ASUS ZenFone Zoom Review – No More Zooming with Your Feet

Sometimes you want to take a picture, with your phone, but you’re too far. And pinching out to zoom (digital zoom) degrades the image. Either you walk closer (zoom with your feet) or you settle with a not so good image. To this need for optical zoom in the camera of a good phone, ASUS offers the ZenFone Zoom. It’s the thinnest 4GB RAM phone with 3x optical zoom – the barrel doesn’t protrude when you zoom in, by the way. The Zoom is half portable hard drive (128GB internal storage, expandable) and compact zoom camera (with low light mode and manual mode and physical shutter and video buttons) all in one. Some settle for a two-device set up – taking pics with a camera and copying pics via WiFi to their phone, and then sharing them online. With the ZenFone Zoom, your camera and phone are one.

  • Front, with default theme and wallpaper, which you can of course change (font, icons, wallpaper) without downloading a third party launcher.
  • Rear side, with ever-so -lightly protruding flat circle housing the camera sensor and lens zoom mechanism, along with flash and laser auto-focus. Rear cover is lined with black faux leather that's nice to hold.
  • Right side with physical buttons - (top to bottom:) volume rocker that doubles as zoom in and out, power, video button, and shutter key.


Let’s go over the key features in detail.

You’re going to enjoy shooting food – among other things – with the ZenFone Zoom!

Key Features of the ASUS ZenFone Zoom

  • 3x Optical Zoom in a slim body. Digital zoom, or pinching out to zoom when taking a picture with your phone, degrades the image. Optical zoom does not. Pushed to the limit, the ZenFone Zoom can achieve 12x zoom with optical and digital zoom combined.
  • Not zoomed in.
  • With 3x Optical Zoom.
  • The ZenFone Zoom is a cross between a compact point and shoot camera with optical zoom, a portable hard drive (128GB, which is still expandable up to 128GB via microSD), a super multitasking / gaming phone (4GB RAM), and a video marathon device (great 5.5-inch full HD display with great colors, viewing angles, and outdoor visibility).

Awesome display, good contrast (even outdoors), punchy colors, and great viewing angles (as you can see). Yes, that’s a USB OTG flash drive plugged in.

  • Rear camera also has Optical Image Stabilization, which reduces shaky cam shots, and improves low light shooting. It also has Laser Autofocus, for faster capture of images.

  • ASUS PixelMaster camera app includes tons of features, from beautification, to low light, to blurred background, to full manual mode for better control of the camera. The front camera also produces good pictures, especially with beauty mode on. The ASUS PixelMaster camera app UI has one of the most intuitive UI there is.

Sleek physical buttons on the right side of the Zoom.

  • Physical buttons for shutter and video make you feel you’re using a point and shoot. Long pressing the physical shutter button, while the phone display is asleep, launches the camera app.

What are you going to do with 112GB of free internal storage?

  • Faux leather back helps with holding the phone steady when taking shots. There’s even a small mound on the rear that acts as a finger grip when holding the Zoom in landscape mode for shooting. Nice touch right there.

Put your game face on!

The comes-with wrist strap, which I didn’t remove from the packaging.

  • Box include a wrist strap so you won’t drop the Zoom.

Rear cover removed to reveal the single SIM slot, micro SD card slot, and non-removable battery.

  • Take note the the ZenFone Zoom is single SIM only.

Please note that our review package is meant for media representatives, hence the elaborate (and awesome) box with the Zenny Doll, and the ZenFone Zoom shooting tips card deck. Retail version only includes the smaller box with the Zoom, charger, headphones, and lanyard.


Let’s go over the specs first before we hit the good, the bad, whether the Zoom is for you.

Asus ZenFone Zoom Zx551ML Full Specs

  • Android 5.0 Lollipop with ASUS Zen UI
  • 5.5 inch IPS LCD display (1920×1080 pixels), 401ppi
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 4
  • 2.33GHz Quad-core Intel Atom Z3580 64bit processor
  • Intel HD Graphics 533 MHz
  • 4GBRAM
  • 128GB internal storage, up to 128GB via Micro SD card
  • LTE Cat. 4 150Mbps
  • Single SIM
  • WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 13MP rear camera, Dual Color Real Tone Flash, 3x optical-zoom
  • 5MP front-facing camera
  • GPS with aGPS support
  • 185 g (with battery)
  • 3,000mAh non-removable Li-po battery
  • Php26995


The Good

Very good build quality. The metal frame, solid heft, and faux leather back all combine for a premium feel. There’s no denying the Lumia 1020 look of the rear circular plate housing the sensor, flash, and zoom mechanism. But who cares? This is a 4GB RAM monster camera phone with “real” zoom.

When you take lots of rear camera pictures and videos with the Zoom, using the physical buttons become second nature in no time. Of course, as with how most people take pics with smartphones, you’ll tap to focus and click the shutter key on the display at first. Later on you’ll enjoy “slowing down” your image composition – framing the shot right, choosing the focus point, setting the exposure, and then pressing the physical shutter key. You get better images that way.

Manual Mode on an Android with optical zoom opens up possibilities.

Of course, if you just want to take good pics minus the hassle, the Zoom’s auto mode can handle most scenes you throw at it (for everything else, there are modes to choose from, including manual). You can even ignore the physical buttons if those are not your thing.

The default image editor of the ZenFone Zoom can handle most image tweaking needs.

