Galaxy Camera lens

Would Samsung really strap a 10X optical zoom and 16MP sensor to the back of a mid-range smartphone?

With the Galaxy S4 launch now mostly over and done with, Samsung rumormongers have turned their attention to the company's summer and fall product line-up. The most intriguing of these is a device rumored to go by the name 'Galaxy S4 Zoom.' Originally broken by SamMobile, initial reports suggested the 'Zoom' would be a mid-range handset with a 4.3-inch qHD SuperAMOLED screen on the front and a 16-megapixel camera strapped to the back. But that's not even the craziest part.

The plot has thickened in recent days with reports from Russian site Hi-Tech claiming the Galaxy S4 Zoom will include a 10X optical zoom lens, of the kind found on point-and-shoot cameras. A retail release, it's reported, is scheduled for June or July. A Bluetooth SIG listing for a Samsung 'SM-C1010' has given weight to the rumors, with the device being described as a "Samsung Mobile Phone."

So where might this tie into Samsung's overall mobile strategy? A 16-megapixel sensor backed up by respectable optical zoom capabilities means the Galaxy S4 Zoom could check many of the same boxes as the Galaxy Camera -- which makes it curious to see it combined with a comparatively low-end display. However, it's possible that Samsung's looking to take what it learned from the Galaxy Camera and apply it to a device with broader mass-market appeal. Creating an affordable mid-range camera/phone hybrid like this might empower it to release a significantly upgraded Galaxy Camera 2 at the high end, with a much-needed improvement in sensor size and optics aimed at the "prosumer" crowd. The Galaxy S4 Zoom, on the other hand, could become the pocket-friendly, budget-friendly device that the original Galaxy Camera never was.

Camera-centric phones (cameraphones, if you will) are nothing new, but they haven't been particularly common since the featurephone days, when manufacturers like Sony Ericsson would bolt bulky, novelty 3MP shooters onto the back of handsets. The trend seems to be returning, though, with recent examples including the Symbian-powered Nokia 808 PureView, which packs a 41-megapixel camera. This year, high-end imaging capabilities are being touted as a point of differentiation at the high end, as other smartphone specs become increasingly homogenous. HTC has its Ultrapixel sensor. Sony is rumored to be working on a new handset with a 20MP sensor backed up by Cybershot optics and software. Even Google wants to make its Nexus devices "insanely awesome cameras." It's natural that Samsung would also want to explore unique camera capabilities as a point of differentiation. Sticking an optical zoom lens on the back of a smartphone would certainly achieve that, assuming it could be done without making the phone excessively girthy.

We wouldn't read too much into the 'Galaxy S4' part of the name. Samsung was pretty liberal in its use of the Galaxy S3 name, giving it to devices like the Galaxy S3 Mini which were far removed from the flagship in hardware terms. Samsung likely wants to benefit from the halo effect of the high-profile Galaxy S4 launch, as the 'Galaxy' name on its now applies to a wide range of different Android products. So we're not expecting Galaxy S4-class internals in the Galaxy S4 Zoom, despite the name.

Time will tell whether the Galaxy S4 Zoom will prove to be a mid-range hit, or whether it'll suffer the same fate as other quirky Samsung phones, like the pico-projecting Galaxy Beam. Let us know which way you think things will go down in the comments.

Source: SamMobile, Hi-Tech (Translated), Bluetooth SIG


Reader comments

'Galaxy S4 Zoom' rumors point to a curious new kind of cameraphone


I never understood why they never made a phone with just an internal zoom lens, you could keep it thin and have atleast like a 5x optical zoom.

I agree. I'm not to savvy when it comes to camera tech, in terms of how thin they could keep a device. however, i think exploration into the possibilities could only bring about some great results for us, the consumer.

So they're the industry leader, tens of millions buy their phones, and they're all suckers according to you? Don't get mad because you can only afford the Galaxy Y.

Samsung is a big company whose electronics division alone is as big (if not bigger) than the entirety of Apple. They're already all over the place, I don't think the failure of this device will make or break them.

I don't think so at all. This is the natural evolution of the smartphone camera, and one that can't get here soon enough, in my opinion. I hope Sammy gets it right.

Sounds a lot like what they did with the note. Testing the market with a new type of device. The low specs are probably just to reduce the investment needed for the risk. For the target market, I don't think it will be a problem.

I agree. Test the market with a new device. Mid line specs to see what happens. If it flops, it's a minor investment. If it goes, then release an updated and up special "2.0" version. This also seems to fall in line with Sammy's "throw stuff at the wall to see what sticks"/risk taking mentality that they have. If consumers like a feature, Sammy will develop it. If it doesn't catch on, it will fade into obscurity.

Take the Galaxy S4, add to it the Galaxy Note 2's Pen, Toss in this amazing Camera and you got one heck of a phone!

(would love to have 128gb of storage while you are at it)

I would gladly pay 1,000usd for such device.

* It also wouldn't hurt if they ramp up the CPU a bit (say... S4+200mhz) and maybe stick to 32GB storage but toss a 1.8" 128GB SSD inside.

It's junk. wait for the firesale if you must. poor quality pictures. you can get an actual camera that takes good pictures for less $.

For some users a totally camera centric, but connected, light device is just what they need. Alex has spoken about that requirement on the podcasts.

The S4 has a crazy good camera. I could argue the best (excluding some if the low light situation). If they make one that is better than the S4 than my hats off to them.

I just got a new phone (the 1s on T-mo), but I think I would upgrade to this if it comes out. Too bad you can't get a feature phone that is nothing but a phone and a killer camera. I'd get something like that for my mom.

Samsung finally read my comments about the original Galaxy Camera! There is definitely a market for an all-in-one camera/smartphone with an emphasis on the camera.

I don't make voice calls on my phone all that often. I do take pictures with my camera... ALL THE TIME. There are times when I don't have my camera with me, but wish I had something better than the tiny camera on my phone.

I will happily add a little thickness to my phone if it means not having to carry a separate camera around as well. I'm hoping Sony gets there first, honestly -- cram the guts of an Xperia Z into an RX100 body & sensor and I'll die happy but poor.

Samsung doesn't have quite the same photography pedigree, but I'll take anything resembling real glass on a phone.