Asus has officially entered the dual-camera lens space with its new Zenfone 3 Zoom smartphone, a device “built for photographers” that includes an optical zoom lens to get a little closer to the action.

The Zenfone 3 Zoom sports the same 5.5-inch display of the Zenfone 3, along with the same processor and RAM inside. It’s slightly heavier at 170g, partly because of the larger 5000mAh battery (the Zenfone 3 has a 3000mAh one). Beyond that, however, the phone is very similar to its sibling, including the rear fingerprint sensor, dual SIM tray and microSD expansion slot.

It will come with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow out of the box, though it is already slated for an upgrade to at least 7.0 Nougat. How that might impact performance is unclear, but any Android software upgrade should derive some benefits.

The zoom camera

Being an offshoot of the Zenfone 3 itself, the Zoom is augmented for more flexibility in how you shoot photos. The dual-lens system in the back uses the same 12-megapixel image sensor.

One is a 25mm wide-angle lens with a wide f/1.7 aperture. The second has a 56mm lens with 2.3x optical zoom, making it slightly longer than the 2x optical zoom found in the iPhone 7 Plus. Switching between them is supposed to be seamless, so you can shoot the same scene with either lens quickly.

Asus says it has improved focusing through what it calls TriTech+ auto-focus, which means it can hone in on a subject in as little as 0.03 seconds. Auto-locking focus on a moving subject is standard on smartphones these days, and the fast focusing could prove to be a major benefit when shooting a running child or animal, for instance. There is optical image stabilization (OIS) inside. The four-axis system compensates for hand shake and jitters for better sharpness.

There’s also Asus’ SuperPixel camera, a feature designed to produce better images at night or in low-light. I had seen this in action back at CES in Las Vegas in January and it appeared to capture a dimly-lit setting fairly well. It was a stationary subject that didn’t move, but that’s fine. Shooting action in low-light is tough as it is, but keeping any subject sharp and relatively free of noise is important for any darker setting.

Long life and unlocked

The battery is certainly a point of consideration here. Asus claims the phone can do a good eight hours of live streaming on one charge. Few phones could come close to that number.

It’s also worth noting the Zenfone Zoom 3 is available unlocked. Rather than signing up for a two-year contract or paying off a phone over time, the ability to own it outright means you can get a better deal from the carrier. Plus, you could either switch carriers and use foreign SIMs when travelling without having to unlock the phone first.

A full review of the Asus Zenfone 3 Zoom is coming to the Plug-In blog, but for now, you can check it out here. It’s only available in black.

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Editor Cellular/Mobile Technology
I’m a fortunate man in being able to do the fun job of following and reporting on one of the most exciting industries in the world today. In my time covering consumer tech, I’ve written for a number of publications, including the Globe and Mail, Yahoo! Canada, CBC.ca, Canoe, Digital Trends, MobileSyrup, G4 Tech, PC World, Faze and AppStorm. I’ve also appeared on TV as a tech expert for Global, CTV and the Shopping Channel.

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