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Review: Samsung Galaxy Camera

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The Samsung Galaxy Camera isn’t the first of its kind, but it’s undoubtedly the most well known Android Camera to date.  The big question is, is an Android camera necessary?  Or is it more gimmick than anything else?  Well I’ll let you know what I think in the review below.

SPECS:

  • 4.8″ 720×1280 Resolution Super Clear LCD
  • 1.4 GHz Quad-Core Exynos Processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 8GB Internal Storage
  • Micro-SD Card Slot
  • 16.3MP Camera with 21x Optical Zoom
  • 3G Quad-Band (850/900/1900/2100)
  • Android 4.1

IN THE BOX:

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Samsung created a nice and compact box to house this little gem.  Inside the box you’ll immediately be greeted by the Samsung Galaxy Camera.  Underneath the camera you’ll find a user manual, a micro-USB to USB cord, a charger, and nice white strap that you can attach to your camera.

DESIGN:

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The overall design of the camera is very simplistic.  The front is dominated by the giant lens  and on the back of the device you have the beautiful 4.8″ display.  The right side has a slight bump on the front which makes the device easier to hold with one hand while the right edge houses a 3.5mm headphone jack, the micro-USB port which is hidden behind a little flap, and a spot to attach the camera strap.  On the left side you have your speaker and a small button that pops up the flash.  The flash is found on the top of the device along with the power button, shutter button, and zooming dial which doubles as your volume control.  On the bottom you have a spot to attach the camera to a tripod as well as a flap to access your battery, micro-SD card slot, and micro SIM card slot.

All in all, the camera feels good in the hand.  It may feel a tad on the heavy side but it’s not so heavy that you’d get tired holding it.  The bump on the right side definitely helps in holding the device and you can tell that Samsung put some good thought behind that ergonomic addition.  Material wise the Galaxy camera is made of a mix of plastics and metals so it has a premium-ish look and feel.  It should also be noted that there is no view-finder on this camera so you are fully dependant on the screen for taking pictures and videos.

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SOFTWARE:

The software is definitely where things get interesting with this device and here’s what I mean by that.  A question arises as soon as you start using the camera: Is this a camera that happens to have Android attached to it?  Or is it an Android device with a really good camera?  In my opinion it is definitely the latter.  When you power on the camera, you are met with a very familiar experience, an experience that many of us have come to love, an Android experience.  It’s honestly feels like you’re just using another Android phone.  You can download apps, customize your screen, and do everything we’re used to doing on our Android devices.

The Galaxy Camera runs a slightly modified version of TouchWiz that runs atop of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.  The fact that Jelly Bean is running the show is great news as it makes the overall experience very smooth and very fluid.  The interface, as I said, is nearly identical to what you’d find on any of the new Samsung phones.  You have your home pages that can be customized with widgets and short cuts and then you have your app drawer for all your apps and widgets.  The main differences in this version of TouchWiz are the on screen buttons, the dedicated camera short cut that always sits at the bottom left of the screen when on the home screen, and the ability for TouchWiz to go into landscape mode.

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PERFORMANCE:

The hardware on the Galaxy Camera is nearly identical to the hardware on my Galaxy Note II so I expected the device to perform relatively similar.  As I stated, the overall experience was very fluid and things loaded quickly; however, I did notice bits of lag here and there when navigating through the phone or opening applications.  By no means am I saying that this a slow device, but I simply expected an equal experience to my Galaxy Note II given the similar specs.  I suppose the 1GB of RAM versus the 2GB could have something to do with this but it could also just be tied to software which can easily be rectified with software updates.

I did also put the camera through the usual benchmarks so you can check out those scores below.  Overall it performs well and scores are generally just below the top tier devices.

