20 June 2013

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom first impressions

What is the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom?


The Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom is a camera-centric spinoff to the manufacturer’s flagship Samsung Galaxy S4 offering. Although the Zoom shares few similarities with the original S4, its camera credentials are second to none.

More closely related to the Samsung Galaxy Camera, the S4 Zoom packs a 16-megapixel rear-mounted camera, with a 10x optical zoom further enhancing its imaging abilities and taking it firmly out of reach of rival smartphone snappers.

Are the impressive camera capabilities enough to make the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom the next must-have handset? Read on to find out.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Design


In terms of the design, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is not the most sophisticated or aesthetically pleasing. At 15.4mm thick and 208g in weight it is not exactly slight, and the device’s form resembles a traditional compact camera far more than it does a premium smartphone.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom’s design is centred around the handset’s party piece, its 10x optical zoom camera lens. As such, the phone feels slightly top heavy within the hand and is never particularly comfortable to hold. Using as a smartphone in a portrait stance, the Zoom is a tricky beast. Its lens takes up prime real estate needed for a comfortable grip and means fingers have to be splayed either side of the lens.

As with S4, the Zoom’s plastic build makes the handset feel somewhat cheap. Its glossy finish makes it slick and fiddly to hold and the camera-esque grip bulge is not particularly ergonomic or comfortable. Furthermore, the battery and SIM protecting cover is particularly flimsy, held on by a less than reassuring tether.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is a device that is going to feel extremely bulky in your pocket, not like your typical, svelte smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Screen


The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is a step back from the flagship model’s 5-inch Full HD offering. That isn’t to say it’s not still a vibrant and pleasing addition, however.

Featuring a 4.3-inch qHD Super AMOLED screen with a 960 x 540 pixel resolution, the S4 Zoom is capable of producing strong, bright images with only a minimal amount of graining or loss of detail and clarity.

Screen transitions are smooth and the touchscreen elements are highly responsive. On first impressions the S4 Zoom’s screen is a drop in form over the S4 but, compared with many handsets, particularly mid-market offerings, it is a strong performer. Further testing is required in varying conditions before we can fully pass judgement though.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Performance


First impressions of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom’s performance paint a very familiar picture. It runs Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean overlaid with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI and as such is reminiscent of the fully fledged Samsung Galaxy S4.

App launches appeal a little slower and more laboured than on the flagship S4, with the Zoom’s drop to a 1.5GHz dual-core PCU and 1.5GB of RAM a potential cause for this. We must stress, however, that the samples we have used a still pre-production models and so this could be down to nothing more than early software problems.

The S4 Zoom’s 8GB of internal storage is sure to be filled pretty quickly with the high-end snaps that the device is able to capture. Fortunately the camera phone allows for microSD storage expansion up to 64GB.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom’s performance is sure to be aided by the addition of a 2330mAh Lithium-Ion battery and NFC connectivity options, although these require further testing.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Camera


The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom’s camera is the handset’s showpiece and quickly stands out as the best snapper to have been bestowed on a smartphone to date. Yes it might come at a bulky, cumbersome price, but for those intent of high quality snaps, it is a great addition.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom camera is a 16-megapixel option further enhanced by a 10x optical zoom lens, 25 SMART Modes and optical image stabilisation. The f/3.1-f/6.3 lens has a focal range of 24mm to 240mm meaning the Zoom is able to capture both wide angle and super zoom shots with equal aplomb.

Viewing images back on the handset’s display, early camera tests show strong, detailed images that bring far more depth and much improved colour management over standard smartphone cameras. The Zoom’s 10x optical zoom make a massive difference and finally allows your smartphone to totally replace your designated compact.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom’s camera is seamless integrated with the handset’s software. While holding the shutter button launches the camera, jumping back to the Android homescreen sees the zoom lens automatically retract.

What’s more, the Galaxy S4 Zoom’s controlling Zoom ring quickly becomes an intuitive addition to the smartphone setup. Letting you twist to zoom, rifle through menus and even capture shots whilst taking a call, the Zoom ring could well be what makes this niche phone a success.
First impressions of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom are very positive and we can’t wait to get the phone in for further testing.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom First Impressions


As a smartphone the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom feels neither practical nor comfortable. As a multipurpose compact camera replacement, however, it is second to none. The S4 Zoom will not appeal to everyone, but, on first impressions at least, it will more than satisfy the needs of smartphone owners looking for market leading camera capabilities.

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