Below are all the review posts written covering the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom.
Welcome back to my last part on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom. Earlier parts can be found here.
So, let’s start by saying that I have returned my S4 Zoom, due to one issue / bug that just frustrated me. Annoyingly, everything else about the phone and camera was fine. The battery was removable, it had a micro SD card slot, it was based on the S4 Mini so a competent performer. It also can take good photos and the optical zoom and xenon flash assured you always got a decent snap. It even had preset modes to take the guess work out of what advanced settings you needed for a waterfall, fireworks, and many other scenarios photos. It even had a centre button, handy for turning the phone on whilst sitting on a table.
But for a camera first, phone second device, it was a weakness or fault in the panoramic mode that let the device down. As mentioned already, panoramic photos were being captured at only 400-600kb maximum file sizes, resulting in poor pixel count and not acceptable for a camera phone.
However, if you never take panoramic photos, then the S4 Zoom is a fantastic piece of kit. Sadly, I do take many due to living in a very scenic place, and consequently the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom has been returned.
In this part I will look at the zoom aspect of the phone. If you are interested in the earlier parts, click here.
So below is a photo I took at the weekend, just in auto mode and without zoom.
And now with a small amount of zoom, about 4 x zoom. This enabled me to zoom much closer to the tor in the middle of Burrator Reservoir, Dartmoor.
It was taken from a slightly different angle, but on the same walkway.
Its odd, but now I know I can zoom in and take good quality photos, I seem to be using the zoom function a lot more. In fact I would say at least 50% of my photos taken have some sort of zoom used. This was another example of the zoom, but this time at full 10 x zoom. This enabled me to lose some of the power lines on the right side.
One last point, none of the S4 Zoom photos have been edited on my blog. They are as identical to how the phone shot them.
Over the next few weeks I am going to post daily shorts on camera sample modes.
First, is a test of the camera optics using dark and light shadows and seeing how it copes. HDR mode is not allowed for this test.
So here is the result.
What do you think?
And this is using HDR mode.
Very marginal differences. Overall the camera did a good job.
What’s your opinion?
The English weather had been terrible, so here is a collection of photos snapped by the S4 Zoom.
What I will say is that having a phone with optical zoom is a godsend. When you go to snap a photo, you think a bit of zoom would be good. None of these photos have been edited, just down sized slightly to save space on my blog. If you want to see the full resolution , just ask.
The Zoom does not take panoramic photos as mentioned a few days ago. They are horrific low quality and an embarrassment.
Anyway here’s the camera highlights so far.
Welcome to part 5 of my review of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom. To recap on the earlier parts click here.
Today, I am looking at S Voice on the S4 Zoom. The camera is being tested over the weekend in more detail, and therefore next week I will publish my findings in the camera aspect of this device.
S Voice is Samsung’s answer to Siri. Except its not. Siri is like a personal assistant. You can move and change appointments with Siri in a much more natural way.
With S Voice you can request it to undertake basic instructions, from creating new appointments, tasks, memos, reminders, opening apps, navigate to a place or person, set timer, record voice, asking a web search, turn wifi or Bluetooth on or off, set alarms and read the news.
The voice recognition seems to work fairly well and rarely made an error. But it does need an Internet connection. Where Apple’s Siri scores higher is its ability to set a reminder for when you arrive home.
You activate S Voice by either double tapping the home button, pressing the S Voice icon, or by saying “Hi Galaxy” in Drive Mode.
In Drive Mode, S Voice reads out incoming messages and alerts. With messages you can reply using your voice hands free.
It is a handy feature when in the car, but otherwise its quicker to use other methods. Also having S Voice configured to start by double tapping the home button, does very marginally slow down the device.
This is a second part of the review today, highlighting a rather disastrous discovery.
It was sunny late evening yesterday, so I decided to go take some photos. Panoramic are my favourite type of photo so I took several of these. I had a brief look on the phone, and the panoramic shots looked rather grainy.
Anyway, once back home, I connected via USB the S4 Zoom to my PC. It showed there was 800 photos to import. I had only taken 50 so something was wrong here. Basically all the thumbnails were being picked up, including dropbox. And then it took 20 mins to import the photos and the speed was painfully slow.
The panoramic photos had no resolution. They were 200kb in size. They should have been 30mb as a minimum. Another tech guru Steve Litchfield also tested his panoramic mode on his S4 Zoom and it had the same problem.
A phone call to Samsung, and a discussion with one of their camera experts, resetting and changing some other settings made no difference. Then I installed 5 top panoramic apps from Google Play and they also produced dreadful resolution.
Samsung recommended I returned the phone for a refund, as they could not guarantee whether it was software or hardware. Or whether it could be fixed by an update.
This is a camera first phone second device. It is possible that the S4 Zoom may just have a weakness for panoramic photos. It is disappointing though.
