What exactly is the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom? A phone? A camera? A phamera? Truth be told, we’re not 100% sure how to classify it, but we can tell you if it’s any good or not.
Ever since the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom landed in our laps, the broadbandchoices office has been ablaze with debate. Is the Galaxy K Zoom a phone that includes a very good camera? Or is it a camera stuck to a phone? It's just semantics of course, but antics are what keep the working day fun, right?
Regardless, photography sits right at the heart of the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom - its exterior is dominated by a 20.7 megapixel front camera with 10 X optical zoom. It's the handset's single biggest selling point, but what other features does it have to offer?
On its standard "Auto" setting, the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom is a very capable device. Picture quality is excellent, as you can tell from this finely-posed piece that I call 'Breakfast Rugby Womble'. Commissions available upon request.
Of course, plenty of mobiles take good shots, but as the K Zoom's name implies, the zoom is where it comes into its own. It lets you take close up shots without the dramatic loss in quality you'd see with other handsets. That's apparent in this photo: 'I'm ready for my close-up Mr Womble':
Controlling the zoom can be done by pinching the screen, although framing a shot this way is actually fairly tricky. It's much easier to use the physical buttons, which control volume when not in camera mode.
Both those pictures were inside the office, in pretty dismal light, so what about outside? As you'd hope, the K Zoom performs even better. Take a look at this evocative piece 'Womble Sitting On Bench Contemplating Existence':
As a standard camera then, the K Zoom does the job, and when you start fiddling with some of the other options, the possibilities for photo fun seem to stretch on endlessly.
Indeed, the K Zoom's not short of options when taking snaps. There are many different photo modes to cater for different situations, lighting conditions and more. Highlights include:
- Night mode - takes multiple pictures to create bright, vibrant pictures in the dark.
- HDR - takes multiple shots of different exposures and combines them for the best image.
- Beauty Face - automatically smooths skin and obscures imperfections to create a photoshopped effect. Not hugely effective we found, but maybe our skin's too perfect already.
- Virtual Tour - combines multiple images to create the illusion of a physical space, a bit like Google Streetview, albeit not quite as slick.
- Panorama - creates panoramic shots. As you'd expect.
Most work well - Night mode in particular, as you'll be able to see in this stunning image: 'Womble Paying a Visit to Fellow Kid's TV Character Danger Mouse' (and if you get the reference, congratulations on being over 30):
That said, we did have a few problems with the image stabilisation. Keeping the phone level when making panoramic shots, or virtual tours was trickier than expected, failing to compensate reliably for wobbles. I wondered if my wheezing, aging body was contributing to the shakiness, so I gave it to someone younger, and they had a similar experience. It's not a deal-breaker, more of a mild inconvenience, but worth noting nonetheless.
And while we're grumbling, there's definitely a learning curve to using the camera. Naturally, you can take photos with a shutter button on the side of the phone, but most camera functions are controlled from the touchscreen. Holding the camera steady, while fiddling with settings requires a greater degree of co-ordination than I was comfortable with.
Eventually, of course, you adapt, and you'll soon be snapping, swiping and switching between features like you've been doing it since birth. But it never feels close to elegant, and that's disappointing. We hope Samsung rethinks the interface for the next version.
So the camera side of the K Zoom is excellent. But what the Galaxy K Zoom has over standard compact cameras is the smartphone side. Sharing pictures is a breeze with the handset - you can take a high quality photo, and have it uploaded to Facebook in seconds, for example.
Before you do, though, you may want to get a little touchy-feely. Taking pics is only the beginning - Samsung's included a host of editing options that let you manipulate your photos.
There are tons of options, from filters, to auto-sharpening, to adding shapes and drawings right there on screen. It's possible to while away hours experimenting with effects, to either enhance or destroy your pics. You can see which approach I took in the stirring 'Womble playing PlayStation in a Dingy Room':
The Galaxy K Zoom is Samsung's thinnest camera/phone hybrid to date. It's comfortable to hold, and light enough to carry without it becoming a burden. Even so, it's not exactly what you'd call thin. It's bulkier than a standard smartphone - you can get it into your pocket, but you won't get a lot else in there with it.
Visually, it has a lot in common with the Samsung Galaxy S5, with its dimpled back and rounded edges. The 4.8in screen's not as good as the S5's, but it's impressive in its own right. With a resolution of 720x1280, images look sharp, and colours pleasingly vibrant - helpful when you're admiring your Womble-based photos and video.
Features and apps
The Samsung Galaxy K Zoom is no slouch when it comes to power. Inside the chunky frame, you'll find 1.7GHz dual core and a 1.3Ghz processor, with 2GB RAM. There's 8GB storage - not a huge amount, but it is expandable via a microSD card. It's 4G compatible too.
As you'd expect from a phone with this much grunt, switching between screens is seamless, graphically intensive games like Real Racing 3 run smoothly and with nary a hitch, and watching movies and TV gives it no trouble at all.
What will give you trouble, however, is cleaning up the interface. Out of the box, the four main screens are a little cluttered, and you'll want to spend a bit of time customising your own apps and widgets for easy access. It's a familiar frustration with Samsung phones, and sure enough, it's present and correct here.
The battery life is a bit of a mixed bag. With moderate use, it lasted a full day, which is reassuring. However, when we started using the camera extensively the battery started to drop alarmingly quickly - especially when we used the flash.
Still, it's far from the worst smartphone battery we've ever seen - but best keep a charger close to hand all the same.
Let's be frank: the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom is not a phone for everyone. If you're looking for a top of the range all-rounder, there are better options out there. If you're not really interested in photography, then there's little to interest you - in fact, why are you still reading this? Go check out the rest of our mobile site or something.
But it fills a niche, and it does so with aplomb. It knows its strengths - photography - and plays to them very well. So if you do want a handset that offers photography options well beyond the norm, you won't be disappointed if you snap this up. Buying one on phone contract might prove to be a tricky, since most networks don't stock the K Zoom anymore. You're best bet is probably to get a SIM-only deal and buy the handset outright from a retailer.
What do you think about the Galaxy K Zoom? Agree with our review? Not enough wombles? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments
...ah go on then. One more Galaxy K Zoom photo. I call this one 'Wistful Womble on the Train to Wimbledon':
Reviewed handset supplied by mobiles.co.uk