Hands-on | Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom Shoots the PyroMusical Olympics

Hands-on Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom

It’s the age of dual-lens cameras on smartphones and there’s a good reason behind it. Much like our eyes, dual-lens delivers better autofocus, bokeh, sharper details and clarity. Photography-focused smartphones have already arrived from several manufacturers and Asus won’t be left behind. Their Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom is their 12MP dual-lens cameraphone with more than enough shooting power coming from its high capacity 5,000mAh battery. I had the chance to use the ZenFone 3 Zoom last week to shoot the final day of the PyroMusical Olympics. I thought it was an opportunity to test out the capabilities of the Dual-lens especially on low-light. See below out of the camera photo and video samples.

ZenFone 3 Zoom

Handling the Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom for the first time, I can’t imagine how they packed a 5,000 mAh battery on such a thin form factor of this 5.5” screen smartphone. The phone really feels good on hand and weighs just about right. The AMOLED capacitive screen protected by a layer of the ever reliable Corning Gorilla Glass 5 looks fantastic when viewing photos on display and shooting through the screen. Color saturation and sharpness looks excellent.

The Zoom on hand
The Zoom on hand

At the rear upper-left side of the zoom are the dual-lens cameras. The Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom uses a really bright f/1.7 aperture lens and a Sony IMX362 sensor on one of its 25mm wide camera. The Sony sensor is a bit larger than common for smartphones at 1/2.5” thus has excellent light sensitivity with its larger surface area and packs more pixel details in its 12MP sensor. The other camera uses a Samsung 3N3 Sensor at 56mm short telephoto delivers the 2.3x optical zoom and also has a bright f/2.8 aperture lens. Switching between lenses is seamless if you let the camera decide which works best on different. On Manual Mode, user can switch to either lenses through the controls.

The Asus TriTech+ AF seems to be working better here than my ZenFone 3 Max here. The Asus uses Dual Pixel Phase Detection AF, Laser AF and Contrast Detect AF.

Asus also added a 4-axis Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) coupled with 3-Axis Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS). Asus didn’t indicate how many stops for this but basing on my experience, I can hand-hold low light shots from shutter speeds 1/15sec to 1/30s.

The much improved ZenUI is already familiar to me on this Marshmallow Android 6 phone (I heard Nougat is just around the corner). I zipped through the interface, open a few apps and found the transitions to be smooth. The phone is powered by a 4GB RAM and Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 Octa-core CPU.

Handheld fireworks shooting
Handheld fireworks shooting

Dual-lens Shooting

I didn’t delve much on the the phone’s interface and the telephony yet as my focus was on the camera and image quality. Asus ZenFones uses the PixelMaster camera app including this Zoom. The Manual mode here is such a powerful tool as it have almost all the manual settings needed except the aperture control. A few major changes I noticed:

  • Lowest ISO now is at ISO 50
  • Low-light mode is no longer available
  • Dual-lens Camera controls added
  • Slow motion video mode added
  • There’s a 2.3x button for zooming in
HDR Pro mode
HDR Pro mode

Starting up the camera was quick. The Auto mode provides enough reliability on general use. I also like the HDR Pro mode here to bring out the shadow details but doesn’t over process and kept things real. For shooting the fireworks, I had a mini tripod and was set on Manual Mode. I played around on the shutter speed depending on the density of the fireworks. If there’s a lot of things happening at the sky, I try to go as fast as 1/10secs  to prevent the scene from over-exposing but if fewer display, I can go as 1sec to 1/5seconds. I find it easy to switch on the speed with the PixelMaster controls. After a few shots, I decided to pull back and add atmosphere to the place by including the people, audience and the setting. I shot hand-held from here and relied on the combined OIS and EIS to keep things steady.

100% crop low-light on tripod
100% crop low-light on tripod

ZenFone 3 Zoom First Impression

I’ve only used the ZenFone 3 Zoom in this one occasion so I couldn’t give my full impression on this one yet. But judging from the output from my shoot during the Pyromusical Olympics this year, I’m quite impressed. The Asus SuperPixel Engine did a really good job on the low-light performance and kept the noise levels in check while keeping the details. The RGB Color Correction sensor kept the colors life-like. I’m no fan of over saturated and other-worldly colors so this is a big deal for me. The combination of a stellar dual-lens camera, big battery life and very appealing form factor makes this offering so much promising for any mobile or traveler photographer  out there. And I heard that RAW support is coming along with the Android Nougat update. Exciting times ahead for Asus and its users.

The Asus ZenFone 3 Zoom is now available for pre-order from now until its launch on April 6, 2017. Check out www.zenfone3zoomph.com. You get a bundle of limited edition goodies when you pre-order:

  • JBL Harman Portable Bluetooth Speakers worth PHP 3,099
  • ASUS ZenFone 3 Zoom (ZE553KL) Clear case worth PHP 699
  • ASUS ZenEar worth PHP 699
  • ASUS tripod worth PHP 799
100% crop of the handheld fireworks shot
100% crop of the handheld fireworks shot
Fireworks on tripod
Fireworks on tripod
Twilight scene by the bay
Twilight scene by the bay
Incendio!
Incendio!

Check out more photos here:

ZenFone 3 Zoom PyroOlympics

4K Video Sample

Slow Motion Video Sample

What ya think?