[Review] Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom - a zenfone with 2 lenses

The Android market is continuing to grow.  Samsung takes the lion's share and the 2nd spot gets a pretty good struggle between some of the majors like Motorola and LG (the 2 that vie for my pocket space) and a few others.

Some you don't hear much from can offer you quite a good bang for the buck.

One of them is Asus.  Now, you'll know Asus.  You're probably looking at one Asus item in your computer arsenal for sure, but their phones are not as well known.  They're not carried by the carriers, and you have to usually order them from online sources.  They usually make 3 devices of their Zenfone series.  The 'zenfone', a 'zoom' and a 'max'.  We're onto the 3rd in the series and I have reviewed the Zenfone 3 already, and I haven't seen the 'Max' come to Canada.

That leaves me to review the 'zoom' to review now.

In previous years, the Zoom variant meant that there was an actual optical zoom lens in the camera assembly and can get you a 3x optical zoom.  That meant the phone actually looked more like a camera than a phone, so this year they've kept it streamlined by adding 2 lenses, similar to LG and others, where the first is at 1x, and the other is equivalent to 2.3x zoom.

The device is valued at $480CDN - so what do you get?

Let's run down the specs of the phone before I get into the full review:
  • 5.5" @ 1920x1080
  • Snapdragon 625
  • 2.0GHz x8
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB storage + microSD
  • 12MP (front)
    • f/1.7
    • 1.4um
    • Sony IMX362 1/2.55"
    • 25mm equivalent
  • 12MP (front)
    • 59mm equivalent (approx 2.3x zoom from primary)
  • 13MP (rear)
    • f/2.0
    • 1.12um
    • Sony IMX214 1/3.06"
  • 5000mAh
  • Android 7.1.1
First up, I like that the fingerprint sensor is back to the rounded square and not the 'tall rectangle' on the Zenfone 3.  I don't know why I prefer it, they both work just as well, it just feels better I guess.

Otherwise, much of what you'll see of this phone is very similar to the review of the Zenfone 3 itself, except the less ram and storage.  It does make up for that difference by providing a 5000mAh battery.

If you're wanting to use the device like a camera, you'll want a good battery life as the display and the CCD can suck the juice out pretty quickly.  5000mAh will be more than enough to last the average user for quite some time.

The main differentiator software wise is that the camera app has a button for the zoom feature.  And some other features.  Check the bottom of this article for some more info on that.  And to that point the camera is better, I actually really enjoyed the camera shots.

The other nice differentiator is that the Zoom has the honour of being updated to Android 7.1.1.  The Zenfone 3 has yet to get this update.

What's really nice is that it's really streamlined a lot of the look of the ZenUI, so it's not so... bleh.  It still is a little 'bubbly' looking, but is still nicer to use and looks more like others out there.

Outside of those 2 things, there's not a lot of difference.

So, $80 more than the Zenfone 3, but for that, you gain a better camera, more battery... and it's on a more recent OS.  $80 well spent in my mind.

Source:  https://www.asus.com/ca-en/Phone/ZenFone-3-Zoom-ZE553KL/

Camera features

I didn't dive too well into all the features, but just highlighted some of my favourites

These are super handy as often trying to get subjects to pose isn't exactly ideal

I liked this feature that you click and hold the button to snap a picture and drag it up to increase the countdown timer

The manual feature is nice and allows you to adjust aperture for depth of field

The gallery is very useful as well, 

here's some samples: