ASUS' ZenFone Zoom is finally held again by a mediocre sensor

ASUS has been making an attempt to make a mark within the US telephone marketplace for years, first with its hit-or-miss Padfone line and extra just lately with the finances-pleasant ZenFone 2. Then, for causes almost past comprehension, the corporate determined to shoehorn a zoom lens system from Hoya into one in every of its telephones. And lo, the ZenFone Zoom was born.

Gallery: ASUS ZenFone Zoom | 17 Pictures

As a smartphone, the Zoom does not stray removed from the method ASUS launched with the ZenFone 2: It squeezes sufficient energy out of its quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 chipset, and the 4GB of reminiscence helps hold this bloatware-ridden construct of Android Marshmallow operating easily. The battery will get you thru an extended workday however not far more than that. In fact, the digital camera is the actual star of the present — that is why the Zoom prices an additional $one hundred over the $299 ZenFone 2. Spoiler alert: For the overwhelming majority of you, the premium simply ain’t value it.

The identify says all of it, actually. The Zoom’s declare to fame is not its thirteen-megapixel rear digital camera; it is the constructed-in 3x optical zoom lens. You’ll be able to’t miss it, both; the digital camera meeting seems to be like an unlimited plastic disk on the telephone’s fake-leather-based again. Lumia 1020 followers may really feel a pang of nostalgia, however the hump of the ZenFone’s digital camera has nothing on that Home windows Telephone’s notable forty two-megapixel hunchback. Whereas it isn’t delicate, precisely, the bump does a ok job bodily becoming into the physique that you simply will not thoughts it a lot in day-to-day use.

ASUS' ZenFone Zoom is ultimately held back by a mediocre sensor

It is fairly uncommon to see a hardware maker squeeze a correct shifting zoom lens right into a handset, however I can not argue with the outcomes. Sometimes if you zoom in together with your smartphone’s shooter, the system is simply increasing what’s already within the body and cropping off no matter does not match. This, pals, is digital zoom, and it usually sucks. Right here, although, you possibly can zoom in as much as 3x with out dropping any crispness, as a result of the lens array is bodily shifting to enlarge your area of view. You recognize, like on a digital camera.

To ASUS’ credit score, zooming works simply in addition to you’d anticipate. Along with pinching-to-zoom, the quantity buttons double as zoom controls (full with the right iconography). I want we might have gotten greater than 3x zoom out of this lens setup, however that in all probability would’ve required a much more insane configuration. Want I remind you of Samsung’s bonkers Galaxy Okay Zoom? Nonetheless, if you are going to construct — and identify! — a smartphone with one particular function in thoughts, why not go all out?

So sure, all that zooming works as marketed. It is too dangerous, then, that the sensor setup behind the lens is not value writing residence about. What we now have here’s a thirteen-megapixel, Panasonic-made sensor that principally yields respectable colour saturation and an enough degree of element. Contemplating how good smartphone cameras have gotten, although, these are desk stakes. Footage shot with the ZenFone Zoom routinely appeared lifeless and vague in contrast with photographs obtained with an iPhone 6s or Galaxy S6 (sure, final yr’s mannequin).

ASUS' ZenFone Zoom is ultimately held back by a mediocre sensor

Do not get me improper. Not one of the pictures have been dangerous; simply unremarkable. What’s extra, low-mild efficiency is not nice. That pesky grain is stored beneath management pretty nicely, however the quantity of element drops off fairly dramatically. There’s at the very least a low-mild-particular mode that helps considerably. And it is exhausting to overlook, because the telephone steadily nags you to make use of it.

Zoom lens apart, the telephone’s largest photographic asset is its autofocusing system, which makes use of a laser to lock onto topics in a fraction of a second. The function has popped up in a handful of nice telephones to date — LG’s most up-to-date flagships and each new Nexuses spring to thoughts — and it is a implausible software for fast, off-the-cuff photographs. It is definitely quick at locking onto topics, which makes the occasional sluggishness when snapping photographs all of the extra irritating.

In fact, you’ll be able to take much more management over pictures with the Zoom’s surprisingly in depth guide settings. Past the standard ISO, publicity, autofocus and white-stability controls, you may as well fiddle with sharpness and distinction values, in addition to deliver up a histogram to ensure your pictures are nicely uncovered. ASUS’ digital camera interface can also be nuanced sufficient to make you are feeling such as you’re utilizing a correct digital camera, although the lackluster sensor means these controls will solely ever take you thus far.

ASUS' ZenFone Zoom is ultimately held back by a mediocre sensor

Ditto for capturing video. Perhaps it is simply me, however a contemporary smartphone with a transparent give attention to images — even one which prices solely $399 — ought to have the ability to document in 4K. As an alternative, the Zoom tops out at 1080p, and you’ll use the useful stabilization function provided that you drop that decision down additional to 720p. The Zoom’s video prowess is about on par with its photograph chops, which means you will get completely satisfactory (however forgettable) clips.

Earlier than I began utilizing the ZenFone Zoom, I used to be hesitant: Is not its single standout function only a huge gimmick? The reply is a reasonably resounding no. ASUS has put collectively a reasonably spectacular little bit of zooming equipment right here; it was the sensor itself I ought to have been extra involved about. Couple that poorly balanced photographic equation with a thick chassis and lackluster efficiency, and we’re left with one critical query mark of a telephone. I can see shopping for it as a curio — an instance of how smartphones are evolving — however its sensible worth is restricted at greatest. In the event you’re critical about getting a primary-price smartphone digital camera, save up slightly extra and splurge on a Galaxy S7 as an alternative.

Chris spent his early life taking aside Sega consoles and writing terrible fan fiction. To his utter shock, that zeal for electronics and phrases would ultimately lead him to overlaying startups of all stripes at TechCrunch. The primary telephone he ever swooned over was the Nokia 7610, and to this present day he cringes each time anybody says the phrases “Bengal Boy."He additionally actually hates writing about himself within the third individual.