Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Review

October 28, 2013 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is a 16 megapixel smartphone with a 10x optical zoom offering a focal range equivalent to 24-240mm, complete with optical image stabilisation. The S4 Zoom also features a 4.3-inch high-definition capacitive OLED touchscreen, a Xenon flash, and the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system with Wi-Fi and 3G/4G connectivity. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom can record Full 1080p HD movies as well as slow-motion video at up to 120 frames per second. The remote viewfinder feature allows you to see what the camera sees on the display of your smartphone and take a picture from a distance. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom even offers voice control - you can command the camera to zoom in, zoom out and take a shot without touching it. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom costs around £399 / $499 and is available in white or black.

Ease of Use

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is very much a device of two halves. From the front, it looks like just another compact camera, with a 10x zoom lens, handgrip and flash. From the rear, it looks just like a Galaxy S4 Mini smartphone, with an almost identical screen and home button, and the familiar Android OS appearing when you turn it on.

The Galaxy S4 Zoom boasts a 10x optical zoom with a focal range the 35mm equivalent of an ultra wide 24-240mm, supported by optical image stabilisation. There's also a 16.3-megapixel effective resolution from the standard sized 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor sporting 17 total megapixels, which is physically much larger than the sensor that you find in a standard smartphone and therefore promises better image quality.

On the back is a 4.3-inch 960 x 540 (qHD) touchscreen SAMOLED display, and the S4 zoom runs the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system. One crucial difference between this new devices and Samsung's previous take, the Galaxy Camera, is that the Galaxy S4 Zoom has a full suite of telephony features, whereas the Galaxy Camera only offered support for Skype or Viber through Android.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom measures 63.5 x 125.5 x 27.0mm (including protrusions), which means that it can be stored inside a trouser pocket (just), and weighs a manageable 208g without battery and card. It's undoubtedly a large device that will definitely get you noticed, especially given the attractive white finish and the large, protruding zoom and handgrip, so it's not as inconspicuous as a smartphone with a fixed lens. Having said that, the ability to zoom-in to 240mm using a relatively compact device means that you will be able to capture lots of moments that no other smartphone can reach.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
Front Rear

With what feels like a higher proportion of metal in the build than plastic, the Galaxy S4 Zoom's sleek and stylish exterior certainly looks the part. It actually features something approaching a proper handgrip to one side of its faceplate, a feature usually jettisoned in favour of cameras that pander more to sleek styling. This thereby suggests that sharp shots towards the telephoto end of its zoom range just might be that much more achievable.

Other than the 10x lens and the handgrip, the only other features on the sparse front of the Galaxy S4 Zoom are a small porthole shaped window housing the AF assist lamp/self timer lamp and the Xenon flash unit, positioned to the left of the lens, and a pair of microphones to the right. If we've one gripe, the flash does seem to take an age to charge from cold before it can be fired. This wait might not be more than a few seconds, but it can take three squeezes of the shutter release before it will fire off a shot in flash mode.

Located on the top-plate is a thin power button. Hold this down for the first time and the Galaxy S4 Zoom stutters into life, taking almost 30 seconds to display a series of graphical screens and then extending the lens from within its body housing to maximum wideangle setting, while the rear screen switches to camera mode a couple of seconds later. The startup time from Standby is thankfully much quicker at just under 3 seconds, roughly what we'd expect from a point-and-shoot camera, although no speed demon.

A half-squeeze of the tactile shutter release button and a central highlighted AF point appears in green along with the customary confirmation 'bleep' that the user is free to go ahead and take the shot. Do so either by using the shutter release button or with a tap of the screen and in default single shot mode a full resolution, Super Fine (top) quality image is committed to either the built-in 8GB memory or an optional micro-SD card in one to two seconds, which is impressive. You can even take a picture using the power of your own voice, with "capture", "shoot", "smile" and "cheese" commands all available. Voice control can also be used to zoom the lens, fire the flash, set the timer options, and change the shooting mode, amongst other settings.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
Side Side

Instead of a finger-operated zoom lever, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom's lens is zoomed in and out either by turning the control ring that encircles the lens, or via two on-screen icons, the former being much the quicker and easier way. The lens mechanics take a couple of seconds to propel the user from maximum wideangle to extreme telephoto. While, once again, it's not the quickest response ever, this was still sufficiently responsive to enable us to quickly frame up the shot we saw in our mind's eye. When shooting video, the zoom takes more than twice as long to move through the same range, no doubt to minimize the already fairly quiet operational buzz.

