Samsung Galaxy Camera Review

 
Camera Reviews / Samsung Cameras i Express Review
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Samsung Galaxy Camera
Resolution: 16.30 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.3 inch
Lens: 21.00x zoom
(23-483mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
ISO: 100-3200
Shutter: 16-1/2000
Max Aperture: 2.8
Dimensions: 5.1 x 2.8 x 0.8 in.
(129 x 71 x 19 mm)
Weight: 10.6 oz (301 g)
includes batteries
MSRP: $500
Availability: 11/2012
Manufacturer: Samsung
Full specs: Samsung Galaxy Camera specifications
16.30
Megapixels
21.00x zoom
1/2.3 inch
size sensor
image of Samsung Galaxy Camera
Front side of Samsung Galaxy Camera digital camera Back side of Samsung Galaxy Camera digital camera Top side of Samsung Galaxy Camera digital camera Left side of Samsung Galaxy Camera digital camera Right side of Samsung Galaxy Camera digital camera

Galaxy Camera Summary

Samsung brings to bear the full force of its extensive experience in Android phones and tablets, unleashing a smart digital camera that shares much with its recent flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S III. Size, cost, image quality, and a rather limited feature set prove areas of concern for this otherwise impressive device.

Pros

Powerful zoom lens; Fast processor; Huge and bright display; Modern Android operating system; Vast selection of available apps.

Cons

Large, heavy body; Expensive pricetag; 3G/4G data plan adds to cost; Sedate performance; Image quality doesn't compare well to other similarly sized / priced cameras.

Price and availability

In the US market, both AT&T and Verizon Wireless offer the Galaxy Camera on their networks. AT&T's variant has been available since November 2012 for around US$500, while Verizon's version started shipping from December 2012 at around US$550. Both carriers also charge for a data plan; the amount charged will depend on your contract terms. Unlocked phones are also available in some markets, but do not appear to be sold officially in the USA. The Wi-Fi only version, meanwhile, started shipping from April 2013, priced at US$450.

Imaging Resource rating

3.5 out of 5.0

Samsung Galaxy Camera Review

by Roger Slavens and Mike Tomkins

Hands-on preview posted: 08/29/2012
Review posted: 05/06/2013

Samsung has considerable expertise when it comes to building smartphones and tablets on the Android OS platform, so it was inevitable that the company would bring its Android know-how to a full-fledged digital camera. The Samsung Galaxy Camera not only boasts the speed and smooth operation of Google's Android 4.1 platform (aka Jelly Bean), but also includes both Wi-Fi and either 3G or 3G/4G wireless data connectivity.

As for its photo-taking capabilities, the Samsung Galaxy Camera far outpaces what's offered in your typical smartphone, providing a 16.3-megapixel BSI CMOS sensor, a 21x f/2.8-5.9 lens that delivers a 23-483mm equivalent range, optical image stabilization, Full HD 1080p video (30fps) and a huge 4.8-inch LCD Super Clear Touch Display.

But what may be most exciting about the Samsung Galaxy Camera is its ability to save and share your photos to the cloud and on your social networks the moment you take them, via the Auto Cloud Backup and Share Shot feature. You can also connect the Galaxy Camera to a range of other Samsung Galaxy devices via Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi with Dual Band and Channel Bonding, or 3G/4G if you're out of Wi-Fi range.

Like any Android-based device, the Galaxy Camera lets your browse the web and download a host of apps for both work and play. It comes with both Google's Play store, and Samsung's S Suggest application, the latter of which lists Samsung-recommended apps for your device, but hands off to Google Play itself for app installation. Other preinstalled apps include Google's Chrome browser, Search, Maps, Gmail, Latitude, Google Plus, YouTube and much more.

The Galaxy Camera comes with built-in memory -- the amount varies depending on your version, with 4GB, 8GB, or 16GB variants available -- and of course you can also add more. Unlike most full-sized digital cameras, though, the Galaxy Camera relies on tiny microSD, microSDHC, or microSDXC cards typically used in smartphones, rather than the much more common full-sized SD cards. All the onboard computing is supported by a 1.4GHz quad-core processor.

Many of the Samsung Galaxy Camera's features are aimed at making it easier for photo novices to take, edit and manage pictures with ease. The Samsung Galaxy Camera's Smart Pro mode -- analogous to the Scene mode found on many cameras -- has 15 different options that configure the camera appropriately for preset photographic scenarios, ranging from Macro to Action Freeze. Over 50 in-camera editing features in Photo Wizard mode allow for on-the-go picture enhancements, and several of these use face detection algorithms to identify your subject and apply corrections just to their face without affecting the rest of their scene.

