Samsung Galaxy Camera Review: Best Case Scenario

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 (1280x720), 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).

What's Good?

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.

What's Bad?

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.

Fatal Flaw

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.


Comments

    One other catch; outside the default camera app, support for the zoom is patchy at best; a lot of camera apps seem to think the zoom controls are in fact volume....

    I think this is one of those gadgets that show Samsung has some amazing technical innovators in their midst. What it also shows is that Samsung still has some poor live product testers and engineers that think half a day's battery life is acceptable.

    They could've executed this a little better and smashed the market. This camera is an excellent idea, excellent features and has incredible promise. Again, just short of missing its mark. It seems like theres one too many bean counters at Samsung that are all too happy to count the costs of production and limit what could be innovation at its highest level.

    saw this at Parramatta Westfield at their pop-up shop. Looks awesome and i was surprised how big it was! Maybe hold off on the next iteration.. i'd love a smaller version of this with a galaxy note 2 battery :)

    "Our times ranged between 18 seconds and 20 seconds from fully switched off to first shot": That + the poor battery life will make this curious device a not so preferred device to purchase.

    I'm guessing the best way to use this would be Turn it on, wonder around and take photos while in stand by mode and then only turn it off when you're done taking photos and ready to move on. The Android camera thing is something that I've thought about as an advantage, mainly about quickly publishing photos and sharing but for the price they'll probably be I'll get a beefier camera without android.

      I was thinking the same thing. If i'm going to use my DSLR, then it's around my neck and switched on. Same thing with this. It would be just like leaving the phone in standby mode. crap battery? $10 aftermarket batteries as spares will do the trick and don't cost a packet. I would have liked to see interchangable lenses. Then you'd get comparative quality pics to a DSLR without all the extras like shutter speed etc.....

    Fatal flaw #2: The camera menu is crippled and unusable (switching from camera to video mode makes the whole interface dis- and reappear which takes about 1-2 secs), and the integration with camera apps is poor. Furthermore the lens aperture starts at 2.8 ... For this price absolutely no value

    This is frankly ridiculous. You may as well slap a massive-ass camera on an iP5 or GS3 and take away the phone-call ability. Other than professional photographers, who needs a 16 megapixel camera on a device like this anyway? I know i sure don't, and I'm pretty sure any respectable photographer would have a DSLR anyway.

      What's ridiculous? It's a point and shoot camera with the ability to edit its own photos. Seems like the best of all worlds to me. I can only hope this trend continues.
      It's a camera, not a phone. It borrows the touchscreen computer aspect from the G3, not it's phone guff. It's a logical step for a digital camera.

      I don't dislike the idea, but having to choose between a power draining standby mode or a 20 second start up kills it for me. Everyone has a smart phone that they likely charge every night, so if they are also going to carry a camera about it has to really nail the camera bit. Slow startups are the sort of thing that would make reaching for the phone more convenient.

      I think it's just an implementation issue.

      Last edited 28/11/12 8:38 pm

    18 to 20 seconds from cold start, and several seconds from warm start to take a photo? You must be kidding, anybody who'd put up with the complete fail of that obviously never takes photos, or perhaps they are a specialist photographer of slugs, sloths, lichens, rocks and other fast moving objects.

    I have got this camera and I think it is excellent. The battery is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be, especially if you disable 3g. I don't feel there is a need to keep 3g on since I can just use my wifi when I get home.

    The ability to share your photos and transfer them easily is a great idea. I use this camera with Wifi Trasfer (the app) to copy my photos across to the computer.

    The zoom is incredible and the quality is good as well. However, for the really serious photographer there are better cameras to be had at this price such as the canon g15. I have both but can forsee myself using the samsung more though because of its design, zoom , operating system and sharing capabilities.

      Well said George. Agree on most points but the ergonomics, in camera edit and speed to share of the Galaxy is hard to beat. If I want super quality that RAW brings, I would be investing in a DSLR at thee times the price, an Adobe editing suite and a powerful portable. Oh, I forgot the backpack, tripod, suitable flash and extra lenses. Life is full of compromise.

    Does it have a mic & speaker? If so why can't the phone app from a SGII or similar be installed to turn it into a phone?

    If it doesn't make Voice Calls and Video Calls then I don't want it...

    I've been working with one for about three weeks now. It is a good compromise between the power of a DSLR that frightens subjects when doing street photography and the poor optics and pixel count of even the best of the smart phone offerings. I can live with the poor battery performance and startup time. And the built in camera app is about as good as, if not better than most of the third party apps available. It sets the bar high.
    But what I cannot abide about the package is that Samsung continues to bake in a flock of its own and preferred apps taking up valuable space and reducing choice in my editing tools. I never use S-Planner or Gamehub and if I did, it would be on my smartphone not my camera/photoeditor/uploaded. If I want to use Instagraph I can download it in seconds, it did not have to be a useless permanence. As it stands I can't load a time lapse app and an antivirus suite without losing my ability to do instant upload to Google+. Samsung, don't kid yourself, the plain vanilla Android OS is much better because it allows the true strengths of the camera to show through. The Galaxy Camera is an exciting departure and does not need the smartphone baggage.

    I feel like I need to disagree with the comment regarding battery life. I bought this camera 2 weeks ago for my trip to Japan. I used it heavily and found myself charging it every 2 to 3 days.

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