Samsung’s Galaxy K Zoom replaces last year’s Galaxy S4 Zoom and is the company’s latest attempt at making a smartphone that incorporates an optical zoom lens. The new model inherits the same 10x zoom range as its predecessor, but boasts a new 20.7 megapixel sensor and a higher resolution screen. If you’re fed up with carrying your phone and a conventional compact camera, the Galaxy K Zoom may just be the ideal blend of the two.
Samsung Galaxy K Zoom Features
The Galaxy K Zoom’s camera consists of a 20.7-megapixel, 1/2.3” CMOS sensor. It’s the same physical size as you’ll find in many compact cameras and bigger than most other camera phone sensors. A maximum sensitivity of ISO3200 is good news for low-light shooting, as is the inclusion of a xenon flash that’s more potent than the LED units used by typical smartphones.
Samsung has carried over the same 10x optical zoom lens from the Galaxy S4 Zoom. It boasts a focal length range equivalent to 24-240mm (in 35mm-camera terms) and a maximum aperture of f/3.1-6.3. The lens also gets Samsung’s Optical Image Stabilisation system to help compensate for camera shake.
The new camera’s screen has been enlarged to 4.8 inches and the resolution upped to 1280x720 pixels. It’s still a Super AMOLED design and it displays the latest KitKat version of the Android operating system.
There’s also plenty of camera features to play with, like a Pro Suggest mode that’ll automatically offer possible filter effects based on the scene you’re focussing on. Virtual Tour will capture and stitch images as you walk through a building to create a virtual reality video, plus there’s HDR and panorama modes as well.
Although the phone is only equipped with 8GB of internal storage, a side-accessed MicroSD slot can expand this to 64GB, whilst also making it quick and easy to transfer images to a computer.
- 20.7 megapixel CMOS sensor
- 10x optical zoom lens, 24-240mm equivalent, f/3.1-6.3
- Optical image stabilisation
- 4.8inch touch-screen, 1280x720
- GPS / Wi-Fi / NFC
- FullHD video
- ISO100 to ISO3200
- Manual controls
- HDR / Panoramic shooting / 2MP secondary front camera
- Available in black, blue or white
Samsung Galaxy K Zoom Handling
Take a quick glance at the rear of the old Galaxy S4 Zoom and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a proper compact camera. However, the features that gave it this appearance – the prominent finger grip, zoom ring around the lens and its large shutter release button – have all been ditched for the Galaxy K Zoom. The result is a sleeker and less bulky design that’s far more in-keeping with the look of a traditional smartphone.
That said, the Galaxy K Zoom is longer and wider than its predecessor thanks to the enlarged screen, but it is slimmer at 20.2mm and easier to slip into a pocket or bag thanks to having fewer protrusions. This is still a podgy device by smartphone standards though, and at 200g it’s around 25% heavier than a Galaxy S5.
Unfortunately, the lack of any finger grip makes the camera even trickier to hold than its predecessor. A subtly-textured rear panel is certainly an improvement over the Galaxy S4 Zoom’s glossy plastic finish, however the lack of any screen-side gripping points and the slimmer profile make the Galaxy K Zoom almost impossible to shoot one-handed in landscape format.
Zooming is now controlled by the volume buttons rather than a lens ring. You can also pinch the screen to zoom, or use an on-screen slider, though neither is particularly responsive. Shots can either be captured using the slim shutter release button, or by pressing the capture button on the screen.
The sleeker edges also mean there’s no longer space for a tripod mount and the 2430mAh Li-ion battery can now only be accessed by removing the rear panel, which is nowhere near as elegant as the Galaxy S4 Zoom’s slot-loading design.
Increasing the screen size to 4.8 inches makes tapping to focus even more accurate and the overall viewing experience is a significant improvement over a typical 3.0-inch screen found on most compact cameras. The display’s resolution is certainly a step down on the Galaxy S5’s screen, as is the pixel density, but it still compares well to all but the current flagship smartphones. Super AMOLED screen technology provides superb contrast and viewing angles, however brightness is lacking compared to a good LCD screen. Colour reproduction could also be improved, as the screen displays noticeably oversaturated hues.
The camera can be accessed directly by swiping the camera icon upward on the home screen. If the phone is already unlocked, tapping the camera icon or holding the physical shutter release button will also activate the camera.
The Galaxy K Zoom’s camera interface is simple and intuitive. A mode button alongside the shutter release allows you to choose between 27 available shooting modes, and you can pick which of these to display on the initial quick-access menu. A settings icon brings up an overlay of all available shooting options in each mode. In Program mode this includes settings like exposure compensation, white balance and ISO sensitivity, whilst shutter speed and aperture can also be altered if you select Manual mode.
You can tap the screen to set your preferred focal point, and by dragging the top right corner of the focus area the camera can be forced to use a different point for exposure metering.
Battery life - A 2430mAh removable Li-ion battery powers the Galaxy K Zoom. This is a far higher capacity than you’ll find in most compact cameras, though the extra power drain of additional smartphone duties will dramatically influence how many shots you can expect to shoot on a single charge. Consequently the battery life isn’t rated according to the usual CIPA standard for conventional cameras.
Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.
|Wide - Focus / Shutter Response
|Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response
|Switch on Time to Taking a Photo
||3.1secs (from locked) / 28secs (from off)
|Shot to Shot without Flash
|Shot to Shot with Flash
|Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
|4fps (30 shots)
|Continuous Shooting - Flash
Samsung Galaxy K Zoom Performance
The performance section is where we look at the image quality performance of the camera. Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.
