Galaxy S4 Zoom.

Let’s call the ‘Zoom’ what it really is -- a Galaxy Camera Mini

This morning Samsung announced a phone with a camera strapped to the back of it. The Galaxy S4 Zoom, as it’s called, combines the guts of a Galaxy S4 Mini with the body of a point-and-shoot camera, complete with 16-megapixel sensor and 10X optical zoom lens. The main benefit, besides the high megapixel count, is that you’ll be able to take zoomed-in photos that don’t look like crap. That's because you’ll no longer be relying on the software-based digital zoom used by regular phone cameras.

But why is Samsung stitching a gigantic, hulking camera assembly to the back of a phone? And how does the Zoom relate to the company’s other Android-powered imaging device, the Galaxy Camera? Let’s take a closer look.

The easy argument to make is that combining a camera and a smartphone in this way is completely insane. But if you consider the Galaxy S4 Zoom as a mid-range successor to the Galaxy Camera -- Samsung’s Android-powered point-and-shoot -- things start to make more sense. We’ve long said that in order to achieve mass market success, the Galaxy Camera line needs to split in two. At the high end, consumers dropping serious money on a dedicated camera demand better optics, sensors and performance than the current Galaxy Camera can deliver. At the mid-level, a casual camera needs to be cheaper and more pocketable than the Galaxy Camera ever was. The Galaxy S4 Zoom is that mid-level Android camera -- smaller than the Galaxy Camera, hopefully cheaper, and more accessible when sold at subsidized prices through carriers. And why not make it a phone, too -- after all, many of Samsung’s tablets, including the Galaxy Note 8, can be used to make calls.

S4 ZoomThe other point to consider is that 2013 is the year of camera-centric smartphones, and Samsung isn’t the only manufacturer pushing the envelope when it comes to mobile imaging. Nokia’s reportedly got its upcoming EOS device, while Sony’s said to be working on the “Honami,” with a 20-megapixel sensor and Cyber-shot optics. Both devices will surely sacrifice sacrifice thinness and sleekness in the name of better photography, just as the Zoom does. We’re entering a new age of cameraphones, and Samsung needs to be part of that. The Galaxy line is all about having a finger in every pie -- pick a class of product, a screen size and a price point and Samsung has a device to match.

The question of whether the S4 Zoom specifically makes sense as a phone is more difficult to answer. You might ask what kind of consumer wants to carry around a bulgy smartphone with an optical zoom lens -- but the same was said of the original 5.3-inch, stylus-toting Galaxy Note when it arrived, and that line has proved massively successful for Samsung.

Granted, there are individual specs that seem out of place on an imaging-centric gadget -- like 5GB available storage and a measly qHD (950x540, 0.5MP) display on a device that shoots 16MP photos. Those two in particular make it look like the Zoom was cobbled together from whatever spare Galaxy S4 Mini parts Samsung had lying around. And internal hardware isn’t the only thing the Zoom shares with the Mini -- both are piggybacking on the high-end Galaxy S4 brand when in reality they’re mid-range hangers-on. As a branding decision it makes perfect sense -- the manufacturer is taking advantage of the Galaxy S4 halo effect -- but consumers may end up being misled. Essentially, what you’re getting in the Galaxy S4 Zoom is a Galaxy Camera Mini. (AnandTech’s Brian Klug tweets that in terms of optics, the Zoom is actually a slight downgrade from the Galaxy Camera.)

To conclude, our greatest hope for the Galaxy S4 Zoom is that it liberates Samsung to produce a really high-end successor to the Galaxy Camera, a device worthy of having the word “Camera” in its name. The S4 Zoom has the mainstream targeted, but there’s an untapped market of professional users who want the benefits of an Android-powered smart camera without having to skimp on image quality. And if Samsung is the first manufacturer to meet these needs, it could extend its Android dominance into yet another class of product.

