The Samsung Galaxy K Zoom is an android phone with a 4.8” (121.9mm) 720 Super Amoled display screen.
It comes in Charcoal Black or Shimmery White, weighs in at 200g and measures 20mm thick by its lens, and 16.6mm across the middle, so it’s chunkier than most modern phones, but that’s the price you pay for having a full zoom lens on the back.
Performance-wise, it’s a 4G phone with 2GB RAM and 8GB of storage. There’s also a microSD card slot on the side if you want to add extra storage.
It connects to a computer using the standardised microUSB socket, and you can also make use of Bluetooth or WiFi to send photos straight to an enabled printer.
As a phone, it’s not unlike the Samsung Galaxy S4 I reviewed a year or so ago. The touchscreen responds quickly and accurately, the switch between apps is rapid and the battery life is healthy in comparison to similar spec phones.
It has a built in power saver option which pulls in the zoom lens, sleeps the camera, sets the screen to a low brightness, limits CPU use, and turns off haptic feedback so that the phone doesn’t vibrate with every alert.
My Galaxy K Zoom’s battery survived a morning of shooting pictures and video, internet surfing and a couple of phone calls while at Whipsnade Zoo, so it’s not bad at all.
Now, on to the camera, because that’s what you’re really interested in, right?
The Galaxy K Zoom has a 10x optical zoom 24-240mm f/3.1-6.3 lens. You control the zoom either be pinching on the screen or by pressing the up/down volume button. The zoom action can be a little slow to respond, which can be frustrating when you have a moment you want to capture quickly.
The phone also boasts a 20.7 megapixel 1/2.3″ main sensor, optical image stabilisation (to eliminate motion blur caused by unsteady hands) and a Xenon Flash. Focus is maintained with the Galaxy Zoom’s object tracking feature.
As well as an Auto setting which the camera opens with by default, there’s Program mode which lets you manually tweak the exposure, but as far as I can tell, it isn’t possibly to manually alter the shutter speed or aperture.
The phone also includes a variety of shooting modes, for example, Beauty Face (gives an airbrush effect), Pro-Suggest (detects scene aspects and gives 5 optimised settings), Shot and More (takes a burst of photos as long as the shutter is held), Panorama, HDR, Night, Continuous Shot and Selfie Alarm (where the camera automatically snaps a shot when the users face is detected in the frame) and Virtual Tour to take a walking tour of surroundings.
There are several pre-installed apps including Studio to review, edit and share photos and videos, and My Magazine where you can have your content organised and formatted magazine style. There’s also Pro Suggest Market (a confusingly similar name to the camera function) but this one provides application suggestions based on the various apps the user already has on their phone.
To give it a good test run, we took the Galaxy K Zoom to ZSL Whipsnade Zoo. I haven’t edited the light balance, colour or sharpness etc in the images below. There’s no post-production on any of them, apart from re-sizing.
Here’s a shot taken using the Beauty Face function, which softens skin textures. We were in the pool building with the seals, hence the blue-ish hue and the light source is a combination of natural and fluorescent lighting, (f number 2.45, focal length 1.85).
These are the adorable otters that swim near the picnic area. Here’s a shot taken in cloudy light and from quite a distance. The colour is a little washed out, which I didn’t realise at the time as the display screen on the phone tends to exaggerate colour vibrance slightly. (exposure 1/45, f number 6.3, focal length 44).
Here’s the same shot in harsh direct light when the sun escaped from behind a cloud. The colours are brighter and warmer but some of the detail is lost in the hight contrast. (f number 6.3, exposure 1/180, focal length 44). With this phone, as with any phone camera there’s also the issue that without a physical view finder, it’s difficult to be sure what you’re shooting when the sun is shining brightly as the screen becomes impossible to see properly.
In bright light, the phone is gorgeous for zooming into detail you simply couldn’t capture with a normal phone camera. This was taken from the other side of the enclosure. (13.2 focal length, F number 4.8, exposure 1/500).
Here’s a close shot from about 6 feet in mix of direct light and shade. The colours suffer from the same slight washout as the otter shot, but it’s crisp and clear. (focal length 4.4, f number 2.1, exposure 250).
This is one of my favourite shots, taken from inside the deadly trail challenge area, indoors but with natural light. The colours are even and the shot is crisp. (exposure 1/15, f number 3.1, focal length 4.4).
This was a challenging shot at the lemurs didn’t stay still but I think camera coped well, considering the movement and considerable zoom. (focal length 26.4, f number 5.9, exposure 1/30).
This was almost maximum zoom. We were too far away to make out these animals clearly, so I think the shot is good for the distance, if a little hazy. (Focal length 44, exposure 1/180, f number 6.3).
Another animal that didn’t want to stay still! I really like this shot but there are notable redish tones, so if not for the purpose of this review, I would probably colour correct it before publishing. (Focal length 15, Exposure 1/90, F number 5).
And final this very tame maras, wandering free around the park, was shot in shade with much brighter back light. I think the camera coped well. (focal length 15, f number 5, exposure 1/180).
Overall, I’m pleased with the shots. They’re not up to the standard you’d get with a DLSR, of course, but they’re superior to the iPhone 5S, especially when it comes to zooming in on distant detail.
To illustrate that point further, here’s a picture of a sunflower taken at home on the Galaxy K Zoom (left – focal length 44, f number 6.3, exposure 1/30) and on the iPhone 5S (right – focal length 4.12, f number 2.2, exposure 1/30) from the same distance in the same conditions (indoors, natural light).In both cases, I tried to zoom in as much as possible using each phone’s optical and digital zoom.
As you can see, not only is the zoom vastly superior on the Samsung, the colours are also more vibrant and the light balance is better.
Convinced? If you’re looking for a phone with a great camera built in, and you want to take lots of distance shots while out and about, you could do a lot worse than the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom.
We were sent the phone and outing tickets for the purposes of this review.