Cameras have quickly become the most important feature of smartphones, but Asus wants to take it to the next level. Just announced at CES, the ZenFone 3 Zoom is packed with features designed to make it a shutterbug’s dream, and it just might be the best handset for mobile photographers, assuming its Snapdragon 625 chip can keep up.
The ZenFone 3 features a standard 5.5-inch Full HD AMOLED screen and thin all-metal body, but it’s the back of the device where things start to get interesting. Just above the fingerprint sensor is where you’ll find the handset’s dual-camera system (positioned in the upper-left corner rather than the center), which consists of a 12MP, f/1.7-aperture, 25mm wide-angle main lens and a 12MP, 56mm camera for 2.3X zoom. Asus has also designed an iPhone 7 Plus-esque Portrait mode, which blurs the background around your subject to generate a depth-of-field effect.
Why this matters: Asus isn’t exactly the first name in smartphones here in the U.S., but the ZenFone 3 could be a game-changer for the company. Assuming it has a reasonable price tag and the chip doesn’t slow the system down too much, the handset could settle into a nice niche market for people who primarily use their smartphones to take pictures.
Point and shoot
The ZenFone 3 Zoom also uses an improved TriTech+ autofocus system with Dual Pixel technology for speedy focusing, and the main camera takes advantage of what Asus calls SuperPixel technology to “dramatically” boost light sensitivity. As the company describes, “ZenFone 3 Zoom uses the Sony IMX362 sensor with pixels measuring 1.4 microns wide, which are among the largest of any smartphone camera sensors, making the camera excellent for low-light photography.”
And the camera on the front is nothing to sneeze at either. The ZenFone 3 includes a 13MP selfie camera and a new “screen flash” mode that utilizes the brightness of the display as a flash when taking low-light shots. It also supports RAW format and allows full manual control over the cameras settings, letting users choose to tweak either camera.
Elsewhere, the phone includes the aging Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor, a curious choice for such a photo-taking powerhouse. However, roaming photographers shouldn’t have any problems with all-day use thanks to an eye-popping 5000mAh battery. Asus claims the ZenFone 3 will provide 40 days of standby on 4G or 6.4 hours of non-stop 4K video shooting. And it’s extremely light, too, weighing only 0.37 lbs, less than the iPhone 7 Plus and just two grams more than the Pixel XL.
Dose of (augmented) reality
Asus also released the ZenFone AR, which combines Google’s fledgling AR and VR projects under one roof. As previously leaked by Qualcomm, the phone utilizes the same Snapdragon 821 processor that’s found in the Pixel, which should give the phone enough power to the handle the heavy demands of motion tracking and 3D rendering:
“With 6GB of RAM and the desktop-class Qualcomm Adreno 530 graphics processing unit that delivers supercharged graphics performance, the ZenFone AR handles the graphics demands of Tango and Daydream with ease.”
Pixel owners know all too well how hot their phones can get when using Daydream for extended periods, but the ZenFone AR includes a “sophisticated vapor cooling system” to prevent overheating. Finally, the handset introduces a new audio system that supports hi-res audio and DTS virtual surround sound.