Hands-on: Samsung Galaxy K Zoom review

Samsung has dabbled with the smartphone/compact camera angle before, most recently with the Galaxy S4 Zoom, but it's so confident in market expansion that it has created an all-new range identity. While many might think that its latest phone come camera is a natural successor to the S4 Zoom, the company is keen to stress that it is a standalone product. And most likely the first in a new off-shoot line-up.

The Samsung Galaxy K Zoom will be released globally from the end of May and Pocket-lint had a brief play with a production sample ahead of the official announcement event in Singapore and we have to say that, being experienced with the Galaxy S4 Zoom and Galaxy Camera devices, this does feel different.

We and, most likely, Samsung see this latest device as more of a rival to the Nokia Lumia 1020 than the S4 Zoom. While it houses a 10x optical zoom lens it retains a slim enough body to still keep within respectable smartphone territory. Its only 20.2mm at its thickest point (16.6mm at the edges) and that keeps it within comfortable limits. The S4 Zoom was a chunky beast, this is not.

It's also a decent mid-level phone, with many specifications that are even above and beyond other smartphones in that category. For starters, it's a 4G handset with Samsung's own Hexa-core Exynos processor (1.3GHz quad-core and 1.7GHz dual-core). There is 2GB of RAM on board, NFC, dual-band Wi-Fi, and Android 4.4 KitKat supported by Samsung's own latest TouchWiz user interface.

On board storage tops out at 8GB, but the SD card slot is capable of expanding that by up to a further 64GB. And we can safely say that in operation, as a smartphone, it moves quickly and efficiently.

The only concession it makes on the phone side, in our opinion, is that it only features a 720p Super AMOLED display rather than a Full HD one, but at 4.8-inches, it's plenty big enough and represents a lot of real estate if you consider it against similarly pitched compact cameras, let alone other phones.

Its camera functionalities are certainly aiming for the stars. The 10x optical zoom lens - 24-240mm, F/3.1-6.3 - is accompanied by a 20.7-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor. It has optical image stablisation on board and a dedicated image processor.

Next to the lens there is a xenon flash and an LED autofocus assist light. And there are more camera modes and features to aid your photography than you can shake a stick at.

As well as the ability to record 1080p/50 video (1080p/60 in the US), a whole smorgasbord of smart modes are available from the off - too many to really go into here, you'll have to wait for Pocket-lint's full review for that. But a few caught our eye initially.

On the auto settings, not only do you get an autofocus box, which focuses on the point where you tap the screen, but an auto exposure. After setting the focal point, you can then set which part of the scene you want to take the exposure reading from. This is designed to help prevent photos being under or over exposed in certain areas.

The Galaxy K Zoom also features object tracking - which keeps a subject in focus, even when in motion - and smile and blink detection for portraits. However, we were particularly interested in Pro Suggest mode.

This new mode suggests different filters or smart modes you could use depending on automatic readings of the scene. You can also save your own settings based on certain circumstances and, through a Pro Suggest Market, upload yours or download ones made by other Galaxy K Zoom owners. It's a bit like Lightroom presets, with the marketplace being a free and rapidly expanding community sharing scheme. In fact, it's more like the car skins uploaded and available for Forza Motorsport 5 on the Xbox One, but we digress.

Finally, in keeping with the zeitgeist, there's a specific Selfie Alarm mode too. Because you are more likely to want to use the 20.7-megapixel camera than the 2-megapixel snapper on the front for your selfie pics, the mode enables you to select on-screen where you think your face will appear, will beep and take a few shots for you to choose the best one.

As Samsung recognises that the Galaxy K Zoom will be predominantly used by people who value their photography, it has also introduced an Instant Camera mode. Press the volume and shutter buttons from the lock screen and the camera will be ready to take a picture within 0.3 seconds. We tried it and it worked well.

We were also impressed by the quality of the pictures we took in our hands-on session, especially as the room we were in was not particularly bright and the ambience was mainly provided by spot bulbs. Without flash enabled it took colourful, bright pictures that looked sharp on the 4.8-inch display. We can't be absolutely sure they would retain brightness when uploaded from the camera, as we were not allowed to keep our sample pics because the software is not yet final, but we can safely say that few smartphone cameras would perform as well.

Again, we'll have to wait for the full review to find out more about how the Galaxy K Zoom performs in the field (probably literally, considering Pocket-lint's penchant for taking pictures of farm animals) and you can expect that around mid- to late-May.

It's something we're certainly looking forward to as from our initial play, the new device range has a lot of promise.

The Samsung Galaxy K Zoom will be available in the UK and other regions from the end of May. It will come in three colours: charcoal black, shimmery white and electric blue. Price is yet to be confirmed.



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