Is the Galaxy S5's 16-MP camera not powerful enough for you? Take a gander at the Galaxy K Zoom, a new camera-focused smartphone that's designed to appeal to photo buffs. The device, which is currently not slated for U.S. release, packs a 20.7-MP sensor, a hexacore Exynos processor and a sleek retracting 10X optical zoom.
We spent some hands-on time with this niche device and found some of the new modes particularly compelling--but not the Selfie Alarm.
New Optical Zoom
Samsung says the Galaxy K Zoom isn't a successor to last year's lackluster Galaxy S4 Zoom, but it essentially pairs the design of the Galaxy S5 on the front with a camera on the back. We appreciate the slick retracting lens. For the first time on a smartphone, you can pinch to zoom on the screen, and the nine-element lens will zero in on your subject. This worked well when zooming on a small statue from across the room, capturing a surprising amount of detail.
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When closed, the Galaxy K Zoom measures 5.4 x x 2.8 x .65 inches and weighs 7.1 ounces. That's certainly slimmer than the earlier S4 Zoom (4.9 x 2.5 x 1.06 inches, 7.3 ounces) but still a handful compared to traditional smartphones. The Galaxy S5 is a full two ounces lighter and is just .31 inches thick.
On the plus side, the K Zoom has a soft-touch finish that makes the device easy to grip when shooting. The device will come in white and black; we prefer the latter hue, as it looks more prosumer-like.
The Galaxy K Zoom doesn't have the sharpest display around. The handset houses a 4.8-inch 720p Super AMOLED screen. Colors look rich, but for enjoying those pics in full resolution you'll want to use a high-res tablet or laptop.
In terms of horsepower, you're looking at a Samsung Exynos hexacore processor, which consists of a 1.3-GHz quad-core CPU and 1.7-GHz dual-core CPU. This gets paired with 2GB of RAM. The K Zoom starts with just 8GB of storage, but you can expand that to 64GB with a microSD Card.
A 2,430 mAh battery supplies the power, which is bigger than the S4's Zoom's 2,330 mAh pack but smaller than the S5's 2,800 mAh. We're hoping the processor is smart enough to know when to kick in the quad-core muscle and when to use the dual-core CPU.
The K Zoom's camera certainly seemed capable during our brief demo session. It offers optical image stabilization to reduce blur and a very bright Xenon Flash. Photo enthusiasts will especially appreciate the ability to control Auto Focus and Auto Exposure separately; you just drag the viewfinder box to separate the two elements and adjust each parameter before you shoot.
More impressive is the object tracking feature. It lets you identify an object or subject and keeps the camera locked on that item as it moves. The K Zoom captures 1080p video at a brisk 60 frames per second.
A new Pro Suggest mode really flexes the K Zoom's processing muscle. The camera analyzes the live view and presents five optimal settings before you shoot. So, for example, if you were up close on an object, you might see various macro settings, and you can choose the right one for your situation. Those who want to get really creative can create their own modes and share them with others via an online marketplace.
Selfie Alarm, Really?
Here's a case where the solution to a problem is so complicated it's probably not worth bothering. The Galaxy K Zoom has a new Selfie Alarm mode that lets you leverage the 20.7-MP camera for the sharpest selfies possible. That's nice, but in order for the feature to work you need to pre-select a box, drag it to the position you want and then turn the camera around. After that, you'll try to line the camera up with your mug until you hear a series of beeps.
We'd rather have lower-res selfies, or the 5-MP front shooter on the HTC One M8 instead of the 2-MP front camera on this phone.
Samsung is definitely positioning the K Zoom as more than a mere Galaxy S5 variant. You get more robust camera features and a true optical zoom in a body that's not much heftier than some phablets. However, given that the Galaxy S4 Zoom got picked up by a single U.S. carrier, we doubt that this not-quite-successor will have much more appeal to shoppers.
As svelte as the zoom mechanism is, the K Zoom still looks and feels like a hybrid device. Nevertheless, Nokia has enjoyed success with its camera-focused Lumia line, and the K Zoom could give it some stiff competition--at the right price.