Oct 122016

A review for Zenfone 3 – A Camera Phone Built for Photography

Asus the global electronics giant from Taiwan has launched new frontier products in India at a fast pace. I was eagerly awaiting for their latest addition to the Smartphone market the Asus Zenfone 3 built for photography. So when I received a brand-new handset from Asus to test with a focus on its photographic capabilities, I was more than happy to experiment with the various modes, especially the manual mode on Zenfone 3.

Review of Asus Zenfone 3 DOF Mode

Colors of Nature captured on Zenfone 3 using DOF Mode or Depth of Field mode

What does manual mode on a Phone Camera means to a travel photographer: In simple terms a fully automatic cell phone camera or even a DSLR in 100 % Auto mode lets you capture pictures as you see it. While the moment you take control of the camera, you can capture images not just as you see it but also “As you feel it” and the two are very different from each other as we will see in the post and images as we go further.

As soon as the Zenfone 3 arrived, my first aim was to click the phone as I did not want to click the phone after I have used it in the field. As you look at the images, one can see that the camera gets a prominent position as this phone is built for Photography.

Zenfone 3 Built for Photography

Zenfone 3 : Built For Photography

I not only enjoy clicking pictures from phones, I also enjoy clicking phones, so here are some images I clicked of Zenfone 3. Later I went to building garden with my daughter and we collected some flowers and decorated the Zenfone 3 with flowers, just for fun and some experimental photography. After all, there is no harm in clicking photos of a phone that is built for photography.

Zenfone 3 camera review

Note the centrally placed camera that helps in composing better

But before we go further here are some of the key specs of Zenfone 3 Camera

8MP Camera , f/2.0 aperture

PixelMaster Camera Modes:
Back Light (HDR) Mode
Low Light Mode
Real Time Beautification Mode
GIF Animation Mode
Panorama Selfie Mode

16MP Camera, f/2.0 aperture, 6 P Largan lens

Auto Focus
0.03-second laser auto-focus
32-second long exposure
4-axis, 4 stops Optical Image Stabilization for steady photos
Dual-LED real tone flash
PixelMaster Camera Modes:
Back Light (HDR) Mode
Low Light Mode
Manual Mode (for DSLR-like camera detail settings)
Real Time Beautification Mode
Super Resolution Mode (for up to 4X resolution photos)
Night Mode
Depth of Field Mode
Photo Effect Mode
Selfie Panorama
GIF Animation Mode
Panorama Selfie Mode
Miniature Mode
Time Rewind Mode
Smart Remove Mode
All Smiles Mode
Slow Motion Mode
Time Lapse Mode

The most fun I had with Zenfone 3 camera was with the Depth of Field mode. Now we have all envied smooth Bokeh achieved by expensive DSLRs using a shallow Depth of Field. Now you can achieve the same using the Depth Of Field mode on Zenfone 3. The best part? All you need to do is decide what you want to click, select the DOF mode and focus on your subject. Now just keep your hand steady and click the images. Not only that, after clicking the images, Zenfone 3 lets you decide how much of the blur you want in the background.

Zenfone 3 close up picture

Ant on baby Bitter Gourd using DOF Mode of Zenfone 3

I experimented with Depth of Field mode in our balcony and garden and clicked this baby bitter gourd with an ant on it. The background leaves are all totally blurred and out of focus. Also look at the other images of flowers I clicked in our society garden, using the Zenfone 3

Review of Zenfone 3 Camera

Flowers clicked by Zenfone 3 – DOF mode

Review of Zenfone 3 Camera phone

Notice how beautifully Zenfone 3 blurs background – DOF mode

Review of Asus Zenfone 3 Camera phone

Colors in our garden captured on Zenfone 3 DOF mode with flash on

Zenfone 3 for Travel Photography

I wanted to take the Zenfone 3 on a long road trip to photograph but due to time constraint, I could not leave the city. So I decided to indulge in some Backyard Tourism and reached my favorite place to shoot in Delhi the Qutub Minar. These Slave dynasty era monuments in India are some of the most photogenic in Delhi and offer a great way to test any camera by offering challenging shooting conditions from harsh sunlight to dimly lit corridors to ever enthusiastic tourists popping up in your frame.

As I share the images clicked by Zenfone 3 in this post let me also take the opportunity to mention what mode of Zenfone 3 was used to click the image

Travel Photography Tips with Zenfone 3

Normally when we click images on our travels we click them subconsciously taking images as we move around. But as I had specific images in my mind, here l am also sharing some Travel Photography tips that should help you take better travel pictures.

