Typically, when looking for a camera phone, I don’t normally find the ones that will totally replace my DSLR. We may be at the time when smartphones can easily replace point-and-shoot cameras and even DSLRs, but I personally prefer lugging around a big one because I know that I can do more with it.
I never got the chance to use and review Lumia devices with Pureview technology but I was aware of its momentary dominance in the smartphone-camera category. It was doing well as a niche product, but it got shoved off by iPhone and Android extremists. My contention – and I wish to stress – is that Lumia paved the way to make the smartphone-camera workable, albeit its seemingly less successful approach.
Nevertheless, the category stood up on its own despite the looming demise of the Lumia and Pureview line. Manufacturers like Samsung, Lenovo, Huawei and ASUS now play actively in this field, and might stand a chance to enliven the competition.
Last January 2016, ASUS finally revealed price and availability of the ASUS Zenfone Zoom. Back in October 2015, ASUS announced their plans to bring the product to the country, but they eventually pushed the launched date to (probably) give way to the promotion of their other products such as ASUS Zenfone 2 Deluxe and ROG line. If you’re on the lookout for a camera smartphone, you may want to check out our full report below.
Hands down, Zenfone Zoom is the most elegant looking camera smartphone I’ve seen in ages. I’ve played around the 1st and 2nd iteration of Samsung’s Galaxy Camera and the Lumix 925, but nothing can come close to the superiority of ASUS Zenfone Zoom’s build.
Its most striking feature is its leather removable back cover. It isn’t as furnished as LG G4’s leather back plate but it looks good enough compared to other Zenfone and even Samsung’s products with similar design implementation. Contrary to initial impressions, Zenfone Zoom’s back plate is indeed made of premium ox leather, and assembled using traditional italian leather tailoring.
If you take out the removable back cover, you will see Zenfone Zoom’s anodized aluminum unibody frame in full glory. Its very comfortable to hold, thanks to its hyperfine sanding process. According to ASUS, it went through 0.125mm sanding process, which led it to look and feel very smoothly when touched.
Since the device is positioned for mobile photographers, it was designed and made to please them fully. Dedicated still and video recording buttons are readily available on its right side, and the volume rockers above the buttons may be used for zooming. There is even a provision for strap found at the lower left corner of the device. If you’ve got other straps available, you can easily change it at whim.
The device is powered by 64-bit Intel Z3590 2.5GHz. Apart from just being the latest and fastest processor available for mobile phones, its most celebrated feature is being able to transmit date in dual pipe channels – 2×32 bit channels
Here’s a simpler explanation on how this works. Imagine Makati as the CPU and Cubao as the RAM. When operating at single channel, only one (64-bit) lane will be used to transport people (data). When operating in dual-channels, 2 (32-bit) lanes are operating thereby opening more pipes so that more data can be processed over time. This what happens in Zenfone Zoom’s innards with its 64-bit CPU and 4GB RAM. This makes the operation of Zenfone Zoom really smooth and fast.
Never have I experienced unbearable slow-down on the Zenfone Zoom. It isn’t as fast and as smooth as the iPhone 6s, but it’s definitely better than other premium smartphones I used like the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the LG G4. I bet it’ll perform even buttery smooth once ASUS rolls out Marshmallow update later this year.
The Zenfone Zoom still runs on Android Lollipop 5.0 with the latest build of ZenUI. Time and again, we’ve been very vocal about how we find the ZenUI a double-edged sword for ASUS’ smartphones. It eats significant amount memory and space, but there are selected few apps that are proven very helpful. These are mostly stock applications that are replaced by the ones from ASUS like Camera (that will talk lenghtly in a bit), Browser, Contact, etc. There are few apps from ASUS that totally stand out just like What’s Next, AudioWizard, MiniMovie and PhotoCollage.
The pre-installed UI puts more emphasis on function and design. Organizing and browsing the applications are easy, and there are tons of available ways to customize the look and feel of the UI. Themes are available, but I prefer to use minimalist ones to match the overall look of the Zenfone Zoom.
The phone’s screen is one of Zenfone Zoom’s under-appreciated features. Sure it has an ultra-awesome camera with 3x optical zoom (that I will talk about later), but ASUS didn’t say much about how good its screen is.
For starters, its 5.5-inch full HD display has 401 ppi (same as iPhone 6s Plus’ PPI). Its barely noticeable if you’re a regular consumer, but may be a little bit of an issue if you’re using your phone as a mobile photography tool. The quality even gets more obvious when you view text on screen, but as I said, it isn’t something that you’d hate about.
I love taking photos. I’m not a professional photographer, but I’d like to give you my thoughts about this phone’s camera from a consumer standpoint. I normally use my camera to capture anything that interests me. I know a thing or two about aperture, ISO, shutter speed and white balance, to in order for me to create quality unboxing and reviews.
This phone’s camera features definitely make this device stand out among the many camera phones available. It can go toe to toe with the iPhone 6, but the quality of its photos only come a little close to the ones produced by Galaxy S6 and LG G5.
The level of saturation of the photos I took is quite lacking, but not as distant as the real thing. It isn’t as over-saturated as the photos I took using Galaxy S6, but at par with the ones I took using the LG G5. It isn’t bad at all.
The camera’s ultra-fast focus capability is outstanding. Just like Zenfone Laser, the Zenfone Zoom has laser-autofocus, which allows mobile photographers to focus and snap photos almost instantly. This worked flawlessly especially when subjects are well lighted; there’s a bit of slowdown on focusing when subjects are in dark places.
2 of its most notable camera features are its 3x optical zoom and super-resolution. You have to remember that Zenfone Zoom is the thinnest smartphone with 3x optical zoom. This is a big deal because (1) the device is able to fit in 10-element Hoya lens; (2) it is able to achieve farther zooming without enlarging the pixels thereby reducing image resolution and picture quality.
See that building at the center? I took this photo without zooming into the subject. I was at the 7th floor of Azumi Hotel.
Let’s zoom a little farther.
Here comes the awesome part. Let’s zoom in a few more notches.
I’ve got 3 more photos to show you:
And how about super-resolution? I prepared a quick demo to show you the quality of photos I took with and without super-resolution enabled to prove my point.
Without a doubt, you will love the sound quality of Zenfone Zoom. It just works as advertised – loud and clear, thanks to SonicMaster 2.0 technology. ASUS showcased a lot of geeky stuff about its speakers, but nothing can beat an assurance from me who have been using this device for more than a month. It even has AudioWizard that automatically shifts and optimizes the sound quality based on what you’re listening too – movie, music, gaming or voice.
All the modern connectivity options are included in Zenfone Zoom. LTE Cat4+, Wifi 802.11ac and 4-laser engraved antennas are all available on this phone, enough for you to take your digital and online enjoyment wherever you go.
Connection reliability is high on this device, which also aids it in optimizing its energy consumption and efficiency.
I usually change my daily driver smartphone every month. But ever since I got the Zenfone Zoom, I actually never actually let it go. My friends noticed it, and it became a habit for me to tell them what brand and model this is without being asked. This is a pure testament of my belief and satisfaction over the Zenfone Zoom. It is, by far, the best Zenfone I’ve used and I’m always ready to take it with me wherever I go.