Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Review – Good or Bad
Smartphones usually come with a camera, which is often one of the more popular functions used by people. However, the camera of most smartphones is unable to match the photo quality of most digital cameras. There is often a significant gap, which makes replacing your digital camera with your smartphone unfeasible.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom seeks to change all of that. It is really a hybrid of a digital camera and a smartphone. By combining the two into a single device, it is hoped that this new device will offer the best of both worlds and give people the ability to leave their digital camera at home without sacrificing photo quality. In practice, the phone succeeds in some areas, but falls short in other areas.
Good: the camera of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is very good and versatile
The camera is THE most defining characteristic of the Samsung S4 Zoom and it certainly does not disappoint in terms of taking pictures. Although the lens is made by Samsung, photos are clearly much better than you're used to getting from regular smartphones.
Not only is there a 16 megapixels camera, but is has a CMOS sensor which really helps when taking pictures when there is not enough light around. In normal situations, the lack of light would result in ugly pictures with lots of noise. The CMOS sensor reduces the negative effects of low light.
In addition, the camera comes with a wide-angle lens with support for up to 10X optical zoom. That means you'll be able to better adjust to circumstances. Whether an object is very far away or you need to fit lots of things within a photo, the camera allows you to take a good picture.
The integrated Optical Image Stabilization ensures that photos remain sharp even when your hands are shaking. This is especially apparent when using the camera at 10X zoom. Without stabilization, the images would otherwise be blurry and unusable.
The camera itself is very easy to use thanks to the integrated zoom ring, which you can use for adjustments. You can also use the preset modes, which will automatically select the right settings depending on the conditions. For example, outdoors, indoors, evening shots, etc. If all you want is to take pictures, then the S4 Zoom will definitely get the job done.
Good: the Samsung S4 Zoom works okay as a smartphone
The S4 Zoom also works well as a smartphone. It pretty much comes with every feature that you might need. There is a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor with 1.5GB of memory. You can expand the 8GB of internal storage with a 64GB MicroSD card, which is really needed because pictures can take up lots of space.
The phone is fast and there are no lags when switching screens. It has a relatively large screen at 4,3 inches with a resolution of 540x960, which is protected against scratches by a layer of extra strong Gorilla Glass.
The battery is relatively large at 2330mAh. The Samsung supports NFC and has a infrared port. GPS, radio and so on are all there. All in all, the Samsung S4 is a competent phone, which can handle everything that something could want to do with a smartphone.
Bad: the Samsung S4 Zoom is too fragile for daily use
On paper, combining a real camera with a smartphone into the Samsung S4 Zoom sounds like a good idea. However, it does not work very well in practice in my opinion. It may not seem apparent at first, but once you start using it outside, there are practical limitations that will become obvious to you.
Most people tend to carry their smartphone with them all the time, but this also exposes the phone to bumps and other accidental hits. This is especially troublesome in the case of the Samsung. The camera is in the back and has moving parts, which are prone to get stuck when the camera gets hit as will often happen in daily use.
The result is that the camera tends to get stuck when you try to zoom in and out. You find yourself having to treat your phone much more carefully then you're used to, because you'll be afraid of permanently damaging the camera.
Since both the front and the back are taken up by the touchscreen and camera respectively, you will have to let the phone stand upright. Otherwise, both the screen and the camera will come into contact and accumulate scratches over time. This is something you want to avoid.
The phone also comes with a fairly large glass lens which looks like it will break if the phone ever falls on the ground. You find yourself having to coddle your phone, which is not a good thing to have to do all day long.
Bad: the screen of the Samsung S4 Zoom has too low a resolution
Most people who take pictures will want to review them immediately afterward on the screen to see how they look like. Unfortunately, the screen only has a resolution of 540x960. The result is that pictures do not look as sharp as they could have been.
The lack of a high definition screen is in my opinion a serious omission, considering this phone is meant to take a lot of pictures. Especially since HD screens are very common nowadays. A better screen is certainly warranted for this kind of phone and therefore a drawback of the Samsung S4 Zoom.
Bad: the Samsung S4 Zoom design is poor
Looks are somewhat subjective and opinions can vary. However, in my opinion, the Samsung S4 Zoom is probably closer to ugly than pretty. Especially on the back, where the camera really sticks out. I also don't think the phone feels comfortable when you hold it in your hand because of the protrusions.
A flat design would probably have been better with no moving parts. That may be hard to do with a long zoom, but it would really help the design in my opinion. It would make it less fragile and less susceptible to accidental damage as is currently the case.
Summary and comparison of the Samsung S4 Zoom pros and cons
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is like a professional sports team with good individual players that looks great on paper, but falls short once the players have to play together. It's a case where the whole team does not match the sum of its parts.
As a whole, the Samsung does not blend together well. The different parts are in conflict with one another. The camera needs to be handled with care, which is hard to do when you use the phone all the time. Carrying the camera in your pocket will expose the lens to all sorts of dust, damage and so on.
Individually, the Samsung works fine as a smartphone or as a camera. It would probably be better off if it's only used as a camera. That would allow you to carry and handle the phone in such a way that is hard to do when it's also used as a phone.
However, using the S4 Zoom strictly as a camera defeats the purpose because the idea behind the device was to have both a camera and a phone. Using only one or the other would be a waste of money. You could simply get a dedicated camera without spending money on something you don't use.
In my opinion, it is better in practice to have a separate smartphone and digital camera. Unless you absolutely need to carry a single device with you, the S4 Zoom as currently designed is a smartphone I would pass on. It is too much of a hassle to be of practical use.
- very good and versatile camera
- lots of features for a smartphone
- below average screen
- poor design
- awkward in daily use
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Specifications
Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean
Dual-core 1.5 GHz Cortex A9
HSPA+ 21/5.76 850/900/1900/2100
HSDPA: 21.1 Mbps, HSUPA: 5.76 Mbps
Dimension (H X W X D)
125.3mm x 63.3mm x 15.25mm
About 208g ( with battery )
4.3-inch Multi-Touch Super AMOLED /w Gorilla Glass 3
qHD (960 X 540, 256 PPI)
16MP BSI CMOS, 10x optical zoom (24-240mm), optical image stabilization, 1080p@30fps, HDR, Xenon Flash
1.5 Gigabyte (GB)
Memory card slot
Included, up to 64GB MicroSD card
microUSB, USB 2.0, 3.5 earjack
Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi a/b/g/n 2.4G/5GHz, NFC, Infrared
Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, A-GPS + GLONASS