Its been raining smartphones in the past one month with all tech giants from Asus to Huawei launching new devices. Asus, in one of the most thoroughly thought out and elaborate events we have ever been to, launched the Asus Zenfone Zoom, in the mystical city of Agra, Uttar Pradesh. With smartphones become much more versatile, a lot of people are seeming to drop their Point and Shoot cameras, even chucking the idea of buying a DSLR for a smartphone which will multitask as their life saver gadget and fulfill their inner amateur photographer when they are #WanderLust-ing on #Instagram. That thought is exactly what has made Asus come out with the Zenfone Zoom. Thus, Zenfone Zoom caters to the people who take their smartphone photography seriously.

Unlike most smartphones and like most P&S’/DSLRs, the Zenfone Zoom has inbuilt optical zoom feature.

The Zenfone Zoom looks like a Zenfone 2 body with its camera on steroids. The Phone comes with nifty dedicated shutter release and video recording button on its right side which add to the feeling of the Zenfone Zoom being all about the camera. Asus claims the Zenfone Zoom is a competition to a DSLR, but lets see for ourselves where it stands.

Asus Zenfone Zoom Camera Review – Camera Hardware

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The camera placement on the back panel is unusual perhaps to give a camera like feel

Marketing a phone which really packs a punch inside its hood entirely as a Camera-oriented phone was simply unjust to the Zenfone Zoom. But we will talk about that in our detailed review of the phone. Coming to the hardware inside the Zenfone Zoom, the the smart-camera-phone has inbuilt, a 13-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front camera (For the selfie lovers). We liked the front camera on this phone, it is quite wide and you would not need a selfie stick to have many friends in the same frame. But lets talk about the Primary camera first.

The primary camera encompasses  3X Optical Zoom. If you do not know the difference between optical zoom and digital zoom, please read this. In a nutshell, digital zooming is done by cropping the image, hence the picture looks shabby and pixelated when we zoom in too much using our regular smartphone. In Optical zoom, the lenses inside the camera are physically moving in and out to get you that zooming done.
Hence optical zoom >> Digital Zoom in terms of picture quality. I feel i should mention that with its 3X optical zoom, the Zenfone Zoom also has a 12x digital Zoom. To make the pictures better, the Zenfone Zoom has also integrated other camera specific features like Optical Image Stabilization and dedicated buttons shutter release and video recording on the right side of the phone’s body. It is notable that unlike most smartphones out there, which boast a 6p lens, the Zoom features a 10P Hoya Lens, which better quality focusing and more light for the sensor. For the unaware, Hoya is a Japanese company which makes DSLR peripherals for Canon, Nikon and Sony Alpha etc.
Talk to a real photographer about megapixels and you would see him frown and tell you that its not the MP, but the sensor which matters in how pictures come out. A 21MP camera with a mediocre sensor will give you mediocre shots compared to a 13MP shooter with a good sensor (Answers the ancient question about how iPhones used to give better image quality with a 8MP camera compared to the 13MP, 16MP or even 21MP camera of other brands?). The Zenfone Zoom features a Panasonic Point and Shoot level sensor which boasts of giving greater pictures even while being a meagre 13MP.

ALSO READ : OPTICAL ZOOM VS DIGITAL ZOOM

Another striking feature of the Zenfone Zoom is its Laser Autofocus. This will have your camera’s autofocus seem like it was on an adrenaline rush. Laser Autofocus technology is faster and more reliable than the PDAF (Phase detection auto focus) we get in most of the smartphones nowadays.

Zenfone Zoom Camera Review: Hardware Table

MODEL ASUS ZENFONE ZOOM
Rear Camera 13 Megapixel (4096 x 3072)
Front Camera 5 Megapixel (2560 x 1920)
Sensor Model Panasonic
Sensor Type (Rear Camera) SmartFSI (Click me)
Sensor Type (Front Camera)
Sensor Size (Rear Camera) 4.7 x 3.5 mm (millimeters) 0.23 inches
Sensor Size (Front Camera)
Aperture Size (Rear Camera) F/2.7 – F/4.8
Aperture Size (Front Camera) F/2.0
Flash Type Dual-Tone LED
Video Resolution (Rear Camera) 1920 x 1080 p
Video Resolution (Front Camera) 1920 x 1080 p
Slow Motion Recording Yes
4K Video Recording No
Lens Type (Rear Camera) 10 element Lens, Hoya Glass
Lens Type (Front Camera) Wide angle 88 degrees

The variable aperture on the Asus Zenfone Zoom allows the smartphone to capture images without much effort in varying light conditions. The Optical zoom and OIS only add to the great experience!

