What free techs did you get? Which civ wer you playing as?
Ok, I must admit false reporting here. I played as Baratak and they got the special ability to start with free research. Sorry!
I try to specifiy the zoom level problem in more detail. Maybe I can explain it like this:
I most of the time prefer a zoom level that shows symbols - like your screenshot. But this is because I am rather forced to do so. I guess I would play a little bit more zoomed in, if there would be symbols too.
One situation I am rather certain of: if I navigate ships while exploring new systems. I zoom in to have a better look at each hex field.
Or something that comes to my mind right now: no minimap -> I zoom out and zoom in again to navigate the camera. Then I get this tiny stuff again because I zoomed in a little bit too much.
Or symbols clutter because the objects are located in adjecent hexes -> zoom in a bit (tiny stuff & no symbols anymore) -> need to zoom in even more.