The Samsung Galaxy has an array of beginner and more advanced shooting modes. The subject recognizing Auto setting is point and shoot all the way, the camera getting it mostly right, although - typically - busier scenes can confuse the auto-focus and the shutter will still fire even if the image is noticeably soft, so you can occasionally come away with blurred results. No matter, re-compose the shot and simply try again. The Smart setting is essentially a range of 15 different clever scene modes, including the useful Macro, HDR and Panorama modes. There are also 13 creative filters available which are accessed by pressing the arrow icon at the bottom of the touchscreen, useful for previewing and adding a not-too-cliched effect.

The other available shooting modes are the familiar program mode plus the unexpected bonus of Program and Manual modes, which are grouped together in the Expert option along with the Custom mode. Aperture, shutter speed, ISO speed and exposure compensation are all cleverly set via virtual dials on the touchscreen LCD, which in reality is a lot quicker and more intuitive than it might first sound. We did miss having dedicated Aperture-priotiy and SHutter-priority modes, as offered on the Galaxy Camera.

The Wi-Fi options here are many and varied, and include the ability to sync up with a handset in order to use your phone as a remote viewfinder. There's also the ability to let the camera search for a local wireless network in order to directly upload imagery to the likes of Facebook, Picasa, YouTube and the ilk, or connect to a wireless network to email a selected picture to an email account - the address input within the camera with the aid of an on-screen 'qwerty' keypad. There are further automatic wireless back up (either to your desktop or a cloud service) and TV link options for those who have the relevant tech at their disposal.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
Front Memory Card Slot

Pressing the Home button fires up the Galaxy S4 Zoom's default screen, which displays the time and date, allows you to perform a Google Search, includes icons for the Paper Artist, Instagram, Photo Wizard, Video Editor, Camera, and Gallery apps, plus Dropbox, Play Store and a further Apps icon which accesses all 41 default apps and the Widgets screen. Having the ability to connect to a wi-fi network or cellular data if using as SIM card, then edit your images and video with either the Samsung apps, Instagram or any one of hundreds of other Android apps, and then upload them to your favourite online network quickly becomes compulsive and makes the traditional process of downloading to acomputer seem laborious and old-fashioned.

At the back of the Samsung Galaxy, in the expected absence of any optical viewfinder, stills and video are composed with the aid of the qHD SAMOLED screen. The 4.3 inch 540x960 pixel Super AMOLED display has a pixel density of 256 pixels per inch, which is identical to the display on the Galaxy S4 Mini smartphone. This sub-HD quality screen isn't as impressive as the screens on other flagship smartphones.

With the 4.3-inch screen swallowing up the entire backplate of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, apart from the Home button, there are very few other physical controls. There's a port for AV/USB output on the right-hand side, with a tiny hoop for attaching a wriststrap just below, alongside the micro-SD card slot. Further long is a metal screw thread for a tripod, denoting that the S4 Zoom is very much a camera as well as a phone. Completing the exterior controls are a headphone port and a volume control button. Note that the battery can't be removed, so charging is most definitely done in-camera.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 16.3 megapixel SuperFine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom produced images of average quality during the review period. Noise already becomes obvious at the relatively slow setting of ISO 200, along with a softening of fine detail, and this only becomes progressively worse at the still modest settings of ISO 400 and 800. The fastest speeds of ISO 1600 and 3200 simply aren't worth using.

Chromatic aberrations were pretty well controlled, with some purple fringing effects appearing in high contrast situations. The 16 megapixel images were a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpen setting and require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, or you can change the in-camera sharpening level.

Macro performance is good, allowing you to focus as close as 3cms away from the subject. Commendably barrel distortion is well controlled even at the 24mm wide-angle focal length. The built-in flash worked well indoors, with no red-eye and good overall exposure.

The anti-shake system works well when hand-holding the Galaxy S4 Zoom in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range, while the maximum shutter speed of 16 seconds allows the camera to capture enough light for most after-dark situations. The HDR and Panorama modes are the best of the so-called Smart scene modes.


