Hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom: Part camera, part phone, totally cool
posted Thursday, June 20, 2013 at 6:10 PM EDT
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom was announced a little over a week ago and today I got some hands-on time with the device, which is almost as much of a camera, as it is a phone. The most interesting thing about the S4, which is expected to go on sale this summer, is its 10x optical zoom with an optical image stabilizer. This is a first for a smartphone and when I initially heard about the S4 Zoom and its long lens, I assumed it would be a rather clunky device in person. It's not. Samsung's done a good job of integrating the lens and various camera features into the S4 Zoom's surprisingly sleek body.
The dimensions of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom are 125.5 x 63.5 x 15.4 mm, and when the zoom lens is retracted, the phone easily slides into your pocket. When the zoom is deployed, which you activate by manually twisting a ring around the lens, it's, of course, another story but the device is still relatively compact. When extended, the 10x zoom adds about 1.5-inches to the front of the camera. Overall, the S4 Zoom's noticeably smaller than the Android-driven Samsung Galaxy Camera, which came out last year and is mainly a camera with cellular and/or Wi-Fi connectivity.
Samsung's also done a good job of making it easy to switch the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom into camera mode. The quickest way is to simply press the shutter button on top of the device, which activates the camera features in about a second. (You can also switch to camera mode via the touchscreen.) When you turn the zoom lens with your hand, it will call up a virtual dial on the device's 4.3-inch, qHD display, letting you pick the shooting mode you want.
Along with the nice zoom lens, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom features a 16-megapixel image sensor, a xenon flash and a host of photo-centric features. When you're on a phone call, twisting the zoom ring on the device turns on the In-Call Photo Share feature. The feature lets you snap an image and send it directly to the person your talking to via MMS. You can also use the zoom ring to activate several camera features including Auto shooting mode, Smart Mode (which offers and suggests pre-set shooting options including Drama Shot and Action Freeze), and Gallery.
The S4 Zoom's Photo Suggest feature connects the device to the photo galleries of other photographers, to help you compose better shots of your own. Photo Suggest also gives you tips on the best places to shoot nearby you. The S4 Zoom's Story Album feature helps organize your photos and videos into a single timeline to share with friends and family. It also lets you edit your shots on the device and print them via Blurb.
While it certainly won't capture as nice images as the Android-based cellular-connected Samsung Galaxy NX compact system camera, which was announced today, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is one of the best photo-centric smartphones I've played with. We're looking forward to putting it through a full test for an Imaging Resource review, once it becomes available.