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Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review

Is it a phone? Is it a camera? Do you care?

Our Verdict

We really want to like the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom. If the camera or phone part was better or the price tag was lower then it would make sense, but it's a poor compact and a mid-range phone with a high end price tag.

Product features

  • Built-in Memory : 8 GB
  • Rear Camera Resolution : 16 Megapixel
  • Battery Talk Time : 13 Hour
  • Screen Resolution : 540 x 960
  • Processor Core : Dual-core (2 Core)

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For

  • Great smartphone camera
  • Good battery life
  • Decent web browsing
  • Great media players

Against

  • Expensive for mid-range
  • Only 8GB built in storage
  • Occasionally sluggish
  • Average screen

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is really in a league of its own when it comes to photo taking capabilities. It has a 16MP camera which beats out even the 13MP Samsung Galaxy S4.

But it does a whole lot more than just boost the megapixels as it also has a large lens, Xenon flash, optical image stabilisation and can do up to 10x optical zoom.

Optical zoom is almost unheard of on a smartphone camera so that really is a big deal and puts it more in line with compacts than any of its smartphone brethren.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review

It also has a dedicated camera button, which is rare for Android handsets, but not surprising given what a priority photo taking is for this phone.

The button is well positioned on the top right corner of the handset (when held in landscape). It doesn't get in the way and it's not at all stiff, so it's easy to press without causing any camera shake. Somewhat surprisingly though you can't use the camera button to launch the camera.

There are still a couple of ways to launch the camera though. Either tap on the camera app or just twist the zoom ring. Doing the latter brings up a little menu with various options such as scene modes like landscape or auto and a shortcut to the gallery.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review

You can pick an option either by tapping it or twisting the zoom ring further round. It's a great way to launch the camera from any screen on your phone- and give you a few shooting options at the same time.

Once you launch the camera - whichever way you choose to do it - the lens extends ready for use. There's no view finder so you have to use the screen, which is a shame as the screen can sometimes be hard to see properly in bright light.

The screen itself is jammed full of options to get to grips with. In the bottom left corner of the screen (assuming you're holding it horizontally) there's a little thumbnail of the last photo you took and tapping on it will take you to it in the gallery.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review

In the bottom middle there's a little arrow which you can tap on to bring up a list of effects, such as 'cartoon' or 'vintage'. Tapping on any one of them will apply it to the next photo you take.

Back on the left hand side of the screen there are plus and minus arrows up the side, which let you zoom in and out with up to 10x optical zoom - though you can also do this by twisting the zoom lens. At the very top left there's an icon that lets you switch to the 1.9MP front facing camera.

To the right of that there's another little arrow which gives you access to options such as turning flash on and off, turning the microphone on and off and adding a location tag.

Along the right edge of the screen is where you'll find the scene modes. There's an icon labelled 'mode' which brings up four options- 'auto', 'smart', 'expert' and 'my mode'.

Expert lets you change things like the shutter speed, contrast and saturation, auto mode automatically selects the appropriate mode and settings and 'my mode' lets you choose a subset of scene modes that you want quick access to and then displays them on a single screen for you.

Smart mode is where you'll find every scene mode and there are a lot of them, from macro and landscape, to HDR and panorama.

There are also some more unusual options such as 'best photo' which takes a series of eight photos then lets you pick the best one to save, or 'kid shot' which plays a sound to get a baby's attention so that you can take a photo of them.

Then there's 'Animated photo', which records several seconds of motion and then loops it much like a GIF - though before saving it you can choose which sections you want to be animated and which should stay static.

Modes such as this one and panorama can take quite a while to process and on a few occasions the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom took a couple of seconds to respond even when switching scene modes. It's times like this when you really wish it had the grunt of the proper Samsung Galaxy S4.

If you're ever not sure which mode will work best then you can select 'Smart Mode Suggest' which analyses lighting conditions and the objects in the frame to make a suggestion.

Whatever mode you choose you can then hit the camera button to take a picture. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom blows away most of the competition when it comes to photo quality, outshining even the likes of the Nokia Lumia 925.

