One look at it and you will have to figure out for yourself. Is it a phone? Is it a camera? Well, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is both. While there might be hundreds if not thousands of smartphones out there with cameras built-in, there would probably be only a few smartphone models that can double up as a dedicated camera. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is one of them, and believe me, it does not disappoint!
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom was probably made to challenge Nokia in the cameraphone market. With its bulky design and camera features, the Galaxy S4 Zoom isn’t really pocketable and it won’t certainly appeal to everyone, especially in the age of sleek and stylish smartphones. But yes, if you are on the market for a smartphone that features a full-blown high-end camera, look no further.
This smartphone with its 16-megapixel snapper, looks exactly like a Samsung Galaxy S4 from the front, with its white, diamond-textured surround, chrome-effect trim, earpiece grille at the top and 4.3in touchscreen beneath. The S4 Zoom also behaves precisely as you’d expect one of Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones to, complete with the TouchWiz Android overlay and clever enhancements such as Smart Stay, pop-up video and split screen apps.
The Galaxy S4 Zoom’s large optical lens might appeal to some – but then, it adds a lot of bulk to the phone. The phone measures 15.4mm thick, and I did struggle to squeeze it into my jeans pocket or hold it comfortably. The chunky lens also made it difficult to fit the handset naturally in the palm of the hand. At 208-gms it’s also much heavier than many of its rivals – for instance, the 41-megapixel Nokia Lumia 1020 weighs just 158-gms.
The Galaxy S4 Zoom features a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED touchscreen, the same display found on the Galaxy S4 Mini. And, display doesn’t feel like a downgrade from that of the HD 1080p flagship Galaxy S4, with colours appearing vibrant and text looking crisp. Though the Zoom’s always-connected data stream lets you easily share and upload photos, the phone’s bulk makes it much harder to use it as a phone.
I would certainly like to add that it did look a bit funny holding the phone to my ear during a call, because people around me started staring at me. They thought I was holding a digital camera to my ears! So, using this thing as a phone without a Bluetooth headset, is a strict no-no. Having said that however, the call quality was actually pretty good and the reception quality was amazing.
The Galaxy S4 Zoom comes with a dual-core 1.5GHz Cortex A9 processor and 1.5GB RAM. It runs Google’s Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean mobile operating system, skinned with Samsung’s usual Touchwiz user interface. Samsung’s Touchwiz user interface seems to have improved with every update. For instance, S Voice offered a nifty way to control the device, and Samsung’s onboard S Translator service proved both accurate and easy to use.
Once you flip the S4 Zoom over, it no longer resembles a phone. With a hand grip on the right-hand side, a proper xenon flash and focus-assist lamp, plus a lens housing that protrudes a good centimetre from the housing of the phone/camera, you can start snapping away. The phone’s lens housing plays host to an f/3.3 10x zoom, delivering a focal range of 24mm to 240mm (35mm equivalent). On the bottom edge, you’ll find a tripod socket and a microSDXC slot, with a user-replaceable battery and SIM card located under a narrow flap running along the edge of the camera grip.
In terms of image quality, the Galaxy S4 Zoom outshines most of the competition on the smartphone market. The 16-megapixel lens makes for detailed and colourful images, and these images can easily be tweaked and boosted with the onboard software features. The S4 Zoom also comes with a wide range of shot modes such as Auto, Smart and Expert. Smart mode was my favourite of the lot as it easily let me select a mode such as HDR or nighttime rather than having to fiddle with the complicated settings found in Expert mode, which lets you tweak settings such as shutter speed and aperture.
The Zoom’s 2,330mAh battery should last you all day in theory, but I noticed that the battery drained a little quicker than I expected. Then again, I also had the screen at maximum brightness for much of the time and had been using it heavily during this testing process.
Having said all that, we come to the big question. Buy it? Skip it? The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is a unique device and no other smartphone delivers a camera with as much flexibility and all-round quality, and no other camera offers such all-encompassing connectivity. But then, as a phone, the design is not practical and is heavy.
However, as long as you are aware of its limitations, with the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, you are getting a phone with a great camera functionality.
Price: AED 1899
OS: Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
Camera: 16 megapixels
Zoom: 10x optical
Focal range: 24-240mm
Front-facing camera: 1.9-megapixels
Video recording: 1080p HD rear; 720p HD front
Screen: 4.3 Super AMOLED
Resolution: 960×540; 256ppi
Internal storage: 8GB
Expansion slot: Yes, up to 64GB