Rating the Zenfone Zoom as a phone with a camera is one thing but actually comparing the shots it produces to photos from an actual camera therein lies some answers.
In order to do this, during the Zenfestival a few weeks back, I set out with this objective in mind. Competing in this head to head is the Olympus OM-D E-M5 and the Asus Zenfone Zoom. I had the Zoom wrist slung on my left hand and the OM-D cross body on a Blackrapid.
This comparative utilizes a couple of image pairs taken around noon so the cameras should be performing at their best (fast shutters at the lowest ISO setting) with sufficient light coming from the sun. Nowhere near a complete review of what is possible with the Zenfone Zoom.
The Zenfone Zoom was set to take photos with a 16:9 aspect which reduces its effective megapixel count (4160×2340) while the E-M5 was set to take 3:2 aspect in JPEG (4608×3072). Comparisons are displayed such that the Zenfone Zoom images are on the left and the OM-D images are beside it to the right. You can click on the images to get a better look at the image comparisons.
Focal Length Equivalence
To have a better understanding of the field of view I compared wide and fully zoomed shots between the two cameras.
The f3.5-6.3 | 12-50 (24-100 equivalent) kit is a great comparison as it covers a range beyond that of normal kits… as I’m pegging this by eye and with the wide end close to what the Olympus kit captured, we can use the following description for the Zenfone Zoom: f2.7-4.8 | 3.8-11.4mm with a 6.3x crop factor yielding 24-72mm comparably… unless it follows normal Panasonic kit lenses 14-42mm (28-84mm on 35) whence we shall use 7.4x as our crop factor, I believe it to be the former though.
Flexibility In The Field
The range is a fantastic all rounder with a sufficiently wide view that allows for closing in on subjects which require a little bit more detail using the optical zoom at the expense of some light due to the variable aperture, though at f4.8 it’s still pretty speedy. Not to mention the fact that the Zoom also has OIS which we found to work even better when filming.
I’ve outlined some issues that were pretty apparent at the 100% view, things that will only really be visible if these images are printed and/or zoomed into – otherwise known as pixel peeping.
Lets begin with crops from the wide view:
Chromatic Aberration – really only visible when there is a high contrast area within the photo, here you can see it all around the many flags that were used in the decoration, there is a visible purple haze on the shot from the Zoom which is not there on the other. This can be controlled in post but is hardly visible when viewing the entire image.
Detail Representation – I’m not sure if the PixelMaster algorithm has something to do with this, but if two pixels are nearly the same color or is flanked on all sides by it, PixelMaster treats that as if it were the same color which leads to some detail loss visible on the halo and parts of the lace on the dresses..
Vibrance – images coming out of the Zoom favor more color and less of dynamic range. The general look and feel of the images coming out of the Zenfone Zoom is the result of this preference. It is very unique and personally I like it very much.
Relative Sharpness – looking at these two images side by side, you’d definitely think that the Zenfone Zoom image is sharper, even doing this at a lower effective resolution than the E-M5 image, but when you look at the halo holding up these “rays” you get to see more of the PixelMaster algorithm at work.
Moving on to the crops from when the camera is fully zoomed in
Dynamic Range – taken from the center of the frame, we can see that the diminished dynamic range that the Zoom prefers leads to some “shadowed” areas being black altogether. Taking a look at the petals, we don’t see the same painting gradient between the two images. Once again colors are given priority by the Zoom.
Contrast – the pronounced contrast gives the impression of sharpness to the photos from the Zoom, subject separation is more apparent this way and the colors get defined more case in point, the letters on the label on top of the structure’s roof.
Shadows – if you look at the guy with the cap on this photo, roughly at the same position, the Zoom pushes blacks further so we see less detail on his face but with the result of more vibrant colors.
So how does the Zoom compare?
As a camera, the output it yields in favorable conditions is quite astonishing to be honest. Especially if there wasn’t any post production (PP) to be made – straight out of camera images from the Zoom comes with better vibrance overall and a specific color rendering that can communicate narrative better because of the Zoom’s preferential output.
It will, without the shadow of doubt, up the photography game of whoever chooses the Zenfone Zoom – perfect for fantastic shares especially since PP can, and will probably be, skipped altogether… and if one chooses to do so, the PC grade performance coming from the Intel setup and the 4GB RAM can only make photography with the Asus Zenfone Zoom stand out more.