There are 6 ISO settings available on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso200.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso800.jpg

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso3200.jpg

Focal Range

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom's 10x zoom lens provides a versatile focal range of 24-240mm in 35mm terms, as demonstrated below.



focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg

File Quality

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom has 3 different image quality settings available, with SuperFine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

16M SuperFine (5.02Mb) (100% Crop) 16M Fine (3.61Mb) (100% Crop)
quality_superfine.jpg quality_fine.jpg
16M Normal (2.41Mb) (100% Crop)  


Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can also change the in-camera sharpening level.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom handled chromatic aberrations quite well during the review, with some purple fringing mainly present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg


The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 3cms away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.


Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


The flash settings on the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom are Off, Fill In, Red-Eye Reduction and Auto. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (24mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (24mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (240mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (240mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. Both the Fill-in and Red-Eye Reduction modes didn't cause any amount of red-eye.


Fill-in (100% Crop)

flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg

Red-Eye Reduction

Red-Eye Reduction (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg


The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom's maximum shutter speed is 16 seconds, which is great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 10 seconds at ISO 100. The camera takes the same amount of time again to apply noise reduction, so for example at the 16 second setting the actual exposure takes 32 seconds.


Night (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg

Optical Image Stabilisation

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom has an anti-shake mechanism, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, we took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with anti shake turned off, the second with it turned on. With anti-shake turned on, the images are noticeably sharper than with anti-shake turned off.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)

Anti Shake On (100% Crop)

1/10 sec / 24mm antishake1.jpg antishake1a.jpg
1/4 sec / 240mm antishake2.jpg antishake2a.jpg


The High Dynamic Range scene mode captures more contrast than a single exposure can handle by combining multiple exposures into one image.



hdr_01.jpg hdr_02.jpg


The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom allows you to take panoramic images very easily, by 'sweeping' with the camera while keeping the shutter release depressed. The camera automatically does all the processing and stitching. The main catch is that the resulting image is of fairly low resolution.


Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 21 second movie is 42.7Mb in size.

Product Images

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Front of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Front of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom / Turned On

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Side of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom


Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Side of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Side of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Rear of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom / Image Displayed

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Rear of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom / Turned On

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Rear of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom / Shooting Modes


Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Rear of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom / Expert Mode

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Rear of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom / Main Menu

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Rear of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom / Main Menu

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Rear of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom / Main Menu

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Rear of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom / Main Menu

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Rear of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom / Quick Settings

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Rear of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom / Home Screen

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Rear of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom / Apps Screen

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Top of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Bottom of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Side of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
Side of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
Front of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom
Memory Card Slot


The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is the natural answer to the question - what happens if you combine a compact camera with a smartphone? It looks exactly like a camera from the front, and exactly like a phone from the back. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom isn't the best smartphone or the best camera, however, so you'll really want to have both devices in one to justify the rather steep asking price.

By compact camera standards, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom's image quality isn't that great, suffering from obvious noise at relatively slow ISO speeds and chromatic aberrations. It is perfectly fine for cropping and resizing for posting on Facebook or Instagram, or for making regular-sized prints, and is a marked improvement on most smartphones. You also obviously have the benefit of the 10x zoom lens, something that no other smartphone can offer, although it does make the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom much heavier and bulkier.

Ultimately the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom isn't quite good enough in either the imaging department or as a phone to persuade phone users or photographers to use it. While the idea sounds great on paper, it hasn't panned out in reality, at least in this first-generation product...

3.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 3.5
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3.5
Value for money 3

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom.


The HTC One is a new flagship smartphone with some intriguing photography features up its proverbial sleeve. The HTC One has a 4 megapixel sensor, 28mm fixed lens with fast f/2.0 aperture, 1080p video, sweep panoramas, a range of picture effects and 8fps burst shooting. Read our HTC One review to find out if it's the best smartphone for photographers...

Nokia Lumia 1020

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is a new 41-megapixel smartphone - yes, you read that right, 41 megapixels. The Lumia 1020 also offers built-in optical image stabilisation, a 3x loss-less zoom for stills and 6x for movies, a 26mm fixed lens with fast f/2.2 aperture, and 1080p video at 30fps with stereo sound. Read our Nokia Lumia 1020 review to find out if it can replace a compact camera.

