Zoom, zoom: Samsung’s Galaxy K Zoom 10x optical camera phone reviewed

Cameras and phones have well and truly merged by now, but has the phone really replaced the camera? Not yet, as far as Samsung is concerned, but that could change with its latest release, the K Zoom, which integrates a 10x optical zoom 20 megapixel camera with — you guessed it — a phone.

Features

Another week, another phone, and this time it’s one that could be mistaken for a camera, especially when you see it.

Yes, it’s the Galaxy K Zoom, Samsung’s follow-up to the Galaxy S4 Zoom, which made its way to Australian shelves last year with the look of a smaller Galaxy S4 strapped to the back of a camera.

This year, the style is different, and so is the technology, with Samsung moving to new hardware across the board.

For starters, there’s a 4.8 inch inch Super AMOLED touchscreen running 1280×720, also known as 720p, and protected with Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass 3. With this combination of technology, the screen isn’t the best on the market, but shows a close-to-Retina value of 306 pixels per inch, just 20 below the iPhone 5S.

Tech spec wise, the K Zoom seeks to impress with its own hexa-core processor, a Samsung Exynos chip made up of a quad-core 1.3GHz chip working alongside a dual-core 1.7GHz processor, with 2GB RAM also available here. Storage in the Galaxy K Zoom is set to 8GB internal, but this can easily be upgraded with a microSD card.

Connections are mostly standard, with 802.11a/b/g/n — no ac here, folks — as well as Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP and LE. Near-Field Communication (NFC), GPS, A-GPS, microUSB for the wired charge and data transfer, and support for up to Category 4 4G LTE meaning downloads as high as 150Mbps are possible from this handset.

The camera is the final thing in this package, and given that this is a camera phone hybrid, probably one of the most important.

As such, you’ll find a 20.7 megapixel sensor here working underneath a 10x optical sensor equivalent to around 24-240mm comparative to a 35mm camera.

A flash is also included, as is support for video capture, with up to Full HD’s 1080p catered for here. Samsung has been generous enough to include a front-facing camera as well, setting that to 2 megapixel.

Buttons are mostly typical fare, especially when compared with other Samsung Galaxy products, with the front facing buttons still built into hardware, unlike many of the Android devices out there: there’s the multi-task soft button on the left, back button on the right, and physical home button in the middle.

Side buttons are mostly the same, with a volume rocker and power button on the right edge, but with a shutter button below these shaped like a thicker version of the thin power button, and in a different colour.

Ports, on the other hand, are exactly what you’ll expect from a Samsung phone, with a 3.5mm headset jack up top and a microUSB port at the very bottom. The microSD card slot can be found on the left edge.

The back of the phone is removable, revealing a replaceable battery and the microSIM slot.

The battery on the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom is rated for 2430mAh.

Performance

You probably wouldn’t be surprised if we told you that sales of compact cameras are on the decline, and you only have to look at smartphones to see why: every phone has a camera in it, and since we all have a smartphone, there’s less of a reason to carry around a dedicated camera unless we’re after better quality — like say that from a mirror-less or digital SLR — or need to get closer to our subjects.

With that in mind, Samsung has been investing in camera phone hybrids, that is a phone with more camera than other smartphones.

Last year’s S4 Zoom certainly fit that bill, incorporating a 10x optical shooter in one of its Galaxy S4 bodies, at the time, the S4 Mini. But that was a year ago, and it’s time to do some upgrading, and that brings us to Samsung’s new K Zoom.

Take a look at the K Zoom and there’s a very clear and obvious departure from the S4 Zoom, with a product that looks closer to what Samsung envisioned with Galaxy S5. There’s the similar shape on the front, the same almost ovular home button flanked on each side by a multi-task and back button, and a dimpled texture on the plastic back.

Seriously, this couldn’t be more Galaxy S5 if it tried to be, and we suppose that’s the idea, as Samsung starts to turn all its products into adopting this style.

Pick up the phone and it’s clear that while it’s not an S5, the K Zoom is more a phone and less a camera, a total 180 from the product Samsung produced last year.

There’s still a big camera ring with a zoom lens behind it, but the look is more like that of a phone, with no camera grip, but rather a pronounced lens extrusion from a thick smartphone body.

That change makes the K Zoom a very different beast, as it now feels more like a camera strapped to a phone, different from last year’s phone strapped to a camera body, which was the approach the S4 Zoom took.

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