Samsung Galaxy K Zoom review

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom is the maker's new phone, packing a 20.7-megapixel camera

Reasons to buy
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    Powerful 10x zoom lens

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    Comprehensive camera app

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    Dazzling xenon flash

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Heavy and bulky

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    Soft 720p display

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    Jerky video

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Is this smartphone camera hybrid a killer combo, or clunky compromise? Find out in our Samsung Galaxy K Zoom review

Replacing the outgoing Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, the Galaxy K Zoom is a high-spec Android 4.4 KitKat smartphone on a par with the company's mighty Samsung Galaxy S5, albeit without the 1080p screen and flashy fingerprint recognition.

Instead of treading on the S5's toes its USP is an integrated zoom camera that means you can leave your real compact snapper at home. Sure, the Nokia Lumia 1020 has a 41-MP sensor and the Sony Xperia Z2 can shoot underwater, but neither can boast a telescopic 10x optical zoom.

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom: Size and build

In a world of wafer thin smartphones, the 20.2mm thick K Zoom is a beast. It's nicely rounded, like a pebble according to the blurb, but to incorporate the collapsible lens assembly, Samsung hasn't been able to shrink it much further than its predecessor.

It might just fit in your pocket, but it's larger than any compact camera and at 200g, it's considerably heavier too.

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom: Features

Samsung is eager to prove that you can have the best of both worlds by giving you what appears to be an uncompromising high-zoom compact without skimping on any of the features you'd expect to find on a premium Android smartphone.

It's a 4G handset with a single Micro-SIM slot and memory that expands from 2GB internal to an extra 64GB thanks to a MicroSD card slot at the side. Samsung has relocated it so you don't have to take the battery out to swap cards.

The K Zoom's hexa-core processor runs Android 4.4 KitKat quickly enough to handle demanding apps and certainly processes video faster than any camera.

There's Bluetooth v4.0 with NFC wireless connectivity for linking your wireless devices and sharing your photos, which is an important point for a camera phone.

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom: Display

The biggest compromise is the 4.8-in Super AMOLED touchscreen, which is 720p resolution rather than 1080p like its cousin, the Galaxy S5. That's still much better than any camera, of course, but at a glance the lower PPI makes it appear soft-focussed.

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom: Camera

It's in the camera department, that the K Zoom trumps every other smartphone. The 20.7MP sensor is not the largest, but you won't find another phone that can produce such a comically large telescopic zoom lens and as any photographer will tell you, optics are more important than megapixels.

They will also be delighted by the power of the 10x optical zoom, which drags the subject up close and eliminates any need for digital zoom, which we all know is the best way to ruin a photo.

Instead of LED, K Zoom has a brighter and better Xenon flash and video is shot in full 1080p at 60fps to ensure motion is captured as smoothly as possible.

Harnessing the power of a smartphone enables Samsung to include lots of software trickery to improve your efforts and a great many shooting modes, but if you're overwhelmed by it all, there's one called Pro Suggest that selects appropriate settings for you.

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom: Performance

With an 8-core processor running Android 4.4 KitKat, the interface feels like a top-of-the-line handset, albeit with a lower resolution display. The Samsung skin looks slick and is straight forward to use.

The extra size and weight makes the K Zoom quite a handful, though, and even with the dimpled plastic we nearly let this smooth smartphone slip through our fingers and that protruding zoom lens is not built for shock resistance.

Open up Samsung's camera app and there's an almost bewildering number of options available. One called Pro Suggest helpfully steps in to make a lot of these choices for you. Two of the main advantages over a dedicated compact camera are the variety of apps that can help you and the relatively easy way you can select them using a touchscreen interface.

As you might hope, photos taken on the K Zoom generally outperformed those taken on an iPhone 5S thanks to the higher pixel desnity, superior optics and some great shooting modes, like HDR.

But it's really the long-range shots that leave other smartphones behind because there's no substitute for a good 10x optical zoom. It's worth noting at this point that third party apps like Instagram cannot make use of zoom, but that could change.

Switch the K Zoom to 60fps mode and it can shoot great video too, certainly better than compact cameras, which lack the necessary processing power. However, the Optical Image Stabilizer isn't quite up to the task of smoothing out zoomed footage, so this isn't the device to take with you on safari.

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom: Battery

The additional weight is down to the zoom, not the battery, so you will still need to recharge almost every day if you're using the camera heavily like we were.

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom: Verdict

For some, combining the processing power and social networking skills of a smartphone with the image quality of a compact zoom camera is the ideal solution. Why carry two devices when the K Zoom is greater than the sum of its parts?

And yet, the same money will buy a sleek compact that won't need recharging each day and a smartphone that will actually fit in your pocket. K Zoom fills a niche that will never become mainstream.

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom release date: Out now

Samsung Galaxy K Zoom price: £400