The Samsung Galaxy Camera, the first Android camera with built-in 3G and 4G wireless, is one of the most exciting things we’ve seen at IFA 2012. But early sample images are leaving us underwhelmed, dampening the excitement of Samsung merging a 4.8″ touchscreen, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and a lens with 21x optical zoom.
On paper the Galaxy Camera is a dream come true for photo enthusiasts, especially if they’re already Android fans. Samsung’s delivered impressive specifications, solid build quality and upped the point-and-shoot camera ante. But none of that matters if the camera can’t deliver stunning photos.
Samsung’s letting IFA 2012 attendees snap photos at its exhibition booth with the Galaxy Camera. The company let me borrow one for a few minutes at Pepcom, a press-only event, to try the camera out myself. I’m an experienced photographer that usually shoots with professional Nikon gear, but also shoots with various premium compact cameras.
While Samsung hasn’t officially announced Galaxy Camera pricing, my guess is that it will be in the $500 to $700 range. And that’s where it’s going to run into trouble. For that kind of money you can get a number of very capable cameras in various formats that can produce pro-grade photographs in the right hands. Flip any current Micro 4/3 camera or a Canon Powershot S100 into auto mode and you’ll have some very nice photos. I could be completely wrong about this price range, especially if wireless carriers subsidize the device. Samsung could possibly sell the Galaxy Camera at a rock-bottom price to push the Android camera movement and differentiate itself from the Nikon, Canon, Olympus and other brands that are better established in many regions. Also disappointing is that the Galaxy Camera does not save RAW files, which means photo editing options are more limited.
I put the Galaxy Camera into auto mode and snapped about a dozen pictures around the Pepcom event. I shot these samples in auto mode because that’s how most people shoot pictures. As you can see, they’re mediocre at best. Sure, you can select scene modes or manually control exposure, but most people aren’t going to do that at parties or on vacation.
Samsung did note that the cameras at the show are pre-production, which means various software and hardware tweaks could make for better images once the camera is released in October. Samsung hasn’t released any official Galaxy Camera photo samples yet, which is concerning. Camera companies typically push out sample photos with product launches to show off their capabilities. So far, Samsung’s only shown off pictures of the Galaxy Camera rather than pictures taken by it.
Many photo enthusiasts and Android users, including myself, will buy the Galaxy Camera whether or not image quality on the final product is better than what we’re seeing so far. The lure of the manual controls, large optical zoom and all that Android has to offer is too attractive for early adopters to pass up. But if Samsung wants its Android cameras to take off, it will have to ensure refined images and offer the camera at an attractive price.
Again, the above images were shot with pre-production Galaxy Cameras. There does seem to be at least some sample variance as the Galaxy Camera I shot with a couple of nights ago seemed to produce much better pictures. A handful of reporters I’ve spoken with are underwhelmed with their own Galaxy Camera samples from IFA 2012 as well.
The Galaxy Camera will mark a new era in the consumer camera space if Samsung can successfully pitch the camera to consumers this holiday season. It does run the risk of turning off enthusiast if it can’t produce better images than an average point-and-shoot.
Here is a quick Galaxy Camera video walk-through.
Click on the thumbnails below to see larger versions of the Galaxy Camera sample photos and to download full-resolution versions.