Sony Xperia Z1S Review

Review posted 05/12/2014

Quick Take
  • Extremely easy to use camera feature
  • Full HD touchscreen is sharp with 441 pixels per inch
  • Camera's image sensor is larger versus most smartphone cameras
  • Image quality is good enough for sharing photos on social networking sites, and it's easy to share photos
  • Night photos are of a good quality versus other smartphone cameras
  • Offers 32GB of internal memory plus up to another 64GB through an optional memory card
  • Unit offers waterproof capability
  • Battery life for this smartphone camera is excellent
  • Dedicated shutter button on edge of smartphone makes this unit operate like a point-n-shoot camera
  • Sharp looking, clean design
  • Images are limited to 8MP when shooting in Auto mode; must enter Manual mode to use 20MP of resolution
  • Camera's shutter lag could be better
  • Shot to shot delays could be better
  • Image quality doesn't quite match what's expected from larger-than-average image sensor size for a smartphone
  • Some indoor photos may have excessive noise
  • May notice softness at the edges of still images
  • Some people may not like the Sony user interface over the Android OS
  • Screen has some wash out problems when viewed off-center
  • Although unit is very thin, it's large enough that it may not fit in average-sized pockets
  • Glass on front and back of unit tends to attract dust and fingerprints
Bottom Line
The Xperia Z1S from Sony has some features and components that will make you excited about the camera built into this smartphone. The Z1S's image sensor offers 20.7-megapixels of resolution in an image sensor that's sized 1/2.3 inches, which is larger than what you'll find in most smartphone cameras and similar to what you'll find in point-n-shoot digital cameras. Sony included a dedicated shutter button too, which will make the Xperia Z1S feel a bit more like a digital camera than a smartphone in terms of its operation. Unfortunately this smartphone camera's image quality isn't quite as far ahead of other smartphone cameras as you might expect to see after viewing its feature list. And without an optical zoom lens, the Sony Xperia Z1S's image quality isn't good enough to give it an edge over a basic point-n-shoot digital camera. Read more in our Full Conclusion.
Sony has updated last year's Xperia Z1, dubbing this new-for-2014 model the Xperia Z1S. While most of the features are the same as the previous version -- we'll get to that in a moment -- the Z1S costs an extra $50 because it includes double the internal storage, a decent 32GB vs the the Z1's 16GB. However, both models allow for extra storage (up to 64GB) thanks to a microSD card slot.

Otherwise, the Z1S is the same powerful, waterproof Android smartphone as the one released last year. The Z1S ships with Android 4.3 Jell Bean, but may be upgradeable to 4.4.2 (KitKat). The waterproof and dust-resistant phone also boasts a 5.0-inch Full HD touchscreen display, a 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor, 2GB RAM, 4G LTE capabilities, Wi-Fi + Wi-Fi Hotspot technologies, NFC, GPS, Blue-tooth 4.0, and DLNA certification for use as a media streamer.

The Z1S has some impressive camera specifications as well. While both the front and primary/rear cameras are capable of recording Full HD 1080p videos, it's the rear camera that we have our digicam eyes on at the moment. 20.7-megapixels is a lot of resolution; hopefully we're not trading quality for quantity. The 8x digital zoom is nice too, but it's too bad there's not year a way to include an optical zoom while keeping smartphones pocket-friendly. Other features aim to help owners tap into their creative sides. There's picture effects, background defocus, HDR (for still and video), red eye reduction, scene selection, touch focus, image stabilization, and even burst mode and object tracking, which is great when you're shooting sports.

Finally, most Android users love these phones for plethora of helpful Google apps, but when Google teams up with Sony, you also gets ways to tap into Sony apps like PlayMemories (for sharing photos and videos), PlayStation, FM Radio, and Sony Entertainment Network TV, which you can (of course) watch in Full HD.

Sony Xperia Z1S Features
  • Android 4.3 JellyBean
  • Waterproof & Dust-resistant
  • 5.0-inch Full HD TRILUMINOS Display
    • 1920x1080
  • X-Reality
  • 2.2 GHz Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 32GB internal storage (plus up to 64GB external microSD storage)
  • 4G LTE, 3G, 2G
  • Primary Rear Camera
    • 20.7-megapixel
    • f/2.0
    • 8x Digital Zoom
    • Full HD 1080p Video Recording
    • Autofocus
    • AR Effect
    • Background Defocus
    • Burst Mode
    • HDR for still photos and movies
    • Flash / Pulsed LED Flash / Photo Light
    • Geotagging
    • Info-eye App
    • Image Stabilizer
    • Object tracking
    • Picture Effect
    • Quick Launch
    • Red-eye Reduction
    • Scene Recognition
    • Self-time
    • Sent to Web
    • Smile Shutter
    • Social Live
    • Superior Auto Sweep Panorama
    • Timeshift burst
    • Touch Capture
    • Touch Focus
    • White Balance
  • 2MP front facing camera with 1080p HD Video Recording
  • Google Apps
    • Chrome
    • Play
    • Search
    • Voice
    • Maps
    • 3D Games
    • Wallet
  • PlayMemories app
  • PlayStation app
  • PlayStation Certified Radio (FM radio with RDS)
  • Reader Mode
  • SensMe Slideshow
  • Sony Entertainment Network TV
  • YouTube
  • 3.5mm Headphone Jack
  • USB 2.0 & Micro USB
  • Wi-Fi + Wi-Fi Hotspot Technology
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • GPS
  • NFC
  • DNLA Certified

The Sony Xperia Z1S is available in black and without a contract, for T-Mobile at $599.99. See our lowest price box at the top right of this page to see the most current online pricing.

What's in the box?:
  • Sony Z1S phone
  • AC>USB charger
  • USB cable
  • SIM card

Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.