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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:

Comparison Shots (vs. Motorola RAZR HD):

RAZR HD (Left) Galaxy Camera (Right)

RAZR HD (Left) Galaxy Camera (Right) 

Panorama Samples:

Video Samples:

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

Device Gallery:

Device Overview:

YouTube Preview Image

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.

  • http://plimblog.com/ Utkarsh Bhatt

    The lag was there because you didn’t turn off the Power Saving mode, which is enabled by default by Samsung. Once disabled, the performance will be very good.

  • http://bane-tech.com/ JKBane

    This is a step in a really cool direction. However, I want a top notch quality camera. The blurry photos and the toggle switch are the two red flags thrown up for me. When I took pictures with my GS3, I would get more blurry pics than good ones. The lowlight settings concerned me on my GS3 and wondered if the same problem would carry over to the Galaxy Camera.

  • Goose306

    As someone who graduated in Journalism (although now has nothing to do with it, lol) I can see how in many areas a device like this could be extremely clutch. The cost won’t matter to those people. (Relatively) tiny factor that can take way better photos than cell cameras and instant upload? They’ll all be asking where they can sign up.

    Now, if Samsung can pair up with a manufacturer of decent spec DSLRs (Canon/Nikon) and get one of theirs out the door for ~$800-$1000 every single professional photographer I can think of would be on that. Problem here is Samsung is trying to hit the consumer market, and the cost is too great. If you’re going to aim high, aim for the top, otherwise if you’re aiming for consumer knee-cap that thing ~$100-$150 less and consumers will start considering it. Most consumers consider their cell phones decent enough for a point and shoot currently IMO.

  • YogurtBites

    Is that the Maxtrix showing through on the panorama shot in the bowling alley?

  • Aaa

    The take home for me is that the RAZR HD has a terrible camera… Unless there was some bias in subconsciously trying to get a picture with the Galaxy Camera or trying to get a worse shot with the RAZR HD… (Still deciding on Note 2 vs DNA vs RAZR HDs)

    • Aaa

      BETTER picture***

    • Aaa

      Related to my post, DL should do a review of the HTC 8X. ;)

  • http://www.facebook.com/bmyton Ben Myton

    This strikes me as a combination between a 4th generation iPod touch ($199) and a fairly middle of the road point-n-shoot ($199). The convenience of having the devices built together is worth something I guess.

    Honestly I could see my grandparents getting use out of this. They don’t carry a smart-phone, but would love an easier way to share and navigate facebook to stay in touch. It’s tough to get them over the hurdle of pulling pictures out of a camera onto a desktop, uploading, etc. The all-in-one system would work great, especially since they spend most of their time in WIFI zones.

  • chad

    that doesnt go in your pocket..lol

  • http://www.facebook.com/chris.clancy.77 Chris Clancy

    Great review. I wish Samsung would just put an outstanding camera in their smartphones and save everyone an additional purchase. I have owned Galaxy S1 (Fascinate), Galaxy Nexus and now an S3, and I have never been terribly impressed by any of their camera’s.

  • Dain Laguna

    No offense to mr. tato here, but i think the reason he is impressed with the photo quality is because he happens to be comparing it to the nikon j1, which for all intents and purposes, isnt really considered to be that great of a shooter, and is more of a glorified point and shoot in itself. (and takes notably inferior pics to other cameras in its class like sony’s NEX series of cameras.)

    i guess i expected this type of angle on an android centric site…mostly because its being reviewed as an android device first and a camera 2nd.

    but thats not what it is. to the typical consumer, its a camera first that just so happens to take advantage of android for certain purposes. i read somewhere the sensor in this isnt much bigger than whats in the nokia lumia 920. and sensors, not megapixel count is what matters.

    at the end of the day, if i want to take TRULY good photos, i’ll buy (for the same price mind you) an entry level dslr like a nikon d3100/3200 or a canon t3i and use the kit lens that comes with it, and upload the photos on my own later.

    but just like the j1….at least its pretty looking.

    • http://www.droid-life.com/ Tim-o-tato

      Well exactly. I can’t sit here and just make stuff up. The best I can do is to compare it to what I know, and I know Android and I know my Nikon J1. The J1 is great for what I use it for and I’m happy with it. If you’re really into photography, I would never suggest this device.

      Thanks!

  • Daniel Hargreaves

    Rather then trying to create a hybrid like this why not make it an accessory for your phone. give it a way to dock a phone in there like asus did with the padphone. I think this way they could get away with coming out with a dslr because you would only be carrying it when you specifically wanted to take photos. I know not everyone wants something the size of a dslr but it would be awesome to have that option. Also to me the connectivity would be useless without having a way to properly edit before as well. If they added lightroom or something similar to android it would let you go through the whole process from start to finish. just my $.02

  • bassman418

    Typo. The beginning of the arrival in the good it states its a 5.77″. It then later states its a 4.77″ screen

  • Common Sense

    This cannot compee with a DSLR, much less a good DSLR. At the end of the day, it’s still a point and shoot and the price is ridiculous for it as the quality of camera it is.

    • http://twitter.com/davidbavin David Bavin

      Point and shoots are a thing of the past. Why have them when you can just take the photo on your smartphone, the quality is good enough! But when you need real image quality, that is what DSLR’s are for. I use my DSLR when I can but since it’s a bulky item, I just use my phone’s camera.

