significantly more useful: It gives you information about objects you point the camera at such as landmarks or tourist sights.