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Hybrid has much to recommend it

Samsung’s latest attempt to merge a smartphone with a digital camera has been only partially successful

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There are numerous smartphones on the market. Many of them can take good photos and videos, but none can achieve the standard possible with DSLR cameras. Will Samsung’s latest hybrid, a digital camera plus smartphone, be able to close that gap? 

I’d say no, but the gap has certainly been considerably shrunk.

Samsung’s Galaxy K Zoom is more of a digital camera than a phone, due to its size, its lens and other built-in components. If you’re looking for a pretty good 20MP digital camera that can make calls and which runs Android applications (and games, of course), this is the device for you.

The Galaxy K Zoom is the only smart phone that comes with a large built-in, 20MP, extensible, semi-professional lens which can go up to 10x optical zoom, allowing you to zoom in order to focus and to take great detailed photos of faraway objects or people without losing picture quality. This is a feature that most smartphone companies have been shy to include because it adds bulkiness to phones, compromising the sleek beauty that seems to be de rigueur these day. The device also comes with a blindingly bright xenon flash, which helps a lot when you want to take photos in dark places or at indoor parties.

Its 720x1280, 4.8-inch super AMOLED screen is smooth as silk for your fingertips, but not as pixel-rich as the currently available flagship phones. The colour it shows is extremely vibrant, but a bit too vibrant and saturated to my taste (I’d prefer more real-life colour, but that’s just me).

The design of the front is very similar to that of Samsung’s latest flagship phone, the Galaxy S5: there’s a round and minimalistic feel to it and the edges are decorated while a shiny strip of aluminium.

It also uses the latest version of Samsung Touchwiz, just like its bigger brother. Touchwiz is a stable Android variant that has been modified, tweaked, optimised and stabilised, with the addition of plenty of functions and applications, something that most low-end smartphone companies don’t do (they simply use the plain Android OS). But Samsung often goes overboard by throwing in so much additional bloatware that it slows down a device. Luckily, this K Zoom comes with a very minimal selection of bloatware. The most notable additions include about 50 kinds of photo-taking customisations, presets, scene- and image-retouching features. So you can, pretty much, adjust the way you want to take a picture and then retouch it on-the-go before sending it to friends or colleagues.

The rear features that extensible lens and xenon flash I mentioned earlier and is covered by a rather girlie, white/pearl detachable plastic cover that hides a Li-Ion 2430 mAh battery and SIM card slot. While the battery capacity is only slightly more than you get with standard batteries, giving you the ability to swap out batteries is very useful if you caught up in an extended photo-taking session.

This device comes with a 6-core CPU and 2GB of RAM, making it pretty much "lagless" if you’re not doing multiple hardcore CPU-intensive tasks (like playing three games, watching YouTube videos, chatting on Skype and Line and checking your Facebook feeds simultaneously). This was the category in which Samsung’s previous Zoom iteration did pretty badly last time, but thankfully it’s been fixed this time round.

The Galaxy K Zoom is very camera-centric and the button placement is also very similar to that in most digital cameras (putting all the buttons on the right-hand side of the screen lets you zoom and take photos with several dedicated buttons). The physical layout is very good for taking photos, but could be a little awkward for normal smartphone use because all the buttons are on one side and quite close to each other.

Somehow, I tended to get less 3G and Wi-Fi reception with this compared to other phones I’ve tried. So while using the Galazy K Zoom you may have to stay a bit closer to whatever antennas you’re trying to connect to.

While its bulkiness and weight may put off quite a few prospective customers, this is a very capable device that can take gorgeous photos and run all Android apps smoothly for only a moderate cost.

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