Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Review
Abbas Jaffar Ali
Samsung is not one to shy away from experimenting with design. If it wasn’t for their Galaxy Note, we might have never seen a category called Phablets- the oversized phone that everyone from Huawei to Lenovo is now jumping on. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is another design experiment. While Samsung has made Android based cameras, the Galaxy S4 Zoom is focused on being a phone first- with a 10X optical zoom camera attached on the back.
Packaged in the standard wooden-print box that we’ve seen on recent Samsung products, the Zoom comes with a charger, a USB cable and a headset and a cleaning cloth. I was also hoping for a mini tripod to be included in the package- very much along the lines that Nokia did with their 41MP PureView 808, however, that’s not the case with the Galaxy S4 Zoom.
Measuring 125.5 x 63.5 x 15.4 mm and weighing 208g, the Galaxy S4 Zoom is clearly not meant to compete with your average smartphone as far as thickness and weight is concerned. Even when compared to the 41MP Nokia PureView 808, the S4 Zoom is bigger and thicker and weighs considerably more. However you are getting a 10X optical zoom which is something not seen on any phone before. That being said, I had the Galaxy S4 Zoom with me for over a week but always found myself shuffling the phone in my hand trying to look for that perfect fit. The rather large zoom lens prevented me from holding the phone comfortably.
Looking at the phone side of the Galaxy S4 Zoom, you can easily fool someone into thinking that this is you average smartphone. However, turn it around and it feels as though Samsung has stuck a camera on the back. On the front you have a 4.3” Super AMOLED screen that works well outdoors- something required of a camera. It has the usual button placement of Samsung phones such as the home button and two capacitive keys for back and menu. Along the right edge, you have lock button and volume keys and a big camera button.
The microSD slot sits on the left making it accessible to change your memory cards easily and next to it, is the tripod mount- almost a requirement for a good camera. The top houses the 3.5mm jack while the bottom has a micro-USB port that is used for charging or connecting to your computer. The bottom bit comes off and in here, you can insert your SIM card or remove the 2330mAh battery.
Although this phone has the Galaxy S4 label attached to it, the specifications are far from what Samsung offers on their hero product. Instead of the latest quad/octa core CPUs or a full HD display, the Galaxy S4 Zoom has a much more modest 1.5GHz dual core processor along with 1.5GB RAM and a qHD screen. The following table compares the Galaxy S4 zoom to the Galaxy S4 as well as the current king of Smartphone cameras- the ageing Nokia PureView 808
Obviously, the main reason you would buy the Galaxy S4 Zoom is for the camera. Samsung equips the S4 Zoom with a 1/2.33” sensor that has a 16MP resolution and a 10X optical zoom. You also have a Xenon flash that is quite a bit more powerful than your average phone. To make the Galaxy S4 Zoom operate more like a camera, Samsung places a nicely sized shutter button that can be pressed half-way to focus and all the way to take a picture. Although this shutter button launches the camera, it only works if the phone is unlocked. So getting to the came from standby still involves unlocking the device using traditional methods and then pressing the shutter to get to the camera. Hopefully Samsung will change this in a future firmware update as this can be a lengthy process for a quick shot. Here are some sample shots from the Galaxy S4 Zoom.
Although the pictures are decent in quality, you can’t help but think that the picture quality is not miles ahead of what you can get from a high-end camera phone such as PureView series from Nokia. Yes, you do have the benefit of a 10X optical zoom which works quite well and cannot be found on any other phone camera. So if that is something you really want on your phones then you really don’t have any other option than the Galaxy S4 Zoom. Alternatively, you can always go down the route of a semi-decent point and shoot with an Galaxy S4 Mini or something in that price range- it will be a bit more expensive that the 1899 price tag of the Galaxy S4 zoom but you will probably end up with a better phone and a better camera.
The Galaxy S4 Zoom on the other hand, is an average phone and an average camera. Bringing the two functions together makes the device rise slightly above average. I can see the Galaxy S4 Zoom working for someone who is travelling and needs a camera that could also be used as a secondary phone. But Samsung still has some work cut out for it if it wants to create a device that can be used as you primary phone AND camera. Maybe cutting down on the zoom from 10X to 5X or even 3X to make the device half as thin would help. So would updating the specs to make it a bit more higher-end. But I guess that is just technology waiting to catch up- At least Samsung already has a foot in the door.