Review: Zooming in on the Asus ZenFone Zoom
By Winnie Lee March 17, 2016
WE have to admit this: The moment we had this in our hands, we were quite impressed. We were almost sold on the Asus ZenFone Zoom’s sleek new look and leather backing.
But how does it stack up to Asus’ claim that is the ‘World’s first premium smartphone that delivers pocket-sized DSLR experience with 3X optical zoom’?
Alright, that in itself sounds impressive – 3x optical zoom on a smartphone? You must think we are kidding. Really, we’re not.
When we first took the Asus ZenFone Zoom out, it didn’t look all that impressive. It honestly looked just like any other Asus ZenFone phone we’ve reviewed before – a black plastic design and onscreen buttons.
Turn it around, and that’s when you will get blown off your feet.
Instead of a plastic or metal back, the ZenFone Zoom has a back of fine burnished leather, which has been smoothed, dried and finished in a complimentary colour. The Asus and Intel logos are neatly embossed in the centre and on the side respectively.
The centre of attention has to be the round bump. It tells you that the Asus ZenFone Zoom is no ordinary camera phone (pic above). More on the camera in a bit.
Being the flagship of the ZenFone family, there is a lot about the Zoom that is similar with the others, including the removable back (pic above) which gives access to the MicroSIM card and microSD card slots.
The battery is not removable though.
The sides are smoothly flushed, except for the right which houses the volume rocker, power button, a dedicated camera shutter button, and a video record button.
In terms of display, the ZenFone Zoom has a 5.5-inch LCD display with 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, protected by a Corning Gorilla Glass 4 screen.
Holding on to the ZenFone Zoom is extremely comfortable, and surprisingly ergonomic. The leather back reduces slip, and like with the previous ZenFones we’ve reviewed, the contours of the phone have been designed really well so that it’s easy to hold on to.
Even with the camera, the ZenFone Zoom didn’t feel out of place in our hands.
The ZenFone Zoom looks like a point-and-shoot camera. It’s amazing how Asus managed to squeeze a 3x optical zoom lens into a smartphone that is only 0.47 inches at its widest.
It’s no wonder that this is a feat that Asus is most proud of.
And it is thanks to the use of a 10-element lens from HOYA, a Japanese optics company. This enabled the folks at Asus to infuse a 13-megapixel camera with a real 3x optical zoom without any noticeable bulk or jutting edges.
Asus did this by creating ‘a unique dual-prism layout to fit a true optical-zoom mechanism into the slimmest-possible frame.’ All you see is a little bump, but really, that’s pretty alright considering the capability of this phone.
Does the lens move physically out when in use, just like a normal camera? The answer is ‘no.’ All the zooming is done internally – yup, within that little device.
Not impressed enough? The ZenFone Zoom has an aperture range of f/2.7 to f/4.8. It has an optical image stabiliser for taking steady shots, with the ability to auto-focus in 0.03 seconds (using Asus’ laser auto-focus system), as well as the ability to take macro shots as close as two inches.
There’s also a ‘Super Resolution’ mode that combines four images to create a 52-megapixel image, and 12x digital zoom.
Asus though is claiming the ZenFone Zoom has more punch than a normal point-and-shoot, with a manual mode that allows one to instantly adjust shutter speed, exposure, white balance, ISO and so on – all part of Asus’ PixelMaster experience.
Now with PixelMaster, the camera features like HDR and low-light capture on the ZenFone Zoom is not that much different from that in other ZenFones.
However, pair it with the 3x optical zoom lens and there are a lot more imaging possibilities. Subjects can come up real close, without physically moving close.
Here are images of a windmill in normal zoom (above) and in 3x optical zoom (below):
A nice touch that Asus included was the simple instructions (pic below) when the camera is activated for the first time.
Of course, with today’s extremely tech-savvy users, one may question the need for such instructions, but it is useful in highlighting certain features that may not be immediately obvious, like the ability to rearrange the camera modes.
The ZenFone Zoom has a 2.5GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3950 processor, perhaps also in a bid to tackle the overheating issue of the Snapdragon processor (used in the ZenFone Selfie and ZenFone 2 Laser).
In addition to 4GB of internal RAM, there is 64GB of internal storage, with microSD expansion. It also has a sizable 3,000mAh battery.
The ZenFone Zoom runs Android 5.0.2 Lollipop, along with the Asus ZEN UI (user interface). This means that there are quite a number of pre-installed applications that, well, may or may not be useful to some users.
We will leave it to users to decide for themselves. However, we found only a few of these applications useful, like KidsMode.
A feature we like is the ability to adjust the colour and balance of the wallpaper (pic below). Besides that, the transparency can be modified as well, to enhance readability.
If that's not enough, there’s also an app Splendid (pic below) to adjust the brightness and vividness of the display.
Our final verdict on the Asus ZenFone Zoom matches our first impressions. We think that it is quite an awesome feat to be able to squeeze an actual optical zoom lens into such a tiny package.
Plus the leather back gives it an appealing premium look, and thankfully, that premium quality does not stretch to its price, which is competitive enough.
Review: Asus ZenFone Selfie vs Asus ZenFone 2 Laser
Review: Master your mugshots with the Asus ZenFone Selfie
DNA Test: The Asus ZenFone 2 hits the right pricing notes
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