Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review

Is it a phone? Is it a camera? Do you care?

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review
Zoom! ZOOM! ZOOM! It's still a phone though.

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In a lot of ways we're quite fond of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom. It's not as unwieldy as we'd expected, it's got one of the best cameras available on a smartphone, solid battery life and a lot of features and apps.

The problem is that as a phone it's decidedly mid-range, with average specs and an average screen, while as a camera (as opposed to a phone camera) it's quite low end.

The main selling point is presumably that it removes the need to carry around both a phone and a compact, except that it doesn't, because if you care about photos enough to carry a compact around with you anyway then this is likely to be a downgrade and while it's fine as a mid range phone it carries a premium price tag of around £440 SIM free.

We liked

The camera, by smartphone standards, is absolutely superb. Pictures are detailed, low light performance is solid (though seemingly worse than on the Nokia Lumia 925) and the addition of a 10x optical zoom and Xenon flash really take it up to another level.

The battery life is pretty good too, despite being clad in plastic it looks quite nice, internet performance is fast and there are loads of useful built in apps and features such as 'S Translate' and pop-out videos.

We disliked

While the camera is great by smartphone standards it's still pretty poor compared to most standalone cameras. Aside from the camera the Samsung Galaxy S4 also seems a little over priced for what it is as the screen isn't full HD and it only has a dual-core processor, which noticeably led to slow down on a few occasions, particularly when launching apps or changing modes on the camera.

There's also only 8GB of built in storage which really is a paltry amount and while it isn't as bulky or awkward as we thought it might be the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is still far from slim or light.


We really want to like the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom but we're just not sure there's a gap in the market for it. If the camera or phone part was better or the price tag was lower then it would make sense, but right now it's a poor compact married to a mid-range phone at a high end price tag.

Anyone looking to spend that sort of money on a phone would likely want more from it, or they could get the mostly quite similar Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini for a fair bit less.

It might appeal to camera fans, but they could get a much better compact for the money. Combining a compact camera and a phone into a single device is a nice idea, but when both are worse than stand alone models it seems like an awkward compromise.

On the other hand there's nothing inherently wrong with it. As a phone camera it's great, aside from adding bulkiness and weight to the handset. The phone bit isn't bad either, but for not much more you could get an HTC One or a Samsung Galaxy S4, both of which are a lot better as all round smartphones.

So ultimately the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is quite good, and given the quality of the camera attached to it it's not necessarily overpriced as such, we're just not sure it actually fills the small gap in the market that it seems to be aiming for.

James Rogerson

James is a freelance phones, tablets and wearables writer and sub-editor at TechRadar. He has a love for everything ‘smart’, from watches to lights, and can often be found arguing with AI assistants or drowning in the latest apps. James also contributes to, and and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.