Samsung Galaxy Camera review: Half-press to play
The Samsung Galaxy Camera is a rare breed of didgicam. This Android-powered connected camera is stuff typically shown off at tech exhibitions to wow the crowd and soon be forgotten by its maker. But the Galaxy Camera is the real deal - it's available right now.
But why pay extra for the full Android deal if you're unlikely to use it all that often? And the fact that no other than Samsung has a line of Smart Cameras makes it even more complicated. With Wi-Fi connectivity they have you covered for most of the things you're likely to do with your photos - email them, post them on a social network, upload them to the cloud or apply some cool effects.
The difference between the Galaxy Camera and a Samsung Smart Camera is very much like the difference between a PC and a tablet. Tablets are cheaper but are good at some things and bad at others, