Review Price £399.00
Samsung Galaxy Camera preview
The Samsung Galaxy name has become one of the most desirable in the world of phones, down in no small part to the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Samsung Galaxy S2. But now the series is branching out. The Samsung Galaxy Camera runs Android like its series brothers, but is – you guessed it – a camera rather than a phone.
This isn’t the first Galaxy series device that’s not a phone, as there have been several Galaxy media players, including the Samsung Galaxy S Wi-Fi 4.2, but this is probably the series’ oddest deviation since its inception. But does it deserve ridicule, or is it a brave stab into new territory? We got some hands-on time with the Samsung Galaxy Camera to find out.
The first impression this Android camera left with us is that it is large. Its styling is that of a compact camera, but its size is closer to a compact system camera, which often offer photo quality comparable to entry-level DSLRs. Can the Samsung Galaxy Camera hope to compete on this front? We’ve not yet had a chance to properly scrutinise its snaps, but we’d guess not.
The design marks it out as unusual from the start, but it feels pretty good in-hand. It’s light, and there’s a rubberised handgrip that makes it less slippery than the average compact camera.
However, the Samsung Galaxy Camera feels like a device that’s concerned more with making photography fun and accessible than producing shots that the pros would be proud of. That’s not to say it won’t absolutely wipe the floor with every other Android phone camera, ever. For one, its baseline photographic specs are respectable.
Featuring a 16.3-megapixel CMOS sensor, the Samsung Galaxy Camera adds a 100-3200 ISO range and – most importantly – a giant 21x optical zoom. One of the most serious roadblocks of the versatility of Android camera phones is that they never feature optical zooms. None released in the UK do, at any rate. Digital zooms largely just stretch images, rather than revealing new close-up detail. The Samsung Galaxy Camera is, in short, a proper camera.
However, it’s set to be remembered, and defined in part by the huge screen on its back. This 4.77-inch LCD display both acts as a standard preview screen for any photos you’re taking, and as a portal to the Android OS at the Samsung Galaxy Camera’s core. Sporting version Jelly Bean 4.1, this latest Galaxy is bang up to date. And while plenty of optimisations have been made to the inbuilt camera app, most of the functionality of other Android devices is here.
You can download apps from the Google Play Store, including things like Angry Birds Space. And who hasn’t wished they could play some games on their digital camera. Of course, we’re being glib, but are any of you wondering whether the relative freedom of Android might seem like overkill in what’s essentially a compact camera?
However, these smartphone skills will come into their own once hooked up with Wi-Fi and 3G. The Samsung Galaxy Camera also featured LTE 4G, but, as this isn’t currently available in the UK, it’s a bit pointless. Using 3G, you’ll be able to upload your snaps to social networks like Twitter and Facebook, or to cloud storage, wherever you are.
To use mobile internet, you’ll need to consider data charges, given how quickly photo uploading will eat them up, but this camera merges the immediacy of smartphone snapping with dedicated camera quality in exciting fashion. The Samsung Galaxy Camera also features GPS, to let the snapper associate each picture with a location.
The benefits of Android don’t stop here, either. With a slick capacitive touchscreen and a fairly nippy 1.4GHz quad-core processor, control over the camera itself feels pretty great - also down to the humungous control interface that is the 4.77-inch display.
The Samsung Galaxy Camera offers three main modes, each tailored for a different sort of user. There’s the full auto mode for those who want to fire and forget. There’s the Smart Pro mode, which lets you pick from a selection of modes intended for different situations – a mix of traditional scene modes and slightly different things such as “Blue Sky” and “Natural Greens”, designed for sky-heavy and greenery-heavy photos respectively. Both of these are obviously for beginners or younger folk.
There is also a full manual mode, which separates each aspect of the camera’s configuration into a flick wheel – aperture and so on. It may feel a little visually overbaked compared to styles of more traditional cameras, but it does supply quick and visually accessible control over what the Galaxy Camera’s up to. We’ll have to wait for the image quality results to see whether this snapper is really worth bothering with for real photography fans.
The Samsung Galaxy Camera is also capable of capturing video, at up to 1080p resolution. Just like its stills capabilities, the lens and optical zoom should make it a more capable video camera than just about any Android device. It can also harvest high-speed 120fps video for fast-moving scenes, such as those of extreme sports. However, this is only really useful for fun purposes, as video is limited to 720 x 480 pixels at this setting.
We don’t doubt that the Samsung Galaxy Camera will be one of the most fun snappers around, but it’s hard to judge whether it’s worth a closer look for enthusiasts without knowing how much it’ll cost. It doesn’t strike us as the sort of device that would come cheap, and we have doubts as to whether it’ll be able to remotely compete with “normal” cameras at the same price. Destined for the curiosity bin? Perhaps, but we can’t wait to fully assess whether its pics are any good.
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