At a recent Samsung NX event I was pulled aside and introduced to two visiting VIP guests from Samsung’s imaging division. After a few minutes of chatting, one of them took a moment to show me three upcoming products. The first of these three products to be announced is the Samsung NX 10mm f/3.5 Fisheye. The other is the Galaxy S4 Zoom. As exciting as this powerful Android cameraphone is, the remaining unannounced item shown to me – set for a big reveal in London on 20 June 2013 – will pip even the S4 Zoom, from a photographers perspective.
For the time being let us focus though on the S4 Zoom which is officially announced today.
According to a Samsung representative I spoke to, the company conducted a survey of smartphone owners and found that 37% of respondents would change their smartphone for one with a better camera. When drilling down deeper, however, only 12% said they would be willing to settle for the phone being thicker to accommodate the improved camera. The Galaxy S4 Zoom is then designed to meet this small segment of the smartphone market – but when has Samsung been afraid of targeting a niche when they have all the components needed to make a device already at their disposal?
Based upon what we were told and shown at the time, the base for this camera phone is the S4 Mini. The S4 Zoom however features the 16-megapixel sensor of its pioneering sibling, the Galaxy Camera. Being based on the S4 Mini the screen is a more pocketable 4.3-inches, as opposed to the 4.8-inch Galaxy Camera. To make the S4 Zoom thinner than the Galaxy Camera there is a 10x optical zoom, rather than a 21x zoom. As you can see from the shot above of the S4 Zoom sitting next to the S4 the difference is one that will be felt in the pocket, but it is the shape that will make it uncomfortable more than the actual thickness.
There is a silver ring around the lens that operates – from what we could tell on the “sample” classified device – as a multifunctional control dial for adjusting camera modes and exposure settings.
Of course the big party piece for this device versus the Galaxy Camera, is that the S4 Zoom can actually make phone calls. The version we were shown by Samsung was sitting around the 50% battery life mark when we saw it. At around 11am, assuming a full charge, this could indicate battery life to be not that great. The battery is swappable and similar to any normal compact camera in implementation. Personally it felt a little more fiddly than expected, when it came to swapping out the battery, but still more convenient than swapping batteries on the Galaxy smartphones with their very thin, plastic back.
This brings me to the question of whether or not I would buy one. While I’d ideally wish to reserve judgement till a full review can be conducted, I’m inclined to say that on first impressions I would fall into that 12% of smartphone owners willing to take on a little extra bulk for a better camera. After all, how many times do you actually make calls from your camera… I mean phone.
This guest post was written by Tristan Hall, editor of PhotoComment magazine.