ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom preview: dual cameras and a 5000 mAh battery
Our friends over at ASUS Philippines lent us an early engineering unit of the Zenfone 3 Zoom, ASUS' latest and greatest smartphone camera.
Unlike its predecessor which had a variable length lens that can zoom in and out, we now have two cameras, each equipped with their own lens.
First, you have your regular 25mm wide-angle lens. The second lens creates tighter shots at 59mm for a zoom factor of up to 2.3 times.
Dual cameras in smartphones are nothing new. The Zenfone 3 Zoom faces stiff competition from the LG V20, the Huawei P9 Plus, and the iPhone 7 Plus.
The first Zenfone Zoom was driven by an Intel processor, which took a huge hit on battery efficiency. This has been scrapped in favor of the more power-efficient Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 SoC.
So what does ASUS' best have to offer to the world of mobile photography?
The best mobile camera from ASUS
Both of the rear cameras have 12 Megapixel sensors. The one with the 25mm lens goes all the way down to f/1.7, while the 59mm lens only goes up to f/2.8.
As a result, low-light photos taken with the first lens are much sharper.
We immediately saw the difference, especially in the HDR photos that we took. HDR photos are more prone to blur because it takes multiple shots which software then combines to create one image.
We took a number of hand-held photos in low-light situations and they came out sharp - too sharp, rather, that some of the photos came out looking a little cartoonish.
PixelMaster engineers might need to dial down on the post-processing algorithm - once again, this is an engineering unit and not the final product.
Still no RAW support?
Another thing that bugs us is the absence of support for RAW image format. Casual users should be fine without it, but the Zenfone 3 Zoom was created specifically for mobile photography.
We feel that RAW image format support is a must for a product that targets photography enthusiasts and the prosumer market.
Samsung, LG, and Huawei have all supported the RAW format for quite some time now, so why can't ASUS?
Hello, 13 Megapixel selfie camera
While its predecessor had a lackluster 5-Megapixel front-facing camera, the Zenfone 3 Zoom is equipped with a 13-Megapixel front snapper.
Aperture size only goes up to f/2.0, and unlike the Zenfone Selfie series, it does not have a front-facing flash.
As expected, the camera struggled in low-light situations, although it takes amazing selfies in well-lit areas.
Zenfone 3 Zoom vs iPhone 7 Plus vs Zenfone 3 5.5 vs Zenfone 3 Max
Design-wise, the Zenfone 3 Zoom looks and feels like the iPhone 7 Plus thanks the positioning of the dual rear cameras and all-metal aluminum chassis.
The layout is definitely the same as the Zenfone 3 5.5. The 5.5-inch full HD screen, the positioning of the volume rocker and power buttons, the fingerprint sensor at the back, the dual-SIM tray, the 3.5mm port, and the USB Type-C port are placed in identical locations.
Even the internals are the same - both devices are powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 625 chipset with 4GB of RAM and an Adreno 506 GPU.
Interestingly enough, the Zenfone 3 Zoom has a slightly thinner profile and weighs slightly less than the Zenfone 3 5.5, even though it packs a much larger battery at 5000 mAh.
By the way, reverse charging is supported, just like in the Zenfone 3 Max.
Unfortunately for those looking forward to Andriod 7 (Nougat), the Zenfone 3 Zoom still runs on Android 6.01 (Marshmallow). Hopefully an update will roll out in time for the official release, so keep your fingers crossed.
Price and availability
Official price of the Zenfone 3 Zoom in the Philippines is still to be determined, however, an article by Gadgets 360 pegged it at CNY 3,699 or roughly PHP 26,943 for the 128GB model.
We were told that it will be arriving in the country late January, so expect it to hit the shelves by February.
In a nutshell ...
The Zenfone 3 Zoom is the best that ASUS has to offer in the world of mobile photography today. ASUS' decision to switch to dual-cameras is an interesting move.
This has allowed for a much thinner and lighter device than the first Zenfone Zoom, despite packing a 5000 mAh battery at the same time.
An expanded battery is definitely a welcome feature, considering how much power it takes to keep both the screen and two camera modules alive.
Mobile photography and videography enthusiasts can expect to spend long hours of fun once the Zenfone 3 Zoom hits the stores later this month.
ASUS Zenfone 3 Zoom (ZE553KL) tech specs
- Build: 154.3 x 77 x 8 mm all aluminum
- SIM: Dual SIM (Nano-SIM, dual stand-by)
- Display: 5.5-inches 1920 x 1080 pixels AMOLED (Gorilla Glass 5)
- OS: Android 6.0.1 w/ ASUS ZenUI 3.0
- Chipset: Qualcomm MSM8953 Snapdragon 625
- CPU: Octa-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A53
- GPU: Adreno 506
- Expansion: MicroSD (uses 2nd SIM slot)
- Memory: 4GB RAM, 32/64/128GB ROM
- Camera (primary): Dual 12 MP, (25mm, f/1.7, OIS & 59mm, f/2.8), 1/2.55" sensor size @ 25mm, 1.4 µm pixel size
- Camera (selfie): 13 MP, f/2.0, 1/3" sensor size, 1.12 µm pixel size
- Features: fingerprint sensor
- Battery: 5000 mAh non-removable Li-Ion