S4 Zoom


Reader comments

Making sense of the Galaxy S4 Zoom


im not at all happy about my s4 I mean when I watch videos on youtube it buffers a my sensors work when they wanna work...and I dont kno why....also how do you add your name to ur home screen...please help before I toss this phone...

congratulations on your first smartphone and/or electronic device. shame you got crappy coverage though, you should have checked with your desired carrier first. there are plenty of resources around the internet to help you understand what you've purchased. is by far the best. good luck becoming tech-literate and/or getting a basic education! =D

To me it sounds like you are using a slow WiFi. You could fix this by getting a better receptor, paying for higher speeds, or moving to Kansas where Google Fiber is (or will) available.
The quick fix I suggest is turning off HD quality for every video. You can't do it for WiFi automatically, but in settings you have this option if you see using Mobile data.
This last fix isn't always productive and you lose high the HD.
Even better suggestion is using YouTube on the Browser. I tested Chrome and Maxthon, and they do better job buffering than my YouTube app. I can't test your stock S4 browser.
My last suggestion involves nagging YouTube to fix this problem. I'm sure they are thinking "by the time we figure it out, they all will have faster way of streaming videos"

Sounds like you're in an area with limited, bad or no connection (re: buffering issue). That's not the phone - it's your WiFi or actual service provider. Check your network for coverage.

Not sure what you mean about the sensors. If you're referring to the Smart Screen, Smart Pause, and Air gesture features, they only work with certain stock apps (camera, stock browser, stock email app, etc).

Adding your name to the home screen? Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you mean adding your name to the lock screen? That can be done by going into the phone settings > My Device tab > Lock screen > Lock screen widgets. Make sure that where it says "Clock or personal message", you select Personal Message. Then, tap where it says "Edit personal information" and enter your name.

It's a wonderful phone, but admittedly, it takes some time to figure out all of the different settings. Just be a little patient, I guess...or get a simpler phone.

go to xda developers and under the GS4 threads look on how to change your APN settings.... if your running on stock software your probably running under the LTE APN wich for now its slow... follow the instructions on that thread and you sould be good to go...

I would never have this phone as my primary phone, but it the absolute ideal companion for holidays, you have everything in one device, a good cam, phone, navigation, information all in a simple package and removable to rule them all.

I agree.

I'd buy this for use on days when I know I'm going to take a bunch of pictures. It would be great for vacation and those days out where I might not want to take my dSLR, but want something better than my regular phone.

If the price is right, this might replace my point and shoot canon.


Right, this is where I'm at, too. I hate carrying multiple devices if I can help it, and for vacation this would be perfect. Assuming there's a decent sensor in it: IIRC, the Galaxy Camera was hobbled by using a cameraphone sensor rather than a larger one?

Agree 100% Alex, I posted about Samsung's brand identity a few days back and I think they are going down the wrong route.

The device has very little to do with the S4. The only thing it shares is the OS! Can they not think up a new name? They are obviously trying to hoodwink customers into buying products thinking they are getting a "Galaxy S4".

Still can't quite see commercial viability of this product as the number of people who would want this must be very small. It is a great idea however.

I would say it would've been better sticking with a 3-4x optical zoom and getting it thinner so that it less bulky for an everyday device. Most mainstream cameras do not go beyond this and the ones who do appreciate the extra zoom will probably go for a dedicated superzoom camera which will be almost half the price (I myself have a Panasonic TZ7).

As good as the original Galaxy Camera is/was, you can get some top-quality cameras for the same price

That's the thing though. If it's not going to be your primary phone, what's the point of it in the first place? Just buy a less expensive but just as good normal camera...

Generally, I'd prefer to carry less devices. This would be awesome to carry when I'm going somewhere when I know pictures are going to at a premium (traveling, graduations, nature hikes, etc). Being able to consolidate, and still use the suite of software Android has would be awesome.

Alex is focusing on the market for a high end Android camera. While that's there, I think the market for a mainstream camera-phone like this is much bigger and more important. This isn't insane; it's genius!

I'm much more disappointed that they neutered the smartphone hardware down from the S4, than that they neutered the camera hardware down from the Galaxy Camera. I'd definitely buy a S4-level flagship smartphone with an optical zoom. But there's no way I could go back to qHD resolution entry level specs.

I'm hoping that by next year Samsung is making one of these at every price point.