So here are some of my tips to take better Travel pictures

Explore and Research: The research part actually comes before visiting the monument. Check some images on the net and you will get a better idea about the angles, position of sunset and even some touristy images like you see monument photographer asking their clients to pose as. Then when you reach the monument you are better prepared to click the images.

When you visit a monument you aim is to showcase it in such a way that the onlooker can look at the pictures and feel they have been to the place. So you should keep some specific shot always in your mind to click e.g a long shot, In this shot typically taken in a landscape mode you click as much of the monument and surrounding in the image. Here I have clicked Qutub Minar showing the gardens around and some smaller monuments in the complex.

Zenfone 3 camera review

Figure 8 Any Ideas how high is Qutub Minar ? – Clicked in Auto Mode

Travel Photography Tip : To show the true scale of the monument all a human element to the picture. Check the picture below taken with a security guard in the frame and it totally alters the way you view Qutub Minar. Somebody who has never been to Qutub Minar can now realize how tall the monument is.

Zenfone 3 review of camera

Add a human element in your images to give a sense of scale – Auto Mode

Clicking Portraits during travels:

As a travel photographer, I run a project called desi Humans, in which I click portraits of people I meet during my travels. Now one thing I have found is people get super conscious when you click their portraits, for some reason, people are ok being clicked by a cell phone. So here are some portraits I clicked with Zenfone 3.

Travel Photography Tip: Some portraits look better in Black and White and some in color so experiment with both and pick the one you like better. Check the one below, click on it to see the color version. Which one do you like better?

Review of Zenfone 3 Built for photography

Zenfone 3 Portrait clicked in Auto Mode. Click image to see the color version of this image

Travel Photography Tip:

Don’t hesitate to click horizontal portraits as they give you more of the environment in the picture and can also give a sense of place, like this school teacher Mr. Gafoor Takashi from Alleppey in Kerala on a visit to Qutub Minar.

desi Humans clicked by Zenfone 3

Horizontal portraits can give a better sense of place portrait clicked by Zenfone 3 in Auto mode

Or check the image below, it not only showcases the intricate Jalee Work in dark corners of Qutub Complex but also is a good example of dynamic range in which the Zenfone 3 can click pictures. It was a low light situation with the only light coming from the Jalee on the left of the model, but Zenfone 3 captured the details on the face as well as the walls nicely.

Low light performance of Zenfone 3

Too dark and too bright areas well captured by Zenfone 3 in Auto Mode

Sometimes I click pictures of people doing something interesting, like this Japanese Tourist who settled on the ground to click a selfie with her mobile phone.

Zenfone 3 Camera phone review

Are you a tourist or a traveler ? – clicked in Auto Mode

For a travel photographer, one of the cool features of Zenfone 3 is Depth Of filed mode. As mentioned above the DOF mode lets you take images with the background out of focus. All you need to do is point and focus and the phone does the rest. For a Travel Photographer, this is a very useful feature as one can creatively play with the images. Check the ones bellow

Qutub Minar clicked by Zenfone 3

Qutub Minar with Auto Mode

Image one was taken in normal auto mode and the second one was taken with Depth of field mode and the focus was kept on the flower. I love the way Zenfone 3 has creatively blurred the Qutub Minar and kept the flowers in sharp focus. This is a must try mode when you are in field clicking pictures of monuments.

Qutub Minar Delhi

Qutub Minar blurred using DOF Mode

Go for Details when traveling: Sometimes we are so much in awe of the grandeur of a monument that we totally forget the devil is in the details. Every Indian historical monument including Qutub Minar is a treasure trove of minute craftsmanship of Indian artisans who recreate day to day life around us by chiseling the stones. Check some of the images of carving work I clicked in Qutub Minar. One must admire the minute work that our artisans carved in the stone to make them come alive and also how Zenfone 3 has captured all the details.

Qutub Minar intricate stone work

Flowers in Stone, you get them when you go close – auto mode

Qutub Minar Stone Work

The Devil Lies in details – Qutub Minar clicked in auto mode by Zenfone 3

Qutub Minar Stone work Hindu Symbols

Capture the details when you travel, Qutub Minar stone work clicked in Auto mode

How is the performance of Zenfone 3 in Low Light?

Low light is the Achilles heel of most mobile cameras; well it seems Zenfone 3 has overcome the same. Not only does it allow 2 modes for low light – Night mode and Low Light mode, it also has a manual mode where you can control shutter speed for those long exposures.

