Get Ready for Your Close-Up: Samsung Brings Optical Zoom to Galaxy S4 Zoom
The cameras on smartphones have come a long way, but one area where digital cameras still hold an advantage is zoom. Or should I say, held?
Samsung today unveiled the Galaxy S4 Zoom, an Android handset with a 16-megapixel camera and 10x optical zoom.
Till now, smartphone owners have had to use digital zoom (that thing you do when you pinch-to-zoom) to get a close-up of their subject. Digital zoom enlarges an already captured image, but that degrades the quality of the photo, since it magnifies the pixels in the photo. With optical zoom, the lens physically moves closer to the subject and allows you to capture the image at its original resolution.
There’s a ring around the camera called the Zoom Ring, which, when twisted, can activate different camera modes, including in-call photo sharing. This lets you shoot a photo in the middle of a phone call and sends a multimedia message to your caller.
Other camera features include image stabilization, a Xenon flash, continuous shot mode and something called Photo Suggests, which helps you find the best place for snapping your photos by showing other images that have been taken near your current location.
Of course, having optical zoom comes with some compromises, namely a thicker, heavier design. The S4 Zoom measures 4.9 inches tall by 2.5 inches wide by 0.6-inch thick, and weighs 7.3 ounces. By comparison, the Galaxy S4 measures 5.4 inches tall by 2.7 inches wide by 0.3-inch thick, and weighs 4.6 ounces.
As a smartphone, the Galaxy S4 Zoom seems to fall in the midrange category. It has a 4.3-inch, 960 by 540 pixel touchscreen, eight gigabytes of internal memory with a microSD expansion slot, and a 1.5GHz dual-core processor. It runs Android Jelly Bean 4.2 and supports 4G LTE.
Samsung did not release any details about availability or pricing. Engadget is reporting that it will be launched in the U.S. sometime in Q3, but Samsung told me that it had not announced any plans specific to the U.S.
The Galaxy S4 Zoom is part of a broader effort by Samsung to make sure it has products to cover every conceivable market niche. After achieving its goal of having a device at every screen size, Samsung has this year tried to tailor its product line to cover different interests, such as with this product, the Galaxy Camera and the launch of the waterproof Galaxy S4 Active.