At the Samsung Premiere event in London today, the Korean giants unveiled the new Galaxy S4 Zoom. Hailed as “the only smartphone with 10x optical zoom”, the Galaxy S4 Zoom, which was officially announced just over a week ago, is a hybrid smartphone/point-and-shoot digital camera, and looks set to compete head on with Nokia’s latest Lumia smartphone, which is highly likely to sport a 41MP sensor similar to the one on 2011’s 808 PureView.
Article continues after the jump.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is one confused-looking device. When viewed from the front, the S4 Zoom looks just like any other Samsung Galaxy device – in fact, it is almost a carbon copy of the Galaxy S4 Mini in terms of hardware. But from the back, one can easily mistake the S4 Zoom to be a point-and-shoot digital camera, with a large bump encasing the 16MP sensor.
Indeed, even Samsung appears to be unsure of what to label the S4 Zoom. Is it a smartphone, or a digital camera first? Even the recent promotional video showing the S4 Zoom in action was uploaded to Samsung Imaging’s YouTube page, instead of Samsung Mobile. Regardless, Samsung is pitching the S4 Zoom firmly in the audience of those looking for a smartphone who wants better picture quality and the ability to zoom for their camera.
As such, the Galaxy S4 Zoom takes the Galaxy S4 Mini “DNA” and mixes it with a Smart Camera “DNA”, and offers a two-in-one solution allowing for a “new consumer experience”. It is Samsung’s second attempt at an Android-powered camera, following last year’s launch of the 3G-equiped Galaxy Camere. We’re pretty sure someone will be labelling future products like these as “Phameras” pretty soon.
The Galaxy S4 Zoom itself is a rather bulky device. The device is modelled after the Galaxy S4 Mini, with the exact same specifications to the flagship Galaxy S4’s little brother. On top of those specs, is a fully fleshed out digital compact camera. There’s a 1/2.3” 16MP BIS CMOS sensor with a 24mm f3.1-6.3 wide angle lens, 10x optical zoom, an ISO range of 100-3200, Optical Image Stabilisation as well as a Xenon strobe flash. The Koreans have also added “camera ergonomics” to the Galaxy S4 Zoom, such as a DSLR-like side grip, shutter button and also a tripod socket.
On the software front, users can quickly turn on the camera by twisting the Zoom Ring after pressing the power/unlock button. The Zoom Ring is also the home of a few other party pieces for the Galaxy S4 Zoom, allowing for functions such as zooming (using the Zoom Ring while half-pressing the shutter key also allows for manual focus) and activating the In-Call Photo Share feature. The camera interface also sports 25 different shooting modes, including Smart Mode Suggest, which suggests three shooting modes that are optimized for the current conditions the user is in.
Perhaps it was wise for Samsung to use the Galaxy S4 Mini as a base for the S4 Zoom instead of the Galaxy S4. While the device is certainly bulky, the large sensor at the back rarely gets in the way of the user when it is used as a phone. There is a gap between the grip and sensor where the user’s fingers can naturally slip between to support the device, and it actually isn’t too heavy to render it unusable as a phone. It is, however, a funny sight holding it next to your ear.
Like the other devices announced today, the Galaxy S4 Zoom’s pricing and availability were not announced, though it is likely we’ll be hearing the details in the coming weeks.