Smartphone manufacturers are here to make your DSLR cameras feel a little more neglected. Dual cameras – the latest industry fad – is here to stay, and while you have smartphones ranging from the Apple iPhone 7 Plus, Honor 8 Pro, Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and the newly released Lenovo K8 Note, not all combinations are the same. However, one thing most of these dual-camera smartphones are able to deliver is the much-loved Bokeh or Portrait Mode. The recently launched Asus Zenfone Zoom S boasts similar DSLR-like capabilities, accentuated with the 12X total zoom (2.3X optical, and 9.7X digital). Does the Rs 26,999-priced smartphone get its focus right? Read on.
Before I get into writing about any other element of the Asus Zenfone Zoom S, let’s move straight to the highlights of the smartphone: the camera, and the massive 5,000mAh battery. There is a combination of a 12-megapixel Sony IMX362 sensor and a 12-megapixel telephoto lens, which is capable of 2.3X optical zoom. For stability, there is optical image stabilization (OIS), electronic image stabilization (EIS), along with Dual Pixel PDAF. Keeping aside the jargon, the camera will give you some really delightful Bokeh shots. As you can see in the images below, there have been little or no instances of the background blur overpowering the edges of the subject. You can adjust the level of blur in a given shot, while you are composing a frame, not after wards.
While I am left impressed with the Portrait Mode, I can’t say the same for the process of composing such shots. In the Portrait Mode, the subject is automatically zoomed in, so you will have to adjust the distance to get the frame correct. Despite the OIS, you need to be real stable when capturing photos. Overall, the Portrait Mode was what kept me busy, even as the abilities extend beyond just the background blur.
Smartphones have evolved from being just smartphones and becoming semi-camera replacements, however, their ability to zoom into distant subjects had been limited. The Zenfone Zoom S, as the name suggests, aims to fill in the gap with its secondary telephoto sensor. It is capable of 2.3X optical zoom, which basically means the objects will be crisper in details until this point. As for the 12X total zoom, you will be able to still make out what the distant object is, albeit with a slight lack of details. Nonetheless, cramming the power in a smartphone to zoom akin to older point-and-shoot cameras, is commendable. You can see the difference in the images taken at no zoom, 2.3X zoom, and 12X zoom levels.
Other than the Portrait Mode and zooming capabilities, the smartphone uses Asus’ SuperPixel camera technology for improved low-light shots. In varied low-light settings, the camera did achieve results. However, in some settings, the images turned out too grainy. For example, when I tried capturing a dark corner, the camera was capable of capturing the subject, albeit with visible grains. But for the same subject, if I use the flash, the results aren’t disappointing. As for the front camera in dark conditions, the flash takes little bit of time to aid in framing the picture, but the results are decent. There are multiple camera modes, including manual mode, night mode, HDR Pro mode, and monochrome. Additionally, you can record 4K videos and shoot in RAW format for easier processing.
Up front, there is a 13-megapixel Sony IMX214 sensor with screen flash for well-lit selfies. There are a number of features within the beautification mode to help you get the social media-friendly shot. As is the case with a lot of beautification tools, if you get the rouge and bright eyes balance incorrect, you might end up looking like a white walker.
On the whole, the camera setup on the Zenfone Zoom S justifies being the highlight of the smartphone. If you are looking for a dual camera smartphone that provides good zooming capabilities and gets the ticks in all the boxes for ‘DSLR-like’ needs, then this could be a decent option at the given price. But there’s more to the Zenfone Zoom S than just the camera prowess.
For a good camera smartphone to perform seamlessly, you need a powerful processor under the hood, along with a strong battery that does not disappoint you just when you attempt to capture the right moment. Other than the impressive camera, the 5,000mAh battery is the talking point. It does take over two hours for a full charge. However, once you do that, there’s no looking back for at least a day and half for an average user and could go over that, for a light user. For me, the battery backup stands out given the kind of camera the phone has and the number of times one is tempted to capture the surroundings. Also, the decent screen size is a plus point to watch videos or play games.
As for the performance, the Zenfone Zoom S is equipped with a SuperPixel Engine chipset for the camera which works together with the Snapdragon 625 SoC for the heavy image processing. There’s 4GB of RAM with 64GB of internal storage, out of which about 12GB is consumed with the firmware and added bloatware. It is high time manufacturers realize nothing beats the stock Android experience and for everything else, apps or games, there’s always the official play store to install from. Even as the industry is following the 6GB RAM trend, for an average user 4GB should be more than enough. Whether it was watching movies on-the-go, or in between capturing photos, the Zenfone Zoom S did not disappoint me in terms of performance. There were no app crashes. As for the storage, there is the option for you to expand it via microSD card (hybrid system) up to 2TB. RELATED: We’re approaching the moment when the lines between DSLRs and smartphones are blurring
Coming to the final, but important, design aspect of the Zenfone Zoom S; it’s a metal unibody phone, designed ergonomically. It is sleek, and surprisingly light for all the battery power and camera capabilities crammed inside. At the back, the dual-camera module sits on the left corner and does not protrude out of the phone’s body. Beneath the camera setup is a thin strip containing the LED flash and color correction sensors. There’s a fingerprint sensor, which is fast and responsive. Up front, there is a 5.5-inch full HD AMOLED display with 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass 5. The display adapts to the change in light settings. It is again responsive to touch and has good viewing angles. There’s no physical home button, but you can activate the double tap to wake screen. Support for gesture-based app shortcuts makes it easy to access.
A few things define the Asus Zenfone Zoom S: Android Nougat, dual-camera setup, bumper battery, and a price which falls between mid-range and premium. The ZenUI does spoil the ideal experience with all the bloatware and the unnecessary UI tweaks, however, that can be called a minor quibble in an otherwise good smartphone. If you look at the competition, there are smartphones such as the Honor 8 Pro and the OnePlus 5. However, they cost slightly more for an equivalent experience from the camera, but better overall performance. Also, the battery power is the deal breaker in this case. The OnePlus 5 includes a 3,300mAh battery while the Honor 8 Pro is limited to 4,000mAh battery. However, both the competing smartphones boast at least 6GB of RAM, and the Honor 8 Pro includes 128GB of default storage – areas where the Zenfone Zoom S falls a tad short. On the whole, the bundle of features on the Asus Zenfone Zoom S are a decent match to its price tag of Rs 26,999.