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

Also helping the K Zoom prove its photographic mettle is “Studio,” which is a creative photography app that comes with the K Zoom, offering a video editor, photo editor, and a collage app similar to what PicFrame and Diptic offer on Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Basically, this just stops you from buying a collage and photoframe app unless you want something with more frame options.

Moving onto the phone’s actual performance, and while it’s obvious the K Zoom isn’t the flagship Galaxy S5, it’s still no slouch.

The chip inside isn’t the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 like the S5, so you won’t find best in class performance, but with Samsung’s combination of a quad-core and dual-core chip in its Exynos processor, we found a synthetic benchmark of around 15000, under the S5 which clocks in at a little over 23000.

That’s not the same amount of grunt, but it’s still not bad, and with 2GB RAM — Android’s sweet spot — and a very up-to-date version of Android, the K Zoom holds its own pretty well. You may find the odd obvious slow down here and there, with a little lag as you jump between apps, and the occasional sound stutter when you’re listening to music, but for the most part it performs quite well.

It still works as a phone, and now that the K Zoom looks like a phone, you won’t look strange for holding a camera to the side of your head to make calls, unlike its S4 Zoom brother.

Mobile performance is also decent, with top 4G speeds ranging from 20 to 40Mbps in our tests, with more possible dependent on the network you’re on, while the battery lasts only a day for regular activities.

Use the camera for a few hours at a time and the battery won’t even hit the full day we experienced, but by and large, for most people, it’s a day of life with a charge at night.

If you don’t use the camera or screen much, you might get a little more, but if you don’t use either, we have to wonder why you’re considering a phone that’s built as a camera phone.

One thing did throw us off when very so often, there appears to be a pretty major glitch that stops you from using the phone for a good thirty seconds or so, and we’re not sure why, but if this happens, wait that up-to-a-minute time and the phone will return to being usable.

But that glitch is just the starting point, showing the K Zoom isn’t everything it could be, and it even misses out on some of the positives of the previous model.

One of these is the tripod mount which has disappeared on this incarnation. Over on the S4 Zoom, Samsung had provided a small tripod thread for people to mount their camera, but as we’ve previously mentioned, the K Zoom is more phone than camera, and so that feature has been removed.

Also missing in action is the rotation ring around the lens which in the S4 Zoom allowed you to change modes very quickly or zoom the lens when you were in the camera mode.

Since the K Zoom doesn’t have a ring you can control, modes have to be switched through the touchscreen and zoom has to be performed either by pressing the volume rocker or by pinching and zooming with your fingers, neither of which is as fluid as fiddling with the ring around the lens.

Samsung has also kept the dock locked on this version, making it next to impossible to change the icons and shortcuts at the bottom of the phone. It’s a move that we’ve never agreed with, and while Samsung has never given an official explanation for this practise, it did remove the lock recently on its Galaxy S5, so hopefully it will fix this later on.

Heft is still very present on this handset, an issue that’s part and parcel of the package given that it has a thickness of 16mm, twice the thickness of the Galaxy S5. It’s heavier, too, tacking on close to 60 grams, bringing the weight of the handset up to 200 grams and making it one of the chunkiest smartphones you can bring in your pocket.

There are also little things that surprise us, such as the inclusion of only 8GB storage, making a microSD a must have purchase if you plan to take more than 150 photos, which you most definitely well. There’s no infrared port either, a staple on the multimedia rich Galaxy models, and yet not found here.

And there’s not a lick of 4K, which really surprises us, especially when you consider that the camera on offer in the K Zoom is technically better, but lacks the ultra high definition goodness found in its flagship S5 brother.

Given that the K Zoom is a camera, we’re surprised by this. We really are.

Last year's Galaxy S4 Zoom on the left, the Galaxy K Zoom (this review) in the middle, and the Galaxy S5 on the right.

Conclusion

Samsung’s update to its hybrid Galaxy S4 Zoom camera phone is, like that model, an interesting beast. On the one hand, it provides one of the best pocketable cameras you can find around, and pairs it with some otherwise decent smartphone innards, most of which will suit everyone out there.

On the other hand, it’s still very chunky, and if you carry it in your pocket, you’ll feel it as you walk, lending itself better to a handbag or backpack. The software glitches also don’t help much either, and some of the missing camera features — like a proper grip, shutter button, and tripod mount — set itself apart from other cameras, as well.

But keep in mind, this is a phone, and a phone that can replace your camera.

One important questions readers might have is if this is a better camera than what you’ll find on the Galaxy S5? The answer to that is yes, and without question, and the software even goes a long way to suggest that Samsung is even thinking about the K Zoom more like a connected camera — one of those new fandangled “smart cameras” — than just an ordinary one. But is it a better phone? That remains to be seen.

Basically, if you’re struggling to work out what you want with the K Zoom, it’s worth going in store and trying it out, to see if you like the heft of the handset, because it is noticeable.

If you can live with the weight, the K Zoom offers up more camera than the S5 can lay claim to, and it’s not a bad phone either.

 

Overall
Features
Value for money
Performance
Ease of Use
Design
Reader Rating0 Votes
One of the most versatile smartphone cameras you'll find today; Looks more phone-like than the last Samsung camera-phone hybrid; Supports fast 4G connectivity;
Chunky; No infrared; The odd performance glitch here and there holds up the phone; Shutter button doesn't go right into the camera like it does on other phones;
4