A Hands-On Review of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
“The Galaxy S4 Zoom isn’t a smartphone with a camera,…the Galaxy S4 Zoom is one device that’s always in touch with your world.”
That’s what Samsung had to say about their camera phone (or is that phone camera?—It’s a phone with a camera!) . Yes, yes, I understand we have camera phones, but this hybrid packs 16 megapixels and 10X zoom; a great device for amateur photographers and Instagram fiends alike.
This review will focus on the camera functions and apps because I think those really are its main features. I took this device with me to the Siavonga Music Festival; a great place to test it out for those landscape shots.
Looking at it, you might think it’s only a camera because of its retractable Zoom-ring and lens. The device is a little chunky, and might not fit well in your pocket. Its plastic casing and metal finishes around its body maintain the standard Samsung design, though I’m not sure if it could survive a fall. It’s also kinda heavy and you might need a camera pouch if you don’t want to scratch its 4.3” Super AMOLED screen or lens.
These are negligible flaws though, because this camera is built for amateur photographers without the budget for both a phone AND a high end camera. However, it’s not built for people that take pictures of all their food…
Hold the ‘shoot’ button to start the camera from the homescreen, or twist the Zoom-ring for faster results. The Zoom-ring allows you to access multiple modes like Animated Photo (which lets you take high resolution animated Gif images. Great for making your own memes!) and Sound and Shot (lets you take pictures and adds a few seconds of sound to the still picture).
In Expert Mode, you can adjust your shutter speed and aperture for different effects depending on lighting and the picture you’re trying to take. The aperture settings don’t have a wide range, so you can’t take some of the shots you would with an expert camera.
As you can see above, experimenting with different shutter speeds and aperture yields different results. The ISO and White Balance can help when trying to get that perfect image, but sometimes it is best to leave it to the camera’s auto function. It does take some great pictures, even at night.
One of the impressive apps the phone comes with is Photo Suggest. It is powered by Panoramio and it gives you a map, list or thumbnail view photos of nearby places all with the help of GPS.
This is great if you’re a tourist and love to see what other amateur photographers are sharing in the places you visit. Nearby favourites can be saved and it also shows you some exciting recommendations. You can upload your own pictures, but they have to go through a selection process to appear on Google Earth and Panoramio. Worry not, your photos can be copywritten.
I went a little trigger happy with the camera and snapped at everything I could, so the StoryAlbum app was a neat way to organise photos. The albums you create can be placed as a slideshow via a widget in your homescreen. You can choose from six different themes, including Scene and Puzzle.
The ‘flipping animation’ gives it the feel of a hardcopy album when you slide your finger across the screen. I guess that adds a little nostalgic value. Though I must admit the themes could have been more colourful and done with some basic graphics.
Overall I thought it was a great camera/phone. Photos can instantly be shared across social media via Wi-Fi share or data, and I didn’t need to add filters to shrink the images like I do on my Samsung S3 Mini. Its 10X optical Zoom-ring worked great and the images only usually lost quality in low light. The look and feel of it both amazed and disgusted some people, but images of a sexier S5 Zoom have already leaked and will shush the nay-sayers in the near future. I’d recommend it to any amateur photographer with pockets not deep enough for a phone AND professional camera. Except to those food-pic loving people!