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Holidays will never be the same: Samsung’s first true camera-phone reviewed

By Leigh D. Stark | 10:54 am 03/12/2013

Phones have had cameras for a long time, but these have been phones with cameras inside of them. If you’re looking for a camera first with a phone inside, Samsung has the answer with the Galaxy S4 Zoom, a camera with 10x optical zoom and a 4G phone inside.

Features

A phone with a dedicated camera complete with optical zoom in it? Samsung might have made the photographer’s dream with this one, taking the looks of the S4 and not just shrinking them down from 5 inches to 4.3, but also stuffing it into the body of a camera.

So what’s inside this hybrid camera-phone device that makes it so special?

For starters, there’s dual-core 1.5GHz Cortex A9 processor paired with 1.5GB RAM and 8GB storage, though the latter of this can be upgraded with a microSD slot, with as much as 64GB of storage. Android 4.2 “Jelly Bean” runs with this, with the Australian version of Samsung’s TouchWiz overlay to Android, just like on the Samsung Galaxy S4, S4 Active, Galaxy Note 3, and any other smartphone released from April onwards from Samsung.

Connectivity options are similar to the S4 range, and include infrared support for using the camera-phone like a remote control, WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n, DLNA, Near-Field Communication, microUSB, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and the ability to connect to 4G LTE networks.

The screen, as mentioned earlier on, is a 4.3 inch touchscreen display relying on Super AMOLED technology, and showing a resolution of 960×540, also known as quarter-HD, with roughly 256 pixels per inch. This display is protected by the third generation of Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass technology, though, so it should hold its own against the occasional scratch and set of keys.

Interestingly, the camera is one of the more important parts of this phone, since it’s literally a phone inside of a camera.

As such, there is a 16 megapixel (in 4:3 mode) autofocus camera here, with 10x optical that can be controlled by a ring around the camera, equivalent technically to 24-240mm. Optical image stabilisation is included in the package, as is a flash, with video able to be recorded at Full HD 1080p 30fps.

A front-facing camera is also included — because selfies are important, but hard to take when you can’t see the screen — and for that, Samsung has provided a 1.9 megapixel camera.

With regard to buttons, there are slightly more on this device than on other smartphones, due to the fact that the S4 Zoom is primarily a camera and then a phone. As such, you’ll find the regular Samsung smartphone home button, flanked on each side by menu and back soft buttons, while the right edge has both the power button and volume rocker for the phone, and large shutter button for the camera.

Zoom is handled by the camera ring, which allows you to get up close and personal with your subject from a distance.

Ports are also easily accessed on this camera-phone, too, with a 3.5mm jack at the top of the phone, microSD slot on the left side of the device, and microUSB at the very bottom, sitting inside a flap that covers the removable 2330mAh battery and microSIM slot.

A tripod mount is also included on the phone, covered by white piece of plastic, as well as a set of holes which can be tied with a camera strap.

Performance

Boy, Samsung sure experiments with some neat ideas.

Last year (2012), the company made headlines when it blended half a mobile phone and a camera to make the Galaxy Camera, what was essentially a Galaxy S3 with a camera strapped to the back, and yet no ability to make phone calls.

This year, Samsung is changing the formula slightly, capitalising on the idea that people might want a smartphone with a decent camera. You can take pictures from afar, surf the web, social network, and hey, even make phone calls, because in the Galaxy S4 Zoom, Samsung is taking some of the features and design of the Galaxy S4 Mini and strapping it to the back of a compact camera.

The idea makes sense to us: dedicated compact cameras are beginning to fade away, especially as every smartphone gets a camera inside, many of them decent, so a smartphone with a dedicated camera complete with 10x optical makes even more sense, and we can see people who love to take pictures with their phone jumping all over this concept.

Pick it up, though, and you’ll see that it feels just like a camera, with an extruded lens, long flash, small grip with shutter button up top, and yet a 4.3 inch touchscreen on the back for both the phone and the camera.

Despite the overall chunk and heft the Galaxy S4 Zoom has, the camera-phone is still relatively easy to hold, no doubt due to the placement of the lens.

By holding the lens with your thumb and forefinger and letting the phone rest in your hand, the device maintains a comfortable handhold, which is better than we expected, because this style of device — a camera with a working phone installed at the back — hasn’t been quite attempted before.

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Price (RRP)

$699

Pros & Cons

Product Pros

Battery is removable; 4G speeds are excellent; Battery isn't bad at all; Includes a tripod mount; Camera has a lot of modes to choose from; Infrared port included, effectively turning this into a cameraphone that doubles as a remote;

Product Cons

You'll look a little... odd... holding a camera to your head when you want to call someone; Not a very fast phone performance-wise; Very chunky and not made for all pants; Low res screen is pretty well under what has been used in the S4 name before; Still exhibits regular Australian TouchWiz problems with shortcut dock and gallery;

Ratings

Overall

Features

Value for money

Performance

Ease of Use

Design

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