Zenfone 3S MAX goes to Philippines

The timing was perfect! Nisha and I were going to beautiful destinations and the latest ASUS Zenfone landed literally on our laps.  A quick look at the features of recently launched Zenfone 3s Max made me sit up excitedly. There were major changes in OS, Camera and battery too.

ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
Just before touchdown at Manila. Auto mode, 1/1862s, ISO 111

I was planning to visit Manila, first, to witness a pyro-music competition in Manila and then later to Baguio City, which is not your usual travel location in the Philippines. Both these places suggested some challenges. First one was a photographic challenge as the fireworks were to take place, of course obviously, in the dark.
My flight to the Philippines via Thailand was largely uneventful.

ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
Inside Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport. Super Resolution mode , 1/30s, ISO 300

I reached the venue of Fireworks competition in time. Before the actual firework competition started, there were some ‘teasers’. The organizers were testing their equipment but the crowd was happy to be witnessing their beautiful test shots. I was happy that I could use this time to test my camera modes. I started with the auto mode. The light was too dim and focusing was becoming difficult. This is when I decided to go for other modes.
ASUS Pixel Master was already telling me to change to low light mode. I did that and took a couple of shots of the crowd and also of the last of the teasers.

ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
Testing the fireworks before the competition. Low Light Mode 1/8s, ISO 5829
ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
Crowd at the venue. Low Light Mode 1/8s, ISO 6000

While the photos were nicely lit up I thought that LL mode may not be the best option for clicking fireworks.  I did not have the luxury of using a tripod because of the immense crowd so slow shutter speed was not a option at all. I also had to find a place where there were fewer PPPS, that is the number peoples’ pushes per second 🙂 in the crowd.

ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
Eye of Manila near the venue. This is more than 50% crop. Manual exposure. 1/50s, ISO 800

Having used DSLR in manual mode for too long, I switched to manual mode and played around with the sliders.

ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
The beginning. Manual mode. 1/50s, ISO 800
ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
Manual mode. 1/50s, ISO 800

The manual mode, of ZENFONE 3s Max, is the single most powerful set of options that could be used to get a great photo especially of fireworks or difficult light conditions. I could change the ISO and shutter speed to get some nice pictures. There are many options for manual setting; focusing, Shutter Speed from 10s to 1/1000s, ISO from 100 to 1600, Exposure Value (EV) from -2 to +2 and White balance from 2500K to 6500K plus Auto mode just for WB.

ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
Manual mode. 1/100s, ISO 800
ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
Manual mode. 1/50s, ISO 400

I found that I did not have to push ISO too much and still could keep the shutter speed to a comfortable 1/50s. or faster. This way I was able to avoid camera shakes too.

ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
Manual mode. 1/50s, ISO 200. Underexposed but I could sufficiently brighten them up using the inbuilt software for a nice result
ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
Manual mode. 1/50s, ISO 200. Underexposed but I could sufficiently brighten them up using the inbuilt software for a nice result

In similar situations in the past, when there is a heavy usage of camera, video and uploading of videos, doing live streaming and constantly connected to social media or when I have been out for hours together, my phone has almost always died on me. After that, rest of the work had to be done with a cumbersome power bank attached, which is not so convenient. In this scenario , however, there was still enough juice in the battery to last more video capture and streaming for a couple of more hours. Obviously the 5000mah battery saved me.

The second place in my itinerary was Baguio city. My itinerary was packed from morning till evening. As I said before this is not a first choice for a vacation destination, but I chose this since there was the yearly flower festival called Panagbenga. Panagbenga is a month-long festival and it roughly means “Flowering Season”. There appeared to be some influence from the Polynesian culture. There are flower shows and competitions all over the city and the highlights are the street parades, which I was going to miss as it was going to be held at a later date. (Talk of bad planning!)

ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
Early morning at Baguio City. Auto mode. I/150s , ISO 111

The previous day I had visited the Mines view park, that boasted of birds eye of an old mining town in the hills, The mansion (Presidential palace in Baguio), the ponds of Wrights Park and the steps that take you to Botanical Garden.

ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
View from Mines View Park. 1/663s, ISO 111
ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
The Mansion. Auto – HDR mode

I also wanted to see the insides of a haunted house on the way back to the city. The best part was while walking down from the botanical garden , the GPS told me that I had already overshot the haunted house. Wow! I said to myself. I retraced my steps and found that it was huge house but hidden from view on one side. However I could not enter the house as the gates were fast shut.

ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
Baguio City , Haunted house, Laperal. 1/230s, ISO 111

Next day it was overcast when I reached Burnham Park after traipsing about the outskirts of the city and I wanted to enjoy the flower arrangements before rains started.  The weather report had predicted heavy rains. Earlier I was at Tam Awan Village . This was a nice attempt at recreating the life and culture of of the various provinces of the Philippines. I had been to a few other regions like Banaue western visayas during my earlier journeys that I could relate quicly to some of the exhibits.

ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
Beautiful Jeepneys, the lifeline of the locals. Auto Mode. 1/1500s, Iso 111. This was a very bright afternoon

Later I could neither find a taxi nor a Jeepney for over an hour and I could feel drops of water once in a while. I had to get to Burnham park before sunset and more importantly before the rains started. Eventually I got into a colorful Jeepney and hoped for the best. It did not rain yet but the traffic was heavy in the city. At one point, by chance, I happened to glance at the Google map to see where we were, I saw that I was quite close to the Burnham Park gate. At that time Jeepney stopped due to traffic jam. I and a couple of opportunistic others got down right in the middle of the road and ran to safety. Of the sidewalk, snaking through the then stationery traffic and entered the park.

ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
Exhibits at Burnham Park as part of the Flower Festival. Auto Mode 1/60s, ISO 165

On one side of the long path, the contestants’ entries were exhibited. I would have liked a bit more light for the camera work but then one can’t win every time and I was not controlling the rains and lights anyway. I walked slowly imbibing the colours.

ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
AUTO mode Super resolution mode . 1/60s, ISO 153
ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
AUTO mode Super resolution mode . 1/30s, ISO 137

While mostly they were common place flowers, I was awestruck at the breathtaking arrangements that must have taken incredible amounts of efforts in decorating the exhibits. If there was a life size Ifugao cottage as part of the arrangement at one place, then in another were fountains and rocks.  Most of the photos I clicked here were mostly on Auto Mode.

ASUS Zenfone 3S Max philippines
Super resolution mode – Auto mode. 1/60s ISO 145
ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
Super resolution mode – Auto mode. 1/60s ISO 145

I also experimented a bit with Asus Pixel Master’s Super resolution mode. This option digitally increases the resolution to a whopping 52megapixel!

ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
Super Resolution!

When I reached my hotel I noticed that the power meter stood at around 40% .

ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
Battery Meter after the show
ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
Inside a mall, low light mode.
ASUS Zenfone 3S Max
Inside Mall HDR Mode

All the photos were taken with ASUS ZENFONE 3S MAX ! Wait for another story to be published soon.


This is a video shot completely on Zenfone 3S Max.

Disclaimers: The phone is given to us on returnable basis.

If you want to travel places with us, I suggest you to join us on my Facebook travel page.
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31 thoughts on “Zenfone 3S MAX goes to Philippines

  1. Fireworks competition sounds like so much fun to watch. The low light mode for the fireworks are incredible. I’m glad you showed me the photos of your real life experience with it!

    1. Yes Sarah. The fireworks was to the tune of popular music and sometimes to western classical. The way the pyrotechnicians (for want of a better word) managed was amazing.

  2. I visited the Philippines a little over 15 years ago, and I wish I had been more into photography then. I took some photos, but didn’t have a proper camera and just the disposable kind. The fireworks competition sounds like so much fun and a great time to visit 🙂

    1. Candy, I know exactly how you feel. So many of many travels of those times were captured in film cameras and it is so difficult to maintain the negatives and prints. Now we feel that we should visit all these places again 😉

  3. Photographing the dazzle of fireworks against the backdrop of darkness is a challenge. The pictures that you have taken have come out with stunning effect. All the pictures are really good but the ones of the fireworks are spectacular.

    1. Yes it is, Hemant. I guess one of the biggest advantages of DSLR is the size of the sensor. However for casual photography Cell phone cameras are great.

  4. I loved my time in The Philippines and this brought back many great memories. I visited Baguio for a grand totally of 15 minutes because we couldn’t find cheap enough accommodation on our way back down from Sagada. The fireworks competition looks absolutely awesome! I would love to see something like that some time!

    1. Thanks Abhijit. It comes with a 5000mah battery. If you don’t use social media or watch videos or use the camera, one charge could last several days I am sure.

  5. Interesting – we have an ASUS laptop, but had no idea that they made phones as well. The photos have turned out great, especially your night shots which my current smart phone (admittedly outdated) really lacks in. Might be time for an upgrade 🙂

  6. That looks like a cool easy to carry camera. The shots are really nice especially the Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport and the fireworks. Loved them. Also, its great that you have given the settings for each of those shots, that’s pretty informative and cool thing to share 🙂

  7. I’d want to see that haunted house too! Although.. I might have retraced my steps and then just not have actually gone in or anything haha What fun you had though.

  8. This is an awesome detailed review! I do struggle with choosing the right settings for photography, i tend to point & click then edit later but if you have these settings it makes it much easier!

    1. Thanks Claire. I am sure most of us do it that way too and nothing wrong with that, mind you. Only when you don’t get enough of photo that could be edited we would need to adjust manually. I just loved the manual settings , a feature not found in most camera apps.

  9. Wow, you have captured the Mansion and the Mines view Park so beautiful. I heard a lot of good things about Asus brand and just like what you have said, it is truly good. Anyway, I like how you incorporate your photos from all your travel destinations. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts about this mobile phone.

  10. Great photos and the post! Like the way, you’ve shot fireworks in manual mode. Also, the indoor photos of the mall and Suvarnabhumi airport are too good. The depth in those images is like a DSLR. This phone camera is definitely handy where DSLR use is not permitted in many indoor locations. And yes 5000mah battery is the best feature as there is always fight to manage battery during the travels especially growing use of social media on the go.

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