Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Preview
Flanked by rumored efforts from Nokia and Sony to resurrect the cameraphone market niche in a modern mobile OS environment, Samsung, whose recent goals appear to be presence in each and every mobile segment, decided to beat them to market with the Galaxy S4 Zoom.
Despite the flagship branding, the S4 Zoom is first a camera, then a phone. It expands on the idea started with Samsung's Galaxy Camera – a 16MP Android-powered camera, which has cellular connectivity but for data only. S4 Zoom jibes very similar in design and has the same 16MP resolution and Xenon flash, toning the optical zoom down to 10x, instead of the 21x on the Galaxy Camera, in order to keep the size relatively in check. On paper we have the first phone with a 10x optical zoom, but did Samsung manage to make a cameraphone, or did it simply slap a phone on a camera? Read on to find out...
In short, we get a Galaxy S4 Mini at the front, and a compact point-and-shoot Samsung camera on the back, and that's the best way to describe what you can expect with the Galaxy S4 Zoom.
This “phone” is rather bulky at 15.4mm, with a grip bulge and huge protruding lens with a zoom ring at the back, where the thickness goes up to 25mm. Apparently if you want 10x optical zoom, the sacrifice you have to make with your handset is that it will look and feel like a 7-ounce analog one from the dawn of mobile.
Working the screen with that giant lens protrusion on the back is not comfortable at all with one hand. Well, at least you've got a good grip while talking on the phone, resting your index finger just underneath. Speaking of one-handed operation, the grip bulge on the right should be helping when using it as a camera, with quickly framing the shot and taking it with just your palm. However, in reality it is too small to securely grip the phone, and the on-screen shutter key is too close to the edge, so you may have to grip with both hands. Granted, there is a two-stage physical shutter key, but it is also very close to the edge of the phone, and can't be pressed comfortably without the risk of dropping the handset. That same physical shutter button enters the camera app directly when pressed, bypassing the lock and home screens, but only when you turn the display on with the power/lock key on the right. There is no sleep-to-snap function like on some Xperias for example.
Thankfully the capacitive navigational keys below the display are turned off when you are in the camera app, so you don't worry about hitting the back and context menu keys when you take pictures.
Galaxy S4 Zoom sports a removable battery hidden under a lid on the side of the grip bulge, and released out by a sliding mechanism. That's where the microSIM card slot is as well, while the microSD one is covered with a protective flap on the left side of the phone/bottom of the camera, where the tripod mount is as well.
There is a 4.3” 540x960 pixels Super AMOLED display on the phone, just like with the S4 Mini, so you can rest assured it has great viewing angles, deep blacks and pretty saturated colors. The display settings let you use the image mode, though – from Dynamic, through Standard and Movie, to the Professional Photo mode that allegedly represents directly a standardized color gamut.
Samsung has graced the display with the super-sensitive tech that allows you to operate it with gloves, so working the camera app on that ski trip won't be an issue.