Samsung's latest hybrid camera/phone, the Galaxy K Zoom, feels like more of a phone and less of a camera than the previous Galaxy S4 Zoom. It's a major leap in every way beyond its predecessor, with specs that come a lot closer to the flagship Galaxy S5 and a relatively large 20.7-megapixel sensor with 10x optical zoom. We got the chance to have a play with the device, and here are our first impressions.
The K Zoom is a big phone, because it has a big camera in it. It measures 70.8 x 20 x 137.5mm (WxDxH), and weighs 200 grams, but it feels reasonably comfortable in the hand because the body is smoothly rounded, like a big stone. It runs Android 4.4.2 KitKat with a very similar skin to the Galaxy S5.
The 4.8in, 720p Super AMOLED screen is bright and saturated, although it doesn't have the Galaxy S5's neat software tricks that make the S5 display look near-perfect in all lighting conditions. The phone uses a hexacore (dual 1.7GHz/quad 1.3GHz) Samsung Exynos processor, which I didn't have time to benchmark.
Other specs include 2GB of RAM, 8 or 16GB of storage, plus a MicroSD card slot, and the usual LTE and other wireless networks. It comes in white, black, and electric blue.
How it looks and feels
I'm impressed by how much the K Zoom feels like a phone. The back is the same textured-plastic material as on the Galaxy S5, and the lens doesn't protrude much from the back (although you can definitely feel it's there.) That makes the K Zoom much more comfortable to hold and tap using it as a normal phone, compared to the S4 Zoom.
Hit the hardware shutter button and the lens extends, which takes about a second. The shutter button has dual-detent focus-and-shoot, if you want it, and you can separate the AE and AF points for dramatic images. Since the phone has the usual absurd number of Samsung camera modes, a "Pro Suggest" mode analyses your frame and picks the five modes or filters it thinks are appropriate. More camera modes and filters are downloadable from a custom store. Optical image stabilisation works for stills and 1080p videos at up to 60 frames per second.
"Selfie Alarm" is an ill-named, but witty feature that lets you take self-shots with the main 20-megapixel camera as opposed to the 2-megapixel front camera. When you turn the camera to face you, it beeps if you're in frame, and then steadily more quickly as you stay in frame – and then it shoots the picture automatically.
I shot a bunch of photos in Samsung's demo room with the K Zoom. With no zoom active, they were a little dark but quite sharp at the centre of the frame, with some blurring in the corners of the image. Visible noise showed up at full 10x zoom. The auto mode handled a switch to macro without a problem, and kept suggesting various camera modes that looked a lot like Instagram filters to me. The shutter felt pleasantly instantaneous.
I liked this camera/phone. It's narrower than the Galaxy S5 and does away with some of the S5's gimmicky features (the heart rate monitor and fingerprint scanner) in exchange for something people will really use: A high-quality camera. That said, it's still thicker and heavier than most smartphones and will appeal only to serious phone-tographers.
The Galaxy K Zoom is coming out in May, but the UK release date or pricing is yet to be confirmed.