Welcome to my review of the Asus Zenfone Zoom. Before I published my review I posted a number of miscellaneous articles that you may wish to view which are connected to the main review. As usual if you have any questions, please ask. With all the photos, clicking on the image will reveal the original.
This phone is special. It has a 3 x optical zoom lens which operates without any moving external parts. The whole mechanism is internal. It also has laser auto focus as well as phase detection. As a smartphone it comes with all the bells and whistles too. See video below for more information on the camera.
So what’s inside the box? The photos below show the contents of the box. I like the fact it comes with a lanyard that attaches securely to the phone. You also get a pair of headphones, quick start guide, UK adapter and micro USB cable.
The other specifications based on model ZX551ML –
– Display – 5.5-inch 1080p Full HD, 403ppi, IPS LCD
– Corning Gorilla Glass 4
– Processor – 64-bit 2.5GHz Quad-core Intel Atom Z3590 CPU
– Graphics – PowerVR G6430 GPU
– RAM – 4GB LPDDR3
– Internal Storage – 64GB eMCC Flash or 128GB eMCP Flash
– External Storage – microSD (up to 128GB)
– Cameras – Rear – 13MP Panasonic SmartFSI sensor with a 10-element Hoya 3x optical zoom lens, aperture ranges from f/2.7 to f/4.8
– 5MP front-facing camera
– Software – Android 5.1 with ASUS ZenUI
– Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/b/ac
– Bluetooth 4.0+ EDR
– Android – 5.0 at launch
– Network Bands – UMTS/WCDMA/FDD-LTE, Data Rate: HSPA+: UL 5.76 / DL 42 Mbps, DC-HSPA+: UL 5.76 / DL 42 Mbps, LTE Cat4:UL 50 / DL 150 Mbps, 2G :GSM : 850MHz/900MHz/1800MHz/1900MHz , 3G :WCDMA :850MHz(5)/850MHz(6)/900MHz(8)/1900MHz(2) /2100MHz(1), 4G :FDD-LTE: (TW/JP version)
– Navigation – GPS, GLONASS, AGPS & BDS
– Sensors – Accelerator/E-Compass/Gyroscope/Proximity/Ambient Light Sensor/Hall Sensor
– Battery – 3000mAh non-removable Li-Polymer – comes with a rapid charger
– Dimensions – 158.9 x 78.84 x 11.95mm
– Weight – 185g
– Build – aluminium body with a removable leather back cover for accessing the micro SD and Micro SIM slots
The Main Settings and Other Phone Options
Further down I have created a gallery of screen shots of a number of different settings options. Tap on one photo to open the gallery.
The first aspect of the phone I like is the double tap to turn on or off. Other useful aspects are the inclusion of NFC, One Handed Mode (double tap home key to turn on), Power Saving options, Easy Mode and also a kids mode. Are you brave enough to allow your kid to use the phone! Wi-Fi also includes support for Wi-Fi Direct. Bluetooth includes APT-X. Data usage is split between Mobile Data and WiFi as well as details of data usage per app. The display has options for adjusting the colour balance and also activating a blue filter for night time viewing. I have never used a blue filter at night until I got this phone, but it really helped reduce my eyestrain. ZenMotion is a range of motion gestures used as shortcuts for various actions. Double tapping the home key when one handed operation is active, reduces the size of the screen. You can move the screen around too. You can also write on the screen to launch different apps. What is neat is there are options to launch the front camera by scribbling a “S” and a “C” for the rear camera. A decent do not disturb option is available. The lock screen has the option for quick access apps and whether or not to allow the physical keys to turn the camera on. See the screen shots to show all the details. Theming is everywhere with loads of customisations galore for every aspect including resizing the icons on the fly. I see no need to install a third party launcher with the Asus Zenfone Zoom.
