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

Android used here relies on Jelly Bean, and if you’ve ever seen a Samsung from this year, operating of the phone is no different.

There’s a shortcut dock, multiple homescreens, widgets, application menu, dropdown notification bar, and everything else you can run on Android.

In a way, it’s like the Galaxy Camera, except smaller and with a phone inside, but given that this is a camera first and then a phone, we might as well start with the optics and make our way to the telecommunications, because the camera is a big reason as to why someone would want this handset.

Controlling the camera is easy enough, though not all apps will work with these controls, similar to what we found when Samsung launched its Galaxy Camera last year.

You can switch the camera on either by running the camera app on the phone (conveniently located on the shortcut dock) or by pressing down hard on the shutter button. Conversely, if you rotate the ring around the lens, Samsung will load up a mode selector to let you jump straight into a camera mode without any fuss.

Once you’re in the camera, it’s just like using any other camera, except with a slight twist: instead of finding a zoom button or even using the volume button to zoom, you rotate the lens ring to activate the 10x optical zoom.

This change of controls means a traditional hand hold for the camera is still possible, though because of the 15mm thickness, can be a little uncomfortable.

The manual mode lets you use the touchscreen to change the shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and more.

Regardless, the camera is easy to use, and surprisingly quick, with shots possible in automatic modes, various scene modes, and even a few manual modes with aperture, shutter, and ISO control. While the manual mode is a nice touch, the aperture control only consists of two apertures, so don’t expect much here.

There’s also a colour change mode which adds a colour filter to whatever you’re shooting, making it possible to make the scene warmer or colder in the camera.

Not all apps will work with this camera natively, though, and you shouldn’t expect Instagram (for instance) to pick up on the zoom controls, because third party apps just don’t seem to recognise these controls.

Rather, if you plan on using zoom with apps that don’t yet support Samsung’s special control wheel, take the picture first and then run it through your app of choice.

Image quality from the camera is decent, though not superb, but some great shots are possible, and we found the macro surprisingly impressive.

Up close, there’s some obvious pixilation and artefacts that can be noticed, but for most people, the 16 megapixel in 4:3 and 12 megapixel in 16:9 will produce solid colours, great depth, and a better image than any other Android smartphone out there.

A different image shot on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom (100 percent crop). Full image, and a few other examples, can be found in the gallery.

But remember, this isn’t just a camera; it’s also a phone, and it’s not bad at performing this duty.

For starters, the 4G LTE connectivity is pretty good, managing some high speeds in our tests across the Telstra network in Sydney.

Mobile phone calls and SMS are possible here too, more than what you could do in the Galaxy Camera, and Samsung has also included it’s updated gesture-keyboard based on SwiftKey’s technology, too.