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Sony debuts camera-centric Xperia Z1 Android phone

At IFA, the company announces its waterproof 5-inch Android phone with a high-end image sensor, software to take advantage of it, and unusual QX10 and QX100 add-ons that turn it into a compact camera.

Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai unveils the Xperia Z1 Android phone, a high-end waterproof model with a 20.7-megapixel camera, at the IFA trade show.
Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai unveils the Xperia Z1 Android phone, a high-end waterproof model with a 20.7-megapixel camera, at the IFA trade show. Screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Sony announced its new flagship Android smartphone, the Xperia Z1, putting the Android phone's camera front and center at the IFA trade show Wednesday.

The waterproof phone, which had been code-named Honami, comes with an expected 20.7-megapixel camera and a host of technologies to make the most of it.

"The Xperia Z1 offers you best-in-class imaging and a revolutionary new way to capture and share your memories," Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai said during a press conference. Hirai is in the midst of a years-long effort to unify Sony's many product families and reclaim glory days of its the consumer-electronics

The Xperia Z1 will launch in September, he added.

Imaging features include Timeshift burst, the ability to pick from a range of photos taken before and after the shutter button was pressed; a cloud storage and sharing service called PlayMemories; and Info Eye, a visual search engine that can identify landmarks in cities, suggest food that goes with a bottle of wine, and give a book's plot line. It also can stream live video to Facebook.

The phone includes a 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, version 4.2.2 of Google's Android operating system, a 3,000mAh battery, and a large 1/2.3-inch, backside-illuminated Exmor image sensor.

The Z1 hogged the spotlight for Sony's IFA show, but it had other new products, too. See below for a full list.

Now Playing: Watch this: Sony's supercharged, waterproof flagship Xperia Z1 smartphone

The camera's relatively wide 27mm-equivalent lens has a fairly fast f2.0 aperture, and Sony gives it the G rating to designate top optical quality. Image processing is handled by a mobile version of its Bionz chip, optimized to minimize noise in low-light environments.

Accompanying the smartphone are two unusual devices -- the Sony Cyber-shot QX100 and QX10. These are small combinations of a lens and sensor that attach to a smartphone, expanding its photographic utility.

"It completely transforms your mobile shooting experience," Hirai said.

Now Playing: Watch this: First Look: The Sony QX100 detachable smartphone camera

Sony no doubt is hoping that the products will marry the image quality and zoom lens of higher-end compact cameras with the convenience, software, and wireless network abilities of mobile phones.

They don't come cheap, though: $500 for the QX100, which has the same 20.2-megapixel sensor, Bionz processor, and Carl Zeiss-branded 3.6x f1.8-4.9 28-100mm lens. The $250 QX10 has the 10x, f3.3-5.9, 25-250mm lens and 18-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS sensor of Sony's ultracompact WX150 camera from 2012.

Sony announced a range of other new products in Berlin too:

• Sony Cyber-shot QX100, QX10 cameras play nice with your smartphone (hands-on)

• Sony Xperia Z1 is a waterproof, 20.7-megapixel beast (hands-on)

• The Sony Vaio Tap 11 takes on the Microsoft Surface Pro (hands-on)

• Sony Vaio Tap 21 hands-on: Bigger screen, smaller size in a touch-screen all-in-one

• Sony's Vaio Flip is a new take on the hybrid (hands-on)

• Sony launches a trio of new hybrid Vaio PCs

• Sony Handycam FDR-AX1 4K camcorder with $4.5K price tag

• Sony's HDR-MV1 pairs high quality audio with a pocket camcorder

• Sony AS30V adds GPS, NFC to Action Cam recipe