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Samsung Zoom: Camera Phone To New Level

Samsung's Galaxy S4 Zoom targets users who care more about a top-notch camera than a cutting-edge smartphone.
Samsung Galaxy S 4: 11 Clever Tricks
Samsung Galaxy S 4: 11 Clever Tricks
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Samsung's Galaxy S4 Zoom is equal parts smartphone and point-and-shoot camera. The device is meant to appeal to users who care more to have a good camera and a lesser smartphone than the other way around.

At a glance, the GS4 Zoom looks more like a camera than a smartphone. It has a large lens array and a bulge towards the bottom with big camera button. From a distance, few will mistake it for a smartphone. The camera itself has a 16-megapixel CMOS sensor. Because the Zoom uses a more traditional lens setup, it offers 10x optical zoom (hence the name). Most smartphones offer digital, not optical, zoom. Optical zoom provides for much higher-quality close-ups. The Zoom also includes optical image stabilization and a Xenon flash.

Aside from the hardware, Samsung has added some novel software features to the Zoom. It has what Samsung calls the Zoom Ring, a new app to control the camera and its features. For example, the Zoom Ring can be used when in an active voice call to take a picture and send it via MMS to the person on the other end of the call. The camera includes SmartMode Suggest, which lets users choose a shooting mode based on the scene at hand. The Zoom Ring also lets users navigate through the settings and shortcuts for customizing the camera's behavior.

[ Samsung has gained the market edge on Apple, at least for now. Read Samsung Galaxy S4 Outsells iPhone 5. ]

The Zoom comes with a handful of the camera-specific apps that Samsung has sprinkled across its smartphone portfolio, such as Story Album, Paper Artist, and links to Samsung's online hubs and services.

As for the smartphone portion of the device, the GS4 Zoom's specs mirror those of the GS4 Mini, not the top-of-the-line Galaxy S4. It features a 4.3-inch super AMOLED qHD display, which has 960 x 540 pixels. The device is powered by a dual-core 1.5 GHz processor, but Samsung said the exact processor model will vary by region. (The full Galaxy S4, for example, has an 8-core Exynos processor outside the U.S., and a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor in the U.S.) Expect a similar variation for the Zoom.

Other hardware features include support for various LTE 4G networks, NFC, GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It includes 8 GB of internal storage and is compatible with microSD cards up to 64 GB. Various sensors are on board as well, including an accelerometer, compass, proximity, gyro and light. At 7.33 ounces, it is fairly heavy. The standard GS4 weighs just 4.59 ounces.

Samsung has not announced plans to bring the Galaxy S4 Zoom to the U.S., nor did it announce pricing details.