Unlike many smartphones, the Samsung Galaxy Camera has a removable battery and a tripod socket. Also shown here are the micro-SIM slot, HDMI port and microSD slot.

The Samsung Galaxy Camera comes in several different versions providing various connectivity options: Wi-Fi only, 3G and Wi-Fi, or 3G/4G and Wi-Fi. There are also some subtle differences depending upon whether you buy an unlocked camera, or a version specific to a certain wireless carrier.

In the US market, both AT&T and Verizon Wireless offer the Galaxy Camera on their networks. AT&T's EK-GC100 variant has been available since November 2012 for around US$500, while Verizon's EK-GC120 version started shipping from December 2012 at around US$550. Both carriers also charge for a data plan; the amount charged will depend on your contract terms. Unlocked phones are also available in some markets, but do not appear to be sold officially in the USA. The Wi-Fi only EK-GC110 version, meanwhile, started shipping from April 2013, priced at US$450.

 

Samsung Galaxy Camera Overview Video

Philip Berne of Samsung walked us through the impressive features of the Samsung Galaxy Camera. Click on the Play button below to check it out!

 

Samsung Galaxy Camera Shooter's Report

by Mike Tomkins

If you like pumped-up images, you'll like the Galaxy Camera. It tends towards strong saturation and contrast; see our Nikon S800c review for a more realistic rendering shot at the same time.

When late last year Nikon announced its Coolpix S800c, a model which I recently reviewed, I was intrigued. After Samsung followed up just a week later with an Android-based camera of its own, I was doubly so. As I said in my review of the Nikon, I live in an Android household with four Android tablets and three smartphones, some stock and others running rooted or third-party firmware, and together spanning every release from Gingerbread to Jelly Bean 4.2.2. I'm a self-proclaimed Android nut, and I'm thrilled by the potential of a camera with a full-blown operating system and expansive app ecosystem. While Nikon's model was interesting as the first mainstream Android camera, Samsung's was more exciting for its use of a much more modern Android variant, especially given the company's significant experience in making Android smartphones, tablets, and "phablets" (devices which sit halfway between the size of phones and standard tablets).

As with Nikon's camera, while the Samsung Galaxy Camera is certainly interesting to Android fans, it has some drawbacks that are likely to prove off-putting to the typical Imaging Resource reader, and for that reason this review will be rather more abbreviated than typical for a device of this complexity. (Summing things up briefly, for a camera of its price and size the Galaxy Camera didn't offer the image quality we'd expect. It also had some performance issues, and its user interface -- while certainly glossy -- was somewhat clumsy. Hence the abbreviated review.)

On taking it out of the box (we reviewed the EK-GC100 AT&T version), I found the Galaxy Camera quite a bit larger than I'd expected from the press images. It has to be to fit in its mammoth 4.8-inch LCD display, and the very presence of that screen should have tipped me off as to what I should expect, but the camera's sleek styling makes it seem much more compact than is actually the case. Even when compared to an APS-C sensor-based camera like Samsung's own NX2000, the Galaxy Camera is larger in both width and height by some margin, and at the hand grip it's not a lot slimmer than its large sensor sibling.

The Galaxy Camera's feature set can feel limiting. Here, the metered shot turned out unusable -- but did exposure bracketing save me? No, because it has a fixed 1EV step size, giving a choice of a slightly overexposed, blurred shot where the camera chose too slow a shutter speed, or one that's rather underexposed (shown).

It's not just a large camera, either. The Samsung Galaxy Camera is heavier than the typical compact by a fair margin, weighing half as much again more than the NX2000 body-only. Of course, you have to account for the lens, and when you do its clear that the Galaxy Camera still has a significant size advantage over a large sensor camera plus the selection of lenses required to replicate its powerful 21x optical zoom lens. (And its weight is about the same as the NX2000 with a prime lens mounted.)

One thing struck me as rather odd, given the GC100's size and weight, however. Samsung has chosen to use a MicroSD card slot in the Galaxy, rather than the much more common full-sized SD card slot. This, perhaps, is a tip of the hat to the company's experience in Android smartphones, where the tiny MicroSD cards make sense. In such a large camera as this, a flash card which would be dwarfed by a postage stamp seems bizarre, though, and it meant I had to rely on an adapter to get images off the Galaxy Camera via my laptop's built-in card reader. (I rarely tether cameras via USB -- my life is already packed with plenty enough cables to have me avoid them where I can.)

