Introduction, Design and Handling
Samsung isn’t one to shy away from experimentation - it was among the first to demo the world’s first curved OLED TV and was also one of the earliest to have debut a camera running an Android OS (the Galaxy Camera). Following up on the Galaxy Camera, they packaged most of it in to a phone with advanced camera capabilities which was the Galaxy S4 Zoom. The idea was to create a smartphone with a better-than-average camera for casual users seeking better shooting capabilities on their smartphone and not rely on another dedicated camera. Essentially an S4 Mini with 10x optical zoom thrown into the mix, the S4 Zoom addressed something that smartphone cameras lack: optical zoom.
While smartphone camera modules, sensors and lenses are perpetually improving, they've always lacked the physical space to accommodate optical zoom and that’s what prompted the Korean tech giant to slap a 10x optical zoom onto the rear of a smartphone. However, the Galaxy S4 Zoom was still a fair bit bulky and Samsung went back to the drawing board to to come up with the Galaxy K Zoom. Available in stores since the start of this quarter, the Galaxy K Zoom improved upon two key areas and now features a slimmer body and better internal hardware than the S4 Zoom. Before we jump into the phone’s camera performance and handling, let’s take a look at how the K Zoom compares against the S4 Zoom and Samsung’s leading Galaxy smartphone:-
Design and Handling
The front face of the Galaxy K Zoom looks very much like any other Galaxy smartphone, but the rear resembles that of a compact camera with its lens barrel. There’s also a built-in xenon and LED flash on the rear, which should theoretically be better since xenon flashes are stronger than the LED flashes used on most smartphones. So far, these characteristics hold true for both the Galaxy S4 Zoom and the new Galaxy K Zoom.
However, unlike the S4 Zoom, the Galaxy K Zoom does not have the hand grip that was found on its predecessor. The K Zoom also sports a dimpled rear similar to the one found on the Galaxy S5, which is an improvement over the smooth finish of the S4 Zoom which didn’t provide much grip when shooting. Other changes include the removal of the tripod screw mount found on the S4 Zoom, which sounds like a step back instead of an improvement since you will need to use a clamp-style tripod mount. Nevertheless, in return, you get a much slimmer body on the Galaxy K Zoom.
On a slightly off-topic note, we couldn't help but notice that the Galaxy K Zoom has a slight resemblance to the old Sony Ericsson W800i mobile phone. You can read more about that old phone here, but we're digressing, so let's get back to the K Zoom.
While the K Zoom is still relatively bulky when compared to standard smartphones, it’s still impressive when you consider the fact that Samsung has managed to further compact the 10x optical zoom lens on the S4 Zoom, thus making the K Zoom approximately 20mm thick at its thickest point (the lens barrel). The good news about the K Zoom is that there was no problems using it as a smartphone due to its slim dimensions - voice calls, text messaging or surfing the Net felt no different than holding a current-gen smartphonein your hand . While you might have gotten weird looks when answering a call on its predecessor, the S4 Zoom (because it would like you were talking into your camera), we can assure you that there would be none of that with the K Zoom. When not in camera mode, the lens almost completely retracts into the K Zoom's body and since there's no finger grip, the Galaxy K Zoom looks very much like a standard smartphone.
You can access the camera right from the lock screen via a camera shortcut, and the camera loads pretty quickly. We tried launching the camera function of our Galaxy Note 3 and the K Zoom at the same time, and found that the K Zoom launched its camera app slightly faster.
There’s no thumb rest on the K Zoom, so it will be a challenge to shoot in landscape orientation with one hand. In this scenario, even though your right thumb might be resting on the virtual back button, you won’t exit the app by accident as Samsung has designed the K Zoom to only exit the camera app when you press the Back button twice, which is a plus point for the team handling the K Zoom’s camera interface. Similar to a compact camera, the shutter button sits right below your right index finger when shooting in landscape mode, making it easy to fire off shots.
Since there’s no dedicated zoom lever on the Galaxy K Zoom, zooming is achieved pressing on the volume rocker. You can also pinch to zoom on the K Zoom just as you woul on a smartphone. Using the volume rocker to zoom will bring up a zoom bar on-screen, so you can tap on the edge of the bar to quickly hit 10x zoom. However, it's a bit more difficult if you have a specific zoom ratio in mind since tapping on the bar becomes a trial-and-error affair. In this regard, tapping on the screen or using the volume rocker is understandably less responsive than the zoom lever found on standard point-and-shoot cameras.
The smartphone shooter will definitely spend more time in portrait orientation and while the shutter button works well in landscape mode, it is hardly relevant while shooting in portrait mode due to its position. As shown in the photo, the shutter button sits right at the bottom of the phone when holding it in portrait mode, which is too low to press with your thumb; as such, you are more likely to use the on-screen virtual shutter button when shooting in this orientation.