Phones have been evolving at breakneck speed over the last decade, with smartphones quickly taking over. Cameras, however, seemed to be stuck in the 20th Century. Well, no more – introducing the Samsung Galaxy Camera.
This device claims to be shaking up the point-and-shoot market. If that is possible, however, remains to be seen. Regular smartphones are coming out regularly with better and better camera capabilities. How does the Galaxy Camera shape up?
You can think of the various apps as building blocks, which make the Samsung Galaxy Camera one of the most versatile digital cameras in existence. However, some frailties in the imagery department as well as that old friend Touchwiz do offer some cons as well.
Read our full written review and give us your thoughts. You can also check out our video review at the bottom.
Here are some of the key features:
- Point and shoot camera with 21x optical zoom and optical image stabilization
- Wide-angle 23mm lens, 1/2.3″ sensor, 16.3MP resolution
- Xenon flash
- 1080p HD video recording at 30fps; 720p High Frame Rate video recording at 60fps; 768×512 120fps slow-motion
- 4.8″ 16M-color Super Clear LCD capacitive touchscreen of HD (720 x 1280 pixel) resolution; Corning Gorilla Glass 2
- Android OS v4.1.2 with TouchWiz
- 1.4 GHz quad-core Cortex-A9 CPU, Mali-400MP GPU, Exynos 4 Quad chipset, 1GB of RAM
- GPS with A-GPS connectivity; GLONASS support, Digital compass
- microHDMI TV Out
- Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
- Stereo Bluetooth v4.0
- 8GB internal storage, microSD slot
Design and Build
Having a large lens at the back of a mobile device can be a bit uncomfortable at times, especially if carrying it in your pocket. It can feel a bit wide in the hand, but overall it is pretty comfortable to use.
The bottom of the device has a standard tripod mount and a big hinged lid covering the battery compartment. Within that lid is a smaller flap for the microHDMI port. The battery compartment lid has a lock that keeps it in place. We sometimes found it necessary to lift the HDMI flap and use it to pull open the lid, which doesn’t always swing open when you release the lock.
If this device is primarily being used as a point-and-shoot camera, it holds up well. The build quality is overall more than decent. The only flaw is when you try to use it as a smartphone (that can’t make calls) – meaning using all you apps as you would on your phone, it can become cumbersome.
The screen is the most important part of the camera, though. It is a fantastic 720p screen which frankly is better than a lot of smartphone screens. The touchscreen is just as responsive as you would expect your phone to be. I would have preferred a slightly smaller screen as it would have made the camera easier to handle.
The screen has the same size and resolution as the Galaxy S III’s display (and is covered in Gorilla Glass 2 as well), but isn’t a Super AMOLED unit. It’s a Super Clear LCD instead. It doesn’t have the contrast of an AMOLED – far from it – but colors and viewing angles are quite good. Most disappointingly, sunlight legibility is about average, nowhere near as good as the S III’s.
It is clear that this was an interesting experiment from the company that bring a whole range of Galaxy products. And that experiment has led to the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, the same kind of device, but it works as a fully-fledged smartphone as well – including making calls.
It runs Android 4.1 Jellybean. The OS looks exactly the same as you would find on a Galaxy smartphone, with the same TouchWiz overlay. The only difference being it has some extra camera specific functions. While having a full phone OS might sound like a great thing, it has its negatives as well. You get all the apps you would need for photo editing, sharing and the like, but you also get a lot of notifications and sounds that could distract from using it as a camera.
Because of the fully fledged phone OS, the battery life isn’t what you would expect from a point and shoot camera. It is still always connected like a smartphone and retrieving emails, app updates and push notifications really drain the battery. There are settings to put all these annoyances off if you are predominantly looking for a camera, but they aren’t off by default.
The camera interface is divided into three categories and initiates when half pressing the shutter button. You’ve got the set and forget auto setting. Smart, where you would pick modes and filter which will let the camera do those adjustments automatically. Then you have expert which is a completely manual mode, where you set things like the aperture, shutter speed, ISO etc.
Expert mode is a bit incoherent when you have to go through all the different options and settings and you have to work all the setting directly from the screen. A separate button for some of these settings would have made a lot more sense. Auto and smart are fine, though.
Dropbox is probably the biggest positive in terms of apps for the device, because you have the auto upload functionality and you can snap away while it stores those pics for you on the cloud. It does make it quite data intensive though.
Other than the ones shown in this review, you can check out all our sample photos here.
First, if you’re doing professional work you’ll want good image quality and the Samsung Galaxy Camera just doesn’t cut it, certainly not when others are using micro four thirds and up. Second, the 1,650mAh battery will get drained pretty quickly, especially if you use a wireless connection, you’ll have to carry one or more spares.
And third, very few people actually need all this functionality – most will just use the camera and only occasionally tap into the Android side of things. The Galaxy Camera is already significantly dropping in price and it might have reached a point where the extra cost over a regular camera is justified.
The Samsung Galaxy Camera appeals to a very specific type of photographer. If you love Instagram and other Android camera applications, but aren’t happy with the quality of the lens and sensor in your smartphone, the Galaxy Camera will be a boon to your photography.
Check out our video review after the break: