Samsung Galaxy Camera

The Galaxy Camera is the first camera in the New Zealand market to run the Android operating system - but does Android add to the camera's value or detract from it?

NameDigital compact camera: Samsung Galaxy Camera
At a glance:16MP resolution, 21x optical zoom,Runs Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean),4.8-inch LCD touchscreen,Yes, you can play Angry Birds
Summary:A slick, surprisingly cohesive Android camera.

If you’re an Android user, you’ll immediately be familiar with Samsung’s new Galaxy Camera. The device is the first camera in the New Zealand market to run the Android operating system – in this case it’s Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). You might think that running a camera on software designed for a phone might make it seem fragmented, but it’s a surprisingly cohesive experience. In many ways, it’s like a tiny Android tablet with a camera strapped to its back.

The Samsung Galaxy Camera seems designed as a learner camera, for those interested in photography who aren’t yet ready for a DSLR. It’s a nice in-between because of its three modes: Auto, ‘Smart’ (scene mode), and Expert (manual). In manual mode, the camera is fantastic as it teaches you the basics of photography as you go along – for example, it explains that the shutter speed will alter the blurriness of moving objects. It also shows you roughly what your picture’s lighting will be like on the camera’s LCD screen.

The camera has a 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated (BSI) CMOS sensor, and is 16MP with 21x optical zoom. The camera’s aperture goes from f/2.8 at the wide end to f/5.9 at the narrow end. It has a reasonably good range in terms of shutter speed – as quick as 1/2000th of a second, or as long as 16 seconds of exposure. The lithium-ion battery life is good - you can leave it on standby for several days without it going flat, and take the occasional snap or 20 as well.

The main draw of the camera, however, is its Android interface. The camera app, which starts itself as soon as you boot the camera, is very much like the typical camera app on an Android smartphone, but with extra functions laid over it. As I’m familiar with Android, I was immediately familiar with the app – I would touch the screen to autofocus without thinking about it, for example.

There are few physical buttons – just a shutter button, a zoom rocker, a power button and a pop-up flash button. Everything else, including modes and manual control, is laid out on the camera’s 4.8-inch touchscreen.

The camera supports both 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and 3G internet via microSIM, so you can upload photos directly to social media or send them to your email, regardless of where you are. If you’re really keen – and can afford the 3G data use – you can set up the camera to automatically upload every picture you take to a Dropbox account so you never lose your pictures.

Most of the pictures I took with the Galaxy Camera were great – sharp, colour accurate and, when in auto mode, perfectly focused. However, I had trouble getting the camera to autofocus in low-light situations, even when tapping on the screen to choose what I wanted it to focus on.

The size of the Galaxy Camera is both its biggest con and one of its biggest pros. On one hand, it’s quite bulky and heavy for a digital camera. On the other hand, it packs a quad-core processor and a big, 4.8-inch LCD. And since it’s running Android, you can edit photos and video on that 4.8-inch screen, using either the included apps or third-party apps downloaded from the Google Play store.

While $750 is a lot of money for a digital compact camera, the fact that it runs Android and is generally slick and high-performance makes the Galaxy Camera a good buy. If you’re interested in photography but not ready for a DSLR, or you just want another device to play Angry Birds on, Samsung’s most future-tech camera offering is great.

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Tags travel zoomcompact cameraAndroidjelly beanAndroid 4.1

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Siobhan Keogh

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