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How does it make sense? Putting those HTC One "ultrapixel" posers in their place, duh. If you want decent pics, you will get a camera that has a phone strapped to it (or heaven forbid just get a ******* camera that's not a phone). Cue the idiotic "but the best camera is the one you have" arguments.

How is that idiotic? It's true and I'd prefer to only have to carry one device. Being able to switch a SIM card out and go would be perfect on those days I know I want better pics.

So you would rather buy one smartphone and one camera+smartphone, and be limited to joining a carrier that uses 100% SIM based authentication, just to avoid carrying a compact camera around at times you know you want to have one? Sorry, but you are in a pretty small group of people on that one. Is your purse really so small that you can't squeeze a second, 1/2" wide device in it?

Why do you care? If you are right and the market is small then Samsung will not sell many and will likely go a different route.

People act personally offended if someone releases a device they wouldn't use. I don't understand why. Elitism?

I don't care what specific devices he chooses to use, but (in case you missed it) the premise of this thread was "making sense of the S4 Zoom" which is hard to do without offering personal opinion, since none of us have enough market research data to speak authoritatively. I also generally like to call people out for making irrational (to me) decisions like spending $600 for having the equivalent of a $200 camera that just happens to act like a smartphone (that you also spent $600 on). Anyone who feels that keeping $400 in their pocket is somehow less desirable than carrying a tiny phone plus a tiny point and shoot (that will take as good or better pics than this) is, by most standards irrational.

P.S., welcome to the internet!

"making irrational (to me) decisions"

That line sums it up. It's irrational to you, but that doesn't mean that some people might feel their decision is completely rational. It is possible to have a discussion in which we disagree without taking the "this is the stupidest thing I've ever heard" tone of voice.

My "purse" is big enough to carry the extra cash to do it. If you don't have that luxury, that's on you and your life choices.

If you think it's irrational, then I guess you don't travel like I do, you don't care about photography like I do or you just aren't really that into technology. I'm on a smartphone blog for a reason and currently have (and use when I feel like it) a Nexus 4, Galaxy S3, Palm Pre, HTC Radar and iPhone 4s. I use a carrier with SIM technology just for that kind of flexibility and I'd add this in a heartbeat because I find it useful.

P.S. Being on the internet doesn't mean your opinion matters over anyone else's.

"P.S. Being on the internet doesn't mean your opinion matters over anyone else's."

Oh the ironing. Boy you kids get bent out of shape about someone sharing an opinion. Guess it's only not trolling when you do it. le sigh.

"P.S., welcome to the internet!"

So because people whine perpetually on the Internet we are supposed to ignore it when you whine? There is also lot of racism on Internet. Ubiquity doesn't make it right or acceptable.

> ... I also generally like to call people out for making irrational
> (to me) decisions like spending $600 for having the equivalent of
> a $200 camera that just happens to act like a smartphone ...

So instead of a "SmartPhone" (for $600) you should buy a DumbPhone (for $20+), an MP3 Player, a Video Player / Camcorder (with 1080P ViewFinder Screen), and also a Tablet (along with anything else you might need, and carry them all whether you use them or not).

Indeed, get a Phone without even a Speaker, just to save a buck; you can use HeadPhones of a BlueTooth Earpiece, so why have a decent Speaker in your Phone.

The reason to pay the upper end prices is to obtain a Device that includes as many Features as possible and avoid the NEED (but not the desire) to carry other Devices.


The "rationalization" for our decision is that we can not upgrade the Hardware and are 'stuck' with it for a couple of years. We want a Device that will perform as best as possible since in 2-3 months someone will argue how much better their new Device is and we want our Device to be useful next year.


If you are already putting out $200 for a DumbPhone why not toss in an extra $50 for each leading edge Feature (2013 Camera Sensor, 1080P Screen, Quad Core Processor, etc.) you need/want, and have them all combined in one package.

We are not fooled, if we want Poster sized Photos we will carry an extra Camera and not rely on our CellPhone. If we want to run AutoCad while on the road or solve Finite Elements we will get a powerful Laptop (or run a thin Client).

If you want ONE reason to have a Phone and Camera it is this: GPS Photo tagging.