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CAMERA:

Despite the Android-ness of this device, it is ultimately a camera and is being marketed as a camera, so how does it perform as a camera?  Well to begin with lets talk about the camera interface.  The dedicated camera application created by Samsung is well done and is relatively easy to navigate.  As you can see in the first screen shot below, the interface is clean and uncluttered.  The camera and camcorder buttons simply activate the different modes.  The gear on the top opens up some settings to change things such picture or video quality and smart shooting options (ie. using your voice to take the picture).  You can also set slow-motion mode for the camcorder through there as well.  The bottom arrow accesses the different pre-programmed filters to make your pictures a bit more artsy.  Here’s a list of the filters: Vintage, Black & White, Autumn Brown, Negative, Nostalgia, Color Fade, Retro, Sunshine, Old Photo, Comic, Pastel Sketch, Gothic Noir, Impressionist.

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When you click on the Mode button it gives you three shooting mode options: Auto, Smart, and Expert.  Auto is pretty self explanatory so I won’t get into that one at all.  In Smart Mode you are given various preprogrammed shooting modes to choose from.  Here’s the full list of Smart Modes: Beauty face, Best photo, Continuous shot, Best face, Landscape, Macro, Action freeze, Rich tone, Panorama, Waterfall, Silhouette, Sunset, Night, Fireworks, Light trace.  Each mode adjusts the settings to optimize a particular shot.  Of course it still requires a  still hand (or as they suggest, a tripod) to get the desire effect with many of these Modes but it’s a great option for casual photographers to get better pictures.

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In Expert Controls you can really fine tune your camera settings before taking the picture.  There are 5 different areas that you can adjust: P (Auto+), A (Focus Range), S (Speed Priority),M (Manual), Manual Camcorder.  I don’t claim to be any sort of a expert photographer so a lot of these settings went over my head.  However I did pass this camera off to a few different people who are much more adept at photography than myself and all were very impressed with the level of adjustments that could be made in the Expert Mode.  Of course it’s not on the level of a DSLR or anything of the sort, but for a point and shoot style camera they all stated that it was above average.

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Overall I found the picture quality to be very good.  In all sorts of different lighting situations pictures came out clear and colours were relatively accurate.  The flash worked great lighting up a pitch black room to take a solid quality picture.  Again, I’m no picture expert but I had no issues with the pictures that were being churned out.

One cool thing that this camera can do that other point and shoots can’t is utilize other camera applications.  The Google Play store is loaded with quality camera applications that each have their own unique features and because this device runs Android you have access to all of those.  Many of these apps don’t utilize the zoom properly, and there’s a good chance that they never will since further coding would be necessary, but having all those options is definitely a plus.  And since the camera is very good, you get high quality pictures (generally better than you would on your phone) with some cool twists.

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CONCLUSION:

Now I started this review with a question: “is an Android camera necessary?”  My answer is a resounding…maybe.  I know that’s a terribly lame answer but I feel it’s the best answer I can give.  In addition to having access to various camera applications, the other biggest advantage this camera has over other point and shoots is the ease in which it can share content.  After taking a picture I can easily upload to any number of places with a couple clicks.  No point and shoot on the market can do that.  Some can upload to specific locations but not nearly as many as an Android device can.  So for those who have a compulsive need to post their photos to Instragram and Facebook and store them on DropBox and Google Drive, this is a great device you.  It will definitely outshine the camera on your phone while giving you all the flexibility and customization that your Android phone can offer you.

For someone who’s just looking for a point and shoot camera to capture some pictures here and there this camera probably has way more than you need.  And given that it comes with a $600 price tag it’s definitely not for everybody.  I do find the price a little high but given that it share the same internals as a top tier smartphone it kind of makes sense.  But when you start comparing it to other point and shoots it seems rather pricey.

I think if the price of Android cameras were to come down (and there’s a good chance they will with others reportedly on the way), they may become more mainstream.  But for the time being it’s a niche product for a niche market.  It’s not that it’s not a great device, it’s just not the device for everyone.

Big thanks to the Samsung Team for lending me the device to try out!

  • http://www.iphoneincanada.ca Gary

    Awesome review. Not sure about putting Android on a camera though.

    • Tim Gee

      Ultimately I think it can help enhance the point and shoot cameras but to me the price isn’t right yet. But I fuly expect a price war to evolve similar to what happened with tablets

  • jj_diner

    Thanks, this article has demonstrated that even mediocre writers can become product reviewers and has inspired me to create a tech blog.