The Samsung Galaxy Camera is a model that has some very impressive features, but it also has some significant drawbacks. If you're someone who is considering purchasing the Galaxy Camera, you're going to want to make sure that its advantages match up with your needs in a camera and that you can live with its drawbacks, or you're going to end up spending far more money than you need to spend.
The primary advantage to this camera is the ease with which you immediately can share photos with others through the Galaxy Camera's wireless connectivity.
The primary problem is that there are quite a few cameras in the marketplace that can match the image quality and overall photographic performance of the Galaxy Camera for a much lower cost than the $450 suggested price point at which Samsung is selling the Galaxy Camera. This model's image quality is its biggest drawback, as other cameras in this price point offer much better image quality.
However, you aren't paying that price for image quality alone with the Samsung Galaxy Camera.
One area where no current digital camera can match this model is with its 4.8-inch high-resolution touchscreen LCD. No other camera has a screen this large, and no other camera has an interface as easy to use as the Galaxy Camera's Android 4.1 OS, also called Jelly Bean. This type of interface is almost identical to what you'd find on a smartphone, making it very easy to work through the camera's menus. Editor's note: the statements above were written before Samsung's announcement of the Galaxy NX, which also has a 4.8-inch screen and run Jelly Bean.
You also have the option of downloading and storing apps on the Galaxy Camera, just as you would a smartphone. Almost any app you could use on a smartphone likely is available for this camera, too.
Samsung has made the Galaxy Camera available in a few different versions, including the Wi-Fi enabled version that I tested (EK-GC110). Other versions include a Verizon 4G LTE model (EK-GC120) and an AT&T 4G model (EK-GC100), both of which will cost $500 or more, which includes some of the costs of activating and operating a 4G account.
The large touchscreen included with this camera is extremely impressive. It is bright and sharp, and the touch features are well designed. The touchscreen is very responsive, and it gives this camera a natural operational feel. Glare problems are rare with the Galaxy Camera LCD, even when shooting in bright sunlight. If you do have problems with glare, you have three options for setting the screen's brightness. I also was surprised to see how well the LCD screen resisted fingerprint smudges, which is important in a touchscreen.
Before I go any farther, I have to provide full disclosure: I use an Android smartphone, and I like the Android OS, which could explain in part why I found the Galaxy Camera so natural to use.
When I showed the Galaxy Camera to my teenagers and gave them free reign to try it out, they weren't quite as impressed. They enjoyed its easy-to-configure Wi-Fi connectivity and they found it enjoyable to access the Web and various apps using the large LCD. However, both are iPhone users, and they were not pleased with the Android OS included with the Galaxy Camera.
So that's something that potential purchasers of the Galaxy Camera may want to be aware of: If you are someone who is more familiar with other smartphone operating systems, you may not like the Android OS that's included with this camera. If you aren't familiar with how Android works, you will almost certainly want to test this camera before you purchase it, because $450-plus is a lot of money to spend for a camera where the best feature is the easy-to-navigate touchscreen, only to find out later that you don't like the configuration of the touchscreen's Android OS.
As part of the touchscreen interface, Samsung has provided the ability to shoot photos by touching the screen rather than using the shutter button, giving you a second option for recording photos. Samsung included very few buttons with this camera, meaning you must control most of the camera's operational aspects through the touchscreen. Additionally you can record a photo, use the self-timer, or start a video recording using voice commands with the Galaxy Camera, which is another fun feature.
You can use a variety of in-camera editing functions with its built-in software, both before and after you record the photo. There's a couple of uncommon built-in image editing features with the Galaxy Camera that can give you quite a few options for giving your images a fun look.
Unfortunately those images aren't of a quality that's as good as I'd like to see, especially for a camera that costs as much as the Galaxy Camera does.
Images aren't pin sharp most of the time, as there seems to be just a bit of softness in the autofocus on a pretty regular basis. Noise seems to be a problem, too, especially in photos where the lighting in the scene is less than optimal. When shooting indoor photos, you're almost certainly going to want to activate the Galaxy Camera's popup flash unit, as indoor flash photos tend to have better quality than those shot without the flash.
Color accuracy is pretty good with this camera. As long as you are viewing the photos on the Galaxy Camera's large LCD screen or at an average size on a computer screen, the images will look pretty good. As soon as you try to enlarge the images on the screen or make large prints, however, the image quality problems are quickly noticeable.
However, Samsung really designed the Galaxy Camera to be one that makes it very easy to immediately upload photos through the Wi-Fi or 4G connection to social media sites or to share the photos with others through e-mail. So chances are good that with this camera you aren't looking to make 11x17-inch prints. When viewed on a social media site, these photos will be of an adequate quality. However, you then must ask yourself if you want to spend $450 or more for a camera designed to create images of a quality that's best suited for social media sites.