Still, this is a camera that emphasizes wireless sharing, and one which allows a significant degree of image editing without the need to rely on your computer, as well. It's perfectly possible you'll insert the flash card and never need to take it back out, especially given the reasonably generous internal memory.

Upon starting up the Galaxy Camera, I was pleased to see the recent Jelly Bean operating system in use, rather than the dated Gingerbread version used by Nikon. It was also immediately clear that this was a much more powerful camera in terms of its hardware. The screen is exceptionally roomy, bright, and very colorful. It does have a PenTile RGBW matrix, though, which gives it a rather grainy / coarse appearance on high contrast edges. It's especially noticeable on text, making reading a less pleasant experience than you'd think given the dot count.

It might look a bit like a mirrorless camera with a prime lens, but the Samsung Galaxy Camera has a mighty 21x optical zoom. These two shots were taken at wide angle and telephoto from the same position.

On the plus side, though, the extra white pixels in the display give it good daylight visibility, and Samsung's oleophobic coating on the display protects it from fingerprints very nicely. You can still smudge it if you press hard, but given the screen's high touch sensitivity it's very possible to interact with the Galaxy Camera without adding noticeable fingerprint smudges at all. In all, the LCD offers a much more pleasant experience than the small, dim, fingerprint magnet that is offered on the competing Nikon camera. It's also nice to know that the Galaxy Camera screen is protected by Corning's Gorilla Glass, which while definitely not shatterproof or scratchproof -- no glass can make that claim -- is certainly much more resistant to both issues than is standard glass or polycarbonate.

The Samsung EK-GC100's large screen makes using Android a much more attractive proposition -- especially interacting with the onscreen keyboard. Controls and buttons are larger and easier to press, and your images and movies visible with much greater detail. Even if you're familiar with Android, though, there may be quite a learning curve if you've not used a Samsung device before. That's because it includes TouchWiz, Samsung's overlay to Android as seen on the company's smartphones. While TouchWiz is nice in some respects (I especially appreciated the quickly-accessed controls for the camera's radios and so forth from the pull-down notification blind), it was equally frustrating in others. I found it especially confusing that the navigation bar sometimes vanishes, and controls such as the Home button instead migrate into an app's interface. Whenever this happened, I inevitably spent several seconds trying to remember where the button had gone, because my other Android devices have taught me that it never moves.

Compared to a smartphone, image quality was pretty good. Compared to other cameras of its size and price, though, the Galaxy Camera doesn't do so well. Even at base sensitivity, you can see the effects of noise reduction on subtle details.

There's also quite a bit of preinstalled software (or bloatware, depending on how you look at it). This includes AllShare Play, AT&T Locker, ChatON, Group Play, Instagram, Music Player, My Files, Paper Artist, Photo Wizard, S Suggest, S Voice, Video Editor, and Video Player -- all non-stock apps, on top of the stock Google fare. Some of these were quite useful, but others arguably less so. Unlike Gingerbread, the Jelly Bean operating system does allow you to permanently disable some of these, though. You won't get back the storage space they consume, but you'll prevent them wasting system resources and making it harder to find the apps you're searching for in the app drawer. On balance, though, I found I wasn't a fan of TouchWiz, and I would've preferred a completely stock Android experience.

Putting aside its imaging performance and considering it as an Android smart device, the Samsung GC100 is commendably swift. The user interface is for the most part very responsive, with only occasional slowdowns. Apps load quickly, and perform well -- even games. The Galaxy Camera is not only up to simpler games like Angry Birds or Temple Run, it even handles more graphically intensive fare like Beach Buggy Blitz with only reasonably modest frame drops. Sadly, the selection of apps available for the Galaxy Camera is limited a bit simply because developers aren't familiar with device. Apps which would almost certainly run without issue, such as Real Racing 3, are nowhere to be found in the market. If you can download them on another device you may be able to sideload them, but for most users that won't be feasible. And of course, as with S800c, if you use processor-intensive games and apps a lot, the battery life will be impacted -- but you can change the battery, unlike many smartphones. (And unlike the S800c, you can also continue to use the Galaxy Camera while charging, so if a power point is convenient you can game without battery-induced guilt. ;-)

Since it offers a full-blown operating system -- and since we did so in our review of the Nikon S800c -- it seems appropriate to run a few benchmarks, so you can compare performance to your own smartphone, or to reviews of other phone and tablet hardware. As results vary somewhat, I ran each test a couple of times to get a feel for the variance. I've included the Nikon S800c's results for comparison purposes.

