Thanks to the 4.8in screen that dominates the back of the device, the Galaxy is by no means a small camera. Add to this the 21x optical zoom on the front and the Galaxy Camera and it all adds up to a fairly chunky device, even when compared against other travel compacts with similarly sized optics. The handgrip is reasonably sized though, which allows you to get a fairly secure grip of the camera – at least when shooting in landscape orientation. Shooting in portrait mode can be a little trickier though – holding the camera with the grip at the bottom doesn’t feel particularly comfortable, while holding it with the grip at the top makes the whole package feel a little top-heavy.
The Galaxy Camera’s touch-screen renders the need for physical buttons pretty much obsolete, and indeed the only other button aside from the integrated shutter release and zoom control and the main on/off button is a small button on the side of the camera that’s used to raise the pop-up flash. Given how the Galaxy Camera is part camera and part mobile device these buttons actually serve dual purposes; for example, the zoom lever also acts as a volume control, while the power button not only activates the camera, but also puts it in to locked mode.
Aside from these three physical buttons everything else is controlled via the 4.8in touch-screen. While we rather like the minimalist look this approach results in, we can’t but help feel that Samsung may have missed a trick in not bestowing the lens ring with its proprietary ‘i-Function’ technology. For those not familiar with other Samsung cameras, this is essentially a customisable button that acts in combination with a control wheel around the lens to allow direct user control of a range of camera settings such as aperture, shutter speed or even ISO. Hopefully Samsung will see fit to include it with any future updates to the Galaxy Camera.
At 4.8in the Galaxy Camera’s display is the same size as the Galaxy S3 smartphone’s and, on the whole, offers the same high level of performance. While some touch-screens have disappointed in the past year or so since they first started to appear on cameras, the Galaxy Camera’s capacitive touchscreen proves highly responsive and accurate to your various finger jabs and commands.
In addition to controlling all of the various apps (photographic and otherwise) the touch-screen also provides the operational control for the camera itself. In addition to controlling all the regular shooting settings and menu navigation, the screen also allows you to use Touch Focus control, whereby you can select a point of focus simply by jabbing the screen in the appropriate place. Touch Shutter takes this one step further by automatically activating the shutter once focus has been set, making it a handy alternative to the shutter button on the top plate.
While the Galaxy Camera’s Android operating system provides plenty of flexibility, there is a slight downside to having a 4.8in capacitive touchscreen, GPS, 3G and Wi-Fi all on board – rapid battery drain. Of course, you can choose to switch off the various functions, however if you really want to use the Galaxy Camera to its full potential and take advantage of all the integrated technologies then a spare battery might well be worth considering as the camera will drain battery power with the same intensity of a regularly used smartphone. Thankfully the Galaxy Camera takes the same battery as the Galaxy S2 smartphone, so spare batteries are both affordable and readily available.
On the plus side, however, the ability to use mobile apps on a camera can be really quite useful. For example, while out testing the Galaxy Camera in central London, we were able to navigate using Google Maps, before editing images with the Photo Wizard and Adobe Photoshop Express apps and then uploading our images directly to Facebook via the official FB app. As mentioned above though, using all these apps one after the other is pretty taxing on the battery and we only managed around four or five hours of shooting before we were running on empty.
In terms of operational speed the Galaxy Camera is reasonably quick, no doubt thanks to the 1.4Ghz quad-core processor that’s employed to power everything along. Start-up time extends to only a few seconds and, once up and running, shot-to-shot speeds are pretty reasonable too.