Using AGPS, GPS, and GLONASS (also WiFi Location Service when available) will label your Photo with the EXACT location you took the Photo, no Camera alone (or Phone without a Camera) can do that. You can also upload your Photos (or stream your Videos) LIVE as you get them (great for Reporters and Social Media Gurus).

The MashUp of Hardware is no different than a MashUp of Software in that you can improve the capabilities of each individual Part by allowing the Parts to all work together and enhance each other's functionality (funtionality).

This thing reminds me a lot to Catdog. In this case you know where the back is because is the side you open to remove the camera. Consequently, which is it? What about inserting Sim Card?
I don't think Samsung is ready to make this a non removable battery device.

There is definitely a market for this.

It's unfortunate that Sammy decided to water down the s4, removing features and screen resolution, which makes the phone not an "everyday user", but Mighty_Red there are 1.4 billion pictures taken by mobile phones on a daily basis (qualified research; Google it). With the outstanding number of mobile photography groups worldwide, people taking awesome photos of every second of their lives and sharing it, why would a device like this not be perfect for millions of people. Not everyone is going to be put off by the weird shape, hence the ergonomic camera side to fit into your hand while talking on the phone.
The galaxy camera was a camera with some mobile sharing abilities. This is a Camera and a fully functional Smartphone. No one will be worried about a removable battery. Think about it. How many actual cameras Do Not have removable batteries. Thousands that sell daily. People just set them on their charging ports and enjoy life. As long as there is still a 64GB expandable memory slot it will be ok.
Removing one more device needing to be carried daily, I personally think it will be a hit.
Wait. Watch.

Had they spec'd it the same as the proper S4 then they would have priced themselves out of the market they are trying to hit.

Considering the official pics show it receiving a call, and show a home screen with a messaging app, yes it will text and call.

Agreed. I think battery life will be the key to success or failure of this device. If it's marketed as a camera/phone, the battery should stand up to all those picture taking, etc., that involves lots of screen/display time. And we know that on Android phones, display is what sucks up most of the battery life.

Compare this to your average Android phone, and yes it looks completely ridiculous. But compare this to your average point and shoot camera, and it looks really good. It should be obvious that this is designed as a camera first based on the, you know, big honking camera on it. If it was meant to be a phone first and camera second, Samsung would have just made the HTC One.

Bingo. The market is definitely there for this, it's just not going to be the power user types you find at AC. Most of the posters here simply don't get it because it's not marketed at them, therefore, it must be bad. And ugly.

I think Samsung have missed a trick here. They should have made the camera as a snap on back cover to the standard S4. Just think, that'd be a must have accessory to the S4. If your not going to need your zoom camera, just snap on your normal S4 back and you have your normal slimline Sammy. Goin somewhere where the optical zoom is useful, just swap the standard camera backplate for optical Zoom one.

I hope the sensor is a little more advanced/bigger than the regular Galaxy, and that'd make this scenario impossible. I think I might be wrong anyway.

I guess there will be no NFC or wireless charging since there is no flat "back" ?!

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Simply put, if you have to "Make sense" of the Zoom, then this device is not for you. This device is for people for whom merging a full digital camera with their smartphone makes all the sense in the world. You'll either get it, or you won't and you'll get another device instead.
Choice, the beauty of Android.

Love the concept, but WTF on the execution.

Samsung took the exterior of a low- to mid-range phone, then tacked on the optics from a $100 camera with a slow lens and small sensor. Clearly this is not a product aimed at enthusiasts, either of technology or photography. Obviously Samsung has no qualms about diminishing the S4 brand with low-end products, which is a bizarre choice, but theirs to make.

This definitely opens the door to Sony -- if the Honami actually includes optics close to RX100 quality, it'll be a game changer. They'd make a serious statement if they dropped the zoom entirely and put a fixed 35mm equivalent f/2 on there along with a 1" sensor, although it sounds like they're not going quite that far.

Having a 4 and 5 year old, I would buy this to use on the weekends and put the SIM back into my Note 2 for the work week. I agree with an earlier post that this would make a nice travel camera. One less thing to carry around.