Asus Zenfone Zoom Camera Review – Software

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Zoom uses PixelMaster camera integrated into Zen UI. Also available on PlayStore

As expected, the camera specific software on Zenfone Zoom is quite similar to that on the previous phones under the Zenfone series. The UI is simple and easy to use. You have multiple modes to choose as per your liking or as per the environment you wish to click. The Zenfone Zoom too comes with what Asus calls the Asus PixelMaster camera.

PixelMaster is a simple to use interface with most of the screen dedicated seeing the view in front of you. Like most camera apps around various platforms, you get a set of virtual buttons like the shutter button for clicking photos, a video recording button, and a quick toggle to the Manual mode. If you shoot vertically, the camera interface too rotates to accommodate you. What is different from other camera UI are the camera settings and the easy to reach option to quickly flick between modes.

The advantage in rotating the screen to horizontal is that it gives your hands access to the dedicated camera shutter release button and video recording buttons on the right side of the Zenfone Zoom frame. The volume rocker buttons too are helpful in this regard. One can use the volume up button to zoom in and volume down button to zoom out. If you do not fancy using buttons for magnification you can simply pinch in/out to zoom in/out.

The way we could quickly change settings and toggle between modes was great, but what was really impressive was the fact that PixelMaster will auto-recommend you enable one of these camera modes depending on the conditions. If you are trying to shoot in dim light, there will be a little owl-like icon suggesting that you use low light mode. Similarly also for HDR and selfie mode when needed. These automatic suggestions arrived with surprising accuracy! The Zenfone Zoom also comes with 128GB of internal storage plus a microSD card slot too. So you will never run out of storage even if you click lots of pictures.

ALSO READ : OPTICAL ZOOM VS DIGITAL ZOOM

Asus Zenfone Zoom Camera Review : Modes

The Zenfone Zoom comes preloaded with a lot of modes, just like your camera has that funky dial which can be rotated to change modes. Following are the Zenfone Zoom modes :

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There are many pre-loaded modes on the Zoom

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Detailed camera settings in Manual Mode

 

 

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Option of changing the quality and ratio of pictures is integrated
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Zoom can shoot video in max of FHD resolution. How we wish it had 4K capability
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Auto Mode interface. With its 128GB ROM one can click almost 23k pictures
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Manual mode gives easy access to all settings on the right side of screen

Super Resolution Mode Sample

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Low Light (3M) Mode Sample

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Optical 3X Zoom Shot Sample

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Normal Image

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3X Optical Zoom Image

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HDR Mode Sample

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Macro Sample

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Panorama Samples (Vertical)

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Asus Zenfone Zoom Camera Samples

We went around clicking various type of shots with the Zenfone Zoom, many of which impressed us! Here is a choice of photos you can see :

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Front Camera

The 5MP front camera stays in the shadows of the rear camera. In daylight conditions the selfies come out great but in low light conditions, even with a f/2.0, the pictures leave you demanding more from a phone which its price forces it to be considered as high end.

Asus Zenfone Zoom Camera Review – What is missing?

With all the advance camera tech that this phone features, we were very disappointed to not find RAW support. For a camera of this caliber, it was a big let down. We also faced some misfires with many modes during our testing. The HDR mode gave us grainy pics at times and sharpening in super-resolution mode gave less than satisfactory images few times. Also what was heart breaking was that there is no 4K recording capability on the Zenfone Zoom. Yes it does have slo-mo recording but no 4K recording. Why Asus, Why!
Also, the funny placement of the camera on the rear side of the Zenfone Zoom creates problems if you use external lenses for your phone photography. The common clip on lens adapter does not fit properly and thus the lenses can only be used with the front camera or maybe you could find a better and more flexible adapter to fit those lenses on your Zenfone Zoom.

Asus Zenfone Zoom Camera Verdict

The Asus Zenfone Zoom’s rear camera gave exceptional performance and we had a lot of fun playing with the multiple modes in different environments. There are a few glitches and some let downs but that is because we expect a lot from the Zenfone Zoom. If you are not a huge selfie buff and enjoy “phonetography” then this is definitely one of the most flexible and quality camera-themed phones around.