Android smartphone with camera having features more than a standard digital camera. Isn’t that a perfect combination in the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom? Keeping the thickness of the device aside, the Galaxy K Zoom can be called a perfect smartphone camera for regular travelers who prefer not to carry along the heavy photography kits along with them all the time. At some point, although you might miss the DSLR cameras for some exceptional clicks, the Galaxy K Zoom can perfectly replace it in many ways – doing more than what a point-and-shoot camera can do.
And as always it has been, connectivity options on any camera enhances the user experience, but here, just like the Galaxy S4 Zoom last year, it is the whole Android OS integrated, making it usable as both, a phone and a camera. For a Samsung fan or admirer, this is the best cameraphone till date, from Samsung! No unnecessary special features such as the finger scanner or heart rate monitor, and as the name suggests, what it excels at, is photography.
The tiny sensors in smartphones are really not enough, and each of the brand out there knows this very well, and none would ask you to rely on those smartphone cameras for all the photography needs, and in all of them, Samsung is the only one trying to combine things and reduce the need to carry an extra camera wherever you go. Will this fit the budget and pocket of everyone out there?
Design, Form Factor
While Samsung hasn’t moved away from its standard design structure in this, the Galaxy K Zoom has a design which doesn’t make it look different from a smartphone, and with this, it is at least better than the Galaxy S4 Zoom which didn’t make much of an impact last year. To keep it in the price range not comparable with the flagships, Samsung has tried to make some compromise in the internal specs, thus there is nothing showing badly on the exterior.
Look at the K Zoom from the front, it doesn’t look like a camera at all. Any standard Samsung smartphone is the same, with the display and bottom button combination. On the sides, again, everything is almost the same – volume rocker buttons on the right alongside the power button, and there is a dedicated camera shutter button as well. Although the back cover is removable, the MicroSD card slot is put out on the left panel. The MicroUSB port and the mic are on the bottom, while the headset jack and a secondary mic are located on the top part of the device. The bottom mic placement could be a worry when the device is held horizontally, because when holding it on the most common way, I could see my finger covering the mic and this would affect the voice recording while capturing a video.
The back part of the Galaxy K Zoom is where all the focus has to be laid on. There’s the huge Samsung lens – 44-44mm, 1:3.1-6.3 24mm lens within a circular rim that almost extends from one side to the other, and the lens has got the glass cover over it, for the protection. I’ll take you through everything about the camera, the captures and the features down later. The speaker is oddly located near the top, just above the camera on the back.
The large design, heavy lens and still the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom can easily fit into the pocket or can be held comfortably in most hands, except if you have been using phones with size comparable to the iPhone (till 5s to be safe). Samsung has done quite a decent job to keep the curves intact and make the device not hard to hold and carry, while giving the feel of a digital camera while holding and capturing the picture using the camera shutter button on the side.
Samsung is never known for the classic designs, and the appeal for design has always been low. But while keeping this in the midst of Galaxy S4 Zoom and the Galaxy S5, Samsung has done enough to impress the mass choosing comfort over style.
Display, Brightness and Viewing Angles
The display certainly got a good upgrade, from the minimal qHD display (540×960 pixels) on the Galaxy S4 Zoom to the 720p HD display on this one now, but weren’t we expecting better than this? for the 4.8-inch size of the display, a 1080p would have been awesome. Especially when we are going to capture some videos using the camera and then previewing it, the live view itself should be showcasing what is being captured. But that is fine, because at least the large screen makes it a great live view finder for the captures, giving a large real estate in the camera app.
The screen is quite bright, and although it won’t score a 10 out of 10 for the brightness under sunlight, it is still bright and sharp. I conclude with double thoughts about the display, because although it is bright and crisp for the content – there is room for improvement and we could have seen something better than 720p, which Samsung might be having in the pipeline for the successor of K Zoom. The size of display is understandable because if the screen is made larger, the heavy thickness could make it hard to operate and reach out every part of the screen with one hand.
Software – OS, Interface, Ease of use and Apps
The Galaxy K Zoom runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat OS, layered over by the TouchWiz UI. The UI is similar to that of the latest flagship Galaxy S5, and good to see there is no real big bunch of pre-installed apps that would have annoyed us. The lock screen is quite filled, with the clock and weather widget, along with the shortcut for camera, and the notification panel can be dragged down from the lock screen itself.
The important part in a cameraphone is, about how the company has tried to make the camera app accessible. There are three ways – drag the camera icon on lock screen, or tap and hold the camera shutter button for a second on active screen, or directly open the camera app from the icon tray in the bottom. The shutter button doesn’t work on locked / dead screen and that is good because there are many instances where the button gets pressed unintentionally. Multiple home screens can be customized where one could add widgets, shortcuts and apps. There’s a Camera Studio widget on one of the home screens, and this is a platform that makes the camera experience better for the K Zoom users. You get to see the apps such as Pro Suggest, Gallery, Studio, Pro Suggest Market, Dropbox, Video and such. Editing the studio section is possible then and there, and one can remove or add apps in it. The pre-installed apps in the Galaxy S5 include Google Play Services along with Pro Suggest Market, Samsung Apps, Voice Recorder and a few standard tools.
One of the major issues I found with the OS was the inability to sync up things and let me continue recording a video when a call comes in between. A couple of times, the phone couldn’t take up the load and the video was gone for ever, while the device restarted thus one cannot even find who was calling you. The reason behind the restart was a call because I tested calling while recording a video. But this was something on my particular K Zoom unit, as a few other users who I talked with, said it wasn’t the case with them. The video recording pauses there, and after the call ends, the user could resume the recording.
