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Inspect-a-gadget: Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Updated November 11, 2013
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Pictured. — Bilal Brohi/Spider Magazine Photo
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Pictured. — Bilal Brohi/Spider Magazine Photo
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Pictured. — Bilal Brohi/Spider Magazine Photo
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Pictured. — Bilal Brohi/Spider Magazine Photo
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Pictured. — Bilal Brohi/Spider Magazine Photo
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Pictured. — Bilal Brohi/Spider Magazine Photo
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Pictured. — Bilal Brohi/Spider Magazine Photo
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Pictured. — Bilal Brohi/Spider Magazine Photo
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Pictured. — Bilal Brohi/Spider Magazine Photo
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Pictured. — Bilal Brohi/Spider Magazine Photo
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Pictured with accessories . — Bilal Brohi/Spider Magazine Photo
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Pictured with accessories . — Bilal Brohi/Spider Magazine Photo
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Pictured with accessories. — Bilal Brohi/Spider Magazine Photo
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Pictured with accessories. — Bilal Brohi/Spider Magazine Photo

Having recently reviewed the Samsung Galaxy S4, which I believe is still among the top three phones available today; I was enticed by the thought of S4 functionality and a 10X optical zoom. All things considered I thought it would be a perfect fit for a blogger/journalist’s lifestyle.

The S4 Zoom has more in common with the S4 Mini than it does with the S4. From screen size (4.3 inches) and pixel density (256 ppi), which are identical to the S4 Mini - to the 1.5GHz dual-core processor which is severely under-powered when compared to the Exynos 5 Octa 5410 on the S4 but relatively close to the 1.7GHz dual-core that comes aboard the S4 Mini.

So, It’s not a processing power-house but it can be mounted on a tripod and has plenty of manual control over exposure and shutter speed so my consideration now becomes a question – with this in hand could I leave my digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR) at home for once and go out with just an S4 Zoom?

Design

At first look, it’s awkward – although typing and browsing are not as uncomfortable as I thought they would be, the device looks more like a camera, than a phone. Its bound to turn a few heads your way, specially if it rings while you’re taking a picture and the lens is out.

The chrome trip that wraps around the device becomes wider at the bottom encasing the shutter key and taking the shape of the extruding grip. The front of the S4 Zoom is similar to the S4 Mini in terms of layout and display size, the difference is, all in the profile - the Zoom is double the thickness without taking the lens or the extrusive bulge into consideration.

Then there is the weight: weighing in at a mighty 208g (roughly 7oz), the S4 Zoom out-weighs the Galaxy Note 2 or two S4 Minis’.I knew that the S4 Zoom would be bulky due to the lens but I thought that extruding bulge at the bottom housing the battery would balance some of the added weight like most cameras, so the user would be able to take pictures single handed – I was wrong.

Contrary to my assumption, in order to take a picture with one hand, the user has to grip the S4 Zoom in a way which either accidentally causes you to touch the soft back key or your hand stops you from viewing the entire frame. If they compromised on aesthetic for functionality, why would they forget usability?

Camera

Not many, if any camera phones can do what Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Zoom is equipped for, when it comes to taking pictures. Its more than just a 3MP bump up from the 13MP shooter on the S4, The 16MP S4 Zoom is capable of fantastic long exposure photography and lets not forget the 10x optical zoom. No other smartphone camera has a 10x optical zoom coupled with a xenon flash, optical image stabilization and the ability to be mounted on a tripod.

There are numerous smart presets available to capture light trails, fireworks, silhouettes, waterfalls, panoramic pictures, and etcetera. All of these work great, but there is also an expert mode through which, you can choose between shutter priority, aperture priority and colour priority – these work better!

You can choose how you would like the image to contrast, saturate or expose before taking the picture, which does not mean that there are no options post-production. There is an array of filters and effects to enhance or animate images before the user shares or publishes them.

Video performance unfortunately is not on par with the standards they set forth for photographs. There is no HDR, so low-light situations result in excessive noise, but it does shoot in 1080p at 30fps (frames per second), if you opt to drop the quality down to 720p you can shoot at 60fps.

Usability

Initially it takes a little getting used to the grip and lens, but at the end of the day it’s not as uncomfortable as it looks. Touch and display are fluid, but not when compared with its bigger brother (S4). Under the hood, the processor is nifty enough to go about all your tasks without lagging, nor does it need to be restarted every few days when people like myself excessively multi-task and run heavy applications simultaneously.

