Asus Zenfone Zoom phone with 3x optical zoom coming to U.S.

Unless you look closely, you might never realize there's a 3x optical zoom hiding inside this Android phone from Asus, which also boasts optical image stabilization and 4 GB of memory.

Asus Zenfone zoom.png

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One of the more interesting smartphones I saw at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show is back. And this time, it will actually be sold: The Asus ZenFone Zoom handset goes on sale February 1 in the U.S.

What makes this Android phone unique is that it houses a 3x optical zoom mechanism, similar to a point-and-shoot camera. You don't have to rely on an inferior digital zoom to get "closer" to your subject when snapping shots.

Asus demonstrated the Zenfone Zoom last year but never shared price and availability. On Monday, the company said "the team has taken its time to develop and tune the technology to make it the slimmest camera smartphone with 3x optical zoom."

At 11.95 millimeters thick, the Zenfone Zoom surely isn't the thinnest handset. Still, it's impressively thin when you consider it's a fully capable smartphone that hides a 3x optical zoom in front of the 13 megapixel rear camera sensor with optical image stabilization.

These sample images from the Zenfone Zoom, iPhone 6 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S6 show the benefits of an optical zoom as text on the subjects appears clearer.

Zenfone zoom comparison.jpg

Since Asus took more time to get the Zenfone Zoom to market, the new model has a few improvements over what Asus showed off last year. The chip inside, for example, got bumped to an Intel Z3590 processor clocked at 2.5 GHz. That silicon is paired with 4 GB of memory and 64 GB of internal storage. A microSD card slot allows for memory expansion by another 128 GB.

The 5.5-inch display uses a 1920 X 1080 resolution IPS display with Corning Gorilla Glass 4. The backside of the handset is covered with soft, textured leather and along with the standard hardware buttons, the Zenfone Zoom has dedicated record and camera shutter buttons on the side.

Sadly, you won't get Android 6.0 (aka: Marshmallow) on the Zenfone Zoom: Asus will ship it with Lollipop instead.

Asus has been selling smartphones direct in the U.S. for some time now but it won't be selling the Zenfone Zoom; at least not at first. Starting next month, the $399 handset will be exclusively available at B&H Photo.