I hope you have enjoyed the first 2 parts of the S4 Zoom review and early impressions. To recap on those parts click here.
Today, I am going to cover off some of the issues I have encountered. I probably won’t be able to stretch and test the camera due to the rainy UK weather until the weekend.
So in no particular order these are the issues or observations –
– battery life is fairly reasonable so far. I have used the S4 Zoom constantly and I can get through a day from 6am to 10pm. But no more. That is with using the camera, a few calls, twitter, blog, lots of stuff syncing and Internet. In fairness the battery is fairly hefty and I have 90 apps installed.
– the battery is removable but I cannot so far find anywhere even from Samsung that is selling the battery. In the long term, I would definitely want a spare battery kept with me especially if I was going to be snapping loads of photos.
– charging – thankfully regardless of whether via mains or USB the phone seems to charge fairly quickly.
– car GPS mount – my universal mount can’t handle the depth of the S4 Zoom and in my brief hunt for a new one cannot find anything. Any suggestions would be grateful.
– cases – you must be having a laugh, I have only found one case on eBay which is a silicone type affair for £3.90. It looks shocking, but it is better than nothing. Samsung are meant to have a bespoke case for this device, but nothing is available yet. In fact accessories for this device are going to be few and far between.
– story album – Samsung include an app called Story Album. You select some photos and make an album which you can then get printed and posted to yourself. Except, you select the photos and nothing further happens. Apparently, Samsung have suggested I need to hard reset my phone and some software I have installed might be clashing with it. Well no chance of that for a while until I have tested everything I need, and then I might try again. But I reckon its the app.
– auto focus on the camera – maybe me, but sometimes it seems to struggle to auto focus. I need more time to test camera but indoors this is what I have observed.
– camera – talking of the camera, I need to familiarise myself with the options, but strangely I did find the HTC One concept of taking photos much easier as with the HTC One you didn’t worry about which mode you just took the photo and edited it afterwards
– photos – no question about it, you get a decent quality photo. Optical zoom is brilliant being on your phone as often you do need to zoom in to a photo. I have captured views that no other phone could have managed due to optical zoom. Digital zoom is useless in comparison.
– speed – it takes about 1.5- 2.0 seconds to take the first photo from pressing the camera icon and then using shutter button. The HTC One could have taken 20 photos in the meantime, albeit much lower quality. As the S4 Zoom is more like the S4 Mini it’s processor is not as powerful. I don’t get any issues with its speed, and it is not slow, but then it is not fast like the HTC One. You do get the odd slow down, but it is odd ones and has no impact is usage. Makes you wonder if we really need Snapdragon 800 processors!
– voice control – you have the ability to control many apps by voice. Sometimes it works very well, and sometimes it is a bit hit and miss
– screen – it comes with a lower resolution screen than the standard S4 and you do notice the difference. Put the S4 Zoom side by side to the HTC One and it really shows how incredible the HTC One screen is. It’s a real wow moment. In addition, the S4 Zoom just isn’t a bright screen compared to the HTC One.
– shape, size and weight – it’s heavy. And you notice it in shirt front pockets but it fits with ease. Mainly as its not too wide or too tall. It’s fairly comfy in the hand due to its curves, but the Zoom lens does get in the way sometimes. I’m getting used to it though
– sound – loud and good audio quality, so makes for a good MP3 player, or for listening to podcasts over the loud speaker.
– no notification led – it got none, and no light for charging state either.
In reality you have a camera with a smartphone attached. It’s a good combo as you can do nearly anything and achieve high quality photos. It is still early days, and the main camera test is yet to be done.
If you have any questions, please ask. I should have all the answers.
Over the last few days I have written about my first early impressions and the part 1 of the S4 Zoom review. To recap, click here.
Today, I am going to look in more detail as to what you get in the box, and the physical aspects of the device.
But before I do that, I thought I would just update you on the memory front. The S4 Zoom comes with 8gb internal memory with the option to move apps to the micro SD card. However, whilst this moves the app itself, it doesn’t move the app data file. So Asphalt 7 which is 1.14gb doesn’t really benefit from this feature. However, I now have 90 apps installed in total, one third of which are games including Asphalt 7. I have 1.55gb left of free memory, so now don’t intend on installing any more apps. So unless you are a big heavy game player, the S4 Zoom memory works just fine. Now, here’s an identity crisis for you. The S4 Zoom is connected to the Moga Pro Game Controller. The Moga Pro Controller actually works really well with the S4 Zoom in both modes A & B and really well. The arm doesn’t secure the S4 Zoom firmly, but it is fine so long as you don’t move too much. Here’s a photo.
The grip arm sits between the camera lens and S4 Zoom camera grip on the other side. Looks odd, but it works a treat.
