A "Background defocus" mode lets you select a focal point for the image and then blur everything behind it.
The phone's camera software also makes things easy: Sony's custom Camera app is simple to use yet jam-packed with options. By default, the app takes photos in a mode called "Superior auto," which makes all the decisions on-the-fly for you to help get the best possible picture. If you prefer to take matters into your own hands, you can switch to several advanced shooting modes with the tap of a button.
The modes range from the silly — an "AR effect" mode that adds cartoony elements like hats and dinosaurs into your image — to the legitimately useful, like a "Timeshift burst" mode that captures a bunch of rapid-fire images and then automatically picks the best one from the bunch. There's also a "Background defocus" mode that lets you select a focal point for the image and then blur everything behind it, creating a slick-looking DSLR-like effect.
And last but not least, as I mentioned earlier, the Xperia Z1S can take photos underwater — a neat trick that works impressively well. All you do is hold the phone's hardware camera button (located on the bottom-right edge of the device) to launch the Camera app, then press the button a second time to snap a picture. You can take underwater videos, too, but you'll have to go into the app's settings beforehand to change the button's function.
The Z1S can record 1080p-quality HD video on both its primary camera and its 2-megapixel front-facing lens.
The Xperia Z1S runs custom Sony software based on Google's Android 4.3 Jelly Bean operating system. Sony has not yet announced if or when it'll upgrade the phone to the more current Android 4.4 KitKat OS. (You can track the phone's upgrade status via my Android 4.4 upgrade list; as soon as there's any confirmed information about the device's progress, it'll be added onto that page.)
Sony's take on Android sticks pretty close to the core Google software in concept but introduces a fair amount of visual change. Some of the changes are relatively minor, like arbitrarily altered icons or a re-skinned system settings section, while others take a more negative toll on the user experience.
For instance, Sony has reworked the home screen in a way that makes it more difficult to place shortcuts where you want them. Instead of icons automatically dropping into the nearest available spot, as they do in stock Android, Sony's setup requires you to place them precisely in a guideline that appears on the screen; if you miss the mark, the icon shoots back to its previous location.
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.