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Samsung Galaxy Camera Review

This is a new one for me. I only recently got into photography, from a blogger’s point of view, taking close-up pictures of devices and posting them up on the web. I took some photography classes when I was younger, but never got into the science of it or shared the passion for it as many others in my family have. Using this hybrid device has certainly been a learning experience and it may make me think twice before I go out and buy another point-and-shoot like I have in the past.

The Samsung Galaxy Camera deserves praise in terms of being a good camera, especially when it comes running Jelly Bean, something a lot of Android phones can’t even say yet. Although, does it deliver $500 worth of pictures/video and sharing capabilities to justify a purchase? How Samsung markets this device will be a fun spectacle, as even myself couldn’t explain to my friends as to why it really exists. Do we really need our cameras to have a data connection these days? Do I really need to surf the web or browse Facebook from it as well?

Below, I try my best at delivering an overall fair “camera review” even though I know quite little in terms of cameras. This should be fun. 

The Good:

  • Specs:  Whether you’re judging this device to a smartphone or camera, Samsung has made a pretty impressive piece of technology. The Galaxy Camera runs a full version of Android 4.1.1 with TouchWiz on top, is powered by a quad-core 1GHz processor, is capable of running on AT&T’s HPSA+ network, features a massive 4.77″ Super Clear LCD display, a 16MP 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS sensor, and sports 21x optical zoom. Now, try to find me another device with something like that. You won’t find one. It’s a unique beast that really does couple the best Android software available with some exceptional image-taking capabilities.
  • Overall Picture Quality:  Allow me to start this section with, “I am not a professional photographer” and I hardly know any lingo about cameras. What I am good at is viewing angles and attempting to translate things I see with my eyes and putting them on a camera. So, if you’re hoping for photographer mumbo jumbo and all of that, I am sorry. I have spent a full week with the Galaxy Camera and for a point-and-shoot, it has impressed me. I currently own a Nikon J1 and I love it. It is easy to use, takes high quality pictures, and has a reasonable price of $450 with the ability to purchase additional attachments. The Galaxy Camera, priced at $500 and coupled with Android and HSPA+, should perform just as good if not better than my J1, right? Not necessarily, but it does have some additional features. What the Galaxy Camera does have over the J1 in terms of cameras, is overall versatility. I can go from macro to landscape with the press of a button, but with the J1 I would have to switch lenses. The Galaxy performs just as good in terms of pictures as it does with videos as well. My only gripe is that auto-focus during videos is sketchy at times. I will let the pictures speak for themselves, but to sum it up in a few words, this camera has a much easier time with subjects that are close to you and not far away.

  • Software:  Android! Sweet Jelly Bean! The camera runs Android 4.1.1 underneath Samsung’s TouchWiz skin, which actually adds an abundance of helpful features such as voice commands for the camera app and pulldown system setting toggles. The device is quick, thanks to Project Butter, and Android works exceptionally well as “camera app software.” Albeit, Android acts as just a way to easily share your work to apps like Instagram and Facebook, but it’s a huge plus being able to access Android apps and use it just as you would a smartphone. Without Android, this is just a regular point-and-shoot. With Android, it’s a smartcamera and becomes an extremely powerful tool for photographers or even journalists that travel and need quick access to pictures and the web. Samsung also threw in a few apps that help take your pictures to the next level such as Photo Wizard.

  • Battery:  Over the course of the past week, I have been using the Galaxy Camera non-stop. I was really trying to take it with me everywhere I went and was able to run this thing into the ground a couple of times. To my surprise, the device’s battery holds up way better than I had initially expected, which I’m thankful for. It was running Jelly Bean and on HSPA+ the whole time, but it lasted forever. Thoroughly impressed with how Samsung managed to keep this thing chugging along throughout a full day’s use.

  • Hardware:  I’ve said it plenty of times and I’m sure everyone knows it by now, but this is straight up “sexy hardware” at its finest. The curves, the color choice, and the brilliant shine of the lens have made me fall in love with the overall look of the camera. Subtle branding on the front, with the huge display on the back, led plenty of people around me asking what type of camera I was using. Samsung gets an easy “A” grade for creating a device I am happy to be seen in public with. To go with the looks, the over feel of the device is quite nice and it carries a good weight to it. No feeling of plastic or anything like that, besides the W/T toggle that I mention below.
  • Display:  On the backside of the camera sits a massive 4.77″ HD Super Clear LCD display, larger and clearer than a lot of smartphones that are currently being marketed as top-tier. No, it doesn’t compare to say, the DROID DNA, but after snapping pictures or taking video, the content looks exceptional. What makes it even better, is that everything looks good on it – since you aren’t only taking pictures. It handles YouTube videos, Netflix movies, web-browsing, and games with ease and they look just as good on this camera as they do on any phone or tablet.

