Asus Zenfone Zoom: Not quite a DSLR

Remember the frustration when you tried to get a good picture of an exotic bird sitting on a faraway tree and the resultant picture was nothing but a blurry mess of colours? We've all been there and it's part of the reason why many of us have now invested in DSLR cameras. Asus aims to alleviate that frustration with the Zenfone Zoom.

Unveiled at CES 2015, the phone finally made its way to India in January. The Asus Zenfone 2 had and is still garnering many fans; perhaps that is why most of the phones in the series are based on it. The Zenfone Zoom is a premium version of the Zenfone 2.

The Zenfone Zoom definitely looks premium with its leather back cover and aluminium sides. Most of the back has been taken up by the camera. It has a removable back cover which opens to reveal the battery, the SIM tray and microSD card slot.

The Zoom, much like the Zenfone 2, houses a quad-core Intel processor and 4 GB of RAM. It has a 5.5-inch 1080p display. The phone runs smoothly and once the pre-installed apps are removed, it retains the performance that the Zenfone 2 is famous for. It has a 3,000mAh non-removable battery, which disappointed me plenty. It doesn't last more than seven-eight hours even on moderate usage. A surprisingly good thing about the phone is its 128 GB internal memory which is more than enough.

The phone's USP, as the name suggests, is the camera. The Zoom has a Hoya-designed lens and a Panasonic sensor. It has a 13- megapixel (MP) rear and a 5MP front camera. It also has optical image stabilisation, which prevents blurry photos due to shaky hands. The phone has dedicated camera controls which makes it a delight to use. On its right side, it has a volume rocker - which doubles as the zoom button - and a shutter button at the bottom. Just like a DSLR, you depress the shutter halfway to focus and press it completely to click the picture. The shutter button also has a circular record button which changes the shooting mode to video.

The camera falters while clicking animate objects and the zoom doesn't work well in low-light conditions. I tried the zoom feature to click a picture of the India Gate in New Delhi. The output was impressive, albeit clicked in HDR mode. The camera also fails to capture greens. I concluded that the zoom feature gives varying results based on the subject. The front camera performs well when it comes to taking selfies.

However, it all comes down to the fact that people usually don't use their phones to capture faraway objects. For normal portraits, the camera works like any other smartphone camera.

The phone is priced at Rs 37,999 which puts in the price bracket of the Nexus 5X and 6P. Though the phone might not have any takers in the day-to-day user segment, if you're a photography enthusiast looking for a smartphone that doesn't provide blurry zoomed pictures, the Asus Zenfone Zoom is definitely the phone to go for.