A look at the pre-order options, games deals and also details on the One's big PS4 shaped rival
Samsung Galaxy Camera review
What is it?
The Samsung Galaxy Camera is a 16-megapixel, 21x optical zoom camera with a full smartphone Android OS built in, as well as 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity.
It’s quickly accessible and easy to master, and the zoom beats any cameraphone.
Too much Angry Birds and you may find your battery life foreshortened. It’s also slow to switch on.
The bottom line:
The Samsung Galaxy Camera is a great way to get the best of both worlds: a camera with an optical zoom and the connectivity of a mobile for easy photo sharing.
Samsung Galaxy Camera: Review
This is a new kind of gadget: neither just a camera nor a cameraphone. This is a big, beefy compact camera with full extendable zoom lens. But the touchscreen display is big – at 4.8 inches it matches the popular Samsung Galaxy S III – and a full Android OS is lurking there too, so you can do your emails, watch Netflix or play games on this camera.
Compact cameras have been losing ground to cameraphones for years, with people ready to sacrifice the elements that only a camera can offer, notably an optical zoom, in favour of having a slim pocketable gadget. The best camera is the one that’s always with you so that tends to be your smartphone. It makes up for its lens quality deficiencies with other benefits like instant connectivity for sharing images with Facebook, Twitter and so on. Not to mention all those other conveniences like web browsing and so on.
So Samsung’s shoehorning of the Galaxy S III into a chunkier case with camera glass on the front is an intriguing, curious idea. Will the connectivity bonus really be enough to make you squeeze it into your pocket alongside your mobile (after all, this is not a phone replacement – it’s not suitable for making calls)?
Samsung Galaxy Camera: Build quality
The Galaxy Camera is a slick, well-built machine which may not be slim (it's 70.8 x 128.7 x 19.1mm and weighs 300g) but sits in the hand well enough if you hold it like a camera. The matching of matte white case and gloss black frame and screen go together well (there is a blue model available too).
The pop-up flash that springs up on demand feels a little more fragile but is strong enough when safely packed away in the body of the camera.
- Reviewed: Nikon D7100
The 1280 x 720 HD display here is similar to the Galaxy S III. But where the slim, curvy edges of the S III made it manageable in the hand, the added profile of the camera makes it feel decidedly hefty. Sure, you’ll be happy to hold it in both hands as it’s a camera, but your pockets will notice the bulge.
The big screen looks great both for framing shots and playing them back. It’s rare to find a compact with this big a display. And the touchscreen is fast and responsive so it’s very pleasing to use. The back of the camera is all screen like, you know, a mobile phone. But because you hold it differently, it’s easy for fingers to brush the touchscreen when you don’t mean to. It’s not a big problem but it takes a bit of getting used to. Still, it’s a big, bright LCD display which looks great.
Samsung Galaxy Camera: Camera
There’s more to a camera than a good screen for framing shots. The sensor is another place the Galaxy Camera outdoes its phone cousins. This one is the same as you’d find in a quality compact camera, in other words much bigger than a smartphone can squeeze in. The interface for shooting snaps is excellent. The Android OS (4.1 - Jelly Bean) is laid out with a camera shortcut on every home screen so it’s quick to reach. Then you can choose between three shooting modes: Auto, Smart and Expert. Auto does it all, you point and click the shutter button on the top edge and you’re done. Smart gives you 15 scene options for everything from continuous to silhouette, waterfall to a portrait option called Beauty face.
Don’t be intimidated by Expert mode – it launches a very attractive graphic that resembles a camera lens barrel with a dial so you can specify aperture or shutter priority for instance. And you don’t need to be an expert to use it – every facet is explained with useful help balloons so you can learn what you’re doing. However you use it, this is a responsive and accessible camera.
There are even image effects which sit just offscreen in an Instagram-like row. Touch the arrow at the bottom of the screen and the effect thumbnails appear, showing you what the finished photo will look like.
And unlike most smartphones, there is precious little shutter lag here: the autofocus system, the part which often slows things down, is speedy and effective. There are other features, with attention-grabbers like voice control worth noting. Turn on voice control in the settings and you can tell the camera to zoom in, zoom out or shoot. This is a fun gimmick that’s nice to show off.
The most important thing, though, is the quality of the photos the camera delivers. Overall, these are good, though there are cheaper compacts that can offer more. Colour fringing on small details was sometimes evident and focus wasn’t always pin-sharp. Brighter lighting conditions were always best for the most assured photos, there’s good colour fidelity and mostly excellent exposure levels.
You can also shoot HD video on the Samsung Galaxy Camera - full 1080p HD at 30fps to be precise.
The real downside is that it takes as long to turn on as a smartphone. Waking it from standby is fast enough, no problem, as the lens shoots forward from its retracted position. But from power off it takes almost 30 seconds, so you’ll want to keep it turned on.
Samsung Galaxy Camera: Android
But there’s more than a compact camera here. Here you can play games, watch video, check when the next bus is coming, update Facebook, send a tweet complete with a photo snapped on a superzoom camera. Which is where the Galaxy really shines.
It’s not your regular Android experience – for a start you naturally want to use the camera with a wide landscape screen so the home screens look different – but it works well. Want to find your way to a local landmark or grocery store? The GPS will guide you to that photo destination. Fancy downloading a movie to watch later? There are films in the Google Play Movies store ready to be rented or bought. And you could even download it over 3G, though beware of the data costs.
Battery life is crucial here. Spend too much time on Where’s My Perry? and you could find you’re out of juice when that Kodak moment suddenly appears. Still, there’s a removable battery so you could always carry a spare if you know you’ve got a heavy day ahead. In use, the 1650mAh cell held up well.
Will you make the most of the phone’s 3G capabilities? After all, you probably don’t want an extra phone contract to be paying each month. Pay as you go data micro SIMs are available on a monthly basis and this is a better way to go – though remember that these images are richer than on regular cameraphones – the 16MP sensor is way higher resolution than most snapperphones – so the files are bigger. It’s worth downsizing them before sending them over 3G.
Samsung Galaxy Camera: Verdict
The Galaxy Camera is a very cool camera with good build quality, appealing design and decent weight. The idea of a phone and camera hybrid that isn’t just a regular cameraphone takes some getting used to. And the results aren’t uniformly perfect but they’re certainly better than on any phone and comparable to many compacts.
You can’t use it to make calls, but most other features on a smartphone are here, so you can make sure you have all the internet-connected, GPS-serviced, video-playing, games-related fun that something like the Samsung Galaxy S III can offer. But it does mean that suddenly you will have to carry two devices again. In which case you could get a cheaper compact than this to fill your pockets along with your phone. Still, the convenience of uploading high-quality images easily is certainly worth considering.
Samsung will make more cameras like this, we're sure. But for now it’s a great first-attempt at a new hybrid gizmo.
Samsung Galaxy Camera: Available now - £395
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