While it struggles in some areas photos are generally very crisp and clear and the addition of a 10x optical zoom and all the shooting modes on offer really help it stand out too. However while it rules the roost in smartphone land its images pale in comparison to many compacts.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom can capture a lot of detail.

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Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review
Landscapes come out well, with a lot of detail in the fore and mid ground. The background tends to be a bit fuzzy though.

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Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review
HDR mode gives images richer colours.

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Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom has little trouble focussing on the subject in close ups.

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Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review
At 10x optical zoom it's possible to capture images which would be impossible on other phones.

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Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review
Action freeze mode does a reasonable job of capturing fast moving traffic, though there's still some blur to the image.

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Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review
Drama mode attempts to combine multiple images of a moving object, though the outcome is variable.

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Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review
Animated photos are a lot like Cinemagraph mode on the Nokia Lumia 925. Unfortunately they take an age to process.

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Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review
Panoramas aren't really any better here than on other handsets, but they work fine.

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Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review
Party/indoor mode does a good job of brightening up dark scenes, though the resulting images are quite noisy.

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Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review
Night mode on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom brightens up scenes a little, but it's no competition for the Nokia Lumia 925.

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Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review
Fish eye is one of the many effects on offer.

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Tech Specs

Product TypeSmartphone
Network BandQuad Band
Input MethodTouchscreen
TouchscreenYes
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
USBYes
Contract TypeSIM-free
Maximum Memory Card Size Supported64 GB
Built-in Memory8 GB
Built-in FlashYes
Memory Card SlotYes
Cellular Data Connectivity TechnologyGPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, HSUPA, UMTS, HSPA+
SAR Value0.14 W/kg
GPS ReceiverYes
Multi-SIM SupportedNo
Near Field CommunicationYes
Integrated TV TunerNo
Product FamilyGalaxy S4 Zoom
Cellular Generation3.9G
Cellular Network SupportedGSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900, WCDMA 850, WCDMA 900, WCDMA 1900, WCDMA 2100
Multi-touch ScreenYes
Rear Camera Resolution16 Megapixel
Number of SIM Card Supported1
Front CameraYes
Memory Card SupportedmicroSD, microSD High Capacity (microSDHC)
Phone StyleBar
ColourWhite
Operating SystemAndroid
Brand NameSamsung
Battery Talk Time13 Hour
Product ModelSM-C101
Screen Size10.9 cm (4.3")
Screen Resolution540 x 960
Touchscreen TypeCapacitive
Weight (Approximate)208 g
Processor CoreDual-core (2 Core)
Maximum Video Resolution1920 x 1080
Processor ManufacturerARM
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11a/b/g/n
Operating System VersionAndroid 4.2 Jelly Bean
Messaging TypeSMS (Short Message Service), MMS (Multi-media Messaging Service), Email, Instant Messaging
RealtoneYes
Radio Tuner TypeFM
Call FeaturesCall Log
Pixel Density256 ppi
Height125.5 mm
Width63.5 mm
Depth15.4 mm
Radio TunerYes
ManufacturerSamsung
Product NameGalaxy S4 Zoom SM-C101 Smartphone
Processor Speed1.50 GHz
Processor TypeCortex
Product LineGalaxy S4 Zoom
Screen TypeOLED
Sensor TypeAccelerometer, Proximity Sensor, Digital Compass, Gyro Sensor, Magnetometer, Ambient Light Sensor
Manufacturer Part NumberSM-C1010ZWABTU
Manufacturer Website Addresshttp://www.samsung.com/uk/
Marketing InformationDo it all and miss nothing with the next phase in imaging smartphones. Controlled by the revolutionary zoom ring, the Galaxy S4 zoom is a no-compromises smartphone and camera that sets new standards for versatility and control. The zoom-ring control lets you share a photo during phone calls, control the optical zoom, and launch the camera. Capture life's greatest moments in breathtaking detail with a super-fast, super-sensitive 16-megapixel CMOS sensor. The Galaxy S4 zoom even guides you to the best locations for picture-taking-anywhere in the world. Powered by the latest Android OS and featuring precise control of all picture-taking and communications functions, the Galaxy S4 zoom lets you do more with your life.
Limited Warranty2 Year