Nokia Lumia 920

The Nokia Lumia 920 is the first ever smartphone to feature built-in optical image stabilisation. The Lumia 920 also has an 8.7 megapixel sensor, 26mm fixed lens with fast f/2.0 aperture and 1080p video. Read our Nokia Lumia 920 review to find out if it can replace a compact camera, even in low-light...

Samsung Galaxy Camera

It's not very often that something entirely new enters the camera market, but the Samsung Galaxy Camera certainly fits that bill. Half travel-zoom camera, half smartphone, with a dash of the Android operating system and a pinch of wi-fi and 3G/4G connectivity, the Galaxy Camera is a very brave attempt to breathe new life into the declining compact camera business. Read our detailed Samsung Galaxy Camera review, complete with 90 full-size sample images, to find out if it's a success or not...

Samsung Galaxy NX

The Samsung Galaxy NX is the world's first interchangeable lens camera to run on the Android operating system and offer 3G/4G connectivity. The innovative Galaxy NX also features a 20.3 megapixel APS-C sensor, hybrid AF system, 4.8-inch touchscreen LCD, 8.6fps continuous shooting, Wi-fi and NFC connectivity, full 1080p video, and an ISO range 100-25,600. Read our Samsung Galaxy NX review to find out if it's the future of cameras...

Sony Xperia Z

The Sony Xperia Z is a brand new smartphone that offers a lot of technologies from Sony's CyberShot camera range. The Xperia Z has a 13 megapixel sensor, 28mm fixed lens with fast f/2.2 aperture, 1080p video, sweep panoramas, a range of picture effects and 10fps burst shooting. Read our Sony Xperia Z review to find out if it really can replace a compact camera...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom from around the web. »

The Galaxy S4 Zoom is the only smart phone with an optical zoom -- a 10x one, in front of an impressive 16-megapixel sensor. Far from being the ideal camera phone though, it's let down by its fat, awkward body, unimpressive performance and low-resolution screen. Unless you crave that zoom, there are much better all-round camera phones.
Read the full review » »

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom packs a 10x optical zoom and 16MP sensor and aims to oust the HTC One as cameraphone king
Read the full review » »

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is an unusual beast. In some ways it seems like a great idea, smartphone cameras have always paled in comparison to their compact counterparts, so why not stick a compact quality snapper on a phone, rather than forcing photo fans to lug both around?
Read the full review » »

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is Samsung’s idea of the ultimate cameraphone – a 4.3-inch Android smartphone with a full 10x optical zoom camera lens. In effect it’s a cross between the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini and the Samsung Galaxy Camera, with its 16-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, Xenon Flash and 25 Smart modes blurring the lines between camera and smartphone while retaining the simplicity of a regular smartphone camera.
Read the full review » »

Camera connectivity has been improving steadily in recent times, but none can match the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom. Developing the concept introduced with Samsung's first connected Android camera, the Samsung Galaxy Camera, this hybrid boasts not only cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity, but also the capabilities of a full-blown smartphone to its 16-megapixel snapper.
Read the full review »


4.3” qHD sAMOLED
Pega-Dual +XMM6262
HSPA+ 21/5.76 850/900/1900/2100
EDGE/GPRS 850/900/1800/1900
1.5GB(RAM)+ 8GB(eMMC)
MicroSD up to 64GB
Camera / Flash
16MP BSI CMOS w/ Flash
microUSB, USB 2.0, 3.5pi earjack
Wireless Connectivity
BT 4.0, WiFi a/b/g/n 2.4G/5GHz, NFC
Dimension, Weight
63.3x125.3x15.25mm (TBD)
Battery capacity
OS / Upgrade
Android JB MR1 (v4.2)
Messaging & SNS
ChatON, Gtalk, Google +
Augmented Reality
D/L from Play Store
Google Maps (Turn-by-turn Navi.)
Other Services & Applications
Trouwrist, Trip Advisor, Photo Suggest
PC Applications
Kies (Windows & Mac), AllShare
UI / Web Browser
TouchWiz for Android / Chrome
MPEG4, H.263, H.264, VP6/8, WMV9
Recording/Playback: 1080@30fps

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