The S4 Zoom it self has 8GB of internal space, you can add another 64GB via MicroSD storage and 50GB of Dropbox space comes with the S4 Zoom for the first two years. Connectivity is never a problem since it supports Wi-Fi, 3G, LTE, NFC and S beam. Add all of this up and you can publish or transfer anything from anywhere.

All the applications and features that come with the S4 family are available here like WatchON, SHealth, Story Album, S Translator and etcetera. Locally I’d like to add that, Samsung’s WatchON application, which controls its infrared blaster, works much better than the one that comes with HTC since it is not restricted to geographic location and preset Digital TV providers. You can add numerous setups and even customize the screen to control a Samsung DVD player and a Philips TV together without any third party applications.

The Verdict

The camera really is in a class of its own – I was able to take some fantastic long exposure shots, which would be impossible with most smartphone cameras. That being said there should have been HDR support while shooting videos, alternatively they could have included an ultra-pixel camera (pixels have a bigger surface area and so can retain more light). A concept initially introduced by HTC and now, adopted by Apple for the new iPhone 5C and 5S. Samsung could have also paid a little more attention in terms of balance and ergonomics of the Galaxy S4 Zoom.

However, if you were looking for smartphone and a camera on a string budget I would recommend the S4 Zoom. In addition, I would recommend that you stop wearing skinny jeans; trying to get this ill shaped device in and out of pockets can be a real chore. I would also most definitely recommend that you wear your belt a hoop tighter, just to make up for the additional seven ounces.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Specifications

GENERAL
2G Network - GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 - all versions
3G Network - HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100 - all versions
4G Network - LTE (market dependent)
SIM - Micro-SIM
Announced - 2013, June
Status - Available. Released 2013, July
BODY
Dimensions - 125.5 x 63.5 x 15.4 mm (4.94 x 2.5 x 0.61 in)
Weight - 208 g (7.34 oz)
DISPLAY
Type - Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
Size - 540 x 960 pixels, 4.3 inches (~256 ppi pixel density)
Multitouch - Yes
Protection - Corning Gorilla Glass 3
SOUND
Alert types - Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones
Loudspeaker - Yes
3.5mm jack - Yes
MEMORY
Card slot - microSD, up to 64 GB
Internal - 8 GB (5 GB user available), 1.5 GB RAM
DATA
GPRS - Yes
EDGE - Yes
Speed - HSDPA, 21.1 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps; LTE, Cat3, 50 Mbps UL, 100 Mbps DL
WLAN - Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot
Bluetooth - Yes, v4.0 with A2DP, LE
NFC - Yes
Infrared port - Yes
USB - Yes, microUSB v2.0 (MHL), USB On-the-go
CAMERA
Primary - 16 MP, autofocus, Xenon flash
Features - 1/2.33'' sensor size, geo-tagging, touch focus, face and smile detection, 10x optical zoom (24-240mm), optical image stabilization, HDR, panorama
Video - Yes, 1080p@30fps,
Secondary - Yes, 1.9 MP
FEATURES
OS - Android OS, v4.2.2 (Jelly Bean)
Chipset - Pega-Dual +XMM6262
CPU - Dual-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A9
GPU - Mali-400
Sensors - Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass
Messaging - SMS(threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Mail, IM, RSS
Browser - HTML5
Radio - No
GPS - Yes, with A-GPS support and GLONASS
Java - Yes, via Java MIDP emulator
Colors - White, Dynamic Black
- S-Voice natural language commands and dictation
- Dropbox (50 GB storage)
- Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic
- TV-out (via MHL A/V link)
- SNS integration
- MP4/DivX/XviD/WMV/H.264/H.263 player
- MP3/WAV/eAAC+/AC3/FLAC player
- Organizer
- Image/video editor
- Document viewer
- Google Search, Maps, Gmail, YouTube, Calendar, Google Talk, Picasa, Voice demo/dial/commands
- Predictive text input (Swype)
BATTERY - Li-Ion 2330 mAh battery
Stand-by - (2G) / Up to 570 h (3G)
Talk time - (2G) / Up to 13 h (3G)
Music play - Up to 46 h