Samsung Galaxy Camera Review

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We’ve seen Android on some odd devices before, such as refrigerators and stoves, but one of the places we’ve always wanted to see it is in point and shoot cameras. Polaroid took a stab at an Android powered camera at CES 2012, but thanks to its cumbersome design and user-interface, the product ultimately tanked. But Samsung, who has proven it can make a quality product, announced its Android-powered point and shoot at IFA in September and Verizon followed that up by announcing it would offer an LTE-capable variant of the device. Dubbed the Galaxy Camera, the device runs Android 4.1 with Samsung’s TouchWiz on top, but the real selling point is the 16-megapixel camera with 21x optical zoom. Is the Galaxy Camera that much better than your smartphone at snapping photos? Read BriefMobile’s full review to find out!

[heading]Specifications[/heading]

  • Image Sensor: 16.3 effective megapixel 1/2.3″ BSI CMOS
  • Lens: F2.8, 23 mm, 21x Optical Zoom Lens
  • IS: OIS
  • Display: 121.2 mm (4.77″), 308 ppi, HD Super Clear Touch Display
  • ISO: Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
  • Processor: 1.4GHz Quad-Core processor
  • OS: Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
  • Memory: 8GB + memory slot : micro SDSC, micro SDHC, micro SDXC
  • Image: JPEG format 16M, 14M, 12M Wide, 10M, 5M, 3M, 2M Wide, 1M
  • Video: MP4 (Video: MPEG4, AVC/H.264, Audio: AAC); Full HD 1920×1080 30fps; Slow motion Movie 720×480 120fps
  • Video Output: HDMI 1.4
  • GPS: A-GPS, GLONASS
  • Connectivity: WiFi a/b/g/n, 4G LTE/3G
  • Battery: 1,650 mAh
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 128.7 x 70.8 x 19.1 mm
  • Weight: 305g

[heading]Hardware Design[/heading]IMG_0642

The Galaxy Camera looks very much like most other cameras on the market. If you were looking at it from afar, you wouldn’t think twice about what operating system it was running. The device is designed to be somewhere inbetween a smartphone, point and shoot camera, and DSLR. It’s larger than most point and shoot cameras, as well as smartphones, but is much more compact than DSLR cameras, making it a great companion for vacations.

The Galaxy Camera that I had the opportunity to review was white with a black trim around the edges and a 4.8-inch taking up the entire backside. The right side of the device has a textured grip that makes it very easy to use and operate with one hand while operating the physical shutter button found up top. If for some reason you prefer to use a software shutter button, don’t worry. It’s located at the upper right corner of the display. The zoom control is located on the top right, and the pop-up flash is on the top left. The power button is found inbetween both of those on top, as well. There are no physical buttons to control shooting modes, though, as Samsung has opted to place all of those controls in the software, making for a cleaner design.

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Moving to the right of the device you’ll find a 3.5mm headphone jack, HDMI connector, and a place to put a wristband or lanyard in. The left side houses the flash-activator and speaker. On the bottom is a compartment housing the battery, microSD card slot, and microSIM card slot. A tripod mount can also be found down under.

Overall, the Galaxy Camera is really well designed. I found it very easy to hold and operate in most scenarios. I did find it rather awkward to hold when operating the touchscreen. But then again, the primary use case of the Galaxy Camera is as a camera, so that’s not a big deal. The screen does add a good deal of weight to the device, which comes in at  305g, making it hard to pocket. I’m very glad that Samsung included a microSD card slot in the Galaxy Camera, as I filled up the 8GB of internal storage very quickly.

[heading]Display[/heading]IMG_0631

The display on the Galaxy Camera is nothing to write home about, but is certainly usable. Unlike most of Samsung’s flagship devices, which use a Super AMOLED HD display, the Galaxy Camera uses a 4.8-inch Super Clear LCD with a 1280 x 720 resolution. The Super LCD panel equates to a brighter panel that is easier to view in sunlight, which is one of the places a camera is used most. The screen overall is ok. When compared to the Galaxy Note II, you’ll definitely notice that Galaxy Camera’s screen is slightly washed out and less crisp. But when compared to other cameras on the market, the device outperforms everything.

[heading]Performance[/heading]

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Take away its lens and the Galaxy Camera is very much a Galaxy  S III at heart. It features a 1.4GHz Samsung Exynos 4 Quad CPU with 2GB of RAM and 8GB of on-board storage. Moving through out the O.S. you’ll find little to no lag at all, which is to be expected considering the powerful processor inside. I was able to browse the web and play games with out a hitch. I did start to notice some lag when navigating through the gallery app after taking quite a few pictures, though. This is most likely due to the speed of the storage chip and it not being able to handle 4MP photos that well, which is rather disappointing. If I were to take a picture then want to quickly see how it turned out, I would have to wait several seconds while the gallery loaded in full quality.

In the actual camera app, though, shutter time was very impressive. The camera would focus and snap a picture in just a second or two. It’s not as fast as a DSLR, though, or in some cases, even an iPhone, but it definitely gets the job done.

