[nextpage title=”Introduction” ]
ASUS Zenfone 4 Snap Verdict
The ASUS Zenfone 4 has all the makings of a great smartphone: a large screen, apps, plenty of memory and, of course, a killer camera.
When it comes to image capture the Zenfone has an impressive trick: it features not just one, but two sensors. One of these is designed for regular shots and the other for wide-angle shots.
The ergonomic design and large screen make it ideal for capturing both photos and videos, but it’s the built-in camera app, PixelMaster, that really hands you the creative camera control.
In standard daylight conditions and when using the standard camera, the phone produces superb vibrant images rich in detail and the colour.
Switch over to wide-angle, and again you can capture good quality images with an increased field of view – but these shots are at a lower resolution, and that does show in the quality.
No matter, at a £200-ish price tag, the ASUS Zenfone 4 is an absolute bargain for any photographer wanting a smartphone with a decent camera with plenty features.
For ASUS Zenfone 4
- Dual Sensors
- Vibrant High Detail
- Fantastic App
Against ASUS Zenfone 4
- Slightly boxy design
- Wide angled images not as good as the standard camera
ASUS is by no means new to the SmartPhone market and has been producing the Zenfone range since 2014, although finding a handset in the UK has been a little tricky.
Now the latest iteration packs in the imaging features and offers smartphone users all the usual Android apps they could want alongside the obvious call-making features.
But we’re not that interested in the phone bit; it makes calls nicely, plays music without the need for a £20 adapter and plugs into computers easily enough.
The bit we’re interested in is how well it takes photos and video.
Who knew smartphones could arrive ready to go and with apps that enable you to properly make use of the camera without having to spend more money! That’s one of the most instant realisations any iPhone user has when they pick-up an Android phone.
The ZenFone 4 is an impressive bit of kit, and OK it may not have the latest sleek lines of the Galaxy S or Huawei P20 Pro, but as phones go, it’s not unattractive.
I’m not a white phone person, but this phone does have a nice finish to it. I tested an ASUS laptop last year, and the speed and quality of that was incredible, and it’s instantly apparent that the Zenfone is from the same mould.
At 7.52 x 15.54 x 0.75cm W x H x D and weighing in at 165g, the ASUS Zenfone 4 is a decent size and boasts a large 5.5-inch touchscreen.
The Super IPS+ screen displays at Full HD (1920 x 1080). Brightness comes in at 600nits, or bright enough to see in most conditions and the screen itself along with the back of the phone features ultra-tough 2.5D Corning Gorilla Glass.
It also has a 2.1 slim bezel, blue light filter for eye care, capacitive touch panel with 10-point multi-touch. This means it’s super responsive to touch-sensitive gloves and features a smudge-resistant oleophobic coating.
The phone comes with 64GB of internal storage, which is pretty good. This can be expanded up to 2TB with a MicroSD card. Which is insane!
I haven’t found a card of this size on sale, but I have heard that they’re on the way. I have however just tested the SanDisk Ultra 256GB which should do nicely for the time being.
And keeping on the topic of storage, the phone also offers 100GB of free space with Google Drive. This is just for a year, but if you don’t already have cloud storage, then you need to get it sorted. This is a great introduction.
Onto the main feature the camera… There are two rear cameras: the Main and the Second.
The Main camera
This packs in 12 million pixel Sony IMX362 dual pixel 1/2.55-inch sensor which is impressive.
The small lens has a fixed f/1.8 aperture with a 25mm equivalent focal length in 35mm film camera terms.
This lens gives a field of view of 83º which is a good standard.
It also has built-in image stabilisation that works through 4-axis and enables up to 4 stops of optical stabilisation.
The Second camera
The Second camera drops the resolution to 8 million pixels, but enables a wider field-of-view or 120º.
Alongside the two cameras, there’s a third dot on the back of the camera for the built-in LED flash.
To use the cameras you need to use the PixelMaster App that comes pre-installed.
Once loaded you have all the usual point and shoot camera options. This all changes once you find the Pro option. Tap this, and the camera instantly transforms from point-and-shoot to a true creative imaging device.
The pro option takes the use of the camera to another level, and despite the fixed aperture, there’s plenty of scope for adjustment with shutter speed from 1/10000 to 32 seconds, ISO from 25 to 3200, +-2EV compensation, and a good range of white balance options, in Kelvin.
HDR can either be set to auto, on or off, aspect ratios changed from 4:3, 16:9 and 1:1, a self-timer from 10s to 2s and flash modes.
Then there’s Auto low light, HDR, and modes including Beauty, Portrait, Pro (Raw support and up to 32-second exposures), super-resolution of 48 million pixels, Gif Animation, Panorama, Slow Motion, Time-lapse with power saving and nine filters built in.
To switch to the wide angled camera, you need to tap the icon on screen, as soon as this is done then the camera swaps.
This lens has a focal length of 12mm in 35mm film camera terms.
As well as shooting stills you can also shoot video, and here we have the option to shoot 4K at 3840 x 2160 at 30 frames per second (fps), 1080p at 30 / 60 fps and 720p at 30fps.
When shooting video, you get 3-axis electronic stabilisation and the ability to shot slow motion at 1080p at 120fps and 720p at 240fps.
As with stills you can shoot wide-angle with a field of view of 120º.
