The world of digital photography is on the move, and there’s no stopping it! This fall, Samsung unveiled the first 3G + Wi-Fi enabled camera operating under Android. The new Samsung Galaxy Camera combines most of the advantages of a true smartphone with those of a camera. In fact, on the camera end, it greatly resembles the WB850F, an Ultra Zoom device featuring a powerful 21x lens. I received the camera and could keep it for about 2 weeks. Here is the Samsung Galaxy Camera review.
In developing the Galaxy Camera, Samsung is proving it can do more than reproduce high-end technology. It is displaying its ability to develop new technologies. For Samsung, digital photography is a priority. The measure of its success is however somewhat subject to debate, despite some attractive devices and a wide range of digital compact mirrorless cameras, the Samsung NX series, many of which are now Wi-Fi enabled. While Wi-Fi provides a start to camera connectivity, the Samsung Galaxy Camera takes things one step further, enabling smartphone functions with 3G chip and an Android 4.1 operating system. The Galaxy Camera’s true strength is its very decent, 16 megapixel CMOS back-illuminated sensor and real 21x lens. Combining two technologies often results in compromise. So what will be the Samsung Galaxy Camera? A weak compromise or the best of both worlds?
Samsung Camera Galaxy review : design
Let’s talk about the Galaxy Camera’s design. To me, it is is quite an achievement. Its clean lines, white robe, elegant curve and glossy black border all make for an extremely attractive design, bound to attract attention. Though the camera is quite slick considering it is a combination of a real camera and a smartphone, it is, nonetheless, larger than average compact cameras. You could even say its rather bulky. Since the whole point is to always have a real camera handy and never miss an opportunity to shoot a good picture, you might take that fact into consideration. Maybe Samsung could have made it a bit more compact and a little thicker, for better stability when putting it down. When the lens is out, it will necessarily tip over. Although it uses plastic, the finish is impeccable. The textured finger grip allows for easy handling.
The Galaxy Camera only has four buttons including shutter, zoom, and an oddly placed flash button, on the side. Everything about the Samsung Galaxy Camera drives you to use the big and beautiful touchscreen.
Samsung Galaxy Camera review : the screen, its greatest asset
I really mean that. The Samsung Galaxy Camera’s 720p 4.8 inch screen and AMOLED technology offers the highest quality display ever seen on a camera. The screen is bright, colors are vivid, the image is crisp: we are beginning to wonder if the screen on the Galaxy Camera is turning out to be more appealing than 3G connectivity! Could we dream of other manufacturers opting for very large screens on their devices? Admittedly, the Galaxy Camera’s large display does make it less pocket-friendly. But it’s there, and I like it. When I thought of the Samsung Galaxy Camera review, I could not foresee I was going to appreciate this feature above all others.
Internal memory and microSD storage
Most of the Samsung Galaxy Camera connectivity is gathered under one flap: the 2650 mAh battery, the micro HDMI port to connect the camera to a full HD TV, the microphone port, a memory card slot, as well as a slot for your operator’s 3G chip. Unfortunately, Samsung chose to use a micro SD card format, as on most Android devices. Though this would be mandatory on an ultra compact device, it is downright objectionable on the not-so-compact Galaxy Camera. Many photographers already have many memory cards: SD, SDHC, SDXC. They will have no choice but to purchase the less common and more expensive microSD card. On the upside, Samsung provided the Galaxy Camera with a 4GB internal flash memory which can store about a thousand 16 megapixel JPEG photos. You can’t use RAW format anyway … In addition, the Samsung Galaxy Camera comes with a free 2 year subscription to 50GB on the Dropbox cloud service. You can therefore easily empty your pictures, using WiFi or 3G, store them in the cloud then synchronize your devices: smartphones, tablets, computers, etc.. You’ve just made room for more pictures on your camera’s internal memory.
Headphone jack and USB charging
On the side of the camera, a second flap provides access to a micro USB port and a 3.5 mm jack for using headphones on your Galaxy Camera. You can charge camera via its USB port using the supplied AC adapter or using a computer USB port, convenient for those who always travel with a laptop in their bag.
Galaxy Camera: Digital Camera and Phoneless Smartphone
So, in the side-hatch you can connect a microphone or even a headset. And here comes the Galaxy Camera’s greatest paradox: its a real camera merged with much of the Galaxy S III, but doesn’t allow for phone-calls! Sure, calling with a camera to your ear might look strange… But it wouldn’t take much for Samsung to finish the job. It’s bulky. Add to that that you still need your smartphone, and it becomes even more so. Aware of this limitation (and half-admitting it was designed to avoid straining smartphone sales), Samsung states that you can use the Galaxy Camera for voice calls via web applications such as Skype for example, using a microphone headset and good Internet connection (VoIP).