[heading]Camera[/heading]

The Galaxy Camera is mainly meant to be used as, you guessed it, a camera. The device features a F2.8, 23 mm lens with 21x optical zoom capabilities. To put it simply, I expected more from the Galaxy Camera. Especially for the price. The device will run you $549.99 from Verizon, which could essentially get you a Canon T3i that blows away the Galaxy Camera in every aspect.

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21x Optical Zoom

The lens produces images that are fairly decent, but not what you would expect from a near $600 camera. My main disappointment was in the large depth field that the lens resulted in. Making objects in the distance blurrier than the main focus of the image was nearly impossible, making pictures lack the reality found in other images. The white balance was also rather disappointing  especially in normal lit conditions. Pictures had a rather yellow tint to them thanks to the incandescent lighting put out by most lights. You do get the ability to change the white balance if you change into Expert mode, but the average user is not going to know what 95 percent of the options in that setting mean, which will just result in even worse picture quality.

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ISO performance is rather impressive. The Galaxy Camera ranges from ISO100 to ISO3200 in doubling steps and the picture quality is decent all the way up to the maximum setting, though more detail is lost in each increment, most noticeability in low lit conditions.

My favorite feature of the Galaxy Camera was the zoom functionality, though. The 21x optical zoom is the main advantage the Galaxy Camera has over other point and shoot cameras and smartphones. The zoom is very smooth and fast. The image stabilization is also quite good and leads to impressive, blur-free pictures even all the way zoomed in. The built-in xenon flash is bright enough to give equally well-lit images at decent distances. To activate the flash, you have to use the physical button on the left of the device, meaning there is no “auto-flash” functionality and the software does not have the power to activate the flash.

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The video capabilities of the Galaxy Camera did impress me though. The device can take videos at either 1080p 720p and 30fps in auto mode. Good quality comes at a price, though. 1080p will take roughly 100mb per minute, while 720p is slightly more efficient at 60mb per minute. If you’ll be taking a lot of video with the Galaxy Camera, I’d highly recommend getting an SD card slot. Should you want 60fps video, you can jump into Expert mode and record in either 720p or 480p. It’s weird that 480p quality is hidden in Expert mode, as it’s probably the ideal setting for videos planning to be uploaded instantly to YouTube or Facebook.

Samsung is also touting slow motion video with the Galaxy Camera, which takes video at 120fps then saves it at 30fps, giving video that is 4 times slower than real life. Due to the intense processing power this takes, slow motion video can only be recorded 768 x 512.

Like I said earlier, for $550 I expected much more from the Galaxy Camera. Don’t get me wrong, pictures were very good, but not half a grand good. I don’t see any reason to get a Galaxy Camera in addition to a smartphone. The picture quality is just not that much better than a Galaxy S III or iPhone 4S/5.

[heading]Software[/heading]

The Galaxy Camera ships with Android 4.1 and TouchWiz on top. It’s not a toned-down version of the operating system, either. It’s the same full-fledged O.S. found on the Galaxy S III except for the fact that it has a 16MP camera on the back.

What advantages does Android offer to photographers? For one, you can instantly upload all of your pictures to DropBox, which is incredibly useful. Simply log in with your account and choose auto-upload and all of your images will be uploaded. If you’re a public person, you can also share your images to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or anyother social network. Android also provides users with a plethora of photo editing apps. The built-in Photo Wizard app is pretty pathetic, though and doesn’t provide too many options. There more several high-quality options in the Play Store, such as Snapseed and Photoshop Mobile that we’d highly recommend for you to try out.

The camera app also offers many options and features to users. Auto mode gives users little to no control over their images, aside from zooming in and out. Smart mode allows you to choose a mode to shoot in, such as macro or landscape. Expert mode brings up a plethora of options, including settings for shutter speed, aperture, ISO, exposure, and a light meter. The interface looks very nice and much like an actual lens barrel, but is just very cumbersome and unpractical. There are far to many steps involved in changing a simple setting such as white balance. I used either Auto mode or Smart mode for 99 percent of my images.

[heading]Battery Life[/heading]

Battery life on the Galaxy Camera is decent but not great. Samsung promises seven hours of use, or 340 shots and that’s more or less what I got. If you’re simply using the device as a camera, though, you may get additional life out of the device by disabling things such as email syncing and WiFi. All of the background processes Android use makes the Galaxy Camera drain battery much faster than a standalone camera, so all of these social and editing features certainly come at a cost.

[heading]Conclusions[/heading]IMG_0630

If someone walked up to me and asked if they should get a Galaxy Camera, my first question would be “Do you own a smartphone?” and if the answer was yes, then I would not recommend the Galaxy Camera. If you are someone who doesn’t own a smartphone and is looking for an easy way to share pictures with your family and friends, then the Galaxy Camera is your best bet. It’s perfect for quickly sharing quality photos online via Facebook and Instagram. The picture quality is good enough to share online, but probably not good enough to blow up and frame.

If you’re some looking to seriously get into photography, then the Galaxy Camera is not for you. For $550, you can get a much better camera, such as the Canon T3i.

With all of that said, Samsung is on to something with the Android powered camera idea. Put Android onto a device with a better sensor/lens and I’d buy it in a heart beat. The ability to auto upload all of your images to the cloud is a killer feature, as is being able to share online quickly.

As it stands right now, though, the Galaxy Camera is a don’t buy for most people. For $550, there are many better options out there.