Asus has been working on Zenfone Zoom for quite some time now. The handset was first showcased almost a year ago at CES 2015, but back then it was still work in progress. It has since been improved and only recently has it started selling across different markets. In India it got treated to a truly grand and lavish launch today and will be selling on Flipkart’s virtual shelves starting from February for a nipping price of 37,999 INR. The Zenfone Zoom is a camera first phone with a power of 3X optical zoom, and that is the sum and substance of all Zoom-talk. But is it any good? Well, here are our first impressions.

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Key Specifications of Asus Zenfone Zoom:

Model Asus Zenfone Zoom
Display 5.5-inch IPS HD display, 12080x720p, Gorilla Glass 4
Processor 2.5 GHz quad core Intel Atom processor Z3590
RAM 4GB LPDDR3 RAM
Internal Storage 128GB internal memory, 128GB MicroSD card support
Software Android 5.0 Lollipop based Zen UI
Battery 3000 mAh, fast charging
Rear Camera 13MP Panasonic sensor, 10p Hoya lens, aperture range from f/2.7 to f/4.8, true tone flash, OIS, laser AF (claims 0.3 sec)
Front Camera 5MP camera, F2.0 lens
Others 4G, 3G, 2G, WiFi, Bluetooth and micro USB, NFC
Price 37,999 INR

Retains being a phone, even with the Zoom Camera setup

Over the last year, Asus launched numerous variants and sub-variants of Zenfone 2 (which together add up to form a very confusing portfolio), and by the end of the year, the traditional Zenfone 2 design started feeling stagnant.

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Zenfone Zoom is cut from the same cloth, but since the rear side is an entirely different story, it doesn’t feel stale. Of course, if you haven’t owned or come across more than your share of Zenfone 2s,Lasers, Selfies, etc etc, none of this really matters.

Zenfone Zoom uses a combination of glass, metal and plastic. The front side is more or less in line with what you would expect from Zenfone 2 family. The full HD display, layered with Gorilla Glass 4, dominates and felt good in our initial testing. The side frame is metal and notably houses a dedicated camera shutter button and video recording button.

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On the rear side you will find the huge, circular Lumia 1020 like camera module, a lip close to the bottom to help prevent scratches on the camera glass and speaker grill. We have seen manufacturer’s attempt optical zoom in smartphone camera’s before, but in our books, the greatest success of Asus design is that it still manages to retain being a smartphone rather than exuding a vibe of Android powered point and shoot camera.

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The Zoom Camera

Now that we have addressed the design and how Zenfone Zoom is still more of a phone than camera, let’s re-focus on the veritable show stopper. All merit of Zenfone  Zoom lies with how well the camera actually functions. On paper, there is a 13MP camera sensor from Panasonic, 10 element lens designed by hoya (which facilitates 12x digital zoom), aperture range from f/2.7 to f/4.8, true tone flash, OIS, laser AF (claims 0.3 sec) and a set of software features to bring out the best in the hardware.

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You can also buy Zoom Flash and Zoom Tripod in a bundle that costs extra 2000 INR. From the rear camera, you can shoot maco-shots as close as 2 inches and shoot software interpolated 52MP images as well. A reasonably good 5MP selfie camera is also present on the front.

We are nowhere near our final verdict, but in our testing so far, the camera does seems to be worth all the hype. Asus would like you to believe that Zenfone Zoom is at part with DSLRs out their, but that is a stretch by all means. For now we will let you judge for yourself from the camera samples below.

Asus Zenfone Zoom Camera Samples

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The Same Zenfone 2 Guts

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Getting down from the Camera high horse, other aspects of Zenfone Zoom are very same as Zenfone 2. As far as gadgets and technology goes, a certain panache is always associated with owning the latest and greatest, and Zenfone Zoom sticking to same hardware and software one year down the line is mildly upsetting, if not a deal breaker. Even more so because of the high end price. You will also be missing on modern zeitgeist like Fingerprint sensor.

The phone side of things here feel pretty stale, even prior to the launch.

Conclusion

If you will be buying this handset, it will be for the camera. The high end price however, places it amidst tier-1 branded flagships which also boast of stunning camera hardware. That implies, Zenfone Zoom is targeting a niche audience, which is more than enthusiastic or religiously serious about smartphone photography. Other mainstream consumers will more likely be drawn towards other options. We will share our final verdict and full review very soon.

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