ASUS Zenfone Zoom S (ZE553KL) has reached Singapore shores. And to make their point, they took us out to sea!
And since it coincides with Star Wars Day, some are dressed to Star Wars Theme. #MayTheFourthBeWithYou
Also known as Zenfone 3 Zoom in other regions, Zenfone Zoom S boasts of two 12MP cameras of different angles of view. The standard camera is 25mm f/1.7 while the second zoom camera is 59mm f/2.6. The battery capacity is an amazing 5000 mAh, and it is impressively thin and compact.
Other noteworthy specs:
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 / Adreno 506
- 5.5-inch full HD AMOLED
- 13MP front camera SONY IMX214 sensor (1/3.06″ sensor size, 1.12um pixels) f/2.0
- 12MP rear standard camera 25mm SONY IMX362 (1/2.55″ sensor size, 1.4um pixels) f/1.7
- ASUS TriTech+: Dual Phase Detection AF / 2nd Gen Laser AF / Contrast (Continuous subject tracking) Detection AF
- 10cm min. focal distance
- 12MP rear zoom camera 59mm Samsung 3M3 (1/3.42″ sensor size, 1.0um pixels) f/2.6
- Contrast (Continuous subject tracking) Detection AF
- 24cm min. focal distance
- WIFI 802.11b/g/n
- Dual SIM hybrid slot 2/3/4G
- MicroSD slot
- Android 6.0 with upgrade to 7.0 within mid-2017
- 5000mAh – 1A Reverse Charging
- Hi-Res Audio Processor supporting 24-bit audio files
It retails in Singapore from 20 May at S$678, and will be available in Navy Black and Rose Gold, with 4GB RAM and 64GB internal storage.
Naming Convention of ASUS Zenfones
In case you are wondering how ASUS decides the model numbers for each Zenfone, here’s a breakdown on the new Zenfone Zoom S, ZE553KL:
ZE – Zenfone mainstream model range. In comparison, ZC is Zenfone Go, ZD is Zenfone Max, ZD is Zenfone Selfie, ZU is Zenfone Ultra.
KL – Qualcomm chip. For Intel chip, it is denoted as “ML”.
553 – Fourth “ZExxxKL” model with 5.5-inch display. To elaborate with examples, ZE551ML is Zenfone 2 while ZE551KL is Zenfone 2 Laser. Same digits but different suffix. ASUS does not give different models for storage variants, so in the case of Zenfone 2, the 32GB and 64GB use the same model number. On the other hand, ASUS assigns different model numbers for screen variants. So Zenfone 3 5.2-inch is ZE520KL (first ZExxxKL model with 5.2-inch display) while Zenfone 3 5.5-inch is ZE552KL.
2 weeks before today, ASUS Singapore passed me a unit to try out.
The matt aluminium rear is comfortably curved all around the corners and edges, giving it a smooth and silky touch on the hands.
The front display is full HD AMOLED screen with Gorilla 5 glass with 2.5D curves around the sides. Capacitive buttons without backlight is similar to previous Zenfone series. Just like other Zenfone 3 series, the Zenfone Zoom S uses USB Type-C connector.
The fingerprint sensor is comfortably located behind the phone and oddly does not unlock as fast as Zenfone 3 which I reviewed last year.
The Zenfone Zoom S UI feels identical to the Zenfone 3. With AMOLED display, the default display mode is Super Colour which I felt was too rich. Selecting Standard mode kind of made the colours too muted. I would prefer to have a slightly more saturated tuning but not too much. Tip: go to the context menu to uncheck “Show Notification” so that the notification bar does not display the Screen Colour Mode perpetually.
Like all recent Zenfones, you can change the theme which affects the colours from the fonts to the background and icons on all screens, including notification bar and menu, which is great so you can personalise the phone.
I find that Snapdragon 625 is one of the best mid-range Qualcomm processor in the market. It runs really responsive and smooth, yet consumes little battery. Thank goodness Zenfone Zoom S runs with it. The AnTuTu benchmark gets me about 62400.
Thanks to the generous 5000 mAh battery size, the Zenfone Zoom S lasts more than a day with ease. It’s quite amazing how compact the phone remains.