The notification panel is totally similar to what we see on the Galaxy S5, except for the few missing settings and options such as Download Booster (after all, that was a flagship device with much more), but there are quite a lot of options to toggle, along with the shortcuts to S Finder, Quick Connect and brightness adjustment.
Overall, the OS is decent enough, and at least very much better than the standard TouchWiz UI we see on the other Samsung Android smartphones, because this one comes layered over the latest Android KitKat OS, and the user experience is quite taken care of.
Performance, Speed, Benchmarks
Performance – this is very much important in phones which are meant for good gaming and entertainment, or in phones which have a good camera, because if the device isn’t fast enough to process the content and capture quickly, then there is no point having a good camera as well. For the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom, you don’t really have to worry about the performance because it is quite swift and the capture speed, processing is all very good.
For the captures, you won’t directly see the image preview totally processed and it takes a second before showing the actual picture, so that is time saved during the capture. For the performance in terms of app usage, it is not totally perfect, as there are noticeable lags but not those which could annoy. For those wondering and if they had tried out the S4 Zoom, there is some serious improvement in the performance.
The benchmark tests in the Galaxy K Zoom don’t say much as they produce decent scores (AnTuTu lately has been giving scores more than what the device averaged earlier, so don’t go by just the numbers). As said, the Galaxy K Zoom might not be on the top of the shelves for the performance, although Samsung has made sure to include a hexa-core processor to handle the heavy activity, but still you cannot write it off that easily. It has enough power to stay for long and do what you desire.
Cameras – capture samples, quality review
Following gallery shows the captures in natural light. Look at the color reproduction and the detail in each of them.
These captures below were all during night, i.e. low light although there was some decent light around, we used the night mode in each of the capture and that worked like charm.
Here’s the 10x optical zoom on Samsung Galaxy K Zoom.
Call quality – reception and speaker quality
No question about that, the quality is good because the signal reception is good. The thin strip of earpiece is loud enough and clear without any distortion, but you won’t experience the same when speakerphone is on, as you tend to always talk with the screen facing you. The signal reception was still seen (good enough for break-free calling) where there was no good signal strength, and we could make calls, but that was not speed enough for data connectivity to work normally.
The speakers are loud enough and the scratchy distortion you notice on high volumes in some devices, was not seen in this, at least with the tracks we played.
Ports, Speakers location and quality
Unlike in most of other Samsung devices, this has speakers placed above the camera. One advantage here could be that the hump on the camera gives some space for the sound to be distributed well around, but still, I am never a fan of speakers located on the back.
The ports could not get a better place than where Samsung placed them. The MicroUSB port is in the bottom, and the headset jack is on the top.
Battery life (both on heavy and light usage)
The 2430mAh, 9.23Wh battery in the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom is accessible, removable once you pull out the rear cover of the device. For those who travel a lot and are deciding to rely on this for the captures, make sure you carry an extra battery or a power bank, because although the battery isn’t that bad, the Galaxy K Zoom won’t last for more than a day if you are doing all the regular activity, i.e. calling, internet apart from the captures.
As the device comes with the latest TouchWiz UI that we saw on the Samsung Galaxy S5, there are a couple special battery saving modes which one can take advantage of. This was quite handy for my recent trip where I was relying on this device for a day and didn’t carry a power bank that day. Battery went down to about 30% from 100% in no more than 6 hours, thanks to the data connectivity turned ON, and occasional captures. The Power Saver mode throttles CPU, limits the screen brightness, turns off the lights of touch keys and turns off the unnecessary services like GPS. Ultra Power Saving Mode is something totally different, presenting a new interface with everything limited.
Overall, the battery isn’t the poorest because you aren’t using just a normal smartphone with the tiny lens on the back. This is similar to a digital camera functioning as a phone, thus you will have to have some controlled usage before starting to worry about the low battery percentage.
Connectivity – Data network, Wi-Fi
The Galaxy K Zoom offers all the needed connectivity options such as 4G LTE, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, MicroUSB, MHL and USB OTG. What else would one want? the USB OTG could be one of the best additions alongside the MHL connectivity, because the captures from the cmaera of this device are worth being checked and shared on larger screens, and that is where these connections make it easy for the content transfer.
But, not every option that a high-end smartphone user wants, is included in the K Zoom. For example, the IR blaster and the latest best Wi-Fi ac.
Value for Money?
Finally, whether the cameraphone Samsung Galaxy K Zoom is worth the price Samsung is asking for it, there are two ways to answer it. Although this device for the price of $450 is very much worth it, majorly because of the optical zoom to 10x, and that being possible in a phone is a matter worth noticing. While the price of this is quite fixed in US, in India lately we are seeing a huge drop for a limited time, and if you are looking to take advantage of that, believe me, there is no good competition to this if you are considering to purchase a smartphone with a brilliant camera – because in Amazon India, it is being sold at Rs. 19,999 right now (originally it was Rs. 29,999).
As a smartphone user, you always pay for a complete package where everything you need is up to the mark. Samsung has done some compromises, but the feature that it showcased, the camera is no where a compromise as it captures wonderful pictures, and the 10x optical zoom is no myth. Entirely what one would expect and what one would want from it, but at the same time, the Galaxy K Zoom is quite bulky and heavy, thus don’t assume it to fit every pocket that easily.
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