You can shoot RAW
Like all the latest dual camera phones the ASUS ZenFone 4 can shoot both JPEG and RAW, it just needs to be selected in the shooting settings. Shooting in RAW enables you to capture more data and helps to capture detail in the shadows and highlights than you could when shooting JPEG.
[nextpage title=”Build & Handling” ]
Build quality and handling
The ASUS Zenfone 4 doesn’t have the slick to the edge screen that I’m now used to with the Samsung Galaxy range, but the thin white border and overall look of the phone is still very pleasing, if getting a little retro!
The large touchscreen dominates the front of the device with a small camera at the top for selfies. Under the screen is the home button.
Ports are at the bottom, and you have a standard 3.5mm audio port and USB-C.
On one side you have two buttons, one a rocker that enables you to increase or decrease volume and the power button next to that.
Flip the camera over, and you have the two lenses that front the two different cameras and the small LED flash/light.
The physical design and quality of build is solid, and after two months of testing, I was impressed with not only the design of the hardware but also its software.
The PixelMaster app is instantly intuitive. Once on the opening screen, you have the usual clear live view that enables you to easily compose the shot. Around the screen are all the options and a quick tap enables you to quickly open and adjust the settings.
You can switch all three cameras between front, Main and Second simply by tapping the relevant icon.
The two rear cameras are where the real photographic interest lies, and aside from the difference in the field-of-view, the actual use of the two cameras is the same.
Taking the Main camera as the example, used in auto mode it’s a great point and shoot, but click the Pro option, and you suddenly have access to a whole wealth of additional creative features.
Options such as shutter speed, ISO and white balance enable you plenty of creative control over your photography, and although the aperture is fixed, there’s still plenty of options to affect the look and style of your images.
Accessing the settings is quick with a simple tap revealing all the options, another quick swipe and tap and you can swap and select the settings you want.
Changing modes, options and settings are all quick and easy, and the phone responds quickly.
[nextpage title=”Performance” ]
The Selfie camera on the front is really there for a bit of fun, and as you take your pictures there are a variety of options that enable you to either automatically beautify yourself, or you can make facial and skin tone tweaks manually. Slightly disturbing but great fun.
The main event is the two rear mounted cameras that offer you either the standard or wide view.
The Main camera’s 83º field-of-view is ideal for portraits and general use with the 12 million pixel camera capturing plenty of detail. .
When I started my test the weather was consistently dull and overcast, not ideal conditions due to the low light, but the camera handled the scenes well.
As conditions brightened the camera really came into its own, and that large 5.5-inch screen was clear and bright, making it ideal for composing and reviewing images.
AF points could be selected by just tapping the point on the screen which made it nice and easy to use.
A feature that I liked, although it’s not unique, is the ability to lighten or darken the image by sliding your finger up and down the screen.
When it comes to taking a picture, just a quick tap of the shutter button and the image is captured. There is a slight, but noticeable delay between tapping the shutter and the image being captured, but not so long that it’s an issue.
When the flash is activated, this delay is extended and far more noticeable. This is something that you have to get used to rather than getting used to.
Overall the image quality from the Main camera is excellent, with good detail, tone and sharpness across the frame.
Taking a look at the contrast edges and there doesn’t appear to be any sign of Chromatic aberration even towards the edges of the frame. Likewise, although sharpness does fall off towards the edges, you’ll only notice at 100%, and if you’re looking for it.
Switch over to the Second camera and the field-of-view expands. The switch between cameras takes a second or two, but you instantly see the increase in the width of image captured.
Again images are clear and crisp although you can see the quality difference between the higher resolution 12 million pixel camera and this wide 8 million pixel sensor.
Still, the images are again bright, clear and crisp with plenty of detail, tone and colour.
There does appear to be a slight change in contrast and if you compare the images from the two cameras side-by-side you will see that Second Camera does lose a little detail. But then you’re getting a much wider angled shot.
One photo mode feature that has been gathering pace amongst all recent smartphones is a dedicated portrait mode. This mode is ideal for shooting portraits but also works for Macro shots or anything where you want the background focus to soften.
To use the mode just tap the people icon at the top of the screen, then once done compose and take your shot. The effect of the blurred background can be seen in the fern shot below. Compared to some of the competition the effect is a little more subtle, but there’s no doubt it does a good job.
Here are a few sample images taken on the ASUS ZenFone 4.
ASUS ZenFone 4
[nextpage title=”Verdict” ]
At the time of it launch the ASUS Zenfone 4 like so many other smartphone costs a fortune. Now a few months on and it can be picked up for a little over £250 which is an incredibly reasonable price for what it has to offer.
The styling may look a little dated, and it might not be backed by the most powerful processor, but I’m not overly concerned with the aesthetics or speed as long as it’s responsive when taking pictures.
The PixelMaster camera app offers an excellent range of features and adjustment. For those just wanting a straightforward camera phone then it more than does the job, with outstanding image quality and a range of fun filters.
Switch the camera through to Pro, and it becomes a completely different device with a depth of creative control that encourages you to take some proper pictures.
Unlike the likes of the iPhone, the ability to add additional memory and then more when that runs out without the need to plug-in to wi-fi or a computer is a huge bonus.
As ever this is a phone and not a dedicated camera, but ASUS have done an excellent job at creating a very decent camera with dual lens options that will satisfy the needs of many photographers.
If you’re an Android user or feel a desperate need to swap from the iPhone, then the ASUS Zenfone 4 should be a serious choice. It’s well-priced, packed with features and ultimately boasts a great quality camera.