Thanks for the review.
I am wondering if the battery life is ok because it has a big screen, mobile connectivity and the battery size seems to be small.
Here’s the Samsung Galaxy Camera (I’m going to call it the “Camera” with an uppercase “C”). It’s basically the result of a wild night between a camera and a smartphone. It’s a digital camera with a 16 megapixel sensor and 21x zoom lens with a Samsung Galaxy S III complete with HSPA modem and 4.8” screen grafted onto the back.
It’s safe to say that these days, most pictures end up on the web and will never be printed out. So, digital cameras have it rough these days. You see, they’re just too inconvenient.
What would you rather do? Snap a picture, wait till you get home, download it to your PC before you upload it to the web and then tag it with the location? Or would you rather snap a picture with your Smartphone and then choose to upload it to the web complete with location information.
Why would anyone bother using a dedicated camera if it’s so much less convenient to use? There are 2 reasons; dedicated cameras usually have higher quality plus they usually offer you more flexibility/capabilities.
Camera phones usually lack a real zoom and optical image stabilization. They have small sensors which aren’t that great in low light plus, have weak flashes and usually only allow you limited control over how it takes photos.
So you end up trading a lot of flexibility for convenience. Still, dedicated cameras are trying their best to play nice with your phone or tablet in an effort to make themselves easier to use.
I recently purchased a Sony NEX-6. Basically, it’s a camera with interchangeable lenses. In the context of this review, its big feature is that it has built-in WiFi. You download a Sony app to your Android or iOS device which allows you to grab photos off of the NEX. While it sounds cool in theory, from my personal experience, it’s a complete and utter disaster. Transferring one photo takes a few MINUTES so transferring a few pictures takes forever. It’s a complete joke. While I’m sure Sony will fix this eventually, right now it’s pretty much a useless feature.
The goal is to marry your pictures with the power of your phone. Here’s where the Samsung Galaxy Camera shines.
With all the connected options available I’m a little disappointed that the Camera lacks NFC. This means that it doesn’t support Samsung’s S-Beam which is a bit confusing given how much Samsung pushes it. Still, there’s WiFi direct support. It’s not the easiest feature to use but once you get it, it actually works quite well. Each picture only takes 2 or 3 seconds to transfer.
If you’re not close to a WiFi hotspot, the Camera also has a built-in HSPA modem. It doesn’t support AWS so you can’t really use it on Mobilicity, Wind or where T-Mobile hasn’t refarmed their PCS spectrum yet. The built-in HSPA allows the Camera unparalleled flexibility but in my opinion it should have just been an option. HSPA makes the Camera too expensive and I’m pretty sure anyone who would buy a Galaxy Camera has a phone which supports tethering anyways. While I hate tethering and think it’s very inconvenient, a built-in modem is just not worth the extra expense.
Still, the inclusion of a HSPA modem makes the Galaxy Camera an intriguing choice for businesses. Insurance adjusters could take pictures and then upload them immediately, that sort of thing. Then again, a Galaxy S III, iPhone 5 or Galaxy Note 2 may offer sufficient image quality for businesses.
There is All Share Cast support so if you own a really fancy Samsung TV or have an AllShare Cast dongle you can share the screen on the Camera wirelessly with it. From the demo’s I’ve seen AllShare cast, while cool, isn’t ready for prime-time. It was laggy and choppy if you’re viewing video.
If you want to share the screen, use the micro HDMI connector. I’m very annoyed that Samsung put the connector on the bottom instead of the side. Since it’s on the bottom you can put the camera down when you use it. Clearly, no one at Samsung has actually tried this feature. Note that you don't have to open the battery cover to access the connector. There's a tiny door that I wasn't able to photograph.
You’ll notice that the Camera has a 4.8” LCD display and not a Super AMOLED like the Galaxy S III. It’s not a big deal since generally speaking, LCD displays work better outdoors in bright sunlight anyways. The LCD also has a conventional pixel layout so it’s less grainy looking than the GS3’s screen anyways. It looks great with respectable viewing angles. The GS3 has superior black levels plus the screen looks like it’s painted on whereas the Camera’s screen looks like it’s sitting behind a window.
If you’re used to a camera phone, you’ll love how much flexibility the Galaxy’s zoom gives you. First off, at the wide end, it’s like a 23mm lens which is really wide. You can capture a lot of detail in close quarters with this.
wide angle: 23mm
It can zoom 21x which means it’s the equivalent of a 483mm at full telephoto.
At 483mm, it’s maximum aperture is f/5.9 (means the lens doesn’t let in much light). There is image stabilization, which helps a lot but even with it on, max zoom is only really usable outdoors during the day unless you have a tripod.
I like how the Camera tells you how much you're zoomed in.
