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Smartphone/camera hybrid zooms in on better pictures

Monday - 12/2/2013, 6:15am  ET

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The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom melds phone and camera technology in a single device (Courtesy Samsung)

WASHINGTON - Few would deny the convenience of being able to take photographs with a smarthphone. But few would say the quality of phone images measures up to those taken with a camera.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is both Android smartphone and camera, with an emphasis on the latter.

"It's the perfect marriage of your phone and digital camera," says Matthew Wentworth, retail sales manager for the AT&T store in Chevy Chase, Md.

"This is the first optical zoom digital camera/smartphone on the market today," Wentworth says of the 16-megapixel hybrid that includes a 10x optical zoom.

Wentworth says the optical zoom of the Galaxy S4 physically extends the lens to bring the subject closer, like most 35mm cameras do.

Optical zooms are superior to the digital zoom employed in other smartphones.

"When you're zooming with your iPhone, you're basically cutting the quality of the picture down, because you're just taking a crop of the picture," says Wentworth.

The camera's default is Auto mode, but other options include scene modes, program shooting and fully manual controls.

Although the screen of the Galaxy S4 Zoom is identical to other phones, the camera's slightly raised lens results in a phone that doesn't lie flat on its camera side.

Wentworth believes Samsung did a good job of designing the device.

"They've kept it very slim, and they've got a contour here that's easy to hold. The buttons get out of your way. There's nothing that's preventing you from using the phone or the camera."

Wentworth says smartphone manufacturers are looking for ways to set their products apart.

"We're looking at what features can we add, what additional capabilities can we put on the phone," says Wentworth, referring to the Nokia Lumia 1020, a 41-megapixel phone, and the LG G2, which is known for its optical image stabilization.

Wentworth says the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom is $199 with a two-year contract.

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