DigitalCameraReview.com
Samsung Galaxy Camera Review
by Laura Hicks -  12/6/2012

The Samsung Galaxy Camera can be called nothing less than a showstopper. From the crisp, white exterior to the huge 4.77-inch Super Clear Touch Display this camera has the looks of a supermodel and the brains of an engineer. The intuitive nature of the Samsung Galaxy allowed me to take my first image within a minute of opening the box. Samsung 's innovative smartphone/camera hybrid is sure to be the most coveted digital camera this holiday season. But with a $500 price tag and, if chosen, a reoccurring data package, will the Samsung Galaxy have what it takes to win your heart?

Overview

Samsung breaks new ground with their latest innovation to camera technology -- The Samsung Galaxy Camera. This camera is the first to offer total connectivity via an available data plan. Complete with an Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system, this device is far more than a point and shoot camera. The Galaxy has created a class all its own - a hybrid breed combining the best features of a camera and a tablet. Welcome -- the camlet.

Wi-Fi enabled cameras are not new, in fact, they have been around since 2005. And Samsung might not have been the first to popularize this technology, but they undoubtedly have created a product that is sure to please the social media fanatic. Based on specs alone, the Galaxy Camera soars to the top of the point and shoot genre. But good specs only paint part of the picture. The true sign of a great camera is in the ergonomics, the speed and the image quality. Does the camera do what you want it to do? Is it fun? Does it make you want to take pictures?

But to judge the Galaxy solely as a camera is missing half the picture. The Galaxy Camera is powered by a 1.4GHz Quad-core processor.  It reacts quickly to the touch or swipe of a finger. The simplicity of the user interface in unmatched at this time. The camera's intuitive functionality is observed while viewing the gallery, surfing the web or searching for apps. Once set-up, the Galaxy can automatically save your images to the Cloud Back-up feature. In addition, the Galaxy has the capability to connect, upload and share to an endless lineup of social media sites and apps. Although the Galaxy has been reported to have 3G wireless, I was able to experience 4G connectivity.


Wide Angle, 4.1mm (23mm equivalent)

Telephoto, 86.1mm (483mm equivalent)

Build and Design

The Samsung Galaxy Camera is on the larger end of the point and shoot class. It measures 70.8x128.7x19.1mm and weighs 300g. The design of the camera is simplistic and clean. It is everything we have come to expect from Samsung and its Galaxy line. A huge 4.77-inch screen encompasses the entirety of the camera's back. The screen is crisp and sharp thanks to the HD Super Clear LCD. The images come to life with the depth and richness of the full spectrum of colors. 16.3-megapixels work in harmony with the BSI CMOS sensor. The 21x optical zoom lens amasses the majority of the camera's bulk. However slim this camera is at 19mm thick, though, fitting into a jeans pocket is out of the question.

Ergonomics and Controls

Compared to most other point and shoot cameras the Galaxy is larger and heavier. While most camera manufacturers are designing a more slim line look to this class, Samsung was unable to do that with this camera. It is evident that more room is needed in order to run a Android OS complete with a 21x zoom camera. However, if you are comparing the Galaxy to the Ultrazoom line it is not that much different.

The camera come equipped with a rubberized hand grip which is helpful when balancing the weight of the camera. The only feature missing is a thumb rest for better one handed shooting. Although the thumb rest would be nice, we concede that it would be nearly impossible to find the space for it since the LCD takes up the entirety of the back of the camera.

The Galaxy Camera is practically devoid of physical buttons. Only the power button, shutter button, zoom toggle and manual flash release exist. All other functions are accessed through the large 4.77-inch LCD touchscreen. Besides the flash release on the side of the camera, all other buttons are housed on the top.

The camera's battery is charged by plugging in the entire camera. Fully charging the battery took a few hours, rendering the camera difficult to use during this time. Besides having limited movement, the functionalities of the web, apps and other features are still accessible during charging.