  • Android Functions (Gaming, Video, Web):  Yep, this thing runs Android. Jelly Bean to be exact. And it’s not some crappy overly-skinned version that doesn’t allow for functionality. This is FULL Android. With the Galaxy Camera, you have access to Google Play, all of your apps, games, and anything else your smartphone can do. The only difference is that massive lens on the front and the inability to make calls. But, if you’re on WiFi or AT&T’s data, then you may be able to even find a work around for that. During the time I used the device, I had no problems utilizing Google Voice texts and was basically using it as I would my phone, which is fine since I think the feature I use the least on my actual phone is the phone itself.
  • AT&T’s HSPA+:  It’s fast enough to get the job done. If you live in an area that has it, then you won’t have any troubles uploading/downloading images and video to wherever you please. It’s been a real pleasure to be able to share everything I want from wherever I am after using the camera. Having a cellular data connection is easily a plus, but it can also be a bad as I have it listed down below as well.
  • Easy Sharing:  In terms of sharing, it doesn’t get much sweeter than the Galaxy Camera. With access to all of the social networks and online storage apps, taking your pictures and videos and putting them up for others to see is as easy as it can get. What makes it even more special on this device is that the quality of images goes up astronomically when compared to a regular smartphone. While as your regular high end smartphone sports an 8MP shooter that has limited capabilities, the Galaxy Camera brings its 21x optical zoom and 16MP sensor. It is truly a unique experience that smartphones just can’t quite capture.

The Bad:

  • Cheap W/T Toggle:  Now of course, this could have just happened to me. Unfortunately, my W/T toggle gets stuck when zooming in and it’s a serious pain in the rear. When you go tight in the middle of a video, or even turning up the volume, I have to push it back to the middle without accidentally going too wide or turning down the volume. For $500, this piece of hardware shouldn’t be getting stuck after just a week of use. Luckily for people who would buy this thing, you will have a warranty. Naturally since this is a review unit for me, I do not. Ever since this button got stuck, I find myself not using the device as much as I would like. Huge red flag for me when thinking about making an investment such as this.

  • Software Lag:  Just like any other smartphone or tablet, this device does encounter the occasional “slow-down” or “lag.” When it appears the most is actually when you’re in the Camera app and are switching through the Smart Settings, which becomes rather annoying. Overall, exploration through the device’s software isn’t hindered by any means, but when the device is to be used as a camera and the camera is lagging during pictures, that’s no good.
  • Awkward Size:  This camera is pocket-able, but it sure isn’t the most comfortable thing I’ve ever had in there. The device is rather thick in the lens, which when pocketed, bulges out and if you hit it accidentally on something, there’s a good chance you can damage the device. In a back pocket it works well, but Samsung is marketing this device as extremely portable, but it’s not as portable as I would like it to be. You’re much better off getting some type of carrying case for it if you’re taking it outside or going for a hike. Please, if you do have it in a pocket, be careful.
  • Picture Blur:  With the Galaxy Camera, I found that many times that when I would take a picture and look at the preview, it would seem very clear with no streaks or blur. However, upon returning to the photo in the gallery, the photo would be ultimately unusable with heavy amounts of blur. Sometimes you only get one chance at that perfect shot and with this camera, I don’t know if I could trust it completely with those moments.
  • Price:  Priced at $500, the Galaxy Camera is one of the most expensive pieces of camera hardware I’ve used for longer than a few days. Is it worth it? Absolutely not. Unless you’re purchasing for the sole purpose that you have access to Android and a camera with mobile data, it’s just too much to spend for decent hardware and good pictures that you can find for cheaper in a Nikon or Canon. To get me interested, it would need to come in around $400 with mobile data, or a $350 model with WiFi only or something like that. It just seems like too little for too much at this point.
  • Connection to Carriers:  I don’t think buying this camera and purchasing a data plan along with it is worth it. If the novelty of having an Android-powered camera is enough to make you jump, just stick to using it over WiFi in my opinion. Like I mentioned earlier, if you’re in the profession of photography or you travel all over and need to be uploading pictures all the time, then I could see how it would be great. For example, this device at something like CES or Google I/O would be extremely clutch.

Image Gallery:

[nggallery id=36]

Comparison Shots (vs. Motorola RAZR HD):

RAZR HD (Left) Galaxy Camera (Right)

RAZR HD (Left) Galaxy Camera (Right) 

Panorama Samples:

Video Samples:

Device Gallery:

[nggallery id=29]

Device Overview:

Conclusion:

So, if you would like a TL;DR version, the Galaxy Camera is great, if you know what to do with it. Going for a walk through the park or watching a hockey game, it’s a fun little device to have. If you decide to get mobile data paired with it, it’s an extremely unique experience that will have many around you curious and excited. In terms of it being a $500 camera, it’s not so awesome. Close-ups are fantastic and the zoom is quite good, but with images coming out blurry and unusable more so than not when in low light or at greater distances, it’s hard to justify. For that price, you’re better off going with something else.

It will be interesting to see if the idea of the Android-powered camera takes off. With the Galaxy Camera leading the charge, I think it has a decent fighting chance. The hardest part will be getting people to think they’ll need a data plan on it. It’s sort of like tablets – do you really need data on it? Personally, I have yet to see a need for it, but everyone has their own needs.

To wrap it up, I’ve learned quite a bit from my time with it, but will be happy when smartphone cameras offer more in terms of photography, that way I don’t have to lug this thing around. If you have any specific questions or concerns that I didn’t point out in this review, feel free to share them below and I would be happy to try and field them.

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