Note that since GLBenchmark has been updated since the S800c review was published, I've had to use the newer version which no longer offers the non-HD Egypt tests, nor the battery test. I tried AnTuTu battery test as an alternative, but the Samsung GC100 spontaneously shut down mid-test, perhaps due to a temperature threshold. (The test holds the CPU around 100% utilization, and the temperature hovered at around 50 degrees celsius throughout.) I also tried to add the HD Egypt tests for the S800c, but they will not run on that camera.

Benchmark Samsung Galaxy Camera Nikon Coolpix S800c
AnTuTu Benchmark v3.3 13-14,000 4,100 - 4,200
AnTuTu Tester v1.3.5
Battery test (100% brightness, Wi-Fi enabled)
No score (shut down after one hour with 49% battery remaining, resumed and continued to 2 hours, 3 minutes) 447
Quadrant v2.1.1 5,800 1,200
Sunspider v1.0 (Browser) 1,350 ms 5,200 ms
Sunspider v1.0 (Chrome) 1,250 ms Browser not available
Linpack v1.2.8
Single-threaded, MFLOPS
56 40
Linpack v1.2.8
Multi-threaded, MFLOPS
150 34
GLBenchmark v2.5.1
Egypt Classic onscreen
Test not available 28 fps
GLBenchmark v2.5.1
Egypt Classic offscreen
Test not available 9 fps
GLBenchmark v2.5
Egypt HD onscreen
15 fps Doesn't run
GLBenchmark v2.5
Egypt HD offscreen
15 fps Doesn't run
GLBenchmark v2.7
T-Rex HD C24Z16 onscreen
5.7 fps Doesn't run
GLBenchmark v2.7
T-Rex HD C24Z16 offscreen
4.1 fps Doesn't run

GLBenchmark v2.5.1
Battery test, 100% brightness
Egypt Classic onscreen 60 fps

Test not available 1 hr., 53 min.
to 20% remaining

The results are much the same as you'd expect from a high-end, modern smartphone. (Not an absolutely top-of-the-line one, mind you, but one from the previous generation.) That makes perfect sense, because the Samsung Galaxy Camera is based around the exact same Exynos 4 Quad system-on-chip (combining both a CPU and GPU in one chip) that was used in the Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone in certain markets including Europe and Asia, running at the exact same clock speed. The Exynos 4 Quad 1.4 GHz was also used in the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, worldwide. So essentially you have the same processor and graphics hardware as in what was, until fairly recently, Samsung's flagship smartphone and tablet.

Add in a Jelly Bean operating system, and the net result is a device which is much more powerful and responsive than its rival, the Nikon S800c. It also seemed much more stable to me. Where the Nikon fairly regularly showed app crashes and strange behavior, and once locked up on me entirely, the GC100 was near-perfectly reliable. (I did see one weird glitch -- after installing an app, the notification telling me installation was under way never cleared and couldn't be manually cleared without rebooting -- but the reboot fixed the problem and I never saw it happen again.)

The Galaxy Camera also struck me as a lot less limited by its hardware than the S800c. There's a headphone jack, for one thing, so you can listen to music or the audio portion of videos and games on your headphones, rather than disturbing everyone around you. Unlike the Nikon, the Galaxy Camera's compass also worked in every app I tried, and even augmented reality apps such as Layar and Wikitude worked just fine. (Although apps which use the camera do seem to rack the lens in and out quite a bit, and seemingly at random.)

And unlike the Nikon, using third-party camera apps is a sensible proposition on the Galaxy Camera. Nikon's model artificially limits the image resolution available to third party camera apps, and the optical zoom also wouldn't work in any app I tried. With the Samsung, though, the full resolution was available and the optical zoom worked just fine in apps like Camera MX. In fact, the only thing I could find that didn't seem to work correctly in third-party apps was touch-focus. Tapping on the screen would indeed trigger a focus cycle, and a box would appear where I'd tapped, but the focus would stubbornly lock on whatever was in the center of the frame, regardless of where on the screen I tapped. Samsung's own first-party camera app had no such difficulty. Still, that's a much better result than that of the S800c, which essentially makes third-party apps unusable.

The GC100 also scores another win by allowing you to return to the stock camera app immediately with a press of the shutter button. It does necessitate a full press, unlike the typical half-press required to get to record mode from playback in most cameras, but that's understandable: You wouldn't want to switch away from Android every time you accidentally brushed the shutter button, after all. The ability to return to camera mode immediately is a big plus, though, and it works not only from the Android launcher, but also from some apps. (I did notice some games prevented this, however. Also, when in a third-party camera app, the shutter button will take a picture rather than switching you to the stock app, but I'd consider that to be the correct behavior.)

