When cameras first turned up in cell phones there was more than a little skepticism from the technology market and mockery from photography aficionados. No one is really laughing at the concept anymore as smartphones have taken over the top spot on image sharing sites by a wide and ever-growing margin. It’s become obvious that the camera people use the most is the one they have with them and the one they have with them is embedded in their phone. It’s no surprise when convenience triumphs in the technology market.
If a little is good a lot must be better, right? That appears to be Samsung’s philosophy with the latest variation of the S4 Galaxy, called the Zoom, that takes smartphone photography to another level. One could argue the Zoom is more like a camera that makes phone calls and appears to be the second generation of the Galaxy Camera.
Like Batman’s nemesis Two-Face, the S4 Zoom is clearly a device of two minds. One side has a retracting 10x zoom in front of 1/2.3 in 16-megapixel image CMOS sensor, the other side is all S4 Android smartphone. The camera side includes extras like image stabilization, an actual in-camera flash instead of the anemic LED flashlight imitation on most phones and image editing software.
The marriage of phone and camera is further enhanced by some clever software tricks such as the ability to send someone pictures via MMS while on the phone with them without interrupting the call. Of course, there’s no guarantee who you’re calling will be able to view the photos without interrupting their side of the call, but one has to start somewhere.
Other features include dual-band N wifi, Android 4.2 and a 1.9-megapixel front-facing camera. The real devil will be in details like photo workflow, battery life and picture quality before I can pronounce the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom the holy grail of point-and-shoot photography but it is an interesting step in that direction all the same.
I could see the S4 Zoom replacing camera purchases for many people getting ready to go on vacation and it’s thin enough they’re not going to resent carrying it around when they get home. It does hint at some interesting possibilities for real-time applications involving photos and videos. My sense is this is going to be a niche model at best, but time will tell.