Review: Samsung Galaxy Camera (EK-GC100)
This review has been re-written by Dom Armstrong from samsunggeeks.com
SamMobile member ID: dombledore
Samsung are a company which likes to be the first to do certain things. Last year we saw them introduce a new mobile category between the Smartphone and the Tablet which they called the “Note”. Riding on the great success from the phablets, this year at IFA they announced another new category – a truly smart and connected camera: the Galaxy Camera. Although this camera is certainly revolutionary – the concept of it seems fairly obvious. Take the hardware and 3G connectivity from your flagship Android Jellybean device – the Galaxy S3 – and frankenstein it into a 16MP 21X Zoom camera. With that – you get all the benefits of a quad-core processor to run all the Apps you could think of for post processing images (or simply procrastinating. You also get all the control, customisation and settings from the Android OS – great! But most importantly, you get all the connectivity associated with a modern smartphone. Samsung’s idea behind the Galaxy Camera based on the fact that we live in a connected world. Most of us like to share pictures of things we do and see and most of us want to do so immediately because that’s when it matters to us. With desktop screen resolution and picture quality getting better and better – the quality of a mobile phone camera doesn’t really cut it, but a good quality camera lacks the necessary connectivity. The Galaxy Camera is Samsung’s attempt to solve this problem and the results are surprisingly pleasing… especially considering most first-of-a-kind devices are quickly thrown together prototypes. It’s not perfect – but it certainly leaves me looking angrily at my expensive DSLR… so it’s certainly a perfect proof of concept.
So, let’s take a look and see what we’ve got!
The Galaxy Camera has a good looking all-over aluminium-like design with a few plastic components here and there such as the pop-up xenon flash and zoom/shutter buttons. There’s a nice rubberish grip along the right hand side as well as a a lanyard tether and 3.5’’ heaphones ocket. The bottom has a ¼’’ tripod socket and access to the microSD card (up to 64GB), microHDMI, microSIM and 1650mAh battery. The back is all glistening gorilla glass 2, with a slightly raised metal bezel, to protect the 4.8’’ Super Clear LCD display. For some – the 128.7 x 70.8 x 19.1mm camera might be a little too large, and it’s not as pocket friendly as one might have liked. However, having such a large display is a real benefit as it allows you to easily see the photograph you are taking (as there is no viewfinder). Furthermore – it’s really good for you and a group of friends to ogle over all the cool shots you’ve taken without bumping your heads together! The choice of LCD over AMOLED is unclear – but in its current state: LCD displays offer superior outdoor viewing quality; so we’ll run with that.
O yeah, we dropped the Galaxy Camera before the design pictures… (sorry Samsung)
The Galaxy Camera interface is well implemented onto Android. It’s good-looking and intuitive. It comes with 3 different modes, Auto, Smart and Expert – each giving you more control over the type of photograph you want to take than the next. More complicated settings are tucked away inside “Expert” mode for those who already know how to – or want to learn how to – take creative shots with fully manual controls. The best mode for those getting into photography is definitely “Smart Mode” which lets you cheat and take professional(ish) shots without necessarily knowing what you’re doing. A light- trace photograph, for example, is not something which many people will have come across and is sure to get some interest! The Galaxy Camera has a 16MP CMOS sensor and 23mm wide-angle lens. What I’ve found really impressive is the 21 X optical zoom – that means that you can zoom in 21 times, and still take photographs and videos at the maximum resolution without losing any image quality (digital zoom just crops the resolution). Pointing the Galaxy Camera at the moon also makes me glad that I didn’t buy a telescope. It’s obvious the Galaxy Camera does a pretty good job considering the moon is 380,000 km away! [(cropped image)]
However, the only way to get a favourable 16:9 resolution is to shoot at a lower 12MP.There are black bars on either side when using the full 4:3 16MP, which look a bit mucky on the screen and other modern devices you might share it to. For this reason, the Galaxy Camera is set to 12MP by default, which is quite cheeky. The overall image quality is good, but nowhere near as good as some other cameras in this price range. It’s somewhat disappointing to learn that the backlit 1/2,3’’ image sensor on the Galaxy Camera is actually smaller than many other cameras in its price range which is definitely a negative point to the device. The software support for the device, however, makes up for that one little chink it its armour!
Automatic mode is for the less adventurous people who just want to point, shoot and share. It seems to do a good job in all situations, and comes with 14 built-in filter effects which you can access on the main screen.
