It’s a real chubber, but Pat Pilcher finds that Samsung’s smartphone/camera combo has genuine user benefits.
Nokia did it with the 1020’s whopping 41MP image sensor, and now Samsung are having a crack with the Galaxy K Zoom. Based on my experiences with the K Zoom, compact digital cameras look set to go the way of the dodo.
A camera-equipped smartphone is a lot like a peanut butter and jam sandwich – it’s a great combination. Snapping a photo with the convenience of a digital camera is a pretty sweet deal, but sharing it on Twitter with just a few screen taps is even sweeter still.
Samsung’s smartphone and camera mash-up combines all the good bits of a Samsung Galaxy smartphone with a 20.7MP image sensor and 10x optical zoom. There are compromises, and in the case of the Galaxy K Zoom, they translate into a much chunkier and heavier phone.
Look And Feel
My first impression of the K Zoom? It’s big. XXL smartphones are now the norm thanks to the phablet craze, so the Zoom’s roomy 4.8-inch screen isn’t so much of a big deal. Screen size aside, The K Zoom is a good-looking piece of gear. It’s also a chunky monkey.
Compared to the Galaxy S5, the size difference is noticeable. An S5 in your trouser pocket is one thing, but a K Zoom is likely to elicit responses such as: “Is that a canoe in your pocket or are you pleased to see me?”
It’s also solid, weighing in at a hefty 200g, compared to the 145g of the S5. Its telescoping zoom lens is likely to make up the bulk of this weight, but the functionality it brings to the fore more than makes up for its extra heft.
K Zoom Camera
As a camera the K Zoom impresses. It handles the workload of a decent compact camera and barely breaks a sweat while doing so. Its image sensor and Xenon flash did a great job. Indoor and flash-illuminated shots look more natural than the harsh brightness created by the LED flashes on most smartphones.
The K Zoom’s optical 10x zoom also gave me great control over how I framed photos, extending the usefulness of the K Zoom over traditional phone cameras. I’d initially wondered if the K Zoom was a gimmick, but in use, factors such as the zoom function meant it proved to be greater than the sum of its phone/camera parts.
Zooming happens via an on-screen pinch gesture or the volume button on the side of the phone. There’s also a dedicated shutter button.
Dedicated camera buttons also made for greater simplicity, and the K Zoom is likely to be intuitive to anyone who has ever driven a digital camera. This said, I sometimes found myself accidentally hitting one of the K Zoom’s soft keys while using the camera. Doing so frustratingly disabled the camera app.
The K Zoom’s camera app is pretty comprehensive, giving granular control over most camera settings. It also packs a series of filters and shooting modes (you can also download more of them). As powerful as it is, it required some guesswork. This said, after persevering, I was soon shooting great photos.
Video detail is excellent. When videoing, The K Zoom defaults to 1080p at 30fps with image stabilisation. These settings should make for smoother video, but footage was sometimes jerky. I found switching modes to 1080p 60fps kept video a little steadier.
Another side advantage of the K Zoom phone/camera hybrid is a roomy 4.8-inch screen. The 720 x 1280 IPS LCD display is vivid and proved bright enough for use outdoors, even in direct sunlight. In a nutshell, it leaves the displays found on most compact cameras for dead.
So what about phone functionality?
My first impression was that its three virtual screens and one home screen were somewhat cluttered with Samsung’s own widgets and apps. This digital detritus was however, easily removed.
Specs-wise, there isn’t much lacking with the K Zoom on the phone front. It packs an 8-core processor and runs Android 4.4 KitKat. That’s plenty of oomph to play even the most demanding 3D games. Bizarrely, even though the phone sports a muscular CPU, my review model only had 8GB of storage. Thankfully the K Zoom also supports MicroSD cards of up to 64GB.
I wondered if the K Zoom’s muscular spec would translate into a sub-par battery life. It turns out that the K Zoom managed to pull a day and a half of uptime with fairly heavy use both as a camera and phone. I didn’t have much call to use its Xenon flash, and this may make a difference to battery life. Either way, that’s still not too shabby.
The K Zoom is an odd beast, and one that’ll have some smartphone fans scratching their heads. It definitely isn’t petite. Its XL-sized form factor and weight makes it feel a little retro design-wise, but the camera and phone combination is a good one.
It may be a chubber, but it is far more pocketable than a compact digital camera and separate phone. If you’re travelling, a good camera and a good smartphone are must pack items. Packing the K Zoom instead is a complete no-brainer. PAT PILCHER