So what came in the box.
Well, apart from the phone itself, you got a Quick Start Guide, Quick Reference Guide, USB Micro Lead and UK Travel Plug, A microfibre cloth, regulatory information and wired headset. The wired headset can be used to make and receive calls and listen to music. There is no FM radio. The sound quality via the headphones is rather good with music considering they are included for free.
The Quick Start Guide is all about how to use the phone for the first time, from charging, inserting micro sim and battery. And not much more really. However, the Quick Reference Guide is very good.
The guide is a double sided pull out booklet, describing over 40 photo modes, and some scenes and what settings you need. This is handy guide to have and even includes a section for you to make your own notes. I intend to photocopy this guide as well.
Looking more closely at the S4 Zoom, the front of the device has the lens, top right is the loudspeaker, between the loudspeaker and lens, the gps antenna is located, then the xenon flash and Auto Focus Sensor Assist light. The camera grip also hides the main phone antenna. on the top side, you have the power, volume and camera buttons.
At the camera grip end, on the side, is located the battery and sim cover. The cover flip opens, enabling you to push the micro sim card in place. The battery has a slide to remove flap, once unlocked, the battery drops in to place.
The bottom of the device reveals the cover for the micro SD card. 64gb micro sd cards are supported. You can also attach a tripod to the mount.
And finally, on the back you have the S4 Zoom screen, which is made of Gorilla Glass 3. What I have noticed with the HTC One and S4 Zoom side by side, is just how amazing the HTC One screen is compared to the S4 Zoom. The S4 Zoom screen is nowhere as bright as the HTC One, nor as sharp due to nearly 50% less pixels. But so far, it is fine mainly due to the customisable fonts you can select in the settings on the S4.
The UK weather has been heavy rain over the weekend, and even yesterday, so photo samples have been limited. I will as soon as possible complete the camera review but below is another sample of a Nespresso pod, and then a crop from the photo.
Tomorrow, I will provide an update of how I am finding using the S4 Zoom, and in the meantime, if you fancy treating yourself to a Samsung S4 Zoom, Clove Technology will be more than happy to look after your needs.
Yesterday, I provided my early impressions of the S4 Zoom. Click here.
Today, I am going to start reviewing the device, and at the same time will answer the many questions I have already received about this device. As I mentioned yesterday, I got my Samsung Galaxy S4 from Clove Technology.
The official specifications of the S4 Zoom are –
-Xenon Flash, 16MP BSI CMOS Sensor, 24-240mm 10x optical zoom
-Optical Image stabilisation, F3.1-F6.3 Lens, 4fps Burst Shot, ISO 100-3200
-1080p video recording, Dedicated shutter key
-Zoom Ring for quick sharing of photos and access of the handset’s interface 1.9MP front facing camera
-Expert Mode for you to change shooting parameters,Smart Modes to help for your photos
-HDR Mode, Panorama,Best face to adjust smiles and eyes
-Multiple filters and modes to enhance your photos
-8GB Internal Storage (5GB user-accessible), possible to move apps to micro SD card
-MicroSD slot (expandable up to 64GB)
-Bluetooth, WiFi, 3G
-IR Blaster with Peel software
-3.5mm earphone Jack
-Accelerometer, Geomagnetic, Proximity, Gyro, RGB Light
-A-GPS and GLONASS for navigation
-Up to 7 Hours Internet Usage Time (3G)
-Up to 9 Hours Internet Usage Time (Wi-Fi)
-Up to 10 Hours Video Playback Time
-Up to 46 Hours Audio Playback Time
-Up to 13 Hours Talk Time (W-CDMA)
-Up to 570 Hours Standby Time (W-CDMA)
-125.5 x 63.5 x 15.4 mm
-208 g weight
-Super Amoled Display , 4.3 inches qHD resolution of 540 x 960
-GSM 3G, EDGE / GPRS (850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900MHz)
-HSPA+ 21Mbps / 5.76Mbps (850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100MHz)
-802.11a/b/g/n 2.4+5GHz, Wi-Fi Direct available
-PBAP, A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP, OPP, SAP, HID, PAN, DI, MAP
-NFC available but not available Mobile Payment
-DLNA (Samsung Link), MHL 1.2 support
-KIES, KIES Air support
-Dual Core Processor
-1.5GHz CPU Speed
-Video Format: MPEG4, H.264, H.263, VC-1, WMV7 / 8, Sorenson Spark, VP8, MP43
-Full HD (1080p) Video Playback available
-Recording up to 30fps
-Audio Format : MP3, AMR-NB / WB, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, Vorbis (OGG), FLAC, WMA
So being a Samsung device, everything including the kitchen sink in terms of specifications are included, but actually one key feature is missing. And that is the notification LED. That means no charging light too. I do miss this at the moment.
