Recombu steps out into the world with the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom to see what the Android smartphone camera can do.
The Samsung Galaxy K Zoom picks up where the Galaxy S4 Zoom left off. It’s an Android smartphone at heart, but one blessed with a sizable camera that makes it more in line with a digital compact. So you get mobile connectivity and all the trimmings alongside a 20.7-megapixel camera. What’s not to like?
Samsung Galaxy K Zoom: Design
The front the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom looks like your average mid-range Android device from the front. It has a single physical home button, bit of bezel action and good-sized display. Two touch buttons located either side of the home button let you go back and jump between recent tasks.
Flip the Galaxy K Zoom over and you will see a camera that sticks out considerably. The Galaxy K Zoom is chunky to say the least, with the widest part measuring 20.2mm (with the zoom lens retracted) and the thinnest 16.6mm. Luckily the device has a nice curve to it, making the textured back plate comfortable to hold.
The Galaxy K Zoom is heavy, too, at 200g. A Samsung Galaxy S5 is 55g lighter, while the Nokia Lumia 1020 is 42g lighter. Not so big or heavy you are unable to carry it, but certainly enough to make you aware it is about your person.
This is far from being a phone you buy for aesthetics. It’s hardly ugly, but anyone who likes a slim smartphone will wish they had bought something else.
Samsung Galaxy K Zoom: Screen
Let’s start with the good. The 4.8-inch display has a good balance between readability and portability. At 720p (720×1,280 pixels), just about any current flagship device and some of their predecessors will offer more detail but what you get is fit for purpose. We do, however, dislike how difficult it can be to see in bright sunlight.
Protection of the Super AMOLED display comes in the form of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 so it can take a beating before permanent damage affects the viewing experience. Display colours are a bit over-saturated out of the box, which may be a turn off or turn on.
Samsung Galaxy K Zoom: Camera
A 20.7-megapixel CMOS sensor gives the Galaxy K Zoom really potent photography results. Technically other smartphones like the 41-megapixel Lumia 1020 can match or surpass it in number terms, but are less able to deal in low-light ─ albeit not by much.
10x optical zoom means you can stand relatively far away from a subject and get the shot you want, although zooming in does reduce the detail and clarity. The aperture of f/3.1-f/6.3 is more than adequate for your average point and shoot photography needs.
We were a tad disappointed by the lack of depth of field in photos (otherwise known as bokeh). A little bit more of that lovely blurring behind the subject would really help the Galaxy K Zoom stand out as most smartphones provide little, if any.
A highlight is colour accuracy. Detail is good, too, while relatively low-light conditions are handled without much noise. The Xenon flash, usually found on proper cameras, is a nice touch but not so useful for anyone who knows their stuff.
Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS for short) is meant to reduce the effects of motion blur from your hands and other body movements, but in practice it seemed to do very little when fully zoomed in.
We like the addition of a manual setting mode. Here you can easily change the shutter speed, ISO (from 100 to 3,200) and aperture (either f/3.1 or f.9, for some reason). Sadly you have to go into a menu to enable manual mode, but at least you can fine-tune how a photo will come out.
A 2-megapixel camera on the front lets you take selfies or make video calls. The detail is obviously less impressive, but enough for the filter-loving Instagram brigade.
The camera fires up quickly when the dedicated camera button is pressed, but only if the phone is unlocked. You have to swipe the camera unlock button otherwise, making you more likely to miss the moment you want to capture. This is odd when a Windows Phone boots to camera, locked or unlocked.
The volume rocker deals with zooming in and out, or you can pinch and zoom if you prefer. It’s a simple and effective system.
The Galaxy K Zoom is capable of taking good photos, but there’s nothing too special about them. Your average user who wants photos for Facebook will find it perfect. Those who know more about photography may find it compares unfavourably with svelter, more powerful smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One (M8).
Video is of the full 1080p variety and is detailed but a tad jerky. The zoom action goes more slowly in video mode, preventing the noise of the motor being picked up by the microphone.
Samsung Galaxy K Zoom: Operating system & performance
Android 4.3 runs the show albeit in a stripped back form, which means a slightly outdated but still highly functional operating system. Google Play has more apps and games than you will ever need. Thanks to the SIM-card slot, you can make calls and use data while on the move.
Basically, the Galaxy K Zoom is a smartphone first and foremost so if you want to check your emails, you can. Or browse the web. Or download a photo editing app so you can make on-the-fly adjustments before posting them to your preferred location.
The camera interface could be a little easier to use, especially when the Lumia 1020 and flagship Android devices do a great job of simplifying camera controls on a touchscreen display. At least you can easily share your masterpieces.
Performance is adequate, but hardly class-leading. 2GB of RAM and a six-core Exynos 5260 processor sounds more impressive than it is, as the phone has moments of being a bit slow. Usually, though, it is fast and punchy enough to please.
Samsung Galaxy K Zoom: Multimedia & storage
8GB of internal storage is ample if you bother to remove photos from the device after a heavy day of shooting. But something like 16GB would have made the Galaxy K Zoom feel like better value. At least you can expand the maximum by up to 64GB using a microSD card slot.
Video and music streaming and downloads can all be done easily via a number of third-party apps including Spotify. Alternatively you can play music uploaded to Google Music in the cloud.
Samsung Galaxy K Zoom: Connections & battery
The Samsung Galaxy K Zoom has 4G (LTE), 3G, Bluetooth 4.0, 3.5mm headphone jack and Samsung’s Kies for hooking your phone up to a computer. Sadly DLNA is missing, but you do get NFC (near-field communication) – not that you will probably use it.
The battery is 2,430mAh. We managed one day of use at a push, significantly less if we started getting a bit happy-snappy.
Samsung Galaxy K Zoom: Conclusion
The Samsung Galaxy K Zoom is a good smartphone with mid-range internals that will make the average user happy. It is, however, only a good camera compared with a digital compact, making it hard to recommend wholeheartedly.
We get the two devices rolled into one idea and Samsung is wise to pursue this route, given that most people use their phone as their camera. But the Galaxy K Zoom is a bit bulky to really convert people.
Still, if you want one of the best smartphone cameras and are happy to lug the Galaxy K Zoom with you, there’s nothing quite like it. Other flagship devices like the Lumia 1020, Lumia 930, Xperia Z2 and S5 can perform nearly as well, but some of the aforementioned are more expensive.