Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

How does Samsung's half-phone, half-camera hybrid stack up?

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is one of the more unusual devices to pass across our desk — smartphone on the front, (a lot of) camera around the back. Essentially, it's the result of a head-on collision between a Galaxy Camera and Galaxy S4 Mini, with a dual-core CPU and qHD display, the latest version of TouchWiz and a 16-megapixel camera sporting 10X optical zoom.

But how does the resulting product shape up? Find out after the break, in our video walkthrough of the Galaxy S4 Zoom. We'll even throw in a quick photo gallery for good measure.

Thanks to Clove Technology for providing the Galaxy S4 Zoom for review


Reader comments

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom video walkthrough


Is it just me or does it seem to have more of the rounded galaxy s3 shape than the squarish s4, at least head on, on the screen side?

Pretty balanced take on the camera end of things, nice job for a quick overview Alex... I haven't been too inspired by any of Samsung's Android-fueled camera efforts... There's so much potential there but it just isn't coming thru at all, even with their NX model.

If they had a comprehensive open API it might shake things up a bit and make it more interesting, but even with that I'd rather carry a slim phone in one pocket and a advanced compact P&S in the other... One that can actually do things and take photos the phone can't, beyond just optical zoom, something like an S110 or DMC-LF1 with a 7x zoom that starts at f/2.0, RAW shooting, etc.

Smartphones didn't completely kill budget point and shoots, camera manufactures that kept pushing an endless line of small sensor compacts with little innovation beyond ever longer/darker zooms had just as much of a hand in it, and this half phone half camera is basically a mid range phone with a budget camera.

I've been saying it a lot lately, if camera manufacturers had less of a glut of budget models and more advanced models (like the S110, LF1, RX100, etc) at more approachable prices, point and shoot sales wouldn't be dropping quite so sharply (not to mention, if they'd been quicker to integrate stuff like wifi with companion apps for sharing and remote control, I'm loving that on my LF1).

If you really need a long zoom (seems to be the market Samsung's chasing with this) there's many compact travel zoom models that will go to 20x and even 30x while still fitting in a pocket... But if you're after a substantial jump in IQ over your phone and better low light photos, ignore all that (and this Samsung hybrid) and look at some of the advanced compacts out there (be prepared to pay $350-650 tho).

Now its a month that im a proud owner of this device. Its perfect. Best performance, and photos are beautiful. Heres a video of my yesterday benchmark test of anomaly 2.... ... Even the asphalt8 runs smoothly on high graphics settings.... I totally love my sgs4 zoom, its the best device i ever had, totally designed fór me :)

Thanks for a very helpful review!

The video review and and the pictures provide a good sense of what it's like to actually use this novel device.

The phone-camera is really tempting, especially as we seem to be using the phone to take more photos than ever.

Still, my phone is in my pocket about 1/3 the day and that extra bulk is a bit much. Also, I was surprised that the 10x optical zoom does not seem to put the camera firmly in the "surpasses any smartphone camera by far" position.

It's nice, but not needed (by me at least :-)

Since I'm eligible for the upgrade from my S3 next Summer, I'm actually looking forward to the continued efforts of Samsung in this area. We are seeing the beginning with these devices and they are only going to get better as they shake out the bugs with it. I expect in another year or two, they'll become more compact, have way more onboard memory (because this one's sucks), and a better sensor. Samsung seems to learn from the competition well and really listens to what people might want. They are going to look at that Nokia and see what insights they can gain and develop a great hybrid.
We might not think we want one of these in our pockets, but I think that there are a lot of girls that are always popping shots at the beach or around campus that might want to have the combo in a purse. I know that when I'm out hiking, I want a camera that is a little better that what my phone has, but I don't need extreme macro. I just want good landscape shots and very good lowlight. Down the road, after a few revisions, these phone crossbreeds will be perfect for a certain amount of the population.
The iPod morphed into a phone, why can't these two share a lot of P&S tasks when it gets up to power? Sad thing is the cost of upgrade. You kinda like to have your P&S for a few years and phones come/go. It is going to be a substantial investment.

The problem is Samsung isn't doing anything innovative like Nokia nor are they putting out some of the more impressive cameras (like HTC, LG etc). They're just combining phones and/or Android with pretty stock camera designs. There are plenty of cameras with 10x zooms that are thinner than this device, or 20x in the same package.

A 10x zoom on a phone is also the opposite of what you want since to make such a long lens even remotely compact they have to go to a pretty small max aperture so it's nothing special in low light, and lens design is governed by laws of physics, not much has changed in lens design in ages (in a substantial way anyway, which is why vintage lenses for DSLRs are usually pricey). Selling people a long zoom is easy, it's like marketing high mega pixel count, most people don't need either tho.

It'd be a lot more interesting if it was a 5x zoom that started at f/2.0 rather than a pedestrian 3.6 or whatever. The other issue with hybrid designs is that unlike a phone's guts or a CPU, when it comes to camera sensor design larger is always better (physically)... Phones only overtook point and shoots because camera makers stopped innovating and outside of the pricey Sony RX100 (with it's 1" sensor) and a few other advanced compacts (with bright lenses and slightly larger than normal sensors) most P&S were the same thing over the last 5-10 years.

I think when phones become a commodity and the pace of innovation slows down, THEN we might see some interesting hybrid designs. Sony's QX lenses are at least intriguing and innovative, though not very portable (or desirable in the case of the small one)... I can see a future where they release a few more models that could be a hit (smaller primes or shorter/brighter zooms).

Hell, Samsung could probably put a 3-5x bright zoom (something that starts at f/2.0) on this same chassis (or a smaller one even) and keep the same sensor and THEN they'd have something interesting that could take better low light pics than any phone... Only problem is it'd probably be harder to market, long zooms sell even if people barely end up using them at their longest end (10x is all but useless indoors).

I blame camera makers for that, since zoom became the bullet point of choice for selling cheap P&S cameras after the market started to catch on to the fact that more MP were pointless (at least on the same size sensor and without software processing tricks like Lumia PS). There's a reason quality lenses for cameras with removable lenses are usually 3-4x zooms at most, or primes with fixed focal lengths... Same reason HTC's recent phones (even the One X), the iPhone, and others keep going to brighter aperture lenses.

Sticking an average point and shoot lens and sensor on an average phone design (or putting Android on an oversized mirror less model with no open API) is just Samsung randomly playing at Voltron. Their NX mirrorless cameras are nice but none of their Android fueled attempts have been very compelling or a signal of what's possible... Which is unfortunate because Samsung and Sony are just about the only two companies perfectly positioned for this.

I want that rom on my Galaxy Camera!! Or at least just the Camera apk. :)

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