|Introduction And Specifications|
Sharing photos with one's friends and family is a common, everyday occurrence. Instagram has gained over 100 million photo sharing users in just two years, and this is just one of many outlets people use to share photos with the people they love. While sharing pictures taken with your smartphone is easy and convenient since you can upload and share while on the go, the picture quality you get from a smartphone isn't quite on the same level as a standalone digital camera, with a larger sensor and better optics.
Connected cameras such as the Samsung Galaxy Camera promise the best of both worlds for users who want to share their photos right away but who also want the image quality that only comes from a standalone digital camera. In this review, we'll take a hands-on look at the Samsung Galaxy Camera that is tied to Verizon Wireless' network. Samsung also offers a similarly equipped camera that is tied to AT&T's network. A Wi-Fi only variant of the Galaxy Camera has been announced internationally though details for a US variant haven't been released.
While there are other cameras on the market that have built-in Wi-Fi capabilities, one of the features that sets the Galaxy Camera apart is its cellular and LTE connectivity capabilities that tie the camera to a wireless carrier. Another key differentiating point is the fact that the Galaxy Camera runs on Android. Because the Galaxy Camera runs on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, you can access all of your favorite Android photo editing applications (including Instagram and Photoshop Touch) on the camera. You can also email photos; upload them directly to Facebook, Dropbox, or another cloud service; surf the Internet, and more, directly from the camera.
The Galaxy Camera features a large 4.8-inch HD Super Clear LCD and a 21x zoom lens. The camera has a 16 megapixel sensor, supports voice commands, and features various photo capture modes including full manual shooting capabilities.
We'll take a closer look at what this camera can do in the coming pages but first, let's dive into the specifications of this camera:
The first thing you're likely to notice when you pick up the Galaxy Camera is the large lens on the front. With the exception of the protruding, round lens and the curved grip on the right side of the unit, the Galaxy Camera has a boxy design with slightly rounded edges. Verizon Wireless offers the Galaxy Camera with a white or a black body. We are testing the white model here (obviously).
Compared to other ultra-compact point and shoot cameras, the Galaxy Camera feels much larger. It measures 2.79 x 5.07 x 0.75 inches and weighs 10.76 ounces. The Galaxy Camera will feel a bit large in your pocket but if you're willing to carry it in a camera case, laptop bag, or purse, the size is less of an issue.
With the trade off in size from an ultra-compact point and shoot camera, you'll get a gigantic 4.8-inch HD Super Clear LCD Screen that supports a resolution of 1280 x 720. You also get a 21x lens that can zoom from 23mm to 483mm.
Samsung has taken advantage of the Galaxy Camera's large touchscreen for controls, thereby eliminating many hardware buttons. On the left edge of the camera, you'll find a button that will pop up the flash and a speaker. The top of the camera houses this flash along with a power button, shutter button, and zoom slider. The flash is located near the left edge of the camera. Since the flash is so close to the edge of the camera, we had to make a conscious effort to move our finger and hold the camera differently while the flash was in use. Speaking of the flash, it looks and feels a bit like something you might find on a lesser product—it’s small and feels a bit fragile. Regardless, it did the job just fine.
On the right edge of the Galaxy Camera, you'll find the headset jack, microUSB port, and wrist strap port. The base of the camera houses a tripod mount, micro HDMI port, and a door that opens to reveal the battery, microSD card slot, and SIM slot. You can also access the micro HDMI port when the battery cover is open.
Since the Galaxy Camera is running on Android 4.1, the camera has nearly instant on functionality, similar to your smartphone or tablet but with a slight delay while the lens opens. When you turn on the camera, it will go straight into camera mode. To switch to the main Android home screen, press the Home icon in the upper left corner of the screen.
The Galaxy Camera has three home screens by default. You can add additional pages for up to seven home screens. When navigating the home screens, you’ll find the traditional Back, Home, and Menu buttons located on the right edge of the screen.
With the Galaxy Camera, you basically trade the talk capabilities on a full-featured smartphone for enhanced camera functionality. Since the camera has built-in LTE connectivity that operates on the Verizon Wireless network, you'll need to pay a monthly data fee just like you do with your cell phone. The good news is that Verizon Wireless offers special plans for connected devices such as the Galaxy Camera, assuming you already have cell phone service with the company. Depending on your current cell phone plan, you may be able to add service for the Galaxy Camera for as little as $5 per month.
