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Friday, May 16, 2014

Science And Tech

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom, a fresh take in photos

The Brunei Times/ANN | Friday, May 16, 2014

Samsung is not afraid to take risks by releasing gadgets that are out of the ordinary.

Over the years, the Korean company has released a phablet (which became a runaway success), a smartphone with a curved display, a digital camera that runs on Android and, most recently, a smart watch.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, released last year, was one of those devices that really stood out, though it's kind of an oddball.

The idea was sound; a smartphone with a built-in optical zoom lens. In theory, optical zoom beats digital zoom any day.

But Samsung's attempt to mash a smartphone and a digital compact camera fell short in the design department; it was awkward when used as a phone thanks to the protruding retracted lens slapped onto the back of the phone. Definitely not a sexy looking phone.

Meanwhile, the image quality produced by the 16-megapixel shooter really left so much to be desired.

While users had the optical zoom advantage of 24-240mm focal length, this advantage is offset by the pint-sized 1/2.33-inch image sensor which is inferior to the larger sensors of high-end compact cameras such as the Sony RX100 and the Fujifilm X20.

I'd expect a better image sensor to compliment that nice zoom lens. Bigger sensors make for fantastic low light shooting and better detail.

Also, as a phone, the S4 Zoom didn't have high end specs found in Samsung's flagship Galaxy S4.

Still, it was the phone of choice for consumers looking for more zoom flexibility on their smartphone camera.

This year, Samsung has released a follow-up to the S4 Zoom, which is the Galaxy K Zoom, and it seems to have fixed a lot of the problems faced by its predecessor.

Samsung could actually get it right this time.

Design wise, the Galaxy K Zoom is a pretty-looking smartphone-slash-camera hybrid.

Though it's still thick and heavy (to fit in all that lens), it's slimmer and lighter than the older S4 Zoom, and feels less awkward when you hold it.

The lens don't stick out that much when retracted, making the phone look like a phone when it should be.

It also has a nice textured finish at the back to make it look stylish rather than cheap like the previous model.

The Galaxy K Zoom also packs a 20.7 megapixel camera. However, megapixels mean nothing when it doesn't have a solid image sensor and lens to boot.

Though it still retains the standard point-and-shoot size image sensor, Samsung has thrown in a backside illuminated CMOS sensor for better low-light shooting.

Unlike the vast majority of phones that use an LED type flash, the Galaxy K Zoom uses Xenon flash to give more even coverage and better range.

Of course, the biggest star of this phone is the 10x zoom lens with optical image stabilisation that's built into the smartphone. It's still the same 24-240mm lens used in the older model, but it's a pretty decent lens with a good range (which you won't get in any other phone), and the improved sensor makes the overall shooting experience even better.

Samsung also added new software features designed to enhance the shooting experience for novice users and everyday instagrammers.

Since this is a hybrid, controlling the camera requires tapping virtual buttons and scrolling through menus on the display.

Of course, many smartphone shooters are already used to this, but it can't beat physical dials and knobs of standalone cameras for a truly satisfying photography experience.

Camera aside, the specs on this smartphone are also a huge step up from the old; it has a 4.8-inch, 720p AMOLED display, and inside the handset is a Samsung "hexacore" Exynos 5 chip which uses both a 1.3 GHz quad-core and 1.7GHz dual-core processors, along with 2GB of RAM.

Also included are 8GB of onboard storage, expandable memory support (microSD) and NFC. And yes, it does 4G.

This phone isn't exactly for everyone. Those who want the best of both worlds (powerful camera on a good enough smartphone) will like this new version of Samsung's hybrid, which will be released some time this month. However, there are other rival smartphones with great cameras in the market too.

Smartphone cameras in general have improved a lot over the years, even without the big lens attached. The iPhone 5s' camera has been widely praised, and the Nokia Lumia 1020 rocks a highly impressive 41 megapixel camera that shoots stunning shots.

By far the only reason to choose the Galaxy K Zoom over the rest is for the optical zoom lens. If you're tired of having to frame your shots by moving a lot, this phone is a clear pick. Or you could just get a real camera.

The views expressed by the author are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of The Brunei Times.

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