Phone, Cellular and Audio
As a phone, the Zenfone Zoom performs really well. Calls were clear and people had no problem hearing me. The phone also has a recording button, again another useful option. Viewing angles were reasonable. Cellular strength and wifi seemed good too. The Zenfone Zoom is single micro sim and then a card slot for micro SD cards up to 128gb. On the LTE front, band 20 is missing. However, I never had an issues with data speeds using the Zenfone Zoom. AnTuTu scored 59,160 which is fairly close to the LG V10.
Audio. The rear loudspeaker is ok, maxing out around 88db. It is on the back, but doesn’t get totally muffled as their is a ridge on the back. Bluetooth APT-X is present and when you connect using a pair of headphones with APT-X, the APT-X logo suddenly appears on the screen and floats away. USB Audio is also supported and works well. The Zenfone Zoom has its own AudioEQ app to help improve the sound quality. It is a little gimmicky but it does work and make a difference. Overall sound quality is average though, slightly better using bluetooth APT-X and good via USB Audio.
The Camera App Interface
Ok, so this is a camera centric phone. So what are the options.
Front Selfie Settings
The front camera has lots of options from a timer that can be made to go off from 1 – 5 secs. To control the length, you just slide the shutter icon into the screen centre. The more you slide, the longer the delay becomes. Beautification is all the rage and the options include cheeks thinning, eyes enhancement, skin softening, blush effect, face/smile tracking. I had a lot of fun with the front selfie camera and was pleased with the shots even in lower light. I lost at least 10 years off my age with the beautification options 🙂
Rear Camera Settings
The rear camera has a feast of options. Or you can just use the auto mode. The operation of the camera is aided by a 2 stage physical shutter button and a physical button for launching video recording. The video button is next to the 2 stage shutter button. The volume keys then act as zoom controls. By default the settings are left to use the 3x optical zoom only and in my tests it bests to avoid using the digital zoom that goes all the way to 12 x zoom. It is better to crop into the 3 x optical zoom shots as the quality will be superior.
When in Auto mode, if a better mode will produce a superior result, the mode icon appears bottom right. Tap on the icon to switch to this mode, or turn off. Typically this appears for HDR or Low Light mode. To give you an idea of the setting ranges in manual mode.
– White Balance – 2500K to 6500K
– EV – -2 to + 2 in intervals 0.3, 0.6 1.0 etc
– ISO 50 to 3200
– Shutter speed – 1/16000 (thats right, its super fast) to 32 seconds for long exposures
– Manual Focus – slider control
– Horizontal Level
– Histogram – on or off when taking photo
In Auto Mode you get the following options which alter if you are using another mode.
– White Balance – Auto, Cloudy, Daylight, Fluorescent, Incandescent
– ISO 50 – 3200
– Photo Optimisations – Auto, Off, Manual – Manual gives fine tuning for saturation, contrast, sharpness, noise reduction, backlight, detail enhancement
– Camera Resolution – 13MP 4:3, 10M 16:9, 8MP 4:3, 6MP 16:9, 5MP 4:3, 4MP 16:9
– Anti Shake enhancement – Auto or Off
– Digital Zoom – on or off
– Image Quality – Fine, Standard
– Timestamp – On or off
– Shooting Mode – Touch Shutter, Self Timer, Burst (off, normal, turbo)
– Focus & Exposure – Smart AF, Infinity
– Metering Mode – Centre, Average
– Touch Auto Exposure – on or off
– Face Detection – On or Off
For Video you get the same options with regards to white balance controls and EV adjustments as stills!
– Video Quality – Full HD, HD and TV (640 x480)
– Video Stabilisation – on or off
– Video Preference – Performance or Quality
– Video Touch Auto Exposure – on or off
Generic settings include smart brightness, guidelines, info screen, review duration, shutter animation, shutter sound on or off, launch by physical buttons options, location, correct photo orientation on or off, anti flickr 50 or 60Hz, Power Saving Mode, Set Volume keys for shutter or zoom, save to internal or SD card and a tutorial.
So what do the different photo modes do?
