Techilicious columnist Rajiv Makhni
It's a feature that is used more than voice calls, it's a critical buying criterion and has single-handedly halved the market for standalone cameras. The camera on a phone may well be the most important reason for you to buy or not buy a phone. Thus the battle to be the best cameraphone in the world is a big and bloody one. Many contenders have come in from many directions to wrest this title. Only one can win!
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Song of Ice and Fire
If that opening paragraph came out a little over the top and melodramatic, then you can blame it on my current obsession with the Game of Thrones series. And just like that savage battle for the Iron Throne is hard fought and has a lot of collateral damage, this too is a fight that has left many a lens, flash and sensor bludgeoned and defeated. The latest salvo is from Samsung with its Galaxy K Zoom with a 10X Optical zoom. To many the greatest Achilles heel of any camera phone is the lack of an optical zoom and Samsung seems to hit hard and strong to make sure it covers all ground there. So, with a phone that is so optically superior, has Samsung wrested this coveted title already? Let us zoom in closer to take in a more detailed picture.
The Samsung Zoom Legacy
This isn't the first attempt by Samsung to take this market. It's actually tried two different products before this from both sides of the line. There was the Galaxy Zoom Camera and the Galaxy S4 Zoom phone.
Of this the S4 Zoom is the closer sibling. Samsung though has made it quite clear the K Zoom isn't the successor but a brand new line-up (BTW, the K stands for Kamera, the Swiss word for well, a camera!).
The S4 Zoom was a remarkable product for its time but didn't set the market on fire. The problems were its bulk, its ergonomics, its weight, the realisation that it was almost impossible to use as a phone, its battery life and most importantly, the fact that it didn't do too much beyond the optical zoom part! The K Zoom takes care of most of the shortcomings.
Read: Now, smartphone camera with high-quality zoom capabilities
Right off the bat, the K Zoom won't win any beauty contests. Not because it's a bad looking phone but because its just so Samsungish in design. This stubbornness on the part of Samsung to continue with a design philosophy that is three generations old befuddles me. Have you noticed how even in their advertisements for the Galaxy S5, they only show the back and not the front of the phone?
It seems even their art and advertising department is embarrassed and only shows the part of the phone that looks different. Anyway, I digress. The K has a rubberised dimpled back, is much thinner than the S4 Zoom at 20mm, lighter at 200 grams and has faux chrome on the sides.
The innards are solid with a Exynos hexa-core processor, a 1.3GHz quad-core chipset and a 1.7GHz dual-core processor, a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display at 720p, 2GB of RAM, 8GB internal storage, microSD card support up to 64GB, a 2,430 mAh battery and runs Android 4.4 KitKat.
The startling shocks are that it is not Full HD, has only 8GB internal storage and comes with a pretty poor battery. Surprisingly, none of these ruin the optical performance.
This is a truly solid optical effort at 20.7 megapixels (that will give you an image that has a resolution of 5248x3936) with a real 10X optical zoom (a retractable lens system with nine elements), a Xenon flash, optical stabilisation and a dedicated image processor.
But beyond hardware, the software and interface are very good too.
The first is Pro Suggest. As you get ready to take a picture; up flashes a dizzying array of pre-set filters and setting choices for perfecting that picture.
Choices range from Waterfall, Snow and Fireworks to Food, and move onwards to some very eclectic and weird ones.
You can make your own, share them and also download new ones from the Pro Suggest online area. Then there's an auto-selfie mode, where you can use the much better back camera to take an auto picture.
Just mark a space on the screen where you want your face, turn the camera around and when it recognises your face there, it'll click on its own.
Add to this motion tracking, multiple filters, the ability to set the exposure and focus independently within the same image, instant camera mode and video at 1080p at 60FPS (No 4K video though).
The best, then?
The Galaxy K Zoom is a polished effort from Samsung to break open this market. And while it did enough to become a contender, it didn't hit the ball out of the stadium.
The likes of the Nokia Lumia 1020, the iPhone 5S, the HTC One M8, Sony's Xperia Z2 and its own Galaxy S5 have enough within to make sure that this battle is still wide open.
Just like the Game of Thrones, this too shall be a war that is fought long and wide - and many shall die, for one to win!
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3
From HT Brunch, May 11
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