The user interface in camera mode is not willing to take a back seat -- it can prove overwhelming at times. In Android mode, too, Samsung's TouchWiz interface is an acquired taste.

Unfortunately, I wasn't a big fan of the stock camera app. I found it clumsy, and felt that it prioritized needless gloss over functionality. For example, if you switch the camera to one of the PASM modes via the on-screen Mode dial, the screen is suddenly almost entirely consumed by gigantic, stacked virtual dials for ISO sensitivity, exposure compensation, shutter speed, and aperture. Not only do you lose sight of your subject, but you also can't really tell how the exposure is being affected by your adjustments until you close the dials -- and it then takes two taps to get them back again so you can have another try at matching your artistic vision.

The touch interface also lacks a direct way to change things like white balance, metering modes, and so forth -- things I'd actually use -- while providing access through a slide-out menu to functions I would frankly never use, such as voice control over the camera, a flash control that essentially duplicates the physical flash button, and a menu of sharing options I'd be likely to configure once and never touch again.

Like that for the Nikon S800c, this Full HD handheld video shot with the Samsung Galaxy Camera shows an unattractive jerkiness while zooming, accompanied by a significant jello effect. The issue seems worse on the Samsung, though, and focus also drifts more significantly during zoom operation, although when it does so it is restored more quickly than in the Nikon. Also, the frame rate is a rather odd 29.578 fps, rather than the more common 29.970 fps of NTSC video.
YouTube clip above recompressed by Google; download the original video file here.

The menu system, meanwhile, isn't terribly organized: You choose between Camera, Share, and General menus with no attempt to categorize options beyond that. It sits in a small translucent box at the middle of the screen, with plenty of room for more tabs and better organization of options, and it's unnecessarily slow to navigate if you're changing a mass of options at once because of a slow swipe-in effect for each menu item you tap on. The result is a bit frustrating, although it could be worse: There aren't terribly many menu options to start off with, and on a more complex, feature-rich camera the design would've been more painful. Still, you are forced to deal with it, thanks to the very limited number of physical controls on the Galaxy Camera. I'd like to have seen more physical controls and a cleaner, less obtrusive interface overall.

There is one respect in which Nikon definitely wins, too. If you completely power both cameras down, removing their batteries, and then reinsert and power them back up, you will be shooting with the S800c much sooner than you will with the Samsung Galaxy Camera. The reason for that is the fact that the Samsung must entirely boot up its Android operating system before you can do anything, a process which takes a full 30 seconds. (Perhaps more, if you install many apps which start at bootup.) That is a long time spent waiting for a fleeting moment to be captured, and chances are if the camera wasn't powered up that you're going to miss your shot. Although the Nikon provides next to no features before Android bootup finishes (you can't even enter the menu system, for example), it does at least let you shoot a picture almost straight away.

I could, perhaps, have found myself willing to live with these interface flaws on the Samsung Galaxy Camera, in exchange for the versatility of its Android operating system, were its image quality better. Unfortunately, I found the colors to be far too saturated for my tastes, and not terribly accurate either. Especially when compared to what is available from cameras the same size as -- or even significantly smaller than -- the Galaxy Camera, its image quality didn't impress me terribly. It's not that it was bad, per se: It's head and shoulders above most every Android device out there even before you consider the massive zoom reach on offer. It just seems to have been calibrated very much with consumers in mind, yielding contrasty, vivid images that certainly pop, but which don't match my memory of the scene.

Performance, given all that available processor power, was sedate as well. There's a burst shooting mode yielding roughly four frames per second, but that operates with exposure and focus locked from the first frame. You can also opt for a bracketed exposure, which is similarly fast. Otherwise, though, you're limited to a very pedestrian 0.5 frames per second if you want to refocus or remeter between frames.

I will say that if a heart of Android is your primary desire, and if you can live with its physical bulk, its TouchWiz interface, and the fact that in camera mode it feels less like a camera and more like a gadget, I found the Samsung Galaxy Camera much more pleasant to use than the S800c. That was primarily due to its much better screen, its much newer Android version, and its more powerful processing capabilities. Unfortunately, overall I found myself putting the Galaxy Camera down in favor of other cameras that were either much smaller, or could give me much better image quality from a larger sensor -- and I say that as a fan of Android and what it promises for digital cameras.

 

Samsung Galaxy Camera Lens Quality


Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Soft at upper left
Tele: Sharpest at center
Tele: Soft at upper left

Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Samsung Galaxy Camera's zoom shows some noticeable blurring in the corners of the frame compared to what we see at center, (particularly the left corners at wide angle) and blurring extends a little far into the image area. At telephoto, blurring is again noticeable in the corners of the frame, though results at center are also a little soft.