Typically, when the phone reaches below 50% by the end of the day, I would still charge it overnight since it will not last me another full day. So what I would do is to go liberal on the battery consumption, for instance, extending the screen-on time, increase brightness, turning on all the connectivity options, keeping more apps running on the background. Why not?
The phone supports fast charging, which ASUS calls “BoostMaster”. Using the included charger, the phone can be charged from 0 to 100% in 3 hours.
But the star of the device is the dual camera. There are a lot of technology behind these camera lenses, but I’d rather let the pictures speak for themselves.
Zooming can be done by pinching the display. Under normal lighting conditions, the camera app switches automatically between both cameras once it passes the 2.3X zoom mark. You will notice a slight shift in perspectives but otherwise little delay. You can jump from one camera to the other by tapping the zoom icon, which toggles from 1X to 2.3X to 5X.
However, under poor lighting, ASUS camera app on my review unit decides not to switch to the zoom camera because being a slower f/2.6 lens, ASUS probably think consumers cannot handle the slower shutter at the expense of image quality. Below image is cropped off a section of a full-size image to show the detail loss.
Thankfully, the Manual shooting mode overrides this. So, in order not to let the camera app decide, I made the Manual mode my default shooting option. Tip: this is easily done by dragging the Manual mode icon to the top left of the mode list. Another thing I like about Zenfones.
To toggle between the 2 cameras under Manual mode, tap the mountain icon above the shutter. A single mountain denotes 59mm zoom lens, while triple-mountain denotes 25mm standard lens. Another tap shows “Auto” which means the app will select whichever camera to use.
When should you use the 59mm zoom lens? Well, if you shoot normal scenes with 25mm standard lens, images get a little wide and distorted, and you get too much background scenes (pic below).
When you switch to 59mm zoom lens, pull away the camera to re-frame the same scene, and you get better subject isolation (pic below).
And obviously, the primary advantage of a zoom lens is to shoot subjects closer while retaining pixel quality.
While HDR is auto-detected based on scene, I find the speed of capturing HDR a lot faster than previous Zenfones, making it a lot more usable and less laggy during shoots.
Front-camera has higher pixel count 13MP than the rear, and I love the quality. As much as I dislike the over-processed beauty modes of most smartphones, ASUS has offered a good balance. In the shot below, my face was lit by an LED desk lamp, smoothened and noise-removed while retaining accurate colour tone.
Compare with First-Generation Zenfone Zoom ZX551ML
I still have the thinnest 3x optical zoom smartphone, so I did a comparison.
Certainly, the new Zenfone Zoom S is more processed to be more vibrant and sharper. But optically, the first-generation is more authentic. For the benefit of consumerism, I’m going to go for Zenfone Zoom S.
For low light and indoor scenes, the Zenfone Zoom S handles well. The night scene below is shot at around ISO 2000. On hindsight, I should have reduced ISO, but then I would not be able to shoot handheld. Shutter is 1/30 for 25mm, drops to 1/14 for 59mm.
Colours might be a little saturated to look natural, but you can adjust it to your liking under the camera settings. Tip: set Image Optimisation to manual to reveal the list of presets like Saturation, Contrast, Sharpness. I’m quite pleased to leave the saturation level so that I do not need to boost it for social media posting.
Still a Mid-Tier Smartphone
Like Zenfone 3, the Zenfone Zoom S lacks the premium specs that I need. There is no NFC and no Wi-Fi AC band. Even the original Zenfone Zoom comes with them.
The other minor imperfection is that the second zoom lens does not have optical image stabilizer. Actually, it is the 59mm lens that ought to have OIS, because its aperture is smaller and being smaller angle of view, the chances of handshake is a lot higher.
The Zenfone Zoom S is the first Android smartphone with dual camera with different angles of view, just like the iPhone 7 Plus. It is a welcoming move to address consumers who appreciate the value of a telephoto lens that captures images in closer and tighter frame, and is more compact than the first-generation Zenfone Zoom. The phone performs fast and ZenUI is a home launcher with some of the most features available out of the box. Another key advantage is the huge battery volume in a compact size. I thought the retail price of S$678 is a tad high, but I believe many independent mobile retailers will offer some discounts to entice consumers.