Samsung is known for their phones. Their cameras… not so much. What happens when Samsung combines the two, effectively creating a smartphone with a point-and-shoot stapled to the back of it? That’s been tried by the company before, resulting in the Galaxy S4 Zoom which was a lower-spec S4 with a very chunky camera dominating the handset. So how has Samsung’s second attempt at making a camera/phone gone with the Galaxy K Zoom?
That really depends on how you look at it. Purely as a phone, the Galaxy K Zoom falls a bit short display-wise of what we’ve come to expect from a premium device but it’s not as apathetic as the Galaxy S4 Zoom was. We’re looking at a 720p 4.8-inch display (1,280 x 720) with all of the usual accoutrements like Android 4.4 (KitKat), 2GB of RAM and 8GB of native storage. Notable is the processor, one of Samsung’s septa-core setups with a quad 1.3GHz and dual 1.7GHz chip sandwiched together which gives you a nice little speed boost when it’s needed.
There’s little slowdown when using the handset (if at all) but, unlike Sony and LG of late, Samsung hasn’t been able to bring itself to leave the KitKat OS alone. It’s still their usual, garish take on Android that you’ll be swiping your fingers over and that’s a wrench. We’ve been spoiled lately with almost stock operating systems, Samsung really could have done better here.
As for the camera side, flip the touchscreen side over and you wouldn’t even know that you’re looking at a smartphone. The Galaxy K Zoom bears a much stronger resemblance to a standard point-and-shoot this time around, with the optical zoom lens and flash being the only things visible from the rear. Inside, the K Zoom has a 20.7MP sensor and the optical zoom (10x) is perhaps the best bit of the whole thing. You’re not going to get hardware zoom from the likes of Sony’s Xperia Z2, no matter how useful the sensor is.
Best of all, Samsung have trimmed down the phone a whole lot since the S4 Zoom was in our hands. It’s not as clunky to handle when using it as a smartphone or when the camera functions come out, though Samsung could do more to speed up the hardware. Zooming the K Zoom takes a while, whether you’re using the volume rockers in camera mode or via the touchscreen UI. Long story short, don’t expect to unship it for some quick snaps – the response time for the zoom is measured in seconds.
Image quality now, that’s where you’re going to be pleased and, just maybe, a little upset. Samsung have gone to a lot of effort to pack in a full camera here but the only real benefit is the optical zoom. So if you’re off sight-seeing, you can turn your smartphone on the er… sights and record them for posterity. But, if you’re taking unzoomed photographs, there are smartphone cameras that won’t weigh down your pants which will take better images – the Xperia Z2 is one of these. But there aren’t too many contenders for a better smartphone image and there are none when you factor in that optical zoom lens. Especially when you see just how little space Samsung have packed it into.
All together now
Both sides of the equation function fairly well, though neither avenue actually excels at their tasks enough to make you ditch your current smartphone and standalone camera setup. We get the feeling that Samsung didn’t want a Galaxy S 5 rival on their hands here, so the downscaled phone specs here make sense, in a strange sort of way. They don’t make us feel any happier about the phone portion of our program though. On the camera side, the Galaxy K Zoom is indeed a possible replacement for a point-and-shoot, though why you’d want to pay R8,000 in order to add a phone to one is beyond us. The K Zoom strikes us as being a device that has been brought in to fill a gap in the market that doesn’t really exist.
Unless you’re looking for a compact camera that is also able to make calls for some reason, and you’re also planning on using that device as a phone at least 50% of the time you have it (probably more), there doesn’t seem to be any compelling reason to own a Galaxy K Zoom. It exists, that’s about all that needs to be said. That said, if you’re one of the folks that finds a phone+camera setup convenient then Samsung’s effort is an improvement over the last one.