When you’re hand holding it indoors and there isn’t a lot of light, you’re realistically limited to around 5x zoom.
The Galaxy focuses pretty quickly but I wish the shot-to-shot speeds were faster. Unless you enable burst mode, it takes a about a second to chew on each photo before you can take another.
I’m not crazy about the camera interface. I guess normally, I’m used to my cameras having control knobs and dials. The only separate buttons on the Camera are the zoom level, power button and camera shutter button. You have to adjust the settings using the touch-screen which is a less efficient.
Now when you take pictures, it’s always a good idea to hold onto the camera as securely as possible. When I do this with the Camera, I find I often touch the screen accidentally. Usually it just causes it to focus on the top right of the frame.
You can pop the flash out by pressing the flash button on the left side. Popping it out will not necessarily cause it to fire when you take a picture. You still need to make sure the flash is turned on. Enabling the flash requires you to tap the screen 3 times.
There is an option to automatically share pictures you've taken.
The on-screen menus are relatively straight forward. There aren't pages and pages of options.
When taking pictures there are Auto, Smart and Expert modes. Auto mode is what you use when you want the Camera to figure everything out for you. All you control is the zoom and the shutter button.
Smart modes are like the scene modes you get on other cameras: Macro, Action freeze, Rich tone, Panorama, Waterfall, Silhouette, Sunset, Night, Fireworks, Light trace, Beauty face, Best photo, Continuous shut, Best face and Landscape.
Macro mode allows you to capture an area that’s about 1.5” wide - not bad. Just to compare, the Galaxy S III in macro mode is able to capture an area about 2” wide - also pretty good.
The only problem with the Macro mode is that it locks the zoom near the wide end and so you have to get really, really close to capture such a small area. Then again, this is typical of most point and shoots so I don’t hold this against the Camera.
Fireworks mode stops the aperture down and holds the shutter open for a couple of seconds. You’ll need to use a tripod with this mode.
Panorama allows you to stitch up to 8 photos together. It only allows you to move in one horizontal direction. I didn't find it worked very well. I got better results with Sony's sweep panorama.
Action freeze raises the ISO and tries to use faster shutter speeds to help freeze action.
Continuous shot aka is burst mode. It takes pictures at 4 frames per second and allows you to capture up to 20 frames.
Expert mode allows you to access is the usual P A S M and movie modes. P is program mode which allows you to adjust the EV (exposure value) along with the ISO. A mode allows you to change these settings along with the aperture. S mode is like A mode but it allows you to adjust the shutter speed. M mode allows you to adjust all 4 settings.
While there is a movie mode, you can take videos from pretty much any mode using a separate on-screen movie button. The movie mode itself allows you to adjust the EV before you shoot a video. You can capture pictures and operate the zoom while shooting video (not all cameras allow you to do this).
Video is captured at 1920x1080 at 30fps. I like how there’s an option to slow down the zoom so that it makes less noise when you’re shooting video. That’s a smart idea.
Samsung Galaxy Camera
Samsung Galaxy S III
While the ISO goes up to 3200 in normal shooting it’s capped at ISO 800. If you want to go up to 3200 you’ll have to set it manually or use night mode. Here is a low light shot next to a Galaxy S III. Both shots are at ISO 800 though the GS3 uses a shutter speed of 1/15 while the Camera uses ⅛. Anyways, since the Camera can go up to ISO 3200 is better than the GS3 in this regard.
shot in a very bumpy moving vehicle
Image quality seems fine. I’m not setup to really test a camera nor do I own a point and shoot to compare with the Galaxy Camera. I’ll say this, the camera is much more capable than the Galaxy S III’s.
The image stabilization is a real boon for when you use the zoom and especially, when you’re shooting video.
Since the Galaxy Camera has a small point and shoot sized imaging sensor you won’t mistake it’s pictures with those taken with something with a bigger sensor. Pictures aren’t as clean looking.
So, while I’m not sure how good the Galaxy Camera is compared with other point and shoots, it’s image quality is better than a Smartphone and worse than an SLR.
There is a tripod mount but I’m a disappointed that it’s not centered on the camera sensor. This makes the Camera less useful for panoramas.
Now, when you turn the Galaxy on, it takes you straight to the camera mode. If you want to access Android, you have to hit the home button which is usually around the top left corner of the camera screen. In ‘Android mode’, the Camera supports both landscape and portrait modes.
Once you switch to ‘Android mode’, there are on-screen menu buttons like on many Nexus devices.
I was actually surprised that Samsung has taken very little out of the Galaxy Camera. The software looks and feels just like a Galaxy S III. At a glance, the dialer, text messaging app and various Samsung hubs are missing from the Camera.
