Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom- The Ultimate Bloggers Phone?

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The blogger’s dilemma; Do I bring out the SLR, or can I get away with some slightly grainy shots on my iPhone?  The first option guarantees crisp, magazine-like quality, but weighs a ton- whereas the other is compact, social media friendly, but needs studio like lighting and a steady hand to get a shot worthy of publishing online.  Now, there seems to be a solution in the form of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom; a 10x optimal zoom compact digital camera with the added bonus of including a smart phone.  It seems like a simple concept, but one that has never been done until now, so I got my hands on one to see if it really is the best of both worlds.

For the purposes of this exercise ( and the media’s recent obsession with conjoining two names), I have decided to call the S4 Zoom a Phamera (copyright pending).  However, I may be doing it a slight disservice with my naming, as it suggests that the Zoom is not quite a phone, nor a fully functional camera; but judging by the specs, it can keep up with the best in both categories.

The S4 Zoom comes with a 4.3” Super Amoled HD screen, 1.5GHz dual core processor, 2330mA battery and runs on Android 4.2 Jellybean.  On the back, you are treated to a 16MP, CMOS sensor, 10x optical zoom camera with the ability to record videos at 1080p full HD!  Impressive stuff considering if you were to buy a separate phone and camera with equally good specifications, you would be looking to pay in excess of £500, whereas the S4 Zoom is available for around only £350- there must be a catch somewhere right?

The Zoom arrives and my first reaction is that it looks like a phone with a shiny metal lens stuck on the back, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing as quite frankly, it gives the Zoom a futuristic look when contrasted against Samsung’s signature diamond white.

After admiring for a while, my next thought however is just how heavy the phone is.  Those who have read my previous pieces will know that weight is rarely an issue for me as long as the device is functional (hence why I love the Samsung Galaxy Note), but even my limits are tested here.  At an eye watering 208g, the Zoom is nearly twice as heavy as an iPhone 5s and 25g heavier than my ginormous Note 2.  At least with my Note, the slim form means I can still fit it into my jeans, but the chunky lens attachment of the Zoom makes my trousers feel like I’m Bruce Banner just before full transformation into The Hulk.

Obviously the first app I have to test out is the camera and I let out a little yelp of delight as the lens pops out from behind a protective screen (so handy for my grubby hands).  Those familiar with modern digital compacts will find using the camera very familiar as the Zoom looks just like any other, with touch screen menus to operate functions, and also a shutter button to get that authentic camera feel.

Taken using Food Mode

Going through the various menus, there are modes for literally every situation, from firework and sunset, to the more unusual beauty and animated photo creator.  You could literally spend hours testing out each and they actually make a difference to the quality, which is handy for basic point and click photographers like myself, that struggle to get good shots in anything other than clear skies.  If you have a more advanced knowledge, there are expert modes to play around with ISO, saturation, aperture and all that techie stuff.

Along my travels with the S4 Zoom, I tested it in all conditions from serene low lit bars, to the more extreme floodlit Wembley stadium; impressing me with how versatile the camera really is.  If you’re not convinced by words, all the images included in this piece have come directly from the Zoom without any enhancements added whatsoever.

Cheerleaders using 10x Zoom

This is the first time I’ve been able to get clear, detailed pictures in all conditions without the use of my DSLR- and with the added bonus of being able to upload them straight to the Blood, Sweat and Fashion social networking pages.  This may not seem like a big deal for Joe Public, but for a social butterfly, real time life updates are nearly as important as the air we breathe.  Another advantage of having a camera that’s also a phone is that you have a relatively large 4.3” HD screen- so I’m able review each photo in much more detail than the ridiculously tiny displays found on compacts and SLRs.

For a phone with such power laden capabilities, you’d expect it would have a horrible battery life, but this is not the case.  Just like any camera phone out there, taking plenty of snaps will drain the battery rapidly.  But even on extremely busy days, I found the Samsung outlasted my colleague’s iPhone 5 by at least a couple of hours and their photos weren’t half as good!

Night Mode

Although I’ve had a grumble about the Zoom’s weight, it seems paradoxical to complain about the relatively slim form factor of the S4 Zoom; but I will anyway.  As a phone, the dimensions are perfect (huge lens aside), but being used to a chunky, ergonomic SLR, taking photos on the Zoom is just…uncomfortable.  As a blogger, I often only have one hand free as I usually have a cocktail / burger / press release (sometimes all 3!) in the other.  But taking shots with one hand is extremely awkward.  In fact, when held in the most comfortable position, I found my index finger covered the flash, which became a real bugbear as many of my quirky, off the cuff quick snaps were ruined.

Captured using Continuous Shot

Renowned London Food blogger and photography enthusiast Wilkes888 was seriously impressed by how competitive the Zoom was compared to the digital compact he uses.  Similarly, I had various beauty and fashion bloggers screaming at the instant Instagram selfie upload potential.  However, if I look beyond the social media obsessed, I question how practical the Zoom really is for the average consumer?  It’s not as functional as an iPhone, but almost twice as heavy.  It doesn’t take as good a photo as an SLR- so that’s the amateur photographer market out of the window.  Maybe my initial description as a not quite phone, not quite camera “Phamera” is an accurate one.

Night Time Food Shot

As for me?  I love it.  Despite the flaws, I’ve not thought once about going back to carrying a phone and camera; and quite frankly, the thought now horrifies me.  Long gone are the days where I have to bring out the SLR in expensive restaurants, often blinding nearby diners in the process- and then blind them again to take pictures on my phone for Twitter.  The S4 Zoom is so much more discreet, with the added ability to get magazine worthy shots in even the most unfriendly camera environments.  For a first attempt, the Galaxy S4 Zoom exceeds all expectations and like any new technology, lessons will be learnt and improvements made.  If the S4 Zoom is a success, the Phamera will be here to stay; and I for one will embrace it.

Steamed Captured in a Hot Toddy


Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, available in Black or White from Amazon priced £350.99 (handset only)

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