The optical zoom delivers as promised, we saw no image degradation even at 3x optical zoom (unlike with digital zoom). That means you can take pics of your niece’s graduation, you don’t have to walk closer to the stage. Landmarks, when you travel, that are too far away or are cordoned off to the public, you can still shoot. Pets that run away from phones and cameras brought near them can now be photographed discreetly, so you can catch adorable moments. You can even take food shots of dishes on the next table, without getting noticed by the people who actually ordered them. If your crush is in an office cubicle too far away, and it will be too obvious if you go near him, by all means take a picture from a distance. The ZenFone Zoom to the rescue.

  • Not zoomed in.
  • 3x Optical Zoom.
  • Maxed out optical and digital zoom.

Just a reminder, the optical zoom works better with adequate lighting. The Zoom’s aperture is 2.7 to 4.8. The rule with aperture is that smaller the number, the more light can come into the camera sensor. That means the further out you extend the optical zoom, the less light can come in. But don’t let this stop you, if you’ve seen the optically zoomed-in sample images in this review, the ZenFone Zoom seems to defy the rules!

You’re going to love ASUS PhotoCollage, a pre-installed ASUS app.

The image quality is on par with the previous ZenFones, meaning, it’s great. See below.

  • Not zoomed in.
  • 3x optical zoom! Wow!
  • Some venues are really dark and using flash ruins the mood. The Zoom can handle the darkness.
  • "Rescued" food shot - it was dark in the restaurant, so Low Light Mode to the rescue.
  • You can "crop" shots by optically zooming in, as in this image, where I decided to leave out the stage decor on the sides.
  • Overcast afternoon, dim lighting inside the cafe. But the Zoom pulls out acceptable selfies.
  • When one of the performers is someone you know, you can ....
  • ...zoom in!
  • If you're scouting for property, here's a good camera for you.
  • Fading afternoon light drama shot.

As with a DSLR or mirrorless camera, the Zoom rear camera UI allows one to adjust (and set as default) Optimizations (saturation, contrast, sharpness, noise reduction, backlight, detail enhancement. This way should you want a more vibrant or saturated or contrasty look to your photos, you can certainly get them.

The combo of the vibrant and color-punchy 5.5-inch display plus 4GB RAM make for a good multi-tasking and gaming phone; and as a video marathon device (because the storage capacity is off the charts), the audio is also sufficiently loud and not tinny.

Between abusing the camera, staying always online, and a few games, the ZenFone can last up to 12 hours. But you can stretch that.

The internal storage is a feature unto itself. First seen in the ZenFone 2 Deluxe, the same mammoth 128GB capacity, which can be expanded to another 128GB via microSD, is also featured in the Zoom. This means, even though you have Cloud storage, you will never have to worry about having to delete pics, vids, files, and apps!

The Zen UI remains one the most utilitarian and easy on the eye Android skins in existence.

The Zoom rarely got warm, despite the abuse we put it through – games, social media, camera usage, video watching. We got about 12 hours of abuse (we used it to cover events, so assume about 2 hours of data usage per day at least) from the battery. If you don’t abuse it like we do, you’ll get more. You can extend the battery life further with power saving options. If you plan to use the Zoom as you main phone, it won’t hurt if you bring a powerbank with you.


The Maybe Bad

The ZenFone Zoom is noticeably large, but only because you notice that there’s so much space on the forehead and chin, meaning, the display could have been bigger, maybe 5.7 inches plus front facing speakers. The Zoom is nearly the same length and width as the 5.7-inch Nexus 6p.

The capacitive keys on the phone’s chin – back, home, and menu (recent apps) – are still not backlit but are still very responsive. It’s a matter of getting used to them. We’re used to them.

When you pinch in to zoom or pinch out to zoom out, there’s a slight delay before the optical zooming responds. But you get instant zooming in and out results when you use the volume up and down physical keys to zoom in and out. Remember that.

The ZenFone Zoom, despite all the features, is not that thick. It’s great to hold, in fact.

The rear flash can’t reach very far, since the flash prioritizes bringing back brown skin tones, which actually works, instead of long range white scatted light. Still, this opens up an opportunity for ASUS to offer their ZenFlash accessory, which attaches to the rear of the ZenFone.

The front camera has no flash, or perhaps we just go so used to the ZenFone Selfie and dreamed of other ASUS phones making that feature a standard?

The price tag does not include a fingerprint sensor. By contrast, Huawei’s lowest priced fingerprint sensor-installed phone is P11990 and Cherry Mobile’s Flare Selfie has one, too, for only P7999). But we understand why – the Zoom was announced way before fingerprint sensors became the “in” thing.


Is the ASUS ZenFone Zoom for you?

The P26995 price tag seems hefty at first, but not so much when compared with other flagship phones, and no other flagship offers a 4GB RAM + Optical Zoom combo. The niche market of the ZenFone Zoom are those who’ve really loved the performance (4GB RAM), storage capacity (128GB internal and expandable), camera image quality, and UI (one the most logical, intuitive, and organized) of the ZenFone series.

Sometimes, what you need your phone to do is not withstand 30 minutes under water, but zoom in closer to your child dancing on stage, your favorite performer during a concert, or your crush waving at you from across the street. It’s in this department that the ASUS ZenFone Zoom wins.

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Irwin Allen Rivera loves his wife's cooking so much he's now twice the man he used to be. His English essay won a Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Award for Literature in 2012. His philosophical-horror story appeared in Philippine Speculative Fiction 8 (2013). He was managing editor and lead writer of Sites and Symbols 2 (2005), a coffee-table book about buildings in UP Diliman - his alma mater (BA Philosophy; MA Creative Writing continuing). He worked at the UP Diliman Information Office before shifting to web content writing. His sudden fiction, "Notwithstanding Pigs," initially a Friendster testimonial, appeared in Philippines Graphic (2006) and in Very Short Stories for Harried Readers (2007). He used to write for