Most of the cameras I’ve owned (besides the NEX-6), require you to take the battery out of the camera and charge it in a separate charger. I’ve always hate this idiotic setup. I love how the Camera allows you to charge it using a microUSB cable, just like you can on many phones. You never need to take the battery out unless you own 2 of them.
Powering the show is a quad-core Samsung Exynos processor that’s clocked at 1.6Ghz (the same one as the Note II. The Galaxy S III and Note II both come with 2GB of RAM so I was a little disappointed that the camera only comes with 1GB. However, after thinking about it, 1GB is about right. The Galaxy Camera is a camera and even though it runs Android, all of it’s use revolves around the camera functionality. So you don’t really need 2GB of RAM.
There is 8GB of storage built-in of which 4GB is available along with a MicroSD card slot.
Performance-wise, it’s up to the task of juggling the Camera’s 16mp images.
You get Android 4.1 AKA Jellybean. Frankly, it doesn't really matter that it ships with 4.1 and not 4.0. Android is just there to allow you to run apps and share your photos. Still, if you’re bored you can always put games on the Camera. With its powerful processor It should be able to run anything you throw at it.
Samsung includes some apps to let you edit your pictures and photos. Besides the editing tools built into the gallery application you also get Photo Wizard and Paper Artist. Since this is Android, you can also download your own photo editor like Snapseed.
To edit videos you can use the included ‘Video Editor’ app.
While you can setup your email, Facebook Messenger, Flickr, etc they should only be used to upload stuff to the clouds. Trust me, receiving new email/messages on your camera is really annoying. So try to only set up what you need.
Samsung includes a ‘Smart network’ feature which will disable the Camera’s WiFi and HSPA when the screen is off. This helps save battery life though it also means it goes crazy downloading emails, Facebook messages when you turn the screen on.
One thing that’s tough is that anyone with a Smartphone should protect it with a password or pattern unlock. The problem is that the security can get in the way when you want to take a picture quickly. So if you use the pattern unlock and want to take a picture, you press the power, then unlock the screen and then press the shutter button. It makes the Camera less spontaneous to use but it’s a necessary evil.
What is it worth?
The Camera is a very powerful and very cool device. But what does it cost? A Galaxy S III is around 600 bucks no contract. The Camera has half the amount of RAM and storage, a smaller battery and lacks NFC, LTE, a Super AMOLED display and most importantly, the ability to make calls using your carrier.
On the other it has the same quad-core processor as the Galaxy Note II. While most Android tablets have similar specifications as Smartphone, they usually cost less because they’re not able to make calls using your carrier. It’s a market segmentation thing but the ability to make calls can add a few $100 to a device. Let’s assume that there’s $375 worth of Smartphone left over.
I can’t say for certain which camera the Galaxy Camera is based on but based on the 16MP sensor and 24-483mm lens with image stabilization, it’s probably based on the Samsung WB850F which is currently on sale for 200 bucks at Futureshop. Of course the Camera lacks the 850’s 3” AMOLED display and battery. Looking more closely at the 850, I noticed that it has a Schneider Kreuznach lens while the Galaxy Camera’s is just a ‘Samsung Zoom Lens’. I have no idea if they’re the same lens or not but but leaving the Schneider brand name off of the Galaxy Camera probably saves Samsung a few dollars. My guess is there’s about $125 worth of camera left over.
So we have a $375 Smartphone mated with a $125 camera. Turns out the Galaxy Camera costs $600 so you're paying a $100 premium for the convenience of having them together.
So is it a good deal? That’s really hard to say. For around 600 bucks you can pick up an entry level SLR from Canon or Nikon which contains an imaging sensor that’s many times bigger than the Galaxy Camera, takes much better pictures and in general, is a much more focused picture taking device. On the other hand a SLR will lack Android. Uploading your photos requires many more steps.
I was also going to compare the Galaxy Camera with a Galaxy Nexus but they’re purpose is just too different. Just like my SLR comparison.
The Galaxy Camera isn’t cheap but consider that the Galaxy Camera is a first generation device and it’s priced like one. I expect subsequent versions will be cheaper.
Besides the high price, here’s the worst thing about the Galaxy Camera. If you don’t use it for awhile, it will shut itself off. It’s the equivalent of pressing and holding the power on an Android phone and then telling it to shut off instead of just shutting off the screen. When this happens the Camera takes a full 30 seconds from pressing the power button to it powering on and you being able to take a picture.
I don’t know about you, but even though I own a dedicated camera I don’t use it every single day because I still use my camera phones a lot. So my dedicated camera can sometimes go unused for a while. So, while I understand why it takes this long to turn on it’s still inexcusable that it takes this long to turn on. In 30 seconds, you may lose your shot.
