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

No camera grip on this model means there’s no round shutter button, with that part exchanged for something thin and long and very reminiscent of the power and volume rockers used on the current Galaxy handsets.

Pressing and holding that shutter button won’t launch you into the camera mode either, which is something that has stuck around from the prior model, even though phones from Nokia and Sony let you skip the homescreen and go straight from being locked into taking pictures.

That’s something a subsequent firmware update could fix, and really, it’s not overly important in the grand scheme of things, especially in comparison to actually using the product, so let’s get stuck into that.

A camera heavy phone really has two parts of the performance, with the camera and the phone, so we’ll tackle them one by one.

Before we get stuck into either, however, you need to know that Android 4.4.2 “KitKat” runs here, which means this is both a Google phone and a Google camera, able to get pictures online quickly and easily, while also making phone calls.

Pictures are a big part of what the K Zoom is all about, though, because this phone is more camera than your typical smartphone, integrating a 20.7 megapixel sensor with a 10x optical zoom lens. Yes, that’s proper optical, and while we loved the Nokia Lumia 1020 with its crop-to-zoom 40 megapixel sensor, the K Zoom is all about actual proper zoom.

As such, this means you’ll have a range of 24 to 240mm to work with, with an aperture range of F3.1 at 24mm and f6.3 at the far end, 240mm.

That’s longer than any smartphone you’ll find, and means the difference between taking a photo of someone next to you and someone on the other side of the road, which is something very possible with the K Zoom.

The quality won’t be strong enough to replace a mirror-less or digital SLR, but for the most part, the K Zoom holds its own, with strong colours in day light, some decent blacks at night, and a manual mode for those of you keen to get into the nitty gritty if need be.

Images can be sharp when viewed on the screen, but get them close and you’ll find some obvious floral dotting, putting this camera more in line with what a compact offers than anything professional.

That said, we’re not totally surprised by that, and if you’re heading on holiday, that will probably suit you just fine, as it means the compact can be left at home, getting everything done on the smartphone instead of taking an extra gadget.

There’s also another side to the K Zoom, and that’s the extra emphasis Samsung has placed on photo modes.

For instance, while there’s your regular assortment of photography modes — macro, night, snow, food, panorama, HDR, landscape, waterfall, action freeze, sunset, fireworks, party, and more — there’s also another mode which will grab attention, with “Pro Suggest.”

Pro Suggest tries to act as your professional photography mentor to tell you what you need, ignoring the basic camera modes and suggesting special modes based on your composition, modes which will change the colour or look of the image based on what you’re doing.

In this mode, if you tap to focus, you’ll find a list of options pop up in thumbnail form at the bottom of the screen, suggesting different looks that you can use, changing the style of photo. To get out, you merely press the back button on the phone or on screen and you’ll be sent back to the regular Pro Suggest mode.

Pro Suggest can also have other camera modes downloaded into it with the “Pro Suggest Market,” which has some regular modes you’ll like — text, sunny day, vivid landscape, rainy day, no flash, and countless others — as well as some more peculiar ones such as “cinematic” which also reads as “woman” and “washed out” which also reads as “man.”

We’re not sure quite what Samsung is trying to say about either gender, and probably put this down to one of those lost in translation categorisation things, but it’s still interesting to see, regardless.

If you can't find the mode you want to shoot with, simply download another.