The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom – The Digital Camera/Smartphone Hybrid

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Samsung have been busy this year, introducing a seemingly unlimited amount of devices to its Galaxy range – most notably the Galaxy S4, Samsung’s pride and joy. As well as the S4, they also announced variations of the device:

  • Galaxy S4 Active: waterproof and dust proof with the performance of the original S4
  • Galaxy S4 Mini: a slightly lower spec than the S4 with a 4.3″ Super AMOLED Display
  • Galaxy S4 Zoom: lower spec than the S4 with a 4.3″ display and a 16MP camera with 10x optical zoom

It seems that Samsung are trying to get as many devices out as possible to facilitate every different kind of lifestyle there is – is it a good decision? Or will it mean sub standard quality and more fragmentation in the Android OS? Well we’ve got our hands on the S4 Zoom to put it to the test!

Galaxy S4 Zoom

Performs like a Marathon Runner with a cold
The S4 Zoom doesn’t come with the 1.9GHz Dual Core Processor that the S4 comes with but instead packs a 1.5GHz Dual Core Processor. That coupled with Android OS 4.2 (Jelly Bean) should mean that the Zoom should run without any significant lag (apart from when using power-hungry apps) right? Wrong. I found that the phone would lag even when swiping between pages on my App list – something that I didn’t expect for such a premium device. The phone was new & and I’d only installed 5 apps so that can’t really play a part in it, can it?

This really affects the phones overall performance and enjoyability factor. The lag can also be seen when using the camera (the phones main selling point) – there is lag and it’s smudged when using the camera to line up shots. In Samsung’s defence it doesn’t affect picture quality at all and the camera is amazing. I’ll get to that next.

Snap Snap!
The thing that really fascinates me with this phone is the camera. Even after a week of use I still find new camera modes and effects that I’ve never realised were there! Packing a 16mp camera with 10x optical zoom and a Xenon flash, it takes a pretty impressive picture – similar to that of a lot of high-end digital cameras. Zooming is always an issue for modern smartphones (with the exception of the Nokia Lumia 1020 with a whopping 42mp camera where cropping isn’t an issue) – as most smartphones don’t have anything in the way of an optical zoom on their cameras, it has to be done digitally.

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Of course if it’s done digitally the image quality will suffer in the best lighting conditions, so if you’re trying to record a band performance at a gig, put that Blackberry down and use the Zoom. Having an optical zoom means that lenses are used in the camera to zoom in and thus not compromising picture quality. As well as that the Xenon flash means that you’ll always have adequate lighting for all those drunken selfies with friends that “you haven’t seen in forever”.

Around the optical lens of the camera is a zoom ring which can be used to zoom in on photos and videos; it gives better control than using the onscreen controls and it feels a lot more natural. I thought that’s where the zoom rings features ended but oh was I wrong – if you twist it when the camera app isn’t open it’ll give you a series of shortcuts to various camera modes. Always handy for those embarrassing moments at family get togethers!

It has all the camera modes that the S4 has plus some extras such as light trailing – something that I love doing on my DSLR. Existing features seem to have been improved for the Zoom too, such as “Beauty Face” – a mode for taking photos of a face. On the S4 it automatically airbrushes the photo and saves it for you, and that’s fine, but on the Zoom you can tweak the airbrushing to make it just right for the photo. You can tweak the size of your eyes, the amount of noise on your face & you can even make your face look slimmer! It takes “You look nothing like your profile picture” to another level.

Galaxy S4 Zoom

A builder called & said he wants his brick back
Where the camera does redeem the slightly under par processor on the Zoom, it’s still a bulky phone when compared to other smartphones. It’s 27mm wide when measuring with the lens retracted; where that may not sound like a lot, it definitely protrudes out of my jeans while in my pocket.  Of course you can’t expect a camera/smartphone hybrid to be as slim as the S4 or the iPhone 5s but it’s definitely a factor to take into consideration. It’s also stated on the Samsung site that the phone has been designed for comfort, even with such a big lens but I didn’t find that the case in my experience. I found that the phone was quite awkward to hold a lot of the time and couldn’t find anywhere conformable to put my fingers. It’s also weighs in at a whopping 208g which seems quite heavy compared to the S4’s 130g.

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The Zoom also has a smaller screen than the S4 – The S4 has a 5″ screen whereas the Zoom has a 4.3″ screen. That was a good move to make with such a bulky phone – the phone fits in your hand a lot better than the S4 which I found to be a bit awkward to use with 1 hand. No problems with 1 hand operating on the Zoom though!

In conclusion
I’m torn when it comes to the S4 Zoom. The camera is the best I’ve yet to experience on any smartphone and I’d shout my recommendations about the camera from the rooftops but once you take other factors into consideration, I’m not too sure. When I see a phone lagging on something as basic as swiping between menus, it really puts me off. For those of you who aren’t on their phones 24/7 that shouldn’t matter to you as much. I’m glued to my phone pretty much all day every day so it got a little frustrating, especially because that’s my main qualm with the phone and if they’d put the same processor as the S4 in it then it’d be one of the best phones on the market at the moment in my opinion.

For those of you that use a digital camera in everyday life I’d definitely recommend making the switch though, it makes so much more sense and the photos really are something quite amazing and you can check out my gallery of photos taken with the S4 below. What do you think of the S4 Zoom? A good idea or just too much? Let me know in the comments below!

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About Author

22 year old blogger from Walthamstow, East London. An extreme interest is an understatement when it comes to technology! Follow me on Twitter: @LewwyPaints

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