Smart mode allows you to take some pretty cracking photographs without necessarily knowing what you’re doing. As well as Best Photo and Best Face which you might be familiar of from Samsung’s flagship Galaxy smartphone series, there are some really clever features like “Light Trace” which allow you to get really creative with your photography. This mode certainly justifies the whopping 1.4GHz quad core processor inside, as many of the smart-modes take a series of photographs and does on-the-fly processing to edit them together. Sometimes this on- the-go processing can get a little annoying, as you have to wait for it to finish before you can take the next photograph; but it’s only a couple of seconds! Here are some of examples of what you can expect to get. Please note that they are taken in the 16:9 12MP 4608×25902 (essentially a cropped 16MP image) because that’s the default setting.
Sample Images from Smart Mode
Expert mode gives you a wealth of options which give you full control of the photograph you want to take. It’s done through a really smart (looks amazing!) interface which resembles an SLR lens: it lets you scroll through all the different settings. It has 4 main modes for photography, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Programme and full Manual control. Expert mode gives you full creative control of your photography, and also has helpful on-screen bits of information (see image above) if you’re not certain what it is that each setting does. Perhaps the best thing about expert mode is that the screen will adjust automatically as you tweak the settings, giving you an idea of the final image you’re going to get. This is really useful for over/under exposures and a really smart way – giving instant visual feedback. A “smart” camera indeed! Changing between settings is certainly not as fast on a DSLR – but we’re willing to bet that the majority of DSLR owners. There is also a wealth of extra settings where you can adjust everything from the white balance to the saturation!
The Galaxy Camera is able to shoot video in full 1080p at 30FPS, 720p and 60FPS and interestingly it has a slow motion mode which allows shooting at 768X512 at 120FPS! The quality of the video is very good, even in low light. The only problems are that the noise of the motor in the zoom can be picked up, and the flash is unusable (as it’s a xenon burst flash and not a continuous LED).
Slow Motion 120FPS demo
Low light 1080p Sample
The optical image stabilisation demo
The OIS is particularly impressive and noticeable during videos especially when compared to a smartphone camera!
The Galaxy Camera has a 1650mAh battery. Although, in camera terms, this is considered a large battery, given that it is being gobbled up by the 4.8” LCD screen, the relatively battery-heavy Android Operating system and data connections we were initially somewhat worried that it would be a major flaw in the device. We have been pleasantly surprised with the Galaxy Camera battery life – and it’s not nearly as terrible as we expected (especially if you don’t have a SIM card in there, or use it in flight mode)… but it’s still not great. 25 minutes of 1080p video shooting will drain the battery by around 20% and we managed to drain 98% of the battery in just under 3 hours (though in that time we manage to take 1600 pictures using the App “Lapse it Pro”. In fairly light/typical usage, we were able to use it use it for a couple of days without the battery dipping below 50% battery life – but that was with data turned off. With data turned on and automatic uploads to an online storage service like drop box/Google+ the battery life leaves a lot to be desired.
Although the Galaxy Camera does not allow phone calls, you are able to send and receive text messages, so there’s no reason other than inappropriate positioning of microphone and loudspeaker, why you shouldn’t be able to make phone-calls from it. Using third party services such as Viber it is perfectly possible – which makes the Galaxy Camera one of the most versatile devices on the market. We proved this last week in London by making the world’s first(?) Google Hangout from a camera. Ridiculous! I can use any app on the device which is available from Google Play.
Pros: It is the future, connected anywhere, Android
Cons: Battery life, Size,
The Galaxy Camera really is a marvel of technology. It’s one of the only Samsung devices we’ve seen get a whopping big round of applause (and cheers) at a launch event, as people couldn’t quite believe how much stuff had been crammed into it. The build quality and design are excellent, and as well as being a good looking device – it takes good photographs and videos (though please judge that for yourself) for you to ogle over on the 4.8” LCD screen or share/sync it instantly through a variety of wireless connectivities. I can check my emails on it, play games and update my Facebook on the camera – and there are limitless other Apps (camera related or not) which will run on it.
We’re not pretending that the Galaxy Camera can take better quality pictures than a DSLR, because it cannot. Nor does it have the same amount of options or control. However – what it does offer is an extremely comprehensive package for the price (which isn’t cheap, either). The amount of capture-diversity (macro, wide angle, 21x zoom et cetera) in the device is excellent , especially when you consider that a DSLR requires many different lenses to achieve the same effect, some of which cost more than the Galaxy Camera alone. The “Smart Mode” and “Expert Mode” are excellent: They provide the means for you to be creative, and learn about the possibilities of photography without necessarily having to know anything about F-Stops and shutter speeds… but still gives you full creative command if you do.
For a do-it-all device, the Galaxy Camera really has raised the bar with what a “Camera” is and should be. In all honesty, it leaves me looking at my DSLR in a slightly lackluster way… why can’t it do all the things the Galaxy Camera can if I’ve spent so much money?
Though… I guess the Galaxy Camera isn’t exactly a light investment, either.
This review has been re-written by Dom Armstrong from samsunggeeks.com
SamMobile member ID: dombledore