Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
Is it phone? Is it a camera? Samsung’s sequel to last year’s explorative Galaxy Camera attempts to be both, but is it a Jack of All Trades, Master of None? Or can the Korean giant finally create a device which takes convergence to the next level? Read on to find out in our full Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review.
Given the generally lackluster nature of mobile phone cameras, using the Galaxy S4 Zoom is something of a revelation. Samsung has essentially fused a capable point-and-shoot lens onto the back of a smartphone, and the difference is like night and day. Shots are detailed and colourful, and the x10 optical zoom (unheard of on mobiles until now) allows you to zone-in on your subject without losing clarity or lowering resolution. Add in image stabilization, autofocus, a wide selection of shooting modes, manual controls and HD video recording, and you’ve got a phone which could render your traditional point-and-shoot redundant. You can even attach a tripod for that professional touch.
Of course, because it’s a phone, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom offers even more advantages over a bog-standard camera. Images can be uploaded to cloud storage directly from the device, no matter where you are - which means no more waiting until you get home to fumble for your USB cable or transfer data to your computer from an SD card. You can also share snaps with services such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
With Android 4.2.2 on board, the Zoom also benefits from everything Google’s OS brings to the table - namely thousands of applications, excellent customization and a powerful suite of options. Samsung’s TouchWiz UI sits atop Android, offering unique elements such as gesture controls and S Translator, which turns your handset into a pocket-sized interpreter.
The 4.3-inch AMOLED screen really pops and is easy to view in direct sunlight - a prime consideration for a camera - and the Zoom boasts an MicroSD card slot and removable battery, two things that aren’t present on Google’s own Nexus line of Android devices.
While it’s genuinely refreshing to take photos on a phone with the same level of competence you’d expect to see in dedicated hardware, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom still feels a little bit like a compromise. As a camera, it beats its phone-based rivals but can’t hope to match the best point-and-shoot compact snappers on the market.
And as a phone, it feels very much like last year’s tech. The 1.5GHz dual-core processor lags behind the likes of the HTC One, Nexus 4 and Galaxy S4, and the screen resolution is shy of being HD. Finally, the 8GB of flash storage isn’t nearly enough to satisfy budding photographers, although the MicroSD card slot - which can accept cards of up to 64GB in size - mitigates this somewhat.
Moving away from technical concerns, the other “big” issue with the Zoom is exactly that - it’s too darn big. It’s almost three times the thickness of many leading Android handsets, and will bulk out all but the most roomy of pockets. It is possible to get used to the chunky dimensions, but if you’ve moving from a svelte handset then the transition is going to be a dramatic one.