The Samsung Galaxy Camera offers three primary shooting modes: Auto, Smart, and Expert. With Auto, the camera takes care of all settings. In Smart mode, you get to choose from a list of 15 different shooting modes which include Beauty Face, Best Photo, Continuous Shot, Best Face, Landscape, Macro, Action Freeze, Rich Tone, Panorama, Waterfall, Silhouette, Sunset, Night, Fireworks, and Light Trace. Expert mode gives you full manual controls with the ability to change the brightness, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.
While shooting in automatic mode in a dimly lit environment, you’ll want to remember to pop up the flash so the camera can use the flash if necessary. In other words, if the camera is in auto-flash mode, it won’t activate the flash unless it’s already popped up.
Unlike many of the popular smartphones we’ve tested recently, the Samsung Galaxy Camera does not come with Swype preinstalled. If you’re used to using this keyboard on your smartphone, you may miss this feature when trying to send a picture to a friend via email.
Because the Galaxy Camera runs on Android, you can download and install apps from the Google Play Store, thereby enabling you to use the Galaxy Camera as more than just a camera. Some of the apps that come preinstalled on the Galaxy Camera include Dropbox, Instagram, Paper Artist, Photo Wizard, S Suggest, and S Voice. The Galaxy Camera also has many of the standard Android widgets as well as a Camera widget and more.
Battery life is definitely something users wonder about when considering a connected device such as the Galaxy Camera. Because the camera is constantly connected to a cellular network, it’s always using some battery power. In order to get a feel for how long the camera might last, we put the Galaxy Camera through our standard HotHardware web browsing test. This is the same test we use for smartphones and tablets. Although the Galaxy Camera will obviously be used in a much different way than a smartphone or tablet, the test provides a frame for comparison.
In our Hot Hardware web browsing test, we set up a webpage with a mix of graphics, Flash media and text. The page automatically refreshes every three minutes, we loop the page and disable sleep and hibernate modes. Battery life is measured down to the minute the tablet shuts down.
In an effort to simulate the mode in which we believe most users are likely to operate the Galaxy Camera, we enabled Wi-Fi, cellular, GPS, and synchronization while running this test. The stock browser was used. For the test, we set the Galaxy Camera’s display to 50% brightness, which is still plenty bright and easy on the eyes.
In our battery test, the Galaxy Camera lasted for 6 hours and 11 minutes. This puts it in the upper half of the chart in terms of longevity compared to many of the smartphones we've reviewed recently. In real-world use, we had no problems making it through a few days of moderate use on a single charge. Of course, the Galaxy Camera’s battery life will vary considerably depending on how much you’re using the screen, sharing photos, uploading, editing, etc.
|Sample Images and Video|
No camera review would be complete without a look at some sample images. Here are some of the images we captured during our time with the Galaxy Camera. Overall, we were pleased with the results and felt they were on par with what you should expect from a point-and-shoot camera. We were particularly impressed at the camera’s ability to capture respectable images in low-light environments without using the flash. The zoom capabilities of the camera are impressive as well. In the picture of the flag below, we used the full extension of the 21x zoom.
Indoors, with flash
Indoors, no flash
Outside, last image of flag uses full 21x zoom
The Galaxy Camera is also capable of recording 1080p HD video. During our tests with the camera, video quality was good, though some indoor videos were a tad grainy in lower-lit rooms.
There is a slight delay in focusing if you move the camera quickly or use the zoom while capturing video, but it's no worse than other point-and-shoot cameras.
The Galaxy Camera has a lot of cool features and functionality that you won’t find on other cameras, such as the ability to run Android apps, surf the web, and edit photos. With the ability to connect to Verizon Wireless’ 4G LTE network as well as Wi-Fi networks, you can share pictures with friends and family as they are taken. The ability to share images that are better than what you’d get with a smartphone is definitely great, however the camera does require a monthly service fee to support this functionality.
The Galaxy Camera’s size is a bit of a drawback since it isn’t nearly as portable as the tiny point-and-shoot we’d typically carry. The initial price tag of the Galaxy Camera is another sticking point that will likely deter users. While you may be willing to drop $200-$300 on a standard point and shoot camera, we’re guessing many users won’t be too thrilled about the Galaxy Camera’s $549.99 price tag, especially considering the camera requires a monthly service fee on top of the initial purchase price.
Overall, we had a great time using the Galaxy Camera and see a lot of fun scenarios where we would enjoy having a connected camera that also has the ability to take great photos. We appreciate that Samsung didn’t skimp on the features in the Galaxy Camera—it has a 21x optical zoom that works very well along with many automatic picture taking modes and full manual controls. All in all, the Galaxy Camera is a really fun and cool gadget, but we expect the price and monthly contract will deter many users who would otherwise love to own a connected camera.