Part of the problem with image quality with the Galaxy Camera is the fact that Samsung chose to include a 1/2.3-inch image sensor inside the camera, which is a size that's commonly found with inexpensive point-n-shoot cameras. At this price point, you'd expect to find cameras with larger image sensors. You can shoot at 16MP of resolution with this camera, and there are 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9 aspect ratios available with this model at high resolution settings.
Samsung gave this camera an easy-to-use Auto mode, as well as quite a few scene modes, which Samsung calls "Smart" mode. There are also plenty of manual control options in advanced shooting modes, which may help you deal with some of the camera's low light image quality issues.
Samsung did include image stabilization features with this camera, which is important for a model that has a 21x optical zoom lens. Just looking at this camera, you certainly wouldn't expect such a large zoom lens, in part because the camera is pretty thin and in part because the back is designed to look a lot like a smartphone. Because smartphone cameras have very limited zoom options, this 21x zoom is a key aspect of the Galaxy Camera that sets it apart from a smartphone camera.
The Galaxy Camera's zoom lens moves a little slower through its full zoom than other similarly sized cameras, and that's consistent with this camera's overall performance levels and response times. You will have some shutter lag problems with the Galaxy Camera unless you can pre-focus by pressing the shutter button halfway before recording the photo. Shot to shot delays are well below average for a camera in this price range. And start-up from a full power down requires a whopping 27 seconds, something more like what you'd see from a laptop. Once the camera has been powered up, though, start-up from sleep mode is closer to 4 seconds, which is much more manageable. Still, you can expect to miss some spontaneous photos because of the various lags that and delays the Galaxy Camera has.
Some people may not like the large size of this camera, which is necessitated because of 4.8-inch LCD screen. However, it can fit in a large pocket. The basic look of the Galaxy Camera is a nice one with a very clean white version and a sharp cobalt black version. This model almost looks like Samsung attached a large version of its WB250F camera to a smartphone. Obviously the design of the Galaxy Camera is far more complex than that, but this camera's look is very interesting.
It's also a camera that's quite a bit heavier than other point-n-shoot models, in part because it requires a pretty large battery to operate a camera with such a large LCD screen and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities. You can conserve a tiny amount of weight because you can operate the camera without a memory card, as the Galaxy Camera has 8GB of internal memory. Granted, the Android OS occupies a chunk of the internal memory, but there's still plenty of room for a large number of photos and videos. If you choose to insert a memory card, the Galaxy Camera makes use of microSD cards; just like most smartphones.
Considering the huge LCD, battery life is surprisingly good with the Galaxy, as you can shoot close to 300 photos on a single charge. However, if you're using the Wi-Fi or 4G on a regular basis, you can expect battery life to be shorter.
Movie quality is pretty good with this model, although the autofocus works too slowly when using the zoom lens during a movie recording. You'll often have periods of one to a few seconds where the video is blurry as the camera's focus adjusts to the new zoom range. However, you can shoot at full 1080p HD video resolution with this camera, and these videos look great on the Samsung Galaxy Camera's high-resolution LCD, which has a 16:9 aspect ratio that's perfect for HD movies. Samsung included an HDMI slot with this camera; no cable is included though.
Bottom Line - Because the Samsung Galaxy Camera is a bit of a "geeky" gadget, it deserves a geeky comparison: The Galaxy Camera reminds me a bit of the Batman supervillian Two-Face, who looked like a clean-cut attorney when viewed in one profile and a scarred monster when viewed in the other profile. When viewed from the front, the Galaxy Camera looks like any other mid-range digital camera that has a large zoom lens; aka a compact super-zoom. When viewed from the back, though, this model looks more like a smartphone, complete with a large LCD screen, apps, and widgets. Even though this model looks as if two different devices were stuck together, Samsung's attempt at a merger between a smartphone and a digital camera actually works very well, as the Galaxy Camera has a natural flow to its operation. It doesn't feel like a forced merger at all. You'll primarily use the touchscreen LCD to interact with the camera, but you also have a traditional shutter button and zoom ring. The 4.8-inch touchscreen LCD is sharp and bright, and by running the Android operating system, the Galaxy Camera is extremely easy to use. Samsung gave this camera some nice features, including Wi-Fi or 4G connectivity and a 21x optical zoom lens. The primary drawback with the Galaxy Camera is that its image quality is similar to a basic inexpensive point-n-shoot camera, which makes it tough to justify the $450 price tag. Still, if you want to be able to share photos immediately after shooting them with others on online photos sites or social networking sites through a very natural, smartphone-like interface, the fun Galaxy Camera could be exactly what you're seeking.