Wide: Moderate barrel distortion; slightly noticeable
Tele: Moderate pincushion distortion, more than average

Geometric Distortion: Barrel distortion is moderate at full wide angle (0.4%), while pincushion distortion is a bit higher than average at full telephoto (0.4%). Distortion is noticeable in some images.


Wide: Moderate but dull
Tele: High, fairly bright

Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration at wide angle is moderate in terms of pixel count, though coloration is faint. At telephoto, distortion is a little stronger, with more noticeable blue and red tinted pixels.


Macro
Macro with Flash

Macro: The Samsung Galaxy Camera's Macro mode captures fairly sharp, well-defined detail, with a small amount of blurring in the corners (a common limitation among consumer digital cameras in macro mode). Minimum coverage area is somewhat large, at 3.18 x 2.38 inches (81 x 61mm). The camera's flash had trouble at this range, with a hot spot in the top right and strong shadow throughout the rest of the frame. Thus, external lighting is your best bet with the Galaxy Camera and macro shots.


 

Samsung Galaxy Camera Viewfinder Accuracy


Wide: LCD Monitor
Tele: LCD Monitor

Viewfinder Accuracy: The Samsung Galaxy Camera's LCD monitor showed just under 100% coverage at wide angle, and a hair over 100% at telephoto. Both results are quite good.


 

Samsung Galaxy Camera Image Quality


Color: The Samsung Galaxy Camera tended to oversaturate strong reds and blues quite a bit, and also pushed bright greens and some oranges. Overall mean saturation is 117.3% or 17.3% oversaturated, which is much higher than average. There are some noticeable shifts in hue as well, such as cyan toward blue, orange toward yellow, and yellow toward green. The CG100's average "delta-C" color error after correction for saturation is 5.87 at base ISO, which is higher than average (lower numbers are better).  Darker skin tones show a significant push toward orange, while lighter skin tones are almost spot-on. Overall color performance isn't great, though still reasonable.


Auto WB:
Strong red cast
Incandescent WB:
Strong warm cast
 
Manual WB:
Best overall, though cool

Incandescent: Manual white balance handled our incandescent lighting best overall, though with a slightly cool overall appearance. Auto produced a very strong red-pink cast, while the Incandescent setting resulted in an equally strong warm cast.


Horizontal: 1,800 lines
Vertical: 1,750 lines

Resolution: Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,800 lines per picture height horizontally and about 1,750 lines vertically. Extinction of the pattern occurred after 2,800 lines per picture height.


Wide: Inconclusive
Tele: Dark
Auto Flash

Flash: Our manufacturer-specified testing (shown at right) shows a dim target area at the rated wide-angle distance of 20.3 feet (though the area surrounding the target is bright), with an auto ISO boost to 320. Since the metering was likely fooled by the white ceiling and walls, results here are inconclusive. Results at the rated telephoto distance of 16.7 feet are very dim, despite an ISO boost to 640.

Auto flash produced dim results in our indoor portrait scene, with a strong pink cast from the ambient incandescent lighting, because our tester could not get the flash to fire in the shot. Evidently, the camera's exposure system determined the scene was bright enough without flash, choosing to increase ISO to 800 rather than fire the flash. Shutter speed was fairly quick at 1/60 second. Shot taken at ~5 feet (~1.5m) on a stable tripod.


100
200
400
800
1,600
3,200

ISO: Noise and Detail: Detail already appears smudged at the lowest ISO setting, and smudging gradually increases with each additional boost in sensitivity. By ISO 1,600, chroma (color) noise and blurring dominate the image, losing practically all fine detail. Results at ISO 3,200 are even more blurry. See Printed results below for more on how this affects prints.


Print Quality Analysis: Good 13 x 19 inch prints at ISO 100; reasonable 5 x 7 inch print at ISO 800; good 4 x 6 inch print at ISO 1600.

ISO 100 images look good and fairly crisp at 13 x 19 inches, losing contrast in our target red swatch as with so many cameras in this class. 16 x 20 inch prints are suitable for wall display.

ISO 200 prints are good at 11 x 14, with minor softness in our red swatch and mosaic bottle pattern.

ISO 400 prints are good at 8 x 10, with the same issues as mentioned above and minor noise beginning to appear in shadowy areas of our target image.

ISO 800 yields a good 5 x 7, although colors are starting to appear slightly muted here.

ISO 1600 prints a reasonable 4 x 6, with only minor apparent noise coming into play.

