Why you can trust TechRadar We spend hours testing every product or service we review, so you can be sure you’re buying the best. Find out more about how we test.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is really in a league of its own when it comes to photo taking capabilities. It has a 16MP camera which beats out even the 13MP Samsung Galaxy S4.
But it does a whole lot more than just boost the megapixels as it also has a large lens, Xenon flash, optical image stabilisation and can do up to 10x optical zoom.
Optical zoom is almost unheard of on a smartphone camera so that really is a big deal and puts it more in line with compacts than any of its smartphone brethren.
It also has a dedicated camera button, which is rare for Android handsets, but not surprising given what a priority photo taking is for this phone.
The button is well positioned on the top right corner of the handset (when held in landscape). It doesn't get in the way and it's not at all stiff, so it's easy to press without causing any camera shake. Somewhat surprisingly though you can't use the camera button to launch the camera.
There are still a couple of ways to launch the camera though. Either tap on the camera app or just twist the zoom ring. Doing the latter brings up a little menu with various options such as scene modes like landscape or auto and a shortcut to the gallery.
You can pick an option either by tapping it or twisting the zoom ring further round. It's a great way to launch the camera from any screen on your phone- and give you a few shooting options at the same time.
Once you launch the camera - whichever way you choose to do it - the lens extends ready for use. There's no view finder so you have to use the screen, which is a shame as the screen can sometimes be hard to see properly in bright light.
The screen itself is jammed full of options to get to grips with. In the bottom left corner of the screen (assuming you're holding it horizontally) there's a little thumbnail of the last photo you took and tapping on it will take you to it in the gallery.
In the bottom middle there's a little arrow which you can tap on to bring up a list of effects, such as 'cartoon' or 'vintage'. Tapping on any one of them will apply it to the next photo you take.
Back on the left hand side of the screen there are plus and minus arrows up the side, which let you zoom in and out with up to 10x optical zoom - though you can also do this by twisting the zoom lens. At the very top left there's an icon that lets you switch to the 1.9MP front facing camera.
To the right of that there's another little arrow which gives you access to options such as turning flash on and off, turning the microphone on and off and adding a location tag.
Along the right edge of the screen is where you'll find the scene modes. There's an icon labelled 'mode' which brings up four options- 'auto', 'smart', 'expert' and 'my mode'.
Expert lets you change things like the shutter speed, contrast and saturation, auto mode automatically selects the appropriate mode and settings and 'my mode' lets you choose a subset of scene modes that you want quick access to and then displays them on a single screen for you.
Smart mode is where you'll find every scene mode and there are a lot of them, from macro and landscape, to HDR and panorama.
There are also some more unusual options such as 'best photo' which takes a series of eight photos then lets you pick the best one to save, or 'kid shot' which plays a sound to get a baby's attention so that you can take a photo of them.
Then there's 'Animated photo', which records several seconds of motion and then loops it much like a GIF - though before saving it you can choose which sections you want to be animated and which should stay static.
Modes such as this one and panorama can take quite a while to process and on a few occasions the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom took a couple of seconds to respond even when switching scene modes. It's times like this when you really wish it had the grunt of the proper Samsung Galaxy S4.
If you're ever not sure which mode will work best then you can select 'Smart Mode Suggest' which analyses lighting conditions and the objects in the frame to make a suggestion.
Whatever mode you choose you can then hit the camera button to take a picture. The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom blows away most of the competition when it comes to photo quality, outshining even the likes of the Nokia Lumia 925.
While it struggles in some areas photos are generally very crisp and clear and the addition of a 10x optical zoom and all the shooting modes on offer really help it stand out too. However while it rules the roost in smartphone land its images pale in comparison to many compacts.
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 3G.co.uk, 4G.co.uk and 5G.co.uk and has written for T3, Digital Camera World, Clarity Media and others, with work on the web, in print and on TV.