Review: Samsung Galaxy Camera [Gadgets Special] [Times of India]
(Times of India Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Interesting things are afoot in the consumer electronics industry. The phones as we know them have changed. The computers as we know them are changing due to tablets. Everything is getting smart and gaining ability to connect to the web. There are smart televisions. Smart microwaves. Smart fridges. Even smart thermostats.
Why should cameras remain dumb Samsung believes that they shouldn't.
As a company that has tasted great success with Android smartphone, it has now given a smart makeover to a camera. Yes, Galaxy Camera is a shooter powered by Android. And by 'powered by' we don't mean that it uses Android to provide a few camera specific functions.
Galaxy Camera is a no-compromise hybrid device. It can shoot pictures just like any other camera and it can allow you browse internet and check your mail just like any other smartphone.
But does it make sense Do you need it
Build quality and hardware
Design is not a forte of Samsung's Android devices. Galaxy Camera, however, bucks the trend. We feel it is the best-designed Android device Samsung has made so far. The all-white body and the black lens look great. The camera has a minimalist design and has just three buttons - the shutter release buttons, power button and flash release button. The back of the device sports a huge- by the standard of cameras - 4.8-inch touchscreen. Like other cameras, this one has no navigation or settings buttons and photographers are expected to use the onscreen navigation to make changes.
The build quality of the camera is great. It feels rock solid and the area under the right hand grip has a layer of thick textured rubber that helps in holding the camera steady while taking shots.
Despite its point and shoot credentials, Galaxy Camera is not very pocketable. It is surprisingly heavy and big for a small compact camera. Yes, you can put it in a jeans pocket but the fit is awkward. Pockets in jackets or suits are better suited to Galaxy Camera.
In terms of camera specifications, the device has a typical configuration. It is neither special nor lacks anything. It has a 16 megapixel lens with a focal length of 4.1mm-86.1mm with an effective (35mm) focal length of 23mm-483mm, giving the device an optical zoom of 21X. At its lowest focal length the camera has the aperture of F2.8. It has 8GB internal storage that can be expanded through a micro SD card of up to 64GB. It has a pop-up flash and an ISO range of 100 to 3200.
But where Galaxy Camera leaves other shooters in dust is in its smart capabilities. The device is powered by a quad-core processor running at 1.4GHz speed. It has 1GB RAM and a variant of Mali 400 graphics chip. The camera runs on Android 4.1 aka Jelly Bean operating system and it almost all functions that an Android smartphone does. We say almost because you can't call or message someone over cellular network using Galaxy Camera. Though you can keep in touch with your friends using GTalk, Nimbuzz, Whatsapp or Facebook through this device.
Shoot and share
During our use we shot hundreds of images and tens of videos with the device and found the results to be satisfactory in most instances. Galaxy Camera uses a very simple interface and people who do not want to delve too deep in settings can also get some good images out of this device. There are just three modes - auto, smart auto where a user can select the kind of scene he wants, and the expert, which allows users to change aperture, shutter speed and ISO speed. Given the fact that the camera has no physical buttons to change settings on the fly, it is a device more suitable to people who like to shoot images on auto modes.
Thankfully, the performance in auto mode is fantastic. Under the favourable conditions - read good lighting - the camera produces images that are rich in colour, sharp and detailed. In terms of image quality it is easily up their among the best point and shoot cameras. The images do get a little soft at the extreme end of the telephoto lens (at 21X) but it is something all point and shoot cameras suffer from. On the other hand, the macro mode on the camera is fantastic, capturing the subject in great detail while giving a pleasantly shallow depth of field.
The presence of 21X zoom also makes the camera a very good shooter for portraits as the high zoom allow shooters to click pictures with shallow depth of field.
In low light conditions, the image quality takes a some beating, especially if you see them on a big computer screen. They lose details and have noise reduction that is too strong. Image quality is comparable to most point and shoot cameras but similarly priced mirror-less or hybrid cameras such as Nex-5 have better low-light performance.
Galaxy Camera can shoot FullHD videos at 30 frames per second. The quality of videos is very good and focus is continuous. Movement due to hand shake is managed well. But if you move too fast or zoom in and out too quickly while shooting videos, the camera tends to lose focus for a second or two.
The area where Galaxy Camera really comes into its own is what you can do with it other than capturing the images. Anyone who has used an Android phone with a data connection will find using Galaxy Camera incredibly simply and familiar. Just the way it is possible on a smartphone, you can share images from Galaxy Camera to your friends. You can edit images on the camera, you can apply special effects, you can geo-tag them with the help of GPS and you can upload them to Picasa, Dropbox or any other comparable cloud-storage service automatically.
Finally, if required, you can use Galaxy Camera to write emails to your boss while holidaying in Goa, call up your friends using Skype, or navigate your way through a small town in Kerala using Google Maps or book a ticket for your next vacation through a web browser and play Angry Birds.
There is just one downside to all this added functionality - battery life. When used purely as a camera, the device can shoot around 170 images and a few video clips before running out of battery charge. But if you put a 3G SIM into it, the battery life takes a massive dip. The devices can shoot around 100 to 120 images when used with 3G. Samsung is aware of the poor battery life of Galaxy Camera and is selling the device an additional battery in India.
Should you buy it
Galaxy Camera is a unique device. And fun to use. It shoots very good images and decent videos. It has a very good zoom of 21X. It can be used as a functional smartphone. It is a smart camera that delivers on its promises.
But before you rush out to buy it, here is what we suggest. If you want a good, functional point and shoot camera and don't care about sharing images with friends and family members as soon as you have shot them, get a basic camera. It will cost half of what Galaxy Camera sells for. If you are after fantastic image quality, get a DSLR or a good mirrorless camera.
But if you want to have fun with images, Galaxy Camera should be on your shortlist. It does things that cameras are not supposed to do and does them well. Shoot, share and go crazy with the filters and Android apps - that is the premise of Galaxy Camera. As an added bonus you also get access to smartphone functions. If you can make use of the added functionality that Galaxy Camera offers, it is a superb deal even at an MRP of Rs 29,900.
Pros: Good image quality, users can share images on the web with 3G connection, superb integration with Android, availability of Android apps, can be used to browse web, check emails etc
Cons: No RAW support, lacks easy access to settings for manual control, bigger and heavy compared to average point-and-shoot camera, poor battery life
(c) 2012 Bennett, Coleman & Company Limited
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