Samsung Galaxy K zoom Review
With 10x optical zoom lens and OIS, the Galaxy K zoom is one of the best phones for pictures and video recording.
The 20.7 megapixels camera sensor in the Galaxy K zoom has powerful specs sheet to back it up. The sensor is large at 1/2.3”, it features 10x optical zoom (24-240 mm), Xenon flash, LED focus assist light, and image stabilization. The f/3.1 aperture is subpar, though, compared to the much wider f/2 to f/2.4 in most flagships.
Zooming is done with the volume rocker or an on-screen slider, while the Instant Camera Mode lets you enter directly the camera app from a lock screen by pressing the shutter key and volume rocker at once. You have to briefly hold the volume up key and the shutter button together, then upon release, the camera lens will pop out, and you will be ready to shoot in about two or three seconds. The phone locks focus for less than a second, even indoors, and recording the shot, ready for the next shutter press, takes about a second or so.
There's a smorgasbord of shooting modes and color effects that goes way beyond the typical smartphone camera options, even on feature-rich ones. Apart from the dozen or so ones you can also find on the Galaxy S5, S4 or the Note 3, like Rich Tone (HDR), Panorama, Night, Virtual Tour, Sound&shot, Silhouette, Animated photo and so on, there are at least as many more on the Galaxy K zoom. Granted, a lot of those are for shooting in special conditions, like Dawn, or Landscape, which just overemphasize the typical for the scene colors, but still the choice is there. For tricky dynamic scenarios, the K zoom has a unique feature, allowing you to place the focus on the subject you want, but move the exposure measurement to be taken from another part of the scene. There are a few extra selfie regimes, too. One of those lets you snap a selfie with the rear camera, which can be fired up after it locks your face firmly. The other uses the rear camera for the background, and lets you choose the section where your humble self should appear, after the front camera takes your selfie.
The K zoom has a full “Manual” mode - it lets you change the shutter speed, aperture (kinda), and ISO. For the aperture, you can only choose one of two options – open f/3.1 a – no steps in- between. Zoom in ten times, and you can choose between open f/6.3, and closed f/18.4. This greatly limits the idea of a manual mode. Combine this with the lack of shutter speed priority mode (where you set the speed and the camera automatically adjusts the aperture and ISO to get the right exposure), plus the cumbersome interface, and we can't imagine somebody using this mode often.
Pictures taken with the automatic mode turn out with an overall natural, sometimes slightly bland color representation, compared to reality, but not to an unpleasant extent. The K zoom's white balance measurements are very credible in most situations, too, except for the HDR regime, which tends to produce photos with warm, yellowish overcast. Detail is plenty – as can be expected - and noise is kept in the normal range. However, we must point that when compared to a normal phone, like the S5, the K zoom isn't superior.
Indoors the Galaxy K zoom also performs pretty good, but not excellent. All of our test photos turned out good, but some had not-too-accurate colors, and some were rather underexposed. Noise creeps up indoors, but not outside the expected range. In our studio setup, the Xenon flash fired in all 4 photos, but its color fidelity is pretty good. Strangely, for these pictures, the K zoom used low shutter speeds (1/15 to 1/30), and high ISO (up to 800!), so it didn't use the full power of the Xenon flash. However, in real-life scenarios, the Xenon flash may prove better than its LED-siblings in other phones.
The Galaxy K zoom doesn't record 4K-resolution video, which is a bummer, considering that a lot of flagship handsets now do. It, however, can record extremely fluid 1080p video with 60fps, in addition to the usual 30fps count. The footage sports a very natural color representation, and doesn't skip frames, or feature unusual artifacts. Exposure adjustments while panning around are very quick, and so is the continuous autofocus. Having both a 10x optical zoom lens, and optical image stabilization, makes the K zoom one of the best phones for recording video, as the footage remains steady when panning around, and you can zoom into crazy detail from afar, without sacrificing quality. The phone also records very decent soundtrack to the videos, with the help of the two noise-canceling mics top and bottom. There's a silent zoom option, too, where the lens motor noise gets weeded out if you zoom in while recording, and the zooming action itself is very smooth.
The S Studio gallery alternative intros extra editing options for your pictures and videos, including the ability to concoct an artsy collage.
Apart from the regular TouchWiz gallery, which offers split-screen view, Samsung also offers the so-called S Studio, which adds extra editing options for your pictures and videos, including the ability to make artsy collages and slideshows on the phone itself. Samsung has also partnered with Vine for a tailored app that has the zoom buttons directly on the screen, for better utilization of the K zoom's features while making Vine video clips.
The music player interface with its blocky elements is familiar from the Galaxy S5. The UI might be unimpressive, but it offers all the basics, like song categorization, as well as an abundance of equalizer presets and sound modes to choose from. The loudspeaker is on the average side in terms of quality, as the sound lacks range, but it's quite punchy in terms of strength.
We also get a stock video player runs most popular formats, like MPEG-4, MKV and Xvid (but not DivX) without a hitch, and up to 1080p resolution. Its interface is brimming with options, such as the ability to add subtitles, captions, loop and even edit the video.