Smartphone cameras are ever improving, but they lack one crucial feature: a zoom. Not so with the Galaxy K Zoom. This Android smartphone has a built-in 10x zoom lens. Find out if this unusual marriage is successful in our Samsung Galaxy K Zoom review.
PRICE WHEN REVIEWED
£400 inc VAT
SAMSUNG GALAXY K ZOOM REVIEW
The concept of bolting a huge zoom lens to the back of a smartphone isn’t new. In fact, Samsung has already tried a couple of times in the past with the Galaxy Camera and Galaxy S4 Zoom. Both were bad products and were arguably the worst of both worlds instead of being the best. They were underpowered, and their cameras weren’t particularly good.
Clearly, then, Samsung is determined to make the marriage work third time around with the new Galaxy K Zoom. It takes a smartphone, which looks like a hybrid of the S4 and S5, and shoehorns in a 10x optical zoom lens.
Software-wise, Android KitKat is order of the day as is Samsung’s TouchWiz interface. It’s all very familiar if you already have a Samsung smartphone: there’s S Voice, the Samsung app store and Dropbox pre-installed.
GALAXY K ZOOM: HARDWARE AND SPECS
If you’re considering a K Zoom then you’re clearly more serious about photography than the average smartphone owner. So, the important specifications concern the camera side of things.
The lens zooms from a nice wide-angle 24mm (equivalent) to 240mm, or 4.4-44mm in real terms. Its maximum aperture ranges from f/3.1 to f/6.3. The 20.7Mp sensor is the type you’d find in a budget compact camera, measuring the usual 1/2.3in. That’s much bigger than the normal smartphone camera sensor, though.
It can shoot 1080p video at 30 or 60 frames per second, and there’s the same choice at 720p. Stabilisation is optical rather than electronic.
ISO ranges from 100 to 3200, and the continuous shooting mode runs at a claimed 3fps when using autofocus.
There are dual microphones, one at each end of the phone, and a slimline flash and AF assist LED on the rear. You get a dedicated dual-stage shutter button, so it’s possible to lock focus and then recompose your shot. Using the touchscreen you can choose separate focus and exposure points.
For the smartphone, there’s a 4.8in Super AMOLED screen with a 1280×720 resolution. Processing power comes from a combination of a 1.3GHz quad-core chip and a dual-core 1.7GHz processor.
It’s paired with 2GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. As you’d expect, you can also pop in a microSD card to add up to 64GB extra – something you’ll need to store lots of photos and HD video.
GALAXY K ZOOM: VIDEO REVIEW
Inevitably, you’ll have to make some compromises if you want a whacking great zoom lens in your smartphone. At 200g, the K Zoom isn’t particularly light and although it’s impressively thin for a camera, its 20.2mm thickness means it’s not going to slip easily into a trouser pocket.
There’s no finger grip as with the old S4 Zoom, and the dimpled plastic panel unclips to reveal the removable battery. The fact it’s removable is essential since you’ll want to carry at least one spare around with you on special occasions to get through a whole day. Shooting lots of video and photos drains the cell quicker than you’d imagine.
From the front, you wouldn’t suspect anything was unusual about this smartphone as it looks just like Samsung’s other recent models.
There’s a silver band around the edge and a physical home button flanked by two touch-sensitive buttons. The off-centre front camera has a mere 2Mp sensor, so for hi-res selfies, you’ll have to use the self-timer and balance the K Zoom somewhere suitable.
GALAXY K ZOOM: PERFORMANCE
Apart from the screen resolution, which is lower than we’d like, the K Zoom has a great screen. Colours pop on the AMOLED panel, and viewing angles are great. Watching videos is a particular treat on the 16:9 screen, as it composing photos and shooting videos – you can easily see whether they’re in focus or not.
The ‘Hexa core’ Exynos 5 processor sounds better than it is. For the most part, Android is nice and smooth but during our testing there was the occasional stutter when flipping between home screens and in apps.
Web pages load quickly, and it was quick to zoom around Google maps. Gaming performance is acceptable, with 24.5fps in the GFXBench T-Rex test, but the new Manhattan test shows the Galaxy K Zoom’s limit: it ran at just 4fps.
We also saw an average of 909ms in Sunspider 1.0.2, and 2140 in Geekbench 3 (871 for the single-core test).
Photo and video
What you’re probably more interested in is the K Zoom’s photo and video quality. Overall, it’s not bad at all, especially when compared with the current batch of mid-range (and even flagship) smartphones.
Shots are generally well exposed and sharp, but you’ll need a steady hand to avoid blur at full zoom. The OIS system does its job and kept most of our telephoto shots free from blur, and autofocus is quick, too. Plus, the face detection and tracking system works well.
The wide-angle position allows you to capture much more than most smartphones, so it’s great not only for landscapes but also indoor group photos where you can’t move any further back.
SAMSUNG GALAXY K ZOOM: PHOTO GALLERY
These photos are all straight from the camera, unedited. However, they have been resized to 1200 pixels wide so they fit your screen. Click each (apart from the 100 percent crops) to enlarge them.