The camera comes outfitted with multiple ports and inputs. Conveniently located at the top of the camera is a microscopic microphone. A speaker is housed on the left side below the flash button. These two can work in unison and allow you to use the camera like a phone with the right app. Traveling to the bottom of the camera, there is a tripod mount. The battery compartment is located next to the mount . In the compartment, you will find the SIM and micro-SD card slots. On the right side there is an audio jack and a micro-USB port for charging the device.


Menus and Modes


Out of the box, my unit was charged at a little over 50% and was ready to use immediately. After a few quick language and time settings I was able to take the first image in less than a minute after turning it on. As a DSLR photographer I immediately search for the manual settings on any camera. I was highly impressed by the user interface of the Galaxy. I have yet to see a point and shoot camera so seamlessly interact with the photographer. This is where Samsung nailed it. Many other brands should take note of this feature. User experience can make or break the success of a product. For me, this camera had me at its manual functions. Most point and shoot enthusiasts forgo the manual setting, however, and go straight to the auto and smart functions. No less than fifteen smart modes are available on this camera including best photo, best face, light trace, waterfall and silhouette. It also comes equipped with fifteen image effects including vintage, black and white, comic, retro and impressionist. If you do want to shoot in manual mode, all of the traditional settings are available including aperture priority, shutter priority, program and fully manual. Exposure compensation is available in 1/3 steps. 

Editing your images in camera is an additional benefit of the Galaxy Camera. Sixty-five editing features are included. These features make it possible to never have to download your images to your computer for post-production enhancing. Organizing your pictures is seamless, too. The Smart Content Manager allows you to create folders, tag faces and view your photos in a variety of ways.

The Galaxy also functions through voice activated commands. Simply tell the camera to zoom in, zoom out, set the timer or even take a picture -- and it will. Although this sounds futuristic and uber cool, in reality I found that I am much faster with my fingers than I am with my voice. In certain situations, like setting the timer, this feature could be very helpful, but overall I would not use this on a daily basis. 

Display/Viewfinder

It is hard to argue that there is a better LCD touchscreen than the one on the Galaxy. The screen measures a whopping 4.77-inches and boasts 308 beautiful pixels per inch. The screen is crisp and sharp thanks to the HD Super Clear LCD. The images come to life with the depth and richness of the full spectrum of colors. In general, the screen does well outside. Glare, however, is an obvious blemish to the otherwise pristine screen. My first reaction was to immediately purchase a screen protector. This would combat two issues that might occur: glare and scratches. By using a screen protector you would cut down on glare when using the camera in bright sunlight outdoors. Also, it would help protect the screen from scratches that could occur during regular use. I would not imagine that a screen protector would have much impact when using the touchscreen, but I also did not test this theory.

Protecting the screen led me to another thought. What is the best way to carry this camera? It's slightly too large to fit into most jean pockets and way too heavy to fit comfortably into shirt pockets. Of course, us girls could easily slip the Galaxy into our purses, but the guys are going to need another option. A small camera bag for the men or a trendy wristlet for the women might be the best bet.


 

Performance

As expected, the Galaxy Camera, was responsive from the moment the power button was enabled. If you start the camera from a totally powered down state, it took about 15 seconds for the camera to function. If the camera was started from the sleep mode, the response time was about 1.5 seconds. While this is not the fastest start up time for compact cameras, we have to remember that this is more similar to powering up a phone or tablet than a camera.

Shooting Performance

Continuous shooting speed test at 3 fps. Autofocus acquisition time was about .35 seconds. 

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Digital Camera Score
Samsung Galaxy Camera 0.35
Samsung WB150F 0.35
Olympus XZ-2 0.35

Continuous Shooting (frames per second)

Digital Camera Score
Olympus XZ-2 6
Samsung Galaxy 3
Samsung WB150F 0.7

Autofocus was responsive under almost all shooting conditions. In fully lit situations this camera was a no-brainer. It focused quickly and steadily. The images were typical of other compact cameras. The auto assist light was extremely helpful when using the camera in low light situations. Using the camera with the zoom in low light circumstances was a bit more challenging. The camera was prone to blur, however this is not atypical of cameras that have aperture of f/5.9 when fully zoomed. Locking focus and keeping it steady at 21x zoom proved to be difficult also. Admittedly, I suffer from shaky hands and like to push the limits of ambient lighting.

The flash did well in a standard size room. It was able to render proper skin tones and did well with auto white balance. The only drawback was while using the flash, the camera did not give the playback for the flash image. In order to chimp the image I needed to view it from the gallery. Luckily the last image was displayed in a small thumbnail on the bottom left side of the screen. Playback was easy, yet it was awkward to view the image this way.

Battery life was difficult to gauge. Unlike traditional cameras that base this measurement on pictures taken, the Galaxy is much more similar to a tablet or smartphone. The battery does very well and lasts a long time when used in camera mode only. But when you factor in usage of apps, web surfing and downloading the Galaxy can be compared to the multitude of available smartphones.  

Video Quality
Video capture was easy and fun. The touchscreen houses the video "button" on the main camera function just under the camera shutter button and mode button. On the high end, the Galaxy offers a video resolution of 1920x1080 with 30 fps. The quality was good and the autofocus reacted quickly while recording. The camera delivered when it promises quite zoom. I was unable to hear any camera movement while recording in a silent room.


Image Quality
Image quality was good. Good, not great. But I want to step back for a minute and discuss the true purpose for this camera. If we strip away the Android OS and the quad-core processor and the apps and the web capability and the in-camera advanced editing, we end up with a rough equivalent of the Samsung WB850F. In fact, the Galaxy has the same lens and the same sensor as the WB850F. The Samsung 850 is a respectable camera for a point and shoot. One could easily extrapolate that the Galaxy would perform just as well as the WB850F and they would be correct. Overall the Samsung Galaxy delivers a decent performance for what is basically a point and shot camera. Most casual users will happy with the results. I would even argue that point and shoot enthusiasts will be more pleased due to the easy use of the manual options on this camera. The user interface of the camera is far more advanced than any other camera in its class. To be able to switch modes so effortlessly is difficult to measure. The only way to describe it is a photographic experience that is simple, natural, intuitive and fun.

But I digressed. The purpose of this camera is total connectivity. We start with a good image taken by the Galaxy Camera. Then we process the image through an almost limitless editing software included in the camera. Now, the image pops. We are proud of our photography skills and want to share our image with the world. With the swipe of a finger our image is quickly posted to one or more social media sites. Our friends like our image and make comments. "Awesome picture." "Great photo." "Wish I was there!"  

Great cameras are more than just a tool. They provide us an experience that makes us want to pick up the camera and use it. They are fun and interactive. They help us tell a story. 

Below is a sampling of the art filters available on the Samsung Galaxy Camera.


Sepia

Black and White

Negative

Old photo

Sunshine

Vintage


Retro

Faded Colour

Nostalgic

Comic

Pastel sketch

Gothic Noir


Impressionist

Below is our ISO testing. The color shift is obvious. Also, pixels degrade steadily as ISO gets higher.

ISO 100


ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800


ISO 1600


ISO 3200

Additional Sample Images 

Conclusion

The Samsung Galaxy Camera offers a great deal of connectivity allowing users to transfer photos from the device to a tablet or phone along with one of the best implementations of connectivity seen to date. The quality of image is good as photos taken in good lighting conditions and at low ISO are relatively sharp and noise free. The camera employs a user interface that is second to none among cameras. The components far exceed any smartphone camera available. Although the market for this camera might be low, the overall appeal is great. Can you find a less expensive compact camera that takes images that are of equal of greater quality? Yes. But can you find one that is as fun and easy to use? We think not!