ASUS ZenFone Zoom Review: An Android With True 3X Optical Zoom

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ZenFone Zoom Summary and Conclusion

We need to give ASUS some kudos for stepping outside the box and offering something that's truly unique in the smartphone space. We evaluate a plethora of smartphones year in and year out, and increasingly, there's very little that clearly differentiates one from another. We've reached a point where updates are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, and it's quite possible that a major leap in optics like this could be exactly what this industry needs to lure consumers back in or possibly to at least start a trend. 

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concludeThere's clearly demand for smartphones with outstanding image quality. Ask any average owner if they'd stick with their current phone should the camera stop working, and you'll find that most would not. The camera is arguably as essential as making calls for most smartphone users, and the ZenFone Zoom seeks to give the camera some special treatment and tangible benefits. The good news is that the phone's foundations are solid, if a bit aged. The innards are nearly identical to the ZenFone 2 from a year ago. We liked that phone in its day (especially at its affordable price point), and we're pleased to say that those components have held-up relatively well. Performance-wise, while the phone isn't class-leading, we found little to to gripe about, and everyone save for the hardcore gamers most users will find plenty of oomph for most tasks.

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Outside of being a solid, budget-minded Android phone, the ZenFone Zoom is a lot of fun to toy around with behind the lens. The ability to toggle manual photography controls with high-end optics and an actual optical zoom is a real boon, and it's something we've longed for on other phones. The phone's camera is at its best in manual mode -- no surprise there -- but unfortunately doesn't excel in auto mode or in dimly lit scenarios. Though ASUS could easily tweak performance in auto-mode in future firmware updates, if you don't have time to compose a shot with manual mode, you may not be completely satisfied here. 

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What we're left with is an excellent idea that could use a bit of refinement. That said, we'd expect ASUS and its engineers to continue pushing software updates that enable the camera's automatic mode to be sharper, smarter, and more precise. If the idea of playing around with manual settings and capturing killer images on a smartphone sounds appealing, the ZenFone Zoom may be for you. However, we get the impression that most of the folks in that crowd already roll with a DSLR or mirrorless camera at the ready or current smartphone camera technologies are "good enough." This creates a bit of conflict that may impact the phone's overall marketability in a broader sense, limiting it to a specific niche' possibly. For those times when a true photog doesn't have their pro camera gear at the ready though, the ZenFone Zoom will probably fit the bill well.
approved hh
 hot not 
  • Nice display
  • Excellent build quality
  • Impressive manual mode performance
  • Competitive price
  • A bit thick / hefty
  • No Android 6.0 (yet)
  • Camera struggles in low light with current firmware
  • Auto mode not great

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