As I have mentioned before, nobody needs Android on a camera, but it’s a nice idea. One that nobody has managed to crack successfully yet. Or, at least, that is until Samsung threw the Galaxy Camera at the problem.
What Is It?
That’s an excellent question.
The best thing about the Galaxy Camera is that you can look at it in a few different ways. Firstly, it’s a Samsung camera with Android 4.1 on it. That’s the simplest way. Secondly, it’s a Samsung tablet with a crackingly good camera. Finally, it’s a Galaxy smartphone with a camera designed to beat the pants off anything named “Lumia”. The last one’s a bit of a problem because the Galaxy Camera can’t actually make calls, but with some doing I’m sure you could manage it.
However you look at it, it’s a 16.3-megapixel camera wrapped around a 1.4GHz quad-core complete with 1GB of RAM, a 4.8-inch touchscreen (1280×720), 8GB of built-in storage that expands via microSD card to 64GB, all running on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. It also takes a microSIM card for sharing all those photos and videos you take.
That spec list makes it more powerful and more modern than all of the phones Samsung actually makes (bar one, really).
All this power and pretty will set you back $599, or you can get it on a plan from Optus and Telechoice (pricing coming soon).
No matter how you look at the Galaxy Camera, under the hood, it’s still meant to be used primarily as a camera. When you use in that context, you get some great results. Images are sharp and colours are crisp. They aren’t of the quality that would trounce a DSLR or anything like that, rather they’re what you’d expect from a compact camera.
Android on a camera is an interesting proposition, and it’s one that Samsung has pulled off with the Galaxy Camera. Samsung already makes great Android phones and nice cameras, so it’s certainly qualified to put the two together.
Sharing from the camera is made even easier with the addition of a MicroSIM card which will let you Facebook, Instagram or tweet all the things even when you’re not in Wi-Fi range.
Android 4.1 on the Galaxy Camera is fast thanks to the top-notch specs and smooth thanks to Project Butter. This is how Android on a camera ought to be done.
Another stand-out feature of the Galaxy Camera is the 21x zoom. It’s a combination of digital and optical zoom features which, when extended to the long end of the lens, doesn’t look awful. Paired with the Galaxy Camera’s awesome image stabilisation, you’re able to get great images from a bloody long way away.
Finally, the three modes are great at catering to all skill sets. Don’t know anything about photography? Great. The auto mode is for you. Want to take a panorama? Smart mode has what you need, and so on.
Because it’s essentially an Android tablet, the Galaxy Camera takes an unfeasibly long time to boot before your first shot. Our times ranged between 18 seconds and 20 seconds from fully switched off to first shot. That means you’ll probably lose a few precious moments before you get your camera turned on.
The Galaxy Camera by default lives in standby mode. When you tap the power button, it puts it to sleep rather than switching it off completely. That reduces time to first shot to just few seconds which is much better, but living in standby mode will eat your precious battery power.
The only other issues are minor: it’s a little heavy, it only takes a microSD card and the focus can be a little ropey when you’re all the way at the long end of the lens.
The Galaxy Camera is excellent, but it’s let down by its sub-par battery.
It runs the same battery as the Galaxy S II, meaning that it’s a 1650mAh. On a Galaxy S II, you’ll get almost 9 hours of 3G talk time. Because the Galaxy Camera has hungrier internals, a Wi-Fi antenna and a 3G antenna to run, the battery time is appalling. Like less than half-day appalling. It’ll do you fine for a night out on the town, for example, but for a whole day of shooting, you’ll need to charge half-way through.
You can probably pick yourself up a few spare Galaxy S II batteries to carry around if you want to shoot all day, but you shouldn’t have to.
Should You Buy It?
If you want Android on your camera that doesn’t let you down, the Galaxy Camera is for you. Unlike some devices, the Galaxy Camera is the best case scenario of camera-based Android.
I still don’t see a compelling reason to have Android on a camera, but if it’s a must for you, then the Galaxy Camera is a device you’ll want. Just make sure to pick up a few extra batteries when you buy it.
Stay tuned for our full gallery of photos taken with the Galaxy Camera.