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Asus ZenFone 3 – From trepidation to trust
A camera phone for those who don’t dig photography?
By virtue of my being a travel photographer, be it an offline traveller gathering or an online travel forum, I normally face a simple enough question from my traveller friends who do not enjoy struggling with the technical aspects of photography. The question is – “For me, photography is a tedious chore. But, I still need to have images of the destinations I travel to. So, which reasonably priced phone camera may I use during my travels?”
Seemingly a simple question, I would normally find myself at a loss to recommend any one single reasonably priced phone camera. Reason: I am an iPhone user and have not really used even my iPhone camera for capturing images.
When Asus approached me to review their ZenFone 3, I felt I could correct the above situation. I got a ZenFone 3 from Asus on the eve of my departure to Bali and Lombok. I decided to take it for a spin to Indonesia.
Clearly, I only had the above oft-asked question in my mind and I wanted to have an answer. The phone arrived with links to its online literature and a list of features. The camera part of the features mentioned a 16MP rear (primary) camera and an 8MP front (secondary) camera. In theory, such numbers sound great, but as a photographer, I view them with suspicion.
So here I was in a couple of idyllic Indonesian Islands, with an unfamiliar gizmo and a few doubts in my mind. I wanted to test drive this stylish, sleek, shiny, shimmer gold phone for its photography abilities and see for myself if it makes the cut to be recommended.
I decided to subject ZenFone 3 to a stress test I normally reserve for hi-end point & shoot cameras or an entry/mid-level DSLR. And, I decided to do it for its capability of capturing stills (I am not a videographer, remember!?). I don’t click ‘selfies’ either, so I skipped that too. For this test, my chosen parameters were as follows:
- How does it perform in high dynamic range and low-light conditions
- How does it perform in auto mode (since my friends who ask the question are not comfortable about the technical bits like shooting modes, etc.)
- If there is any trouble capturing something in auto mode, how does ZenPhone 3 camera handle the shot in a manual mode (it is only fair to assess it even if my friends are not comfortable using various different modes)
- Though the camera does NOT have a dedicated sports mode, it boasts a fast processor – Quote-Unquote
World’s First 14nm Snapdragon processor with 64-Bit Octa-Core CPU @2.0Ghz : S625 is much more powerful than previous generation thanks to new full 8 core @ 2.0Ghz. 2016 S625 is around the same level of performance of 2015 S800 series (For a detailed features list, click here).
So I wanted to assess its responsiveness to burst shooting.
- Since it shoots only JPGs, how would those JPGs react to some editing I consider necessary to bring out the best in an image?
So, let’s see how ZenPhone 3 did in this wicked test!
- High Dynamic Range Handling: A usual issue when shooting outdoors is a very bright sky that forces most cameras to considerably darken the landscape if it captures the sky well. I shot many landscapes and found that it handles this difficult-to-manage issue pretty well. Full marks here.
- Auto Mode: I used auto mode for most of my shooting with ZenFone 3. And, the results were crisp, colours good and overall image pleasing! No complaints here.
- Switching to manual mode: In one indoor shot, I faced the issue of a sub-optimal capture in auto mode. Switching to manual mode got me a result I wanted. So, all in all, you can make it work for you!
- Burst mode performance: I shot a test sequence of a rider on a bike. The result was fine and its claim of a fast processor seems sound!
- Editing the JPGs: I always edit my images to address excessive highlights, lack of details in dark areas, saturation, etc. (For a detailed step-by-step guide to how I edit my images in Lightroom, please see my Lightroom guide – Using Lightroom – A Simple Workflow). I did the same with the JPGs shot with ZenFone 3 and it handled the edits pretty well (see the result below). So, though it doesn’t shoot raw, its JPGs can withstand a fair bit of editing.
So, what do I feel? – The Verdict
I started with trepidation. But after the photography-related tests I conducted on Asus ZenFone 3, I have the faith that I won’t be wrong in recommending this phone to my camera-phobic friends as their go-to camera, particularly for their outdoor imaging needs during their travels; more so, since this phone-camera costs Rs.~22k as against the other known phone-cameras costing about 2-3 times the price.