Asus ZenFone 3 – From trepidation to trust

Asus ZenFone 3 – From trepidation to trust

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Asus ZenFone 3 – From trepidation to trust

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.

Asus ZenFone 3 – From trepidation to trust

Zen Stress

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:

  1. How does it perform in high dynamic range and low-light conditions
  2. 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.)
  3. 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)
  4. 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.

  5. Since it shoots only JPGs, how would those JPGs react to some editing I consider necessary to bring out the best in an image?

Asus ZenFone 3 – From trepidation to trust

So, let’s see how ZenPhone 3 did in this wicked test!

  1. 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.
    Asus ZenFone 3 – From trepidation to trust
  2. 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.
    Asus ZenFone 3 – From trepidation to trust
  3. 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!
  4. 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!
  5. 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.

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