Almost after a year of announcement back in CES 2015, ASUS has finally released their new Zenfone Zoom, world’s slimmest smartphone with optical zoom built-in.  I have always felt that having optical zoom on a smartphone was the wave of the future and finally got to unbox this bad boy.

We have seen several zoom smartphones from Samsung before, but this is the first smartphone we have seen without the bulk of a compact camera and with the optical zoom all embedded inside. What makes the Zenfone Zoom special is that you can have the power of 28-84mm (35mm equivalent) zoom range without the bulk of a zoom lens.   I personally own the Sony RX100M4, which is an excellent $1000 camera with zoom range of 24-70mm but it is certainly twice bigger than the Zenfone Zoom and I don’t really like carrying around in my pocket much.  The Zenfone Zoom really closes the gap between a compact camera and a smartphone by allowing the user to take photos from far away without losing quality.

Digital zoom have existed on 99% of smartphones which are simply awful and all they really do is crop out your original photo to give you low-res, unusable photos.  The only way to make smartphone cameras better (so you can replace your compact cameras/DSLRs) is to add optical zoom and ASUS is the first company to do so without crippling the experience of smartphone.

Now, the Zenfone Zoom is great but it’s also not without faults.   The camera aperture starts at F2.7 to F4.8, which isn’t spectacular and isn’t going to give you the depth-of-field/bokeh you may have been used to on something like F1.8 or F1.9.   For video, 4K is not offered and you are stuck with 1080P.

I will probably have to do some further testing but for right now, I am actually very satisfied at its zoom abilities.  Over my dinner, I compared the photos I took with my Note 5/Nexus 6P to the photos taken with my Zenfone Zoom (of course zoomed).   The result was pretty amazing.  While Note 5 and Nexus 6P struggled since it does not offer optical zoom, I was able to capture perfectly, detailed photos using the zoom on my Zenfone Zoom.  If you ever need to zoom your camera and you can’t move closer to the subject (perhaps you bought the last row tickets to the concert), the zoom helps out immensely and you would be able to capture photos otherwise not possible.   As its name implies, this smartphone isn’t for everyone but for those who want to have the power to zoom and not lose quality of their photos.

Zenfone Zoom is certainly innovative and it’s on a different class.  You can talk all day about aperture, sensor size, etc…etc… but if you need to take high quality photos from far away or perhaps macro shots of a bee hive without getting stung all over, your best bet is the ASUS Zenfone Zoom.  I should have a full review after a few more days of daily driving but for now, I am satisfied with the main feature of the Zenfone Zoom.

You can grab yours at B&H for $399, they are the exclusive U.S. dealer for the ASUS Zenfone Zoom.

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Max Lee

Max Lee is the founder of Max makes Android tutorials and review videos for people who want to get high on Android over at his YouTube channel and Korean YouTube channel.