The apps Samsung include with the Zoom are WatchOn (the infra red blaster and TV Peel software), S Planner, Gallery, Samsung Apps, Samsung Hub, S Translator, Internet, TripAdvisor, Group Play, Video, Story Album, Music, Flipboard, Photo Suggest, Paper Artist, Video Editor, Calculator, Clock, Help, Downloads, My Files, Voice Recorder, Voice Search, Settings, Samsung Link, Dropbox, S Memo, Polaris Office 5 (the viewer is included but the full version is free when you log in to Samsung Apps). That is quite a decent bunch but not a massive bloatware either.
The settings of the S4 Zoom reveal quick toggles of which you can select from wifi, gps, sound, screen rotation, bluetooth, mobile data, blocking mode, power saving, screen mirroring, wifi hotspot, s beam, nfc, driving mode, smart stay, sync, and flight mode. As you can see, considerably less from the standard S4.
Further within the settings the key areas are security. Within here you can encrypt device and sd card, set up the remote controls, sim change alert and find my mobile and a few other options. On the accounts tab, you can control you various accounts from email , dropbox, Samsung and the backup options. You can choose to backup to Google, Samsung or dropbox. Under the My Device section in settings, there is lock screen, display, sound, home screen mode, open camera, call, block mode, driving mode, safety assistance, power saving mode, accessory, accessibility, language and input, motions and gestures, smart screen and voice control. The connection tabs handles wifi, bluetooth, data useage, more networks, NFC, S Beam, DLNA, Screen mirroring and Kies. The above list does not include all the setting options, as I have only included the relevant ones. 10% got left out. But even just listing the options is a task in itself.
Anyone using a Windows Phone, should now understand why WP8 is so far behind android. Anyway, back to the settings. Lockscreen – here you can select the type of screen lock preferred from swipe, face, pattern, pin or password. With swipe selected, you can have multiple widgets on the lockscreen, customise apps, app shortcuts, pick your unlock effect, and more.
Display – options for wallpaper including live wallpapers, notification panel options, screen mode options which include adapt, dynamic, standard, professional photo and movie. I use adapt so it changes according to your environment. Daydream options include colours, flipboard, photo frame and photo table. Fonts – options for font size from tiny, small, normal, large and huge. Font styles include default, choco cooky, cool jazz, rosemary and Samsung Sans plus the option of downloading tons more. Other options for touch key light duration from 1.5 seconds, 6 seconds, always off and always on. Options to display battery percentage, edit after screen capture, and auto adjust screen tone which saves battery.
Sound settings options have everything from volume controls for media, ringtone, notifications and system levels. Vibrations intensities can be set for incoming call, notifications and haptic feedback. You can select all your different tones and ringtones of which there are loads to choose from. You can also turn on or off keypad, touch, screen lock tones, haptic feedback on or off and also use the adapt sound option to find the best sound for you during calls and music. This is a very good option to setup. Make calls clearer. If you are a novice the home screen mode allows you to switch from the standard android setup to easy mode. There is also an option to open the camera everytime you press the power button. Call setting options have about another 20 options from call rejection options, call reject messages, alerts and more.
Blocking mode is excellent. You can use this to disable incoming calls, notifications, alarms and timers. You can have this setup as on or off or to work between certain times. I have this on permanently between 10pm and 6am with the exception for calls allowed from my favourite contacts.
Driving mode has options to read out aloud caller information, messages, alarms and schedules. And with Samsung S Voice you can reply too. S Voice is a whole subject on itself.
Safety Assistance – in an emergency by holding the volume up and down keys for 3 seconds will send messages at your selected interval to your selected emergency contacts with a message your setup and your exact location. Super clever stuff.
Power Saving mode – options for CPU reduction, screen lowering, and haptic feedback off or on.
Accessory – there is a special flip case coming out, and you have the option to unlock the screen with this case in accessory setting. Also the HDMI output audio can be changed from stereo to surround.
Motions and gestures – these include direct call (lift phone to call contact displayed on screen), smart alert , tilt zoom, pan an icon, pan images, turnover to mute calls or pause sounds. Smart screen – smart stay keeps screen on when you are looking at it, smart rotation keep screen rotated according to your face orientation. You can turn these on or off.
And finally Voice Control settings – incoming calls can be rejected or answered, Alarms can be snoozed or turned off, Camera can take photos by voice and operate a lot of the features, and control music playing too eg next, stop, pause, volume up , volume down. The Voice settings are in addition to S Voice app which does considerably more.
Anyway, that is a summary of what is included within the S4 Zoom. There are plenty more features within each of the apps, of which the camera is most fascinating. Just to give you an idea of the camera quality have a look at this photo I took on my Flickr account.
More tomorrow. But in the meantime, below are some screenshots of the various settings and items mentioned above.