I had the privilege of taking pictures with amazing smartphones this year. I was wowed by the 10x zoom of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, amazed by the massive sensor and beautiful portraits of the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, and saw the Google Pixel 6A accomplish the impossible: take sharp photos of a exuberant toddler in dim light. I could reach into my closet drawer, pull out any of these phones right now, and use them as my primary camera. But I won’t! Right now I’m rocking the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 4, and I’m here to tell you that it’s a blast to take pictures with.
It’s true. The foldable you saw advertised with flashy colors and upbeat pop music as you watched AEW Dynamite is my ride-or-die camera right now.
The camera hardware is completely unremarkable. There’s a 10-megapixel camera on the internal display, a 12-megapixel ultrawide, and a vaguely upgraded 12-megapixel main camera. Samsung’s promotional material says the sensor is “65% brighter”, which is real nonsense — a sensor captures the light; it cannot be “brighter”. What Samsung is trying to say is that the pixels are a bit bigger, so they might catch light better. Anyway, all this to say that the reason I’m digging with the Z Flip 4’s camera has little to do with… the cameras.
This is the folding action. I must be a sucker because I tried filming all the ways the Samsung ads promote using the Z Flip 4, and the drive, I love it. I opened the L-shaped phone above the microwave and filmed myself making a latte. Why? I do not know. But I sped it up in the camera app, set it to The King Khan & BBQ Show’s I love you so, and posted it on TikTok. To my dismay, it has been viewed over 200 times. I don’t know what I really accomplished here, but it was fun.
The Flip is also an absolute gold mine for generating content for grandparents. I can set the Flip up on a table – safely out of reach of dirty toddler hands – and film the grandchild doing precious things like banging cups together while screaming and farting loudly. Grandparents love this shit.
The fold is useful here because I don’t have to a) try to shoot this selfie style b) fiddle with another mechanism, like PopSockets, to prop it up and c) I can fine tune the angle to get the right framing. When I’m done I can just (gently) slam the thing to stop recording – although the end of your music video will be present the phone closing in on itself, so maybe cut that piece.
This is all great fun, but if you don’t have a toddler and have no desire to show off your latte art skills on TikTok, then I probably haven’t convinced you that the Flip 4 camera is really good. But consider this use case: With the camera app open and the phone in an L-shape, you can tap an icon to move the preview image to the bottom half of the screen. You’re shooting what’s right in front of you, but looking at the preview image, much like an old-school twin-lens reflex camera.
It also means you can comfortably shoot from a lower angle or take candid social shots without putting your phone in front of your face and making everyone embarrassed because you’re obviously taking pictures of them. Please note that I don’t tolerate being a creep or a weirdo around strangers; it’s just nice to take photos of your friends without taking everyone out of the moment so abruptly.
I’m also not a big fan of selfies, but it’s nice to be able to use the phone’s main cameras when I want to take one. Of course, you have to compose it on the cover screen with a real-life postage-stamp sized image preview, but I’ll accept that trade-off for much better image quality, especially if the weather conditions lighting are dim. And who knows, maybe my home espresso bar will really take off on TikTok and I’ll have to up my selfie game. If so, you can bet I’ll have the Flip 4 handy.
Photography by Allison Johnson/The Verge