Samsung Galaxy Camera review : the first real smartcamera
The main advantage of the Galaxy Camera is that it runs under Android 4.1. After booting, start by configuring the wireless network. You can setup your Google Account to enjoy more services, download new applications on Google Play, etc.. If you already have a Dropbox account just connect via your Galaxy camera and your storage will be automatically extended to 50GB, free of charge, for two years. If you have a Samsung Galaxy SIII or a Galaxy note, you already enjoy that extension. This is of course a real first. Merging the Dropbox cloud service with large storage space and communication technology on a camera is a winning combination to say the least. Ideally, if you’re not afraid of overloading your 3G data-plan, you can setup an automatic upload to your Dropbox account. Your pictures are automatically uploaded to the cloud on the go, and you never have to think about it. You can also manually share photos and select Dropbox as you sharing option.
A variety of modes and shooting effects
The Galaxy Camera automatically enters its camera mode when turned on and goes straight to photo features. You can choose between three modes: PSAM mode which provides most control (aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc.), Auto mode which gives access to different filters that can be applied when shooting, or Smart Mode, which allows you to access specific functions such as Best Photo, Continuous Shot, Best Face, Macro, Action freeze, Rich tone, Panorama, for creating a panoramic view by sweeping the camera across the view, Waterfall, to capture the flow of water, Silhouette, for backlit images, Sunset, for warmer colors, Night, Fireworks, to capture streaks of color, and Beauty. Beauty mode will clear imperfections and wrinkles from faces and improve skin tones. The abundance of shooting modes should keep you busy quite a while.
Action velocity and Performance
The device is quite responsive and its autofocus speed is in the average of current compact cameras. Start up time is a bit slow for a camera, and of course very slow when it is completely turned off, since it takes as long to turn on as a smartphone. It takes several seconds for the software to load, which means you could not take an instant photo and might miss some opportunities to take a picture on the fly. We would have really appreciated a distinct button to turn on and access photo functions only. If its in sleep mode, the power button turns the camera on and its ready to shoot in just over one second. You quickly get used to using the touchscreen to navigate through functions. Settings in manual mode are easy to adjust, using virtual dials to select ISO speed, aperture, etc.. Slide with your finger to choose your setting. We like the simplicity of just tapping any point on the beautiful screen to put it into focus. Too bad we can’t take the shot while we’re at it.
A versatile camera, ideal for travel photography
In use, the Samsung Galaxy Camera is, thanks to its powerful 21x zoom, extremely versatile. Its 23mm wide-angle focal length is a record for an Ultra Zoom camera. The device is equipped with a small 16-megapixel back-illuminated sensor. Like most equivalent compact cameras, the images lack some contrast in our opinion. This makes using high ISO sensitivities possible without too much noise effect. The image quality of the Galaxy Camera is however still pretty average. White balance is not always accurate and many photos take on a yellow hue under artificial lighting. A lot of pictures in Auto mode turned out blurry as the camera failed to detect subject movement and thus to boost sensitivity. If we were hoping to find the WB850F camera performance on the Galaxy Camera, we would be a bit disappointed. While average photo quality would be acceptable on a 100-euro camera, the Galaxy Camera costs 450 euros, which makes it a problem … You would need to be a compulsive sharing fan for the Galaxy Camera’s real time photo and video sharing capacity to take precedence over strong camera performance. Also, the relatively slow lens (which is normal for a wide zoom range) combined with the small sensor, 1/2, 3 “, will make blurred-background effects nearly impossible to achieve. For the same price, you could get your hands on an enthusiast compact camera such as the Panasonic LX7, or the Samsung EX2F, the latter including a Wi-Fi connection. These cameras enjoy larger sensors and faster lenses.
Full HD Video
In video mode, the Samsung Galaxy Camera is powerful and very satisfactory for 95% of uses. In Auto mode it records video in full HD 1080p at 30 frames / s, and saves them to MP4 format (H.264). On average, this means 100 MB per minute of video. To reduce video size, you can choose the 720p mode. For more flexibility, you can switch to manual mode. You can then switch to 60 frames per second in 720p, useful for applying slow motion effects. In fact for slow motion videos, you will likely choose 120 i / s in 768 × 512 pixels. But remember, high speed recording at 120 frames per second will require a lot of light or high ISO. In this mode, you will still control white balance and other exposure settings, an uncommon feature on compact digital video cameras. When filming, we appreciate the device’s optic image stabilization system.
Samsung Galaxy Camera review : Conclusion
The Samsung Galaxy Camera is a first. Like any test run, it can be improved, especially as regards to photo quality, but we enjoyed the variety of modes and photo effects, such as its versatile zoom and very decent responsiveness. The integration of the Android system is quite successful. Most of all the Galaxy Camera is penalized by its not being an actual phone, which is very unfortunate. As is its bulky size and its smartphone-like limited autonomy. Sharing is the key to the Galaxy Camera : it provides a variety of options for fast and simple sharing. The integration of Dropbox is reassuring and makes saving photos and videos ever so simple. This unusual device will be landing on the market with a few operator data plans and will tempt technophiles and instant-sharing enthusiasts. Photographers seeking higher quality results will be more likely to choose one of the many Samsung Wi-Fi cameras, beginning with the NX210 and NX1000 mirrorless cameras or the EX2F advanced Wi-Fi compact camera.
Samsung Galaxy Camera review image gallery