Samsung Galaxy K Zoom Sample Photos
- To be worth carrying its extra bulk and weight, the Galaxy K Zoom needs to produce shots at least as good as those captured by a compact camera. Thankfully it does live up to this standard and shots display crisp detail at low sensor sensitivities and excellent colour vibrancy. The 20.7 megapixel sensor is also capable of good dynamic range, and if conditions get too contrasty, the multi-exposure HDR mode will capture additional highlight and shadow detail.
Samsung Galaxy K Zoom Lens test images
- The Galaxy K Zoom’s lens produces very little distortion at either end of the zoom range. Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) can be spotted in high-contrast areas of an image, but it’s no worse than you’ll find from most compact camera lenses. Sharpness is fairly consistent across the frame, although corners can look slightly soft if you pixel peep. Macro performance is very good and the camera will focus as close as 5cm from a subject when the lens is at maximum wide angle.
Samsung Galaxy K Zoom ISO test images
ISO Noise Performance
- At the minimum ISO100 sensitivity the camera produces clean, sharp images with very little grain noise. Grain is still low at ISO200, however noise reduction is starting to smooth fine detail at this sensitivity. The camera tries to compensate by sharpening edges, but consequently produces halo ghosting artefacts which are clearly visible on contrast boundaries. These traits continue up to ISO1600, where noise is still low, but the extra image smoothing and sharpening correction is giving images a painterly appearance. By the maximum ISO3200 sensitivity the combination of grain noise, colour speckling and a warm colour cast makes photos look unappealing unless viewed below 50% image size.
Fortunately the camera’s lens stabilisation system means images are almost always captured at ISO100 in good light, minimising the detail loss and sharpening artefacts visible at higher sensitivities. Despite having more grain noise, images from the Galaxy S4 Zoom are actually slightly crisper than those from the Galaxy K Zoom at ISO200 and above thanks to less aggressive image noise reduction.
Samsung Galaxy K Zoom White-balance test images
White Balance Performance
-Under tungsten lighting Auto White Balance produces neutral tones, but switch to the tungsten preset and a colour cast is apparent. It’s the same story under fluorescent lighting, where the fluorescent setting also produces a colour cast that’s absent when shooting using the automatic option.
Samsung Galaxy K Zoom PANORAMA
Panorama mode - Considering the Galaxy K Zoom packs no less than six processor cores, it’s a big disappointment that the camera will only capture a panorama with a resolution of around 1000 vertical pixels. Detail is therefore very low and you can’t zoom in before panning. Although the camera does a good job of seamlessly stitching the final image, the results are still only on a par with those from a typical compact camera and are no match for the high-resolution panoramas produced by even an old iPhone 4S.
Samsung Galaxy K Zoom Digital filters
Digital Filters -
The Galaxy K Zoom offers twelve filter
effects to help spice up a bland subject, however they’re only captured at a 10-megapixel resolution. Check out the gallery above for samples.
Video - FullHD videos are crisp, well exposed and accurately focussed. Audio capture is also impressively clear and the zoom lens can be used during recording with minimal sound interference. Image stabilisation does a good job of smoothing camera shake.
Value For Money
The Samsung Galaxy K Zoom is available for £400 sim-free, which is slightly less than the Galaxy S4 Zoom it replaces as well as most other smartphones which prioritise camera quality. The Samsung Galaxy S5 (16 megapixels), HTC One M8 (4 megapixels) and iPhone 5S (8 megapixels) will all set you back around £150 more. The Sony Xperia Z2 comes in at £499 sim-free and shares a similar 20.7 megapixel sensor as the Galaxy K Zoom, whilst Nokia’s Lumia 1020 boasts a 41.3MP sensor with lossless zoom and can be had for around £350.
If you’re happy to carry a separate phone and camera, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is still available for around £250, leaving enough cash for Samsung’s WB35F Smart Camera which offers a 12x zoom range.
You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.
Samsung Galaxy K Zoom Verdict
Given that the smartphone has already made the traditional compact camera an endangered species, a smartphone with an optical zoom lens should theoretically push such cameras into extinction. Last year’s Galaxy S4 Zoom proved there’s certainly a market for smartphones packing a zoom lens, but it’s limited to those who are prepared to carry a larger, heavier device.
The Galaxy K Zoom is noticeably slimmer and less bulky than its predecessor though, meaning it should appeal to a wider audience. It’s still around double the thickness and 25% heavier than a Galaxy S5, but if you want a smartphone with 10x optical zoom, that’s a price you’ll have to pay and it’s certainly a lot easier than carrying a separate camera. Losing the ergonomic bulges of the Galaxy S4 Zoom is another sacrifice which must be made in the quest for increased portability.
The larger, higher resolution screen is a welcome upgrade for the Galaxy K Zoom. It’s not the crispest screen in the smartphone market, but it’s easily good enough for the money and impressively clear compared to most compact cameras. It’s a pity the outright brightness isn’t higher though, and colour accuracy could be improved.
Despite having more megapixels to play with, image quality is at best equal to that of the 16MP Galaxy S4 Zoom, and arguably worse at higher ISO sensitivities due to overzealous noise reduction processing. Images are still crisp and vibrant though and stand up well to shots from many compact cameras.
Ultimately you could get a better dedicated smartphone for the money, or a dedicated camera with better image quality. Combining the two will always be a compromise, but the Galaxy K Zoom strikes a good balance between price, performance and portability.
Samsung Galaxy K Zoom Specifications
|Max Aperture||f/3.1 - f/6.3|
|35mm equivalent||24mm - 240mm|
|Sensor Type||Back-lit CMOS (B.S.I.)|
|Sensor Size (width)||No Data|
|Sensor Size (height)||No Data|
|Shutter speeds shortest||No Data|
|Shutter speeds longest||No Data|
|ISO sensitivity||100 - 3200|
|Stereo Sound||No Data|
|Box Contents||Samsung Galaxy K Zoom, Earphones, USB Cable, Charger, Manual|
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