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Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 Review -- Hands-on Preview

by and Eamon Hickey
Preview posted

With 2012's Galaxy Camera, Samsung brought all of its smartphone expertise to bear in creating an Android-based, standalone camera. Now, with the follow-up Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 (Samsung model number EK-GC200), the company hones its offering, retaining the basic feature set -- including the same 16-megapixel, backside-illuminated CMOS image sensor and optically-stabilized, 21x wide zoom lens -- but bringing some worthwhile improvements.

Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 Review -- Front quarter view

The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 sports a restyled body that, while nearly identical to that of its predecessor in basic layout, is more attractive (to our eyes, at least). It's still large by compact camera standards, though. By the numbers, it's almost 0.2 inches (4mm) wider than the original Galaxy Camera, while weight has dropped 0.6 ounces (17g), though both changes aren't noticeable in-hand. The new body shape is easy to grip and helps to offset the camera’s size.

The bulk comes largely thanks to the huge 4.8-inch high-definition Super Clear Touch LCD monitor on the rear panel, another feature held over from the earlier model that's a must-have to make the best of the camera's Android features. In our hands-on time with a pre-production Galaxy Camera 2, the software wasn’t yet fully functional, but the LCD was as sharp and responsive as we'd have expected from our experience with the original Galaxy Camera.

The Galaxy Camera 2 comes in either black or white two-tone color treatments. Both feature a textured front body panel. The panel is reminiscent of the surface covering which Samsung uses on its latest high-end Galaxy Note smartphones, but -- at least on the pre-production samples we held -- doesn’t have the somewhat soft, tacky feel of the phones. The black/silver version is especially handsome in person. Some details of the earlier camera -- such as the textured handgrip and the trim piece which surrounded it -- are gone, yielding a rather cleaner, more stylish look. A small thumbgrip has been added on the rear, and a new button controlling the popup flash has been added on the top deck.

Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 Review -- Front view

So if the image sensor, lens, monitor, and much of the body design are unchanged, what's new? The key improvements are to be found in the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2's performance. The 1.4GHz Exynos 4 Quad system-on-chip has been replaced by a somewhat faster 1.6GHz quad-core processor, and the Galaxy Camera 2's memory has simultaneously been doubled to 2GB. That's not to be confused with the internal storage, incidentally, which remains at 8GB, of which 2.8GB are available to the user for app, data, and photo storage, with the remainder consumed by the operating system and built-in apps. And of course, there's still a MicroSD card slot on which to store your JPEG photos and MPEG4 AVC/H.264 videos, as well.

Accompanying the new processor and roomier memory, the Galaxy Camera 2 also sports the final 4.3 Jelly Bean release of Google's Android operating system. It's not quite the latest release available -- Google has now shipped Android 4.4 Kitkat, but relatively few devices have yet moved to a 4.4 codebase. The original Galaxy Camera remains on Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, the same version with which it was shipped at launch. (There have been firmware updates since the camera's release, but none has changed the Android variant used.)

Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 Review -- Top view

The Android OS has developed quite a bit since 4.1.2, with a more unified look and feel between device types, a reworked camera UI, better Bluetooth support, and improved power consumption, among many other changes. It will be interesting to see how these changes affect the Galaxy Camera 2 experience. Of course, Google's stock apps -- including the Google Play Store -- are still available to Galaxy Camera 2 owners, as are the same selection of Samsung apps provided with the original Galaxy Camera. (These will prove quite familiar to Samsung smartphone owners, too.)

Power consumption may also be improved thanks to a higher-capacity 2,000 mAh battery, replacing the 1,650 mAh cell of the earlier model. That's likely going to be offset against the higher-powered processor, and the need to maintain double the memory, though.

Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 Review -- Rear view

There are also some tweaks in other areas. Alongside the Galaxy Camera 2's 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4 connectivity, there's now support for Near Field Communications, allowing for quick Wi-Fi transfer to NFC-compatible devices with no user intervention beyond briefly touching the devices to each other. The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 also sports the accelerometer, compass and gyro you'd find in most smartphones, and is location-aware thanks to support for both GPS and Glonass geopositioning systems.

And Samsung has upgraded to Smart Mode 3.0 in the new camera, with new features including pinch zoom support, a Selfie Alarm smart mode which captures five self-portrait images in a single burst, and a Smart Mode Suggest function which seems akin to the Intelligent Auto modes of competitors, automatically detecting the scene type and configuring the camera appropriately. There's also Dropbox integration with two years and 50GB of free storage included, and a new Multi-Motion video mode which allows anywhere from 8x slow-motion to 8x fast-motion video capture.

Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 Review -- Rear view in portrait orientation

The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 ships from mid-March 2014 in white or black, for a suggested retail price of US$449.99. Unlike the original Galaxy Camera, the newer model offers no built-in cellular connectivity and Samsung says there are currently no plans for multiple versions of the camera. (The original Galaxy Camera was sold in multiple variants for different cellular network types in addition to a base model with only Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.)

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