Still, if you use it regularly then it’s ready to take a picture in about 2 or 3 seconds which is normal.
In the end, the Galaxy Camera is a very interesting device. If someone's showing off their camera you can ask them if it's able to run Angry Birds. Still, I’m a little disappointed that Samsung choose to stick it on a point and shoot. They should have stuck it on one of their NX series mirrorless cameras. To me, that would have been a no-brainer. Imagine putting together the flexibility of a connected device with the flexibility of a camera system with interchangeable lenses.
That would be a match made in heaven and a tremendous advantage Samsung has over it’s competitors. After all, if you were looking for a Camera with Android, would you want one from Canon or Nikon or Panasonic? No, intuitively you’d think Samsung would do the best job or maybe Sony. Samsung is the undisputed leader in Android though Sony’s imaging pedigree is ahead of Samsung’s.
While there’s nothing really wrong with the Galaxy Camera I’d hold off till Samsung marries Android with one of their NX series cameras. It just seems like a better fit. Don’t forget, while Android adds a lot of flexibility, it also adds some caveats like the long boot times.
- It’s a camera with Android!
- 23mm wide angle
- 483mm telephoto
- image stabilization
- can take a long time to turn on
- Screen gets in the way when gripping the camera
- lens is slow at full telephoto
Last edited by howard; 01-05-2013 at 02:52 PM.
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Thanks for the review.
I am wondering if the battery life is ok because it has a big screen, mobile connectivity and the battery size seems to be small.
HC - NO "i"
I am NOT "the" HC, we are TWO different individuals!
"If we amplify everything, we hear nothing!" - Jon Stewart, Comedian
its Frankenstein and $550 is awfully expensive. Serious photographers have even better equipment and there are already ways to transfer pics to a phone if you needed to. My phone plus my better camera is still smaller than this brick. I'll pass. I'm sure Verizon also extorts a substantial premium to let you use it as well. Most of us aren't dripping cash.
Interesting article and I think it's definitely an area to pay attention to... There are a few top-notch famous photographers (Leibovitz comes to mind) that have said the iPhone is the best camera ever and this is coming from someone who makes a living from the big studio setups and $30k+ cameras. It's worth noting that the culture is more more focused on the content of the photo and will tolerate something that's unbalanced in exposure or not quite super-sharp in focus -- to get a glimpse of something shocking or unique. Maybe it's the paparazzi generation but if you think about the TB (probably petabytes) of images there are floating in the cloud, anybody that can automate a way to sort things out would be a saint.
That being said as an avid Canon guy, I won't be ditching my SLR gear for a long long time.
The reason why the iPhone (or any other fancy camera phone) is the best phone ever is because the best camera is the one you have with you.
As for the content I agree. Portraits are boring. Someone said that 'Perfection is boring". I think the best pictures are candids that tell a story. I have some fancy camera equipment which I do use but I also use a lot of my camera phone pictures because camera phones are usually capable of capturing a moment.
Anyways, I'm not sure where the Galaxy camera falls. I don't see it as something I'd always have with me. So in that sense, it's no better than my 'dumb cameras' - my canon and m43 gear.
Can Samsung not think of any name other than "Galaxy" for their products anymore? Geez! Anyway, it looks like a fantastic idea, and the numerous options for uploading is a terrific idea. One question, it supports HSPA so does that mean there is a slot for a SIM card or does it access the network independent of needing a cellular account? (sorry if you addressed this already, I obviously missed it if you had) And did you notice anything in the literature about the maximum size of memory card you can use?
There is a MicroSIM card slot next to the MicroSD and battery.
As for the size I've noticed that Android 4.0 and up supports exFAT so it probably supports 64GB MicroSD cards.
As for the Galaxy I think it's appropriate. It's a Galaxy device with a camera.
Very very neat idea. Take a picture & share it instantly to my TV via DLNA. This would be a great hit at house parties!
You lost me at 30 second boot time. There's very little chance of capturing those candid moments with a boot time that long. Sounds interesting other than that, but I'll pass.
It would be lucky for Samsung if they could sell 10,000 pieces of this thing. Who would set up a data plan just for a stupid camera?
I think what Samsung needs is a camera that will automatically upload every picture to your phone via WiFi direct.
You turn the camera on, take pictures and while it's doing it's thing being a camera it's also looking for your phone and then automatically uploading the pictures. After all, most people leave WiFi on, on their phones anyways.
Once you've setup WiFi direct the first time it's all automated. This would probably be a better, cheaper, more efficient way to do it. If Samsung wanted to simplify it they can make it so you can also set this up via NFC.
Beautiful...Nice work from samsung!
Neat camera but why did they take out the phone. I'd be interested it this were the best camera/phone on the market.
very sharp camera,very interesting