Immersion; that’s what I needed to fully understand the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom. I used it in school, in a birthday party, in a theme park & in my everyday life, and there & then I understood that this device isn’t for everyone, but it is a wonderful device to specific people. Read on our full review to find out if this is the gadget for you.
Design & Construction
Part phone, part camera; Phamera.
When Samsung announced the Galaxy Note, we can’t quite understand why they would do it. The Korean company seems like they want to experiment with several form factors, and that experimentation is obvious here again with the Galaxy S4 Zoom. ‘Phablets’ weren’t a thing years ago, and it looks as if Samsung wants to make another Galaxy hybrid. I’m calling it a ‘Phamera’.
This is going to be one of my longest “Design & Construction” pieces as this new form factor really is worth all the words.
The moment my friends & family (who are average consumers) saw the S4 Zoom, they were really impressed. They took it in their hands and they exclaimed their love for this ‘genius’ form factor. After which, they said that it was all they ever needed.
On the flip side, my much geekier friends & those engaged in photography were slightly turned off. “What is that thing?” was one of the things said in disgust. When I told them that it takes good photos and is a phone, they just simply said they didn’t want it.
“Photographers & geeks don’t like the ‘phamera’, but average consumers do.”
For the gripes & issues that I’ve had with it, they were mostly major irritations. One, you can’t rest the phone flat on a surface. Two, it won’t stand horizontally; it just falls to it back most of the time. Third, safe for holding it to take a call (which looks weird too), there is no way to hold the phone comfortably.
Over to the left is the micro SD card slot & a place for accessories and the tripod. On the right are the volume controls, the power button and the two-stage camera shutter key. On the bottom of the device, you’ll find the place for the micro USB port, the microphone and the flap that opens to reveal the battery & the micro SIM slot, while on top you’ll find the 3.5 audio jack, an IR blaster and the secondary microphone.
All-in-all, the design of the device is both hit & miss – but it’s an experiment, so I’d say mostly miss.
In the world of HD smartphones, the S4 Zoom packs a 4.3-inch qHD Super AMOLED display. Text was decently sharp, and all the colors were punchy and oversaturated just as you’d expect from an AMOLED panel. Viewing angles were quite well too as objects didn’t deteriorate in quality when looking from different sides.
It’s going to be small for most people’s standards, but I completely understand that they should never go larger. This abomination is more than large enough to handle.
OS, Apps & UI
Not much has changed from the original S4 to the S4 Zoom; it’s still the same Touchwiz UI on top of Android 4.2. Here, however, Samsung made the exchanges of removing a lot of its sensor & gesture features for the big-ass camera.
S-Voice, S-Planner, S-Translator, S-ettings and the rest of Samsung’s Apps are still found here; there’s no escaping that. To add, this phone also supports the ability of being your remote control. Love it or hate it, the rest of TouchWiz is S-History.
Multimedia & Camera
The speakers of the device are found on the backside of the S4 Zoom. They’re actually very loud, but the quality may be a little questionable as it wasn’t as crisp as we’d expect. Watching video on the other hand is very enjoyable; just go adjust the display settings if you find it too saturated & vibrant.
Like what we’ve mentioned above, this is part phone, part camera. Without further ado, here is the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom’s 16 megapixel camera with 10x optical zoom.
On top of a Ferris wheel with maximum zoom
No zoom; through a building window
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom’s washed out photos is evident
Xenon flash helps a lot.
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With all of that laid out, I have to say that the Zoom has its set of strengths & weaknesses. For the strengths – the optical zoom does help for all the far shots that you need to take, details are sharp enough when compared to other smartphones and the Xenon flash rarely makes low-light photos worse.
Now for the bad news, the Zoom takes washed out shots. The Super AMOLED display will deceive you into thinking that you did take good shots, but most often, they’ll be undersaturated. That could probably be the biggest gripe that I’ve had with the camera; post-processing won’t always be the way to go.
Video capture features the same characteristics as the photos too. You should definitely check out the sample video as we slowed down a 720p HD @ 60fps video and it looked very smooth and awesome. The zoom works very well too, however, there’s a catch – every time you zoom in or zoom out, sound gets muffled and distorted. You should check that out above.
Performance & Battery Life
Even with above near mid-range specs, the S4 Zoom doesn’t seem to lag or stutter. Everything worked smoothly and we had no problems with it for the most part.
- Antutu Benchmark – 10,434
- Quadrant Standard – 5,174
- Nenamark 2 – 59.9fps
During our standard battery bench, we tested the battery life to last at about 7.5 hours by looping a full HD movie at 50% brightness and 0% volume. That’s slightly lower than our average of 9 hours with most other handsets and significantly much lower compared to the Galaxy S4 which got 11.5 hours.
Taking a lot of photos, deleting them & editing them on the phone took a big chunk of the battery, and it always made the back of the phone very warm. We didn’t have a SIM card on in that time too, so it’s really safe to say that the battery on the S4 Zoom is below average.
I was very excited during the first days that I had it, but eventually, in a few more days, I said to myself – “I give up.” I can’t use a phone this thick, I can’t text properly on this thing & an identity crisis is something that the Galaxy S4 Zoom suffers from.
Think of it as a mid-range phone duct-taped to a mid-range point & shoot camera. It’s good if you look at it as separate entities, but put them together, you might want to think again. If you think the word ‘phamera’ is cool, then I think you’re totally up for this Samsung experiment.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom has an SRP of Php23,490.
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom SM-C101 specs:
4.3-inch qHD S-AMOLED display @ 540×960 pixels, 240ppi
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Samsung Exynos 4212 1.5GHz dual-core processor
Mali-400 MP Graphics
8GB internal storage
up to 64GB via microSD card
16MP BSI CMOS Sensor
ISO Range: 100-3200 (full-stop increments)
Focal range: 24-240mm
Aperture range: f/3.1 – f/6.3
Built-in XENON flash
3G/HSPA+, 4G LTE
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, dual channel
A-GPS w/ GLONASS
Li-Ion 2,330mAh battery
Android 4.2.2 Jellybean
Dimension: 125.5 x 63.5 x 15.4 mm
What we liked about it:
- Interesting form factor for some
- 10x optical zoom is useful
- Camera captures sharp details
- Xenon flash works beautifully well
What we didn’t like about it:
- Thick, heavy & everything in between
- Difficult to manage
- Subpar battery life
- Washed out colors
- Muffling audio when zooming in taking video