We go hands-on with the Zenfone Zoom!
While smartphones sold today all have a camera embedded in them, only a few devices can truly be called cameraphones – devices that have the capabilities of consumer point-and-shoots, specifically optical zoom capability. There’s a reason for that – shoving lenses that’s actually capable of optical zoom into phones typically result in overly thick and unweildy devices. Case in point: Samsung’s Galaxy K Zoom.
That changed last year when ASUS formally announced their Zenfone Zoom. At 12mm thick (measuring from the camera module) it’s the thinnest phone in the market that has optical zoom capability, a far cry from the Galaxy K Zoom’s 16mm thickness when undeployed. Today we have an opportunity to see the Zenfone Zoom up-close and personal before it’s official unveil this weekend.
ASUS Zenfone Zoom ZX551 specs
- Intel Atom 2.5GHz Z3590 quad-core processor
- 4GB of RAM
- 5.5-inch full HD display, Corning Gorilla Glass 4, Bluelight filter, 1920 x 1080
- 128GB of storage, expandable via microSD
- 13-megapixel rear camera, Panasonic sensor, HOYA dual-periscope lens system, 3X optical zoom, OIS, laser AF, f/2.7-f/4.8
- 5-megapixel front camera
- Single SIM
- 3G, LTE
- WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, A-GPS
- Android 5.1 Lollipop with ZenUI
- 3000mAh battery, Boostmaster fast charging
Initial Impressions: a superior camera experience any way you cut it
A lot has changed since ASUS’ official announcement of the Zenfone Zoom almost a year ago in CES. While many of you are probably annoyed that the company took their sweet, sweet time in releasing the Zoom, the wait hasn’t been for naught. For one thing, the company has changed the material on the back cover from a plain, matte one into a brown, hard plastic that has faux leather trimmings, and the phone looks better for it.
Since the Zoom is the most premium Zenfone released by ASUS so far, they’ve spared no expense in making it look and feel premium. The phone uses a metal frame that’s been intricately crafted from aluminum, and overall the device feels hefty without being too heavy. The edges of the space-grey colored metal frame features nice looking bezels.
The display of the Zoom is a 5.5-inch full HD panel that has Gorilla Glass 4 and a Bluelight filter for eye protection. Just like the Zenfone 2, the Zoom’s IPS, full HD display is bright and vibrant, with excellent viewing angles all around.
On the right of the phone sits the power key, as well as the volume rocker that also serves as zoom control when the phone is in camera mode. Look further down and you’ll see the shutter key for photos and a smaller button for videos. Pressing either will instantly launch the camera app. The 3.5mm jack is on top while the USB port is on the bottom. There’s also a lanyard loop attachment point on the Zoom, which works in conjunction with the very premium-looking leather lanyard on the device.
Flip the phone over, and you’ll see the very prominent camera module that has a dual LED flash and a laser autofocus system. ASUS has managed to squeeze in a 3x optical camera by very clever engineering, using what they call a dual periscope system. The thickness of the camera module has to do with how the camera sensor and the lenses work together – the sensor is offset 90 degrees and a series of lenses work in conjunction with the main lens that you see, with each lens moving depending on the Zoom level. This allows the Zoom to have 3x optical capability while still being relatively thin. We’re a little bit disappointed to find out that the Zoom isn’t capable of 4K video, and tops out at just full HD 30FPS.
A few more specs of the Zoom’s camera for the curious: the lens is provided by HOYA, while the sensor is provided by Panasonic. There’s laser AF on board, as well as OIS for judder-free videos. The Zoom is also capable of exposure times of up to 32 seconds.
While it may not look it, the back of the Zoom is removable, and taking it off will reveal the single SIM slot and the microSD slot if you feel that the 128GB of storage isn’t enough for you.
Internally the Zoom comes packing Intel’s Z3590 quad-core processor running at 2.5GHz along with 4GB of RAM. That’s more than enough grunt for almost any task, and the Zoom is especially capable, although the Zenfone Zoom wouldn’t let us install the latest version of AnTuTu on it for some reason. Android 5.1 Lollipop runs inside the Zoom, along with ASUS’ ZenUI. Our gripes with ZenUI is still there – there’s just way too many pre-installed apps inside the phone which slows it down over time.
We have good news and bad news. The bad news is that we really can’t give you camera samples now, though the good news is that we’ll be taking a trip to Cebu this weekend with ASUS to take the Zoom on its ultimate test: covering Cebu’s iconic Sinulog festival.
We have no official pricing for the Zoom as of yet.