Hands On With the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is for anyone who wants better photos from their phone, but doesn't want to add too much bulk. Handling it at a product demo in New York City today, I was surprised about how small the device is, and it did a decent job of capturing images of distant objects with a minimum of blur due to camera shake.

While the S4 Zoom is small and light for a 16-megapixel point-and-shoot camera, it's definitely bulkier than your typical smartphone. The lens in back adds about a half-inch to the thickness when retracted, and the bottom of the phone has some extra chunk to provide a grip when using it as a camera. Size-wise, it's somewhere between the GS4 Mini (both have a 4.3-inch screen) and the Galaxy Camera.

At 10x zoom, you need some serious image stabilization to get anything other than blurry shots, and the S4 Zoom did a good job helping me capture decently sharp images of the faces of people who were several feet away from me. It couldn't work miracles — I still had to hold steady to avoid blur, but it performed better than expected.

The Zoom has an interesting (literal) twist: When you rotate the lens dial while doing anything in Android, a circular menu appears. From it, you can keep twisting to select from different camera modes, some of which are customizable. If you like shooting macro shots often, you can make that one of the options, and the dial provides a quick way to open the camera directly in that mode.

The S4 Zoom also benefits from the Galaxy Camera family (which now includes the Galaxy NX): The onscreen manual controls are great, and you also get an app that suggests things close by that are photo-worthy.

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