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(Pocket-lint) - Asus went after mixed reality geeks with the ZenFone AR, but with the  Zenfone 3 Zoom, it's targeting photographers.

All the major smartphones from this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas had multiple camera lenses, including the ZenFone 3 Zoom, which comes equipped with two 12-megapixel camera lenses to deliver a blurred “bokeh” effect as well as optical zoom. 

There are several phones in the ZenFone 3 range, such as the Max and Laser. The ZenFone 3 Zoom stands out because of its iPhone 7 Plus-like design and impressive camera specifications. There are horizontally mounted dual cameras with 12-megapixel sensors, both of which are made by Sony. While one offers a f/1.7 aperture, the other has a 2.3x optical zoom, and both have Asus’ SuperPixel technology.

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Asus claims the technology gives the cameras two-and-a-half times better light sensitivity than the iPhone 7 Plus, though we couldn't test that during our demo because the show floor was well lit. However, we played around with the camera interface, which displays all sorts of manual controls - from shutter speed to white-balance settings. The phone also offers digital zoom, so you can get up to 12x zoom. 

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You can tap a button to quickly zoom in (unfortunately, there’s no visual indication when switching from optical to digital). You can also shoot in RAW, record 4K videos, and manually select lenses (including using the two lenses together to produce a blurred background, which Asus calls Portrait mode, just like Apple does). Other camera specs include laser autofocus and optical image stabilization.

As for the front-facing camera, it's a 13-megapixel sensor. The Zenfone 3 Zoom is definitely trying to be a cameraphone. And thanks to a 5,000mAh battery, it should power the longest of selfie sessions. Asus said it can even do 42 days standby. Amazingly, despite the massive cell, the phone is only 8mm thick, so you'll likely have no problem touting this thing around to all your shoots.

Asus loaded the ZenFone 3 Zoom with a 5.5-inch AMOLED screen (1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution), Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, 4GB of RAM, and Android 6.0 with its own ZenUI over the top. We think the added software really takes away from the Android experience, so don't expect the phone to properly contend with Google Pixel or any of the newer Nexus devices running the latest, purest version of Android. 

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First Impressions

Overall, the Zenfone 3 Zoom is a mid-range phone with some compelling camera specs and a large battery. We really need to spend more time with it before we can say whether it can capture better photos than competing handsets, and it would be good to know how much the thing costs before giving it two thumbs up. Asus has said it is coming in February, but it's staying quiet on price and availability. 

Keep in mind most mid-rangers often go for less than $400.

Writing by Elyse Betters. Originally published on 9 January 2017.