Samsung Galaxy Camera in focus

The Samsung Galaxy Camera is an interesting product. It’s not a particularly revolutionary device, by which I mean, its not going to claim first to market on its head line features. It is not the first Android powered pure camera (Nikon holds that title) and its also not the first pure camera with wifi/wireless data connectivity. Even Samsung has several models in its stable with wifi connectivity. It is probably the first camera to feature 3G/4G connectivity on board, but phone cameras have been doing that for years. There are also plenty of cameras on the market with GPS sensors onboard.

What the Galaxy Camera does have is a compelling mix of features. Android as an Operating System has a pretty powerful set of applications for image editing, such as Photoshop Touch. Samsung already has experience in this arena, Photoshop Touch is one of the pre-loaded apps on the Galaxy Note 10, which is a pretty formidable mobile editing platform with its 10 inch screen and S-Pen, which has Wacom technology.

Galaxy Camera Editing

The device on the Hardware side is pretty much equivalent to the Galaxy SIII, using the same screens, CPUs and graphics processors. What this means in real world terms, is that any software development on the SIII (currently Samsung’s flagship, so commanding the maximum support from Samsung’s development resources) will technically be portable to the Camera with little effort. So it should be in line for updates right at the top of the tree. It beats the Nikon S800C Android camera in having Android 4 on board as shipped, compared to the Nikon’s 2.3 Gingerbread flavour.

On the Camera side, the sensor used is larger than a standard phone camera sensor, the lens is pretty decent with a f2.8 aperture at its widest, and covering a zoom range that covers the 35mm equivalent of 23mm to well over 400mm. This is a lot more than what was classed as superzoom compacts just a few short years ago. (Not currently, Canon’s current superzoom is a 50x zoom, 24-1200mm equivalent). The camera controls offer a decent amount of manual control. It has some innovative smart modes which will makes things easier for photo enthusiasts who want a certain effect, but don’t know manual controls get that effect manually.

Along with the good, there is a couple of bad. First up, lag. Rather than a snappy response, the camera app is reported to be a bit on the slow side. Now, this might be no worse than many of the current crop of point and shoot cameras, but this is what we have from the reviews. The other issue is the small battery. The battery is a rather small 1650mAh unit, quite a bit smaller than the battery on the Galaxy SIII phone. The battery is rated for 350 shots. Not too impressive by DSLR standards, but 300-400 shots is pretty normal for point and shoots. However, this camera also uses GPS, has a data transmission capability that, as experience with camera phones has shown, can kill a battery pretty quickly. Also, that big touchscreen can be used for things other than just as a viewfinder for taking pictures. It can be used for editing the pictures that have just been taken, and image manipulation is a rather processor intensive task, which in turn, drains battery.

But this is not just a picture and video tool, but a fully fledged Android device. Using Google Maps to find your way to what you are shooting, checking in with Latitude /Foursquare/Facebook, and then killing some time with Angry Birds, or watching a movie or listening to some music, there are many ways this camera can drain this small battery very y quickly.

Samsung Galaxy Sharing

On the pure camera front. the Galaxy Camera is equipped with a 16mp sensor. All well and good, but don’t expect this to be replacing a DSLR any time soon. As is typical from a high megapixel, tiny sensor camera, viewing images at 100% is pretty dismal. However,checking things out on the LCD, things look good, and for smaller images and just sharing online, it seems great.

And this really is the whole point of this device. Its not a professional’s tool, its a social tool. Why choose it over a regular smartphone? Well, the zoom range and pop up flash is much, much better than any smartphone. And with that comes the opportunity to get more done than with a smartphone. It is a trade off between the money you spend and the money you can earn. There are people that do live blogging and live video streams using iPhones, and this device can aim right at that market segment. As a bonus, you don’t use up your phone battery, so you can still keep in contact with people.

But do what, exactly? These things don’t come cheap. Costing over $600, it comes in at about the same price point as a base level SLR. So the trade off for losing the image quality is the ability to post instagrammed pictures on facebook immediately? Not to mention the system is pretty much stuck in a WYSIWYG mode. There aren’t any more extensions like you would have with an SLR, no external flashes, no filter systems, nothing like that. Like I said, this is not a professional’s tool, although it can be used to provide some services in certain situations.

In my last article, I looked into the CameraMator system. On the surface, it does seem to offer similar functionality, but it means adding a $300 price tag on top of the cost of a DSLR and accessories. However, its not just about sharing pictures on FB when looking at business opportunities. With something like the Galaxy Camera, simple social media is where it stops. With a DSLR, you can add a immediate high quality printing service. Follow up prints, blown up pictures. RAW control. External lights. Professional tools simply allow you to do more, and do it faster.

So in summary, the big question is, why should you get one? Why indeed? The thing is, it depends as much on your personality as it does on your requirements. As it currently stands, I would have bought one, since it does suit my requirements, but, not at this price point. For me, its too much money for what I am getting, so this generation, I’ll give it a pass. However, it is a segment that I would keep a close eye on for future developments.


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Preveen Rodrigo

Part time photographer, full time geek.

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