My dad had a tiny Sony digital camera around 8 years ago that had optical zoom but no protruding lens. Why can't phones do something similar instead of this monstrosity?

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It depends on a couple of things, like the amount of optical zoom, thickness of the device with the lens barrel retracted, and the shape of the motherboard that it all runs on.

I have an older Kodak digital that has (I think) an 8x optical zoom and the barrel does retract all the way into the body when the device is turned off, but it's thicker than the section where the barrel is attached on this device.

It's also entirely possible that part of the problem that Samsung "cheaped" out and didn't redesign the motherboard from the S4 Mini, so it's not built around the barrel retracting or the battery being inserted from the "bottom" like most digital cameras.

Personally, I can't really see the point of this camera. It doesn't seem to do anything well. And as for keeping it for weekends, removing my sim from my phone and swapping it over... really? Personally, I would just use my HTC One (or GS4 or whatever) for day-to-day snaps and if you really want to take better pics on the weekend, buy a Sony NEX or an RX1 to slip in your pocket, or a Nikon D3200 for something which will give you more potential.

The Galaxy Camera took pretty awful pictures, had very mediocre reviews. This is more of the same, I'm prepared to bet. And it seems to have little to do with the S4, total con calling it that!

I like the Galaxy Camera and the Galaxy Zoom looks even better. Slimmer and less expensive? ++

I think the professional bloggers need to chill out about the size. Samsung, Apple and alike spend millions of dollar in R&D to make the phone super small, thin and light, but many users put these marvels of modern technology into heavy, bulky cases.

Also due to everyone putting their phones into these cocoons of protection, the phones are lasting longer and ppl are accumulating more devices. We now have more retired iPhones than kids. I just recently replaced my Galaxy Note for a S4 as my primary phone, but I still keep the Note for watching YouTube and podcasts offline or when I have a wifi connection. In two years, when my contract is up and the S4 is still running strong, I can see myself getting a Galaxy Zoom for travel or vacations.

The Samsung is not going to sell more Zooms than S4s, but Samsung will own this niche and this will be the final death nail of the compact camera and camcorder market.

Makes perfect sense to me. I use my Galaxy Note 2 as my main camera and wish it took better pictures in low light and other situations. I also use Google plus for all my photo storage needs and was even going to buy the original Galaxy Camera and hack google voice into it for phone service. This is the perfect compromise. Better pictures and a smart phone for vacations and times when I need decent photography. Sure I could use an Eye-Fi card with a simple point and shoot but if the price is right this will serve the same purpose with greater functionality. I also don't want to take my Galaxy Note 2 to the beach but wouldn't mind taking an inexpensive camera phone that can get trashed by sand or water. So if you are living in Google plus and own an expensive phone that you don't want to destroy, swapping out a sim card makes total sense. Again, assuming the price point does not exceed the cost of an Eye-Fi card and an equivalent point and shoot camera.

Imagine taking a call while the lens is extended (like it is shown in the picture). Would be quite funny to see.

Great looking camera and extremely ugly phone at the exact same moment.

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It doesn't make Sense. Sense is HTC. Samsung is TouchWiz!

Not going to buy that thing. Give me a high-end phone, with a really good camera, and a some zoom capability. My brother's Nokia phone had a zoom that didn't detract from the overall slimness of the phone. Not MSNokia; the company that used to exist. With the OS that MSNokia killed.

If this is what you say it is: a cheap point-and-shoot strapped to a mid-range phone, this device is definitely a fail.

I already have a cheap point and shoot from Samsung (The WB150) and the image quality I get from that is worse than my phone.

I can't see how this could work out to be a success unless it's better than at least most smartphones (and that includes the Lumia 920/925).

My S4 is much better thsn the Bionic. The stay awake works but not with glasses. Svoice just doesn't work for voice dialing. Bio is much better there. Something I have noticed is Verizon set up the phone so there is no Wifi widget. And they force mobile data to be on in order to send or receive texts. The camera and zoom work very nicely. BUT the screen is so dim outside that you can't see to work the camera options. Bottom line if you are not on Verizon and don't use voice dialing or don't use the phone or camera outside. The S4 is a great phone.

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