ISO 3200 4 x 6s have too much obvious noise and softness to be called good.

The Samsung Galaxy Camera with its Android functionality goes toe to toe with cameras like the Nikon S800c, with the same 16-megapixel resolution. In the print quality department it holds its own against the S800c for the most part, coming in at the same size ratings, until it falls off at ISO 3200.


 

Samsung Galaxy Camera Performance


Startup Time: The Samsung Galaxy Camera takes about 3.5 seconds to power on and take a shot. That's pretty slow.


Shutter Lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is also quite slow, at 0.72 second at wide angle and 0.48 second at telephoto. Prefocused shutter lag is 0.093 second, which is pretty quick.


Cycle Time: Cycle time is also sluggish, capturing a frame every 2.0 seconds in single-shot mode. The camera has a full-res burst mode capable of capturing up to 20 shots at about 4 frames per second with focus and exposure locked at the first frame. This drops to only about 0.5 fps with autofocus and autoexposure between frames.


Flash Recycle: The Samsung Galaxy Camera's flash recycles in about 6 seconds after a full-power discharge, which is fair.


Low Light AF: The camera's AF system was able to focus down to just above the 1/8 foot-candle light level without AF assist enabled, and in complete darkness with the AF assist lamp enabled.


USB Transfer Speed: Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, the Samsung Galaxy Camera's download speeds are pretty fast. We measured 8,809 KBytes/sec.


Battery Life: Samsung claims the Galaxy Camera can shoot up to 340 shots per charge according to CIPA standards, which is pretty good, although we've seen numbers in the 280-290 range quoted on various websites. Subjectively we'd say battery life is a lot better than the Nikon S800c, but still fairly brief in Android mode if you crank up LCD brightness and maximize CPU usage.


 

In the Box

The Samsung Galaxy Camera retail package contains the following items:

  • Samsung Galaxy Camera (EK-GC100 or EK-GC120) or Galaxy Camera Wi-Fi digital camera (EK-GC110)
  • Micro-SIM or USIM card (in some markets, and from some carriers; not for Wi-Fi only version)
  • EB524759VA lithium-ion rechargeable battery pack (3.7V, 1,650mAh, 6.11Wh)
  • ETA0U60JBE USB travel adapter (in the US market; will vary by market)
  • CB5MU10E USB cable
  • Wrist strap
  • Quick Start guide
  • Quick Reference guide
  • One-year limited warranty paperwork

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Data plan and micro-SIM or USIM card (if not included with device; not needed for Wi-Fi only version)
  • Extra battery pack (EB524759VA) for extended usage
  • Large capacity MicroSDHC / MicroSDXC memory card. We recommend 16GB capacity, with a minimum Class 4 speed rating.
  • Capacitive touch stylus (if you want to avoid fingerprints)
  • Camera case
  • Smartphone capable of providing a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth hotspot (if using the Galaxy Camera Wi-Fi model, otherwise not necessary)

 

Samsung Galaxy Camera Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Powerful 21x optical zoom lens; bright at wide angle, too
  • Bright, vivid LCD monitor with very good anti-smudge coating
  • Very sensitive touch panel
  • Recent Android version feels modern and stable
  • Large library of available apps for download from Google Play store
  • Third-party apps allow functionality unheard of in closed-OS cameras
  • Integrated 3G or 3G/4G data plus Wi-Fi for almost-anywhere photo sharing (or Wi-Fi only to avoid data plan costs)
  • Same processor and graphics as Galaxy S II smartphone, easily up to gaming etc.
  • Good prints to 13 x 19 at base ISO, and 8 x 10 at up to ISO 400
  • Internal memory is pretty generous (but may vary by market / carrier)
  • Good viewfinder accuracy
  • Reasonably fast full-res burst shooting with exposure / focus locked from first frame
  • Minimal shutter lag if prefocused
  • Shutter button returns you to camera mode from launcher, some apps
  • Third-party camera apps can access full resolution, optical zoom, compass sensor
  • Reasonably fast USB transfers
  • Battery charges in-camera via USB
  • Unlike many smart devices, battery is actually interchangeable
  • Can still use camera / Android features while battery charges
  • Headphone jack
  • Relatively expensive for a fixed-lens, small-sensor camera
  • As big as many large-sensor cameras, before you consider the lens
  • Pretty heavy for a fixed-lens camera
  • Popup flash mechanism feels coarse, catches sometimes when pushed down
  • LCD monitor's PenTile matrix gives the impression of lower resolution than it actually has
  • Uses tiny, easily lost microSD cards instead of much more common SD cards
  • Smudging of low-contrast detail even at base ISO
  • Strong noise and blurring above ISO 1,600
  • Colors aren't the most accurate, and saturation is very high
  • Tends towards very warm color under incandescent light
  • Higher than average pincushion distortion at telephoto
  • Flash coverage poor in macro shots
  • Cant't force flash on (Auto and Off are the only options)
  • Can't shoot photos before Android finishes booting up
  • Slow startup even if Android isn't shut down
  • Very sedate continuous shooting unless autofocus and autoexposure are locked from first frame
  • Slow autofocus
  • Stock camera feature set is limited, eg. you can't adjust step size for bracketing, etc.
  • Very obtrusive user interface in camera mode
  • TouchWiz interface in Android mode breaks with normal Android UI conventions
  • Dedicated battery charger is optional
  • Strong division between Android and camera features
  • Android confusingly refers to internal memory as "SD card"