  • TheDrunkenClam

    Hockey… Soccer on ice.

    zzzzzzzzzzzzz

    • http://www.droid-life.com/ Tim-o-tato

      Not even, dude lol

    • mustbepbs

      Soccer is for pansies. Hockey is not.

  • itsgonnalast

    It’s exciting that every device with a bad interface can maybe one day run Android… cameras, dashboards, cash registers, etc.

  • itsgonnalast

    The bowling alley shot turned out really nice

  • Matthew Merrick

    there’s no front facing camera as far as i can tell. that makes it a dealbreaker for me – could have replaced my smartphone otherwise (for the one phone call a month i make, i can use GrooveIP) but i do actually use my FFC

  • kixofmyg0t

    Is it just me or does the RAZR HD camera shots here not look that bad?

    EDIT: Nvm Looked at the second pic. Fair enough.

  • nightscout13

    This camera is the definition of Android fragmentation. Good review though.

    • http://AndroidTaskForce.com Timmy

      I’m pretty sure Android is open source so it can be customized and installed however you want. Similar to Windows, minus the open source part. It can be changed for any type of device.

      This doesn’t cause fragmentation.

  • stabone

    Good review. My favorite part were the hockey game pics… sorry, going through no season depression.

  • PuzzleShot

    Imagine the Photo Spheres this thing could take!

  • http://twitter.com/garagelogician Jeff C

    Very underwhelmed by the image quality, my $80 point and shoot does about the same or a little better.
    Color temp seems off, did you play with the settings at all?

  • AlexKCMO

    So jealous that you have hockey. Minor league or college?

    • http://www.droid-life.com/ Tim-o-tato

      WHL – Portland Winterhawks

  • http://peoplewho.tumblr.com wireless G

    Honestly, I don’t know why there are so many complaints about the price: it’s a full fledged Android device married to a camera that’d cost at least $200 on its own. What I want to know is how they can offer this at $500, when it costs $700 to buy a new (unsubsidized) phone like the Note 2 or DNA that has similar specs (minus the giant camera).

    • Brian Inglut

      Because for what it is..it is expensive you can get a solid point and shoot for 199-299 this thing is overpriced for the pictures it takes

    • digitalicecream

      I think my concerns are this: the camera itself is not superb, it’s merely good. At this price for a camera I want something at least on par with a Sony NEX-F3. As for an Android phone, I have one. I don’t need another one, and when I do get another one this camera will still be running good old Jellybean, one two or three years from now. So, If you want a phone that takes subpar pictures with an OS that will inevitably become obsolete on a platform that you will not take with you everywhere and you want to pay too much for it. This is it for you.

  • Booyah

    Solid review, Tim. Well done.

  • digitalicecream

    I got a Sony NEX-F3 and an Eye-fi card which gives me Wifi in the camera. My wife has a 16MP Samsung with wifi ($150) and I would never be able to justify $500 for a Samsung Galaxy Camera that takes pictures like my wife’s camera. The Sony is simply amazing. Even with Jellybean. Good luck ever getting an update to that OS.

    • Dain Laguna

      the nex f3 is an awesome camera. this thing doesnt even compete on the same level

      • digitalicecream

        I guess they compete at the same price point. But even Sony is catching on to the idea of sharing everything everywhere. They dropped the price of the camera by $100 to stay competitive at this entry point, and then came out with the new 5 series to take the reigns back and stomp all over the Galaxy camera. don’t get me wrong, I’m running two Galaxy Notes in this household, one is running Black Star 10, and the other is running AOCP’s Jelly Bean rom, both are awesome. But if you’re going to spend this much on a camera, don’t sell yourself short.

  • pd240

    It’s about time Samsung used on screen navigation buttons. Hopefully they continue this trend. At least Verizon can’t put there logo on them.

    • http://twitter.com/Geovanni_Hiero Geo

      *knocks on wood*

    • xformulax

      I know, right! It’s not like the Galaxy Nexus used them over a year ago or anything…

  • http://twitter.com/Geovanni_Hiero Geo

    The price is what kills it for me

    • http://www.facebook.com/YAYSAVERGN Eric James Salcido

      The idea is you’re buying a smartphone-y kind of device PLUS a dedicated camera that’s more capable than regular cellphone cameras. It also has Jelly Bean and can probably ever app on the Play Store within reason. When you consider that, what would say, a high end Android media player run you, and a camera? It’s really not that bad.

      • Dain Laguna

        playing or utilizing google play apps on this thing isnt gonna be a fun experience.

        • http://www.facebook.com/YAYSAVERGN Eric James Salcido

          Why not? just because of the form factor? I get that it has a huge lens covering the back, but that won’t stop you from having any fun with it. It can still play Angry Birds. If someone wants to have fun on this thing, I’m more than certain that they can.

          • Paul

            But this isn’t a good camera for the price and you can play Angry Birds on your phone. And it’s not like someone is going to leave their phone behind because their camera has android.

  • http://www.dsaif.tk/ Saif

    All cameras should use Android.. Smart cameras! Nikon failed miserably though. They have no experience with Android and they were using outdated OS.