The Samsung Galaxy Camera is an Android-powered camera that marries the connectivity of a smartphone with features typically reserved for point-and-shoot cameras, but its performance falls short of its $549 price tag.
The Galaxy Camera does deliver on the promises of easy uploads, Android apps for photo editing and a legit real zoom, but that won’t be enough to satisfy many photographers. Unfortunately, the Galaxy Camera doesn’t perform well in low light and doesn’t do enough to justify the high price of the camera, even with connectivity and Android apps.
Verizon offers the Galaxy Camera with an attractive $5 per month charge for Share Everything users.
I tested the Galaxy Camera for the past few weeks in a variety of environments including at home, around town and at the CES 2013 trade show in Las Vegas. During the same time period I also shot photos with the Nikon D5100 DSLR and the iPhone 5. At CES, I found the low light performance of the Galaxy Camera too much of a problem to rely on it at press events, most of which were held in theater-like rooms. But the camera excelled in both video and photo work on the well-lit show floors.
The Galaxy Camera runs on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and comes with the Google Play Store, which lets users run download most Android apps. There is no phone component, so you can’t use it to make calls. The built-in camera app includes Manual modes to deliver more control to advanced photographers, an Auto mode to satisfy most users and a Smart mode to use specific features.
The Smart mode lets users take panoramic photos, macro photos, freeze action, take continuous photos and more. The two most useful modes here are Best Face and Continuous shot, both of which I’ve used on the Galaxy Note 2 and other Samsung phones. Best face captures multiple photos and lets users pick faces from multiple shots to make sure everyone has their eyes open and is smiling. Continuous mode takes multiple photos so it’s easy to get the shot with just the right moment.
The convenience of a 4G LTE to upload photos to Dropbox and videos directly to YouTube is handy. The Galaxy Camera battery life is OK, but if I left 4G LTE on, or kept the screen on between shots, the battery was near empty before the end of the day. Thankfully users can pop in a new battery; the same one found in the Galaxy S II, which are available fairly cheap.
Galaxy Camera Sample Photos
The following Galaxy Camera sample photos are indoors in good to low light. With good light, the Galaxy Camera takes nice looking photos, but in photos like the one below, the performance isn’t up to par.
The photos below show low light performance, versus flash performance.
The following photos are from indoors in a poorly lit Las Vegas hotel, an office and a local wine shop. The photos of the wine shop turned out well thanks to good lighting, but those from the hotel room required a flash in most cases.
Taking photos with the Galaxy Camera outdoors leads to some better photo samples, including several that beat what I could do with the iPhone 5, thanks to the 21x optical zoom. The iPhone 5 and most smartphone cameras only offer digital zoom, which means photos are simply cropped to imitate a zoom, reducing the resolution and offering subpar results.
The gallery below contains photos taken during a walk through downtown Findlay, Ohio. I took most of the Galaxy Camera photo samples below with 1x to 4x zoom.
The Galaxy Camera’s 21x optical zoom is one of our favorite features, bringing us closer to subjects that would normally be out of range for the iPhone 5 and other smartphone cameras. Here are a few shots showing what the 21x optical zoom can do.
The Galaxy Camera takes decent-looking video, and thanks to Verizon 4G LTE it can upload a large file quickly. I shot video of the OtterBox Armor Series unveiling at CES without a tripod or monopod, captured photos while capturing the video and uploaded the video to YouTube within a few minutes.
Galaxy Camera Recommendation
The Galaxy Camera is a nice gadget, but it is bulkier than many point-and-shoot cameras and much more expensive. The Galaxy Camera is on par with a $200 to $250 point-and-shoot camera, not a $550 camera.
Users looking to spend more than $500 on a point-and-shoot should look at the Sony DSX-RX 100 before opting for the Galaxy Camera. for $550-$600 consumers can also choose an Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera like the Olympus E-MP2 or pick up a full DSLR like the Nikon D3200.
4G LTE connectivity is a handy feature, but not many users have the same needs as I do for fast uploading and sharing of images taken on the Galaxy Camera.
Verizon nails the monthly cost for 4G LTE connectivity in a camera at $5 a month, but the price of the camera doesn’t match the overall cost of the Galaxy Camera.