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 these two visitors 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 and set for a big reveal in London on 20 June 2013, will trump this little mobile device from a photographers perspective without a doubt.
For the time being let us focus though on the S4 Zoom which is officially announced today.
According to a Samsung representative we spoke to, they 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 owning market, but when have 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 16mp sensor of its pioneering sibling, the Galaxy Camera. Being based on the S4 Mini the screen is a more pocketable 4.3 inches opposed to the 4.8 inch Galaxy Camera and to make the S4 Zoom thinner than the Galaxy Camera there is a 10x optical zoom opposed to 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 still “sample” classified device at the time, 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 the visiting Samsung VIP was sitting around the 50% battery life mark when we saw it which was before 11am. Keep in mind that he was likely roaming and we don’t know what time it came off charge that morning. The battery is swappable and similar to any normal compact camera in implementation. Personally it felt a little more fiddly than I expected it to be when it came to changing batteries but still more convenient than swapping batteries on the Galaxy S-series of smartphone with their very thin, plastic back.
This brings us to the question of whether or not I would buy one myself. While I would ideally wish to reserve judgement till we can conduct a full review on a final production unit, I am 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.