– Auto – automatically determines the cameras best settings based on the environment
– Manual – You decide
– HDR – Expands the dynamic range
– Beautification -makes you look beautiful
– Super Resolution – Combines multiples shots to create incredible detailed photos
– Low Light – boosts up light sensitivity for a clear and bright low light shot without using the flash. Images are 3mp 16:9.
– Night – Allows a slower shutter speed to capture more light in dark scenes
– Depth of Field – Captures photos of close-up subjects with a soft background
– Effect – applies a range of filters
– Selfie – use the rear camera for a high res shot
– GIF Animation – converts a series of images into a moving image or GIF
– Panorama – Horizontal or Vertical
– Miniature – Creates a photo of life size object and turns it into a small scale model
– Time Rewind – Records images before and after the shutter and allows you to select the best ones
– Smart Remove – removes unwanted moving objects from the background
– All Smiles – Combines each persons best expression from multiple shots into a single perfect group photo
– Slow Motion – records fast moving objects with very high frame rate and plays back in slow speed
– Time Lapse – Time lapse recording.
Each of the above modes often have a few extra options too.
Photo Editing Options
After taking a photo, you can easily check the information of the photo, from the time and date, weather at the time, width, height, file size, device, flash, focal length, white balance, exposure time, storage location, and geo location displayed on a map with the coordinates.
Post processing allows for all the beautification options as mentioned previously, applying over 17 filters, adding frames, cropping, straightening, rotating, mirroring or drawing, or fine tuning the photo (auto, exposure, vignette, grads, contrast, shadows, highlights, vibrancy, sharpness, curves, hue, saturation, BW filter, negative, edges, posterise, blur, feather or relief).
Turbo Burst Mode – This uses a ratio of 16:9 and reduces quality to 3mp.
Normal Burst Mode – Full size photos
Auto Mode Shots. You can see below examples of non zoomed versus 3 x optical zoom. Having the optical zoom really makes such a big difference. I was also surprised how much more appealing the Zenfone shots were over the iPhone 6S Plus.
Zoomed in again optically.
Night, Long Exposure and Low Light Modes.
Shots edited in Snapseed using the HDR Scape filter.
Super Resolution Mode shots.
Camera Quality Opinion
This is the question you have all been asking me. Just how good is the camera and how does it rank amongst the best out there. Lets cut to the chase. It is no LG V10 or Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus killer. The phones on these cameras are better. But none of these phones have 3 x optical zoom and that is the Zenfone’s killer aspect. The Zenfone Zoom does not have 4K, outputs lower resolution panoramic photos than the competition and is not naturally good in low light due to its small pixel size and f/2.7 aperture. Using some of the manual, night or low light modes you can compensate and achieve some reasonable photos, but again they are not a patch on the V10, S6 Edge+. Even the iPhone 6S Plus takes better shots in low light, although the difference is not huge. The front selfie camera is fine. So if you are out and about visiting a tourist attraction, I would have the Zoom with me as the ability to zoom in that extra bit is very useful, especially over something like the iPhone 6S Plus. The Zenfone Zoom surprised me with its burst mode. It is not super fast but it did focus and capture a sharper shot than my iPhone 6S Plus. The Zoom also over saturates shot. This can be changed permanently by using your own shooting profile. Optical image stabilisation worked well in my testing. So how does this compare to the Nokia Lumia 1020, Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom and Samsung Galaxy K Zoom. Well all of those 3 phones are obsolete now! But from an image quality point of view only and ignoring the smartphone aspects, the 1020 is better, so is the S4 and K Zoom. But remember the Zenfone Zoom has no optical zoom mechanism protruding from the front. My final viewpoint on the Zenfone Zoom is personally I really loved using the camera. I got some smashing shots from it and loved using all the different camera shooting modes. Its somewhat adorable and I don’t know why 🙂
The Asus Zenfone Zoom costs around £350. It comes with some clever engineering in the camera department and as a smartphone is extremely versatile. The camera quality is average and then assisted by the 3 x optical zoom making this phone unique. The 2 stage shutter button is excellent too along with the camera app allowing for some creative photos. As a smartphone it includes everything practically. As an overall package it is recommended.