Zenfone 3 Low light mode performance

I love the colors and the Bokeh in background captured in a dim-lit restaurant – Low light mode

This one above was clicked in a dimly lit restaurant. Notice 2 things in the image above – I like the color of the flower petals captured and the nicely done Bokeh in the background.

Here are some more low light images from the Zenfone 3 clicked in low light. Check these images below of a construction site. The first one as I saw the building under construction, the second one as I wanted to click the image. As you can see the two images clicked just seconds apart give a totally different perspective of the scene and that is where dear reader Zenfone 3 comes into the picture with its various easy to use modes and yours to creatively play with manual controls.

Night image by Zenfone 3 – Manual mode

Night image by Zenfone 3 – Manual mode

Night performance of Zenfone 3 Camera

The City that grows round the clock clicked by Zenfone 3 Night Mode

A cool Zenfone 3 Feature in form of a laser guided focus, so once you have selected the focus point the laser does rest and your subject remains in focus as you can see in the below image of Bartenders.

Night Portrait with Zenfone 3 - Auto Mode with flash

The laser focus and LED flash let you capture portraits in low light situations – Auto mode with Flash

The image of bartenders, clicked using the dual LED flash on the Zenfone 3, and I like that there are no overblown areas plus the Zenfone 3 camera continued to guide the focus even when the subjects were moving.

Travel Photography Tip: Click the same image in different light conditions, from the day to the blue hour. Here are 3 images of Qutub Minar clicked during good light, golden hour and the blue hour. As you can see with the change in light the same scene can manifest itself as very different.

Review of Zenfone 3 Camera phone picture of Qutub Minar

Clicked during evening hours just as light starts fading – Auto Mode

Review of Asus Zenfone 3 Low Light mode

Qutub Minar in Golden Hour when the light is just about to go – Low Light Mode

Review of Zenfone 3 Low light condition

Qutub Minar in Blue Hour during low light condition – Manual Mode

And my last image of the day was these light trails that I clicked using a long exposure of 8 seconds in manual mode. Such images are possible only using manual mode as it allows you to play creatively with the camera phone with features like ISO, Shutter Speed, and White Balance etc.

Light trails clicked by Zenfone 3 in manual mode

Light trails clicked in Manual mode as it lets you capture images not possible by auto mode

The Asus Zenfone 3 camera has many other fun as well as useful modes like GIF, Panorama, Selfie, Selfie Panorama, slow motion, time-lapse mode etc. You can check the Slow Motion and time-lapse mode in the video I captured below. The video captured is just a fun video and not a pro as I did not have time to do much editing etc. for the same. To capture the video I just stood on our balcony and captured the action on the street below, then went to a bar and made a video of the bartender in slow motion, next stop was the local mall where I just captured the janitor on the escalators in slow motion. Have a look at the video before we proceed further.

I am still playing around and experimenting with the Zenfone 3 camera and may share more images on my Instagram and Facebook etc. keep watching this space.

Verdict: I think the camera on Zenfone 3 is one of the best I have tried in mobile phone cameras so far. The inbuilt modes, as well as the versatile manual mode, can take anybody’s photography to the next level. Zenfone 3 has all the possible tools and controls you may want, not it is totally up to you how you want to use it to creatively make better images.

The price of Zenfone 3: The Zenfone 3 is available for a price of INR 21,999 for the 32 GB model. Some key specs are here

For detailed specs please visit the official site of Zenfone 3

Note for the reader: I received the Zenfone 3 from Asus for review. All views expressed are mine

If you have liked reading the post please feel free to subscribe by email and like it or share it with your friends on Facebook, LinkedIn, twitter and Google+ .

I promise that I will not sell, rent, or donate your email to anybody

🙂 🙂 🙂


  8 Responses to “Asus Zenfone 3 “Built for Photography””

Comments (8)
  1. Awesome pics.
    Nice review of Asus Zenfone 3.

  2. Wow what a lovely set of pictures!

  3. Sirjee, The Floral Pic with the Black Background is the Epic Shot ! All the Pics are Amazing especially the Qutub Minar with different time lapse 😀
    Gr8 post! Looks like it makes a Wonderful Phone now that After reading the review of Oppo and Asus I am confused ! Which is better 🙂

  4. Excellent performance indeed. the pics are sharp. Only factor these mobile phones can’t compete with actual DSLRs is the speed… no?

Dear fellow traveler welcome to desi Traveler, I am excited to have you here, please share your thoughts and I will be very happy to reply. Please check our Blog Comment Policy. All comments are moderated and urls in comments end in spam automatically. Happy travels.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.