To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

We find out if the Galaxy S4 Zoom is a good camera, a good smartphonephone or both

When the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom was announced, it’s fair to say that most people weren’t quite sure what to make of it. With its 10x zoom, the smartphone with the big camera felt a little like Samsung was pushing the Galaxy S4 brand a little bit too far. We’ve had chance to play with the device ahead of its launch to see what it’s all about in the flesh.

The first thing to note is that the name’s a little bit misleading, and rather than a smartphone that’s also a camera, the Galaxy S4 Zoom is a camera that’s also a smartphone. Now that may sound like semantic argument, but you should think of this as a [href=””]Samsung Galaxy Camera[/a] update, with this model also able to make phone calls.

It’s clear that the Galaxy S4 Zoom is designed for photography first. This is obvious just by looking at the front of the camera, which houses the 10x optical zoom and a grip to make the camera more comfortable to hold.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
The styling of the S4 Zoom makes it clear that it’s a smart camera first and foremost[/a]

In camera mode, the Galaxy S4 Zoom is every bit as comfortable to hold as the best compact camera. The grip is well positioned and the camera fits snuggly into the hand, with the dedicated shutter button falling neatly under your finger. We also thought the lens was well-positioned, so you don’t accidentally let a finger stray into shot.

Flick the S4 Zoom round into smartphone mode, so you can see the 4.3in display and it looks like the Galaxy S4 Mini, which is no surprise as that’s essentially what it is, and both devices have the same specifications. It feels a little strange to hold at first, as you can clearly feel the zoom lens. However, after holding the S4 Zoom for a bit you soon forget about that, and it just feels like a slightly bulky Android phone.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
From the back (or is that front?) the S4 Zoom likes like a regular smartphone

Samsung has done a good job integrating the two sides of the device, so you quickly get camera mode when you want to take a picture. To access the camera, you just use the dial on the zoom lens to jump into the camera app, or more specifically a camera app widget. The widget contains all of the camera modes, such as Auto or Portrait, and you can add your own personalised and preferred modes, letting you jump quickly to the setting you want.

In camera mode, the control ring activates the power zoom in the lens. Personally, we prefer this control over physical or on-screen zoom controls, as it feels more direct and we find it easier to compose shots this way. Taking shots is then a matter of using the dedicated shutter release.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
A dedicated shutter release makes the S4 feel and operate like a compact camera

We only had chance to play with the camera in a dark room, so we couldn’t take any test shots of note; however, we found composing shots very easy on the 4.3in qHD AMOLED screen. It’s one of the best screens, if not the best, you’ll find on a compact camera. While is 960×540 resolution falls below the Full HD resolution of the Samsung Galaxy S4, it still looked very sharp and viewing angles are superb.

It’s hard to judge performance at the moment, so we’ll have to save this until we’ve seen the product for a full review. Its 1/2.3in sensor is considerably larger than the sensors you get on most smartphones, so its 16-megapixel images will hopefully be considerably more detailed than shots from other phones.

With a 24mm wide angle focal length and 240mm zoom, the 10x optical zoom lens should give you a fair amount of flexibility in composing shots. We noticed that the lens can focus on objects that are very close (a couple of centimetres away).

In Android mode, the Galaxy S4 Zoom is everything you’d expect. Running Android 4.2.2 and with a 1.5GHz CPU, the phone felt snappy and smooth. We ran the Sunspider Javascript benchmark on it and got a result of 1,065ms, just a little behind the 933ms of the Galaxy S4.

It’s pretty much business as usual for a modern Android smartphone, with 802.11n Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 and 4G LTE built in. The Galaxy S4 Zoom has 8GB of storage space (5GB available to users), with a MicroSDXC card slot for further expansion. It’s good to see a removable 2,330mAh battery, so you’ll be able to carry enough power for a day’s worth of shooting.

We don’t have a price or UK release date yet, but we’ll bring you more information and a full review as soon as we do.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
A MicroSD card slot lets you expand the onboard storage

Read more

First Look