 

They've long been predicted, and the first round of Android cameras are finally here. Two companies -- Nikon and Samsung -- got the ball rolling, and we were fortunate to be able to compare both cameras side-by-side. Unfortunately, but not entirely surprisingly for first-generation designs, both show signs of compromise at work. As we noted in our review of Nikon's camera, it has a conflicted design that almost seems to pit Android and camera against each other, and suffered from significant stability, performance, and battery life issues. In the form of the Galaxy Camera and its Wi-Fi only variant, Samsung's entry feels much more coherent.

The camera features play nicely with third-party applications, and there's not such a strong divide between camera and Android modes as in Nikon's camera. It's unfortunate that Samsung hasn't mirrored the Nikon's ability to take photos without first waiting for Android to boot up after a battery change, but if you pay attention to your charge level it's not too tough to work around this, especially given that the Galaxy Camera has significantly better battery life in camera terms than does its rival. Certainly it won't challenge the best dedicated cameras out there, but given that it's running a full-blown operating system, it's hardly fair to expect that it could.

The Samsung also scores big points over the Nikon for its large, bright, attractive monitor. While we profess we're still not huge fans of PenTile displays, you get used to the slightly coarse, dithered look of the screen fairly quickly, and once you do so, you quickly appreciate how much easier it is to frame with than the smaller, dimmer display of the Nikon. It also makes use of the camera's Android features much easier. User interface elements are larger and easier to tap, and this makes a big difference, especially for the keyboard. The Galaxy Camera's display is also more pleasant to look at for extended periods, and more conducive to operations like web browsing, watching YouTube videos, or gaming. And given the power available to it, the Galaxy Camera handles games with aplomb. It even boasts a headphone jack so that you don't disturb others while you're playing.

What you have here, essentially, is something akin to a fairly high-end smartphone, but without the calling features, and with a much, much more versatile camera. Unfortunately, that high-end mobile system-on-chip and generous display are also key to the Galaxy Camera's biggest failings: its price and size. If you've ever bought one without a contract, you'll know that high-end smartphones are pretty expensive gadgets, and so too is the Samsung Galaxy Camera. It's not exaggerating to say that you could pick yourself up a large-sensor mirrorless or SLR kit for the same price, and while you wouldn't have the same zoom range, you'd likely find image quality significantly better even at the entry level. The Galaxy Camera is also similar in size and weight to a mirrorless camera with prime lens attached, which is to say that it's quite a bit bigger than the typical small-sensor, fixed-lens compact.

And then there's the performance and image quality, which is something of a mixed bag. In some respects, it's a credible effort, especially compared with what you'd get from the typical Android smartphone or tablet. Print sizes at lower ISO sensitivities will likely provide everything the average consumer would want, and if you exclude autofocus and exposure metering from the equation, shutter lag and burst performance are reasonably good, too. If you're focusing and metering before shots, though, then shutter lag is on the slow side, and burst performance is positively lethargic. The Galaxy Camera also yields strongly saturated images with not-terribly-accurate color and noticeable smudging from noise reduction, even at base sensitivity.

The result, if you don't find its size and cost to be off-putting, seems reasonably clear to us: of the two mainstream Android cameras now available, we'd choose the Samsung Galaxy Camera over the Nikon S800c. The question is, would we choose it over a non-Android camera, and the answer so far unfortunately has to be no. We definitely see promise in the concept, and we're keen to see where it goes in the future, but right now while there's plenty to attract the hardcore Android fan, these devices don't feel ready for prime time. The Galaxy Camera comes closer than anything we've seen yet to fulfilling that goal, but for the time being if social networking and instant sharing is your priority, we'd recommend pairing a quality smartphone with a connected camera instead.

 

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