Dual-camera setup on smartphones is the latest industry fad, and we are not complaining. Thanks to mobile photography becoming a norm, manufacturers are compelled to cram capabilities into these hand-held devices which mimic professional results. Joining the list is the new Asus Zenfone Zoom S, which is priced at Rs 26,999. Launched in the week celebrating photography, the smartphone focuses on its photographic chops. I spent a while using the Asus Zenfone Zoom S, but am I impressed? Read on to find out.
There are plenty of smartphones in the market today, which boast excellent cameras. Yet, at the end of the day, we are bound to remind ourselves that it is indeed a smartphone, and not a camera. While the history of dual-lens smartphones dates back to 2011, it was with the launch of Apple iPhone 7 Plus that the setup actually popularized, and is now one of the features customers ask for when buying a new smartphone. The Asus Zenfone Zoom S is equipped with a 12-megapixel Sony IMX362 sensor along with a 12-megapixel zoom lens that is capable of 2.3X optical zoom and 12X of total zoom. There is further support for EIS, OIS, Dual Pixel PDAF, and 4K video recording.
Bokeh or Portrait Mode is one thing, which actually gives one the illusion of professional shots, and that is exactly what got me truly excited about the Asus Zenfone Zoom S. Its native camera app has a dedicated Portrait Mode and unlike competing smartphones in this category, the results are not average. When framing a shot, one feels as if the camera is not able to distinguish between the subject and the background, but after processing, the shots turn out as intended. I would admit that the camera did take a second or two to process the images taken in this mode, however, the results shut all my complaints. Here are a few sample images shot in Portrait Mode, and I found them to be quite detailed, with softly blurred out background. One of the caveats is that the camera does not allow you to refocus after the image has been clicked.
In my personal opinion, color reproduction is important if a smartphone claims to be camera centric. While in the Portrait Mode, the colors turned out rich in contrast, in the Auto Mode they were slightly bleached out. Given that the initial experience of using the camera was on an overcast sky, a final feedback on the color reproduction will be reserved until a full review.
The primary 12-megapixel camera with f/1.7 aperture on the Asus Zenfone Zoom S is backed by Asus SuperPixel Camera technology, which is said to improve low-light photography. While in natural settings I was able to capture some details, in artificially-lit settings, the images turned out quite blurred. Given the OIS and EIS support, this, ideally, should not have been the case. We will be testing out the low-light photography potential to give a proper review.
Coming to the zooming capabilities of the smartphone; the 12-megapixel secondary zoom lens also appears to do a decent job. Here are shots taken at varied focal lengths. While the reach impressed me, there is a certain loss of detailing at higher focal lengths, especially if the setting is dim-lit.
Other than the dual-camera setup at the back, there is a 13-megapixel front camera for selfies and video calling. It is worth noting that the Bokeh or Portrait Mode is not supported for selfies, which kind of disappointed me, because that is one effect which is slightly impractical with a standalone camera, and having it in a smartphone would have satiated the selfie-lovers. Nonetheless, there are beautification tools, which can help you get the desired effects. RELATED: Dual camera smartphones under Rs 30,000 in India: Honor 6X, Micromax Dual 5 and more
The Zenfone Zoom S is quite impressive in terms of looks. It features a unibody metal design with thin antenna lines running across the top and bottom of the rear panel. There is a fingerprint sensor at the back and the dual-cameras are placed horizontally, which give the rear panel an appearance quite identical to the Apple iPhone 7 Plus. However, the camera module does not protrude too much out of the body, thereby enhancing the overall look of the smartphone. Beneath the camera module is the dual-tone flash and RGB sensor.
Up front, there is a 5.5-inch AMOLED full-HD display with 2.5D curved Corning Gorilla Glass 5 protection. The display proved both bright and responsive in the given conditions, and adapted easily to the change in lighting. There are virtual Android controllers on the front, and no physical home button. RELATED: Lenovo K8 Note to Oppo F3: Smartphones with dual cameras under Rs 20,000
One of the other highlights of the smartphone is its massive 5,000mAh battery, which is said to keep it running for over two days on a single charge. While we are yet to test the claim, at this price point and with the dual-camera setup, the Zenfone Zoom S is one of the few phones focusing both on the camera and the battery. Despite the big battery, the phone is sleek, and doesn’t weigh much.
The smartphone is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 SoC with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage that is expandable up to 2TB via microSD card. The same chipset powers the Xiaomi Redmi Note 4, which is known for its performance. It is worth mentioning that the dual-camera setup on the Zenfone Zoom S is powered by the SuperPixel Engine, which is a dedicated processor that works with the Snapdragon 625 for a seamless processing. However, during the brief time of experiencing, the device heated up a lot. Asus said the issue will be resolved with the upcoming software update to Android 7.1.1 Nougat, which will also bring with it support for RAW files.
Asus Zenfone Zoom S aims to make its presence felt in the fast growing space of dual-camera smartphones. It is neither priced in the sub-Rs 20,000 segment, nor above the Rs 30,000 range, making it a desirable option for those looking at a new camera experience. However, it faces competition from smartphones from both the price points, including the recent entrants such as the Lenovo K8 Note and the premium ones such as the OnePlus 5, Honor 8 Pro, along with the similarly priced Micromax Dual 5. Stay tuned for our detailed review to find out whether the Asus Zenfone Zoom S is truly worth your money.