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The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
Publication Date : 11-09-2013
Samsung rolls a camera and phone into one compact device
With so many people using smartphones as their primary photo-taking device, the sale of compact cameras has seen a rather drastic decline.
Recognising this, Samsung has introduced the Galaxy S4 Zoom which combines the powers of a phone and camera into one device.
The S4 has two distinct “sides” — the front looks like any other Samsung tablet or phone while the back is designed to look like a camera, complete with an extendable optical zoom lens. On the side, you will find the power button, volume rocker and dedicated shutter button.
If you are used to slim smartphones, you may find the S4 a bit bulky due to the protruding lens and handgrip on the back. It is also a little uncomfortable to put it in the pocket because of the design. Having said that, we got used to it after using it for a few weeks.
The S4 is also a little heavy for a smartphone, as it tips the scale at 208g, which is heavier than the already massive Galaxy Note 2 which weighs 180g.
The S4 handles and behaves like any other Samsung Android smartphone. It has a 4.3in qHD Super Amoled screen which is bright and sharp, is powered by a 1.5Ghz dual-core processor, and runs on Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, the latest version of the operating system.
We had no problems surfing the Web, making calls, playing casual games and checking e-mail messages or Facebook on the smartphone. It comes preinstalled with Samsung apps like S Translate, a real-time language translator, Story Album for organising photos and S Voice for issuing voice commands to the phone.
However, it lacks one Samsung feature we like very much — Multi Window — which allows multiple apps to occupy the screen at the same time.
For installing even more apps, it comes with 8GB of built-in storage.
You can add more storage via the microSD slot and should invest in a big memory card especially if you plan to store lots of videos as the 8GB won’t cut it.
It has a big 2,330mAh battery which managed to last an entire day as long as long as the camera was used sparingly.
The battery tends to drain a lot quicker if the camera is used heavily and the photos are shared on a social networking site.
Get snap happy
The main attraction of the S4 is its built-in 16-megapixel camera and 10x optical zoom lens (which gives a focal length of 24 - 240mm).
When used as a camera, the S4 Zoom feels great — the handgrip on the back makes it comfortable to hold while the Zoom Ring around the lens makes it very easy to zoom.
However, the camera’s optical zoom function is available only from the default camera app and doesn’t work when used with other apps, say, Instagram, which is rather limiting.
However, the Zoom Ring is a little noisy — the sound made while zooming in or out is not only a little annoying but is also picked up by the S4 when recording videos.
On the bright side, the Zoom Ring can also be used as a quick launcher to access different camera modes.
Unlike most smartphones, the S4 takes better pictures in low light and also has a wide variety of smart modes to help make your pictures unique.
There’s also a handy Photo Suggest app that recommends the best spot to be in when shooting photos — it does this based on a database of photos taken by other people.
It is an especially nice feature to have when you are on a holiday.
Also, there is a tiny mount for securing it to a tripod for taking portrait shots or steadying the device when the lighting is poor.
The S4 also has a number of features that you won’t find on any other Samsung smartphone such as In-Call Photo Share.
With this feature you will be able to snap a photo even when engaged in a call. You can then choose to send the photo via MMS to the person on the other side of the line.
In terms of photo quality, the S4 fares better than most smartphones although it still cannot match a standalone compact camera.
Also, the S4’s video recording capability isn’t half bad. It is too bad that it picks up the motor sound when zooming — otherwise it would have been perfect for video recording.
The S4 Zoom’s compact size and ability to zoom makes it a fun smartphone for snapping casual shots and for bringing it along on a holiday.
While it is not going to win the hearts of professional photographers or users who expect photo quality that is on par with a compact camera, the S4 is a step up from other smartphone cameras.
And if you believe the saying that the best camera is the one you have with you, then it makes a lot of sense to get the S4 Zoom which has one of the best smartphone cameras around, and you are not going to leave home without your smartphone.
Pros: Optical zoom beats digital zoom anytime; great for sharing photos instantly on social media; lots of helpful features for shooting photos.
Cons: Bulky for a smartphone; optical zoom is noisy; battery life could be better.