For years smartphones' camera prowess has been a top priority for many buyers. In the corporate world this is largely a consequence of the ongoing Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend, with users wanting an all encompassing device that can be securely used for work purposes, while still meeting their personal needs.
As a result companies like HTC, with its Ultrapixel-powered One and Nokia with its Pureview-enabled Lumias have been releasing a gradual stream of top-end camera phones. However, no matter how good their sensors, every single one of the phones has had one serious achilles heel - their use of digital zoom.
Smartphones' use of digital zoom has meant that business users in industries like media, fashion or design, who could benefit from a decent camera on their phone, have been seriously hampered. Users are only able to snap shots of objects or scenes that are directly in front of them rather than in the distance - an issue if trying to capture what's going on at a crowded keynote speech or fashion show. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom looks to solve this problem, loading a hefty optical zoom onto what is essentially an S4 Mini smartphone.
Design and build
Visually the S4 Zoom looks a lot more like a shrunk-down successor to Samsung's Galaxy Camera than any of the Korean firm's smartphones. The "phone" features the same boxy design as the Galaxy Camera, with its back face being dominated by a large metallic optical zoom lens and significant bump at its bottom. Overall this makes the Zoom very chunky for a smartphone, with it measuring in at 126x64x15.4mm and weighing 208g.
In hand it also makes the Zoom feel more like a dedicated camera than a smartphone, with the bottom bump making it fairly awkward to hold one handed and actually take calls on. That said, when holding it horizontally, like you would a camera, the design is actually quite nice, with Samsung intelligently placing the shutter button and flash components on the top left-hand side of the back, as opposed to the central position they take on most smartphones, meaning you're less likely to accidentally cover them with a stray finger when snapping photos.
During our tests we found the Zoom is fairly solidly built. While the phone features the same polycarbonate back and metal-lined sides as all Galaxy Phones, the device's chassis feels significantly sturdier. We're not sure if this is because the backplate is non-removable or because the polycarbonate is slightly thicker, but overall the Zoom feels like the most solid Galaxy device we've ever handled, with it leaving us suitably confident it could survive the odd accidental drop unscathed, though not to the point we dared test our belief.
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