Hands on with the Sony Xperia Z1s, a waterproof smartphone with a 20.7MP camera for T-Mobile

Sony(s sne) introduced the Xperia Z1 back in September of last year, but that phone never managed to see American soil. Now, patient U.S. buyers are being rewarded with the Xperia Z1s, which Sony just introduced at CES in Las Vegas on Monday. The Android-based Z1s is basically the same device as the Z1, and it’s heading to T-Mobile(s tmus) for $0 down starting January 22. I got a chance to spend some time with it before the show.

Physically, there’s not all that much different here from the Xperia Z1, or last year’s Xperia Z for that matter. The Xperia Z1s features the same sleek, glass-covered build. The corners have been smoothed out, though, so it feels more comfortable in your hand. At 5.74 by 2.91 by 0.34 inches and 5.71 ounces, the Z1s is actually slightly larger than the Xperia Z, but it’s still comfortable to hold.

Xperia Z1s

The real upside to the design is that the Xperia Z1s is fully waterproof. Whereas the Xperia Z was rated IP57 for water resistance, the Z1s is rated IP58. That means it can be completely submerged in up to 4.9 feet of freshwater for 30 minutes. Another cool trick is that you can take photos underwater. All you have to do it press the physical camera button to load up the app and fire away. I tried doing this, albeit from a fish tank, and it actually worked pretty well. Sony has added wet finger tracking technology, so you can still manipulate the screen even when your hands are in the water.

Dunking Xperia Z1s

And speaking of the camera, Sony put a ton of work into it. The Xperia Z1s features a 1/2.3-inch 20.7-megapixel Exmor RS sensor, as well as Sony’s 27mm f/2.0 G Lens and Bionz image processing engine. I didn’t get a chance to see any of the images I took with the phone on a computer, but they looked solid on the phone’s display. The camera app is fast and Sony has added a number of fun software enhancements.

Info-eye lets you capture an image and perform a visual search that provides related information. For example, it correctly identified the label of from a bottle of Trader Joe’s finest 1967 Grifone Toscana (which, incidentally, was made in 2009) and brought me to a site with wine ratings and buying info. I tried out some of the other settings as well. Timeshift burst lets you capture 61 images within two seconds — a second before and after pressing the shutter — so you can scroll back and forth to find the perfect image; it sort of works like a flip book.

Xperia Z1s camera

An AR effect lets you overlay a selection of customizable animations to your images before you take them. If you want to shoot an ocean-life scene, for example, it’ll track your face and put a diving helmet over it. Other effects include background defocus, which lets you adjust the background blur. All of these filters and effects worked really well.

Having more or less seen this phone back when the Xperia Z1 came out, I wasn’t surprised to find the 5-inch 1080p TFT LCD gorgeous. Sony uses a lot of buzzwords to describe it, like Triluminos display technology and X-Reality, which supposedly reproduces 130 percent of the natural color gamut. I’m not even sure how that’s possible, but suffice it to say, the Xperia Z1s has a really nice screen.

The phone’s no slouch in the power department, either. A 2.2GHz Qulacomm(s qcom) MSM8974 Snapdragon 800 processor and Adreno 330 graphics should make for smooth gameplay, and just about everything else. It also comes with 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage (along with a microSD card slot) and a 3,000mAh battery, which is quoted for up to 15 hours of talk time or 6.75 hours of video playback. And the phone runs Android(s goog) 4.3 (Jelly Bean) out of the box. It also comes also preloaded with Sony’s PlayStation app, which allows you to connect the phone to your PS4, but it doesn’t offer any additional features you can’t get upon downloading the app on another device from Google Play.

Xperia Z1s back

For $0 down on a contract-free plan from T-Mobile (along with 24 monthly payments of $22), the Xperia Z1s looks like it will be a strong pick to consider when it launches on January 22. You can pre-register to buy the device today, and online pre-sales begin January 13. Sony is also throwing in six free movies from Video Unlimited, 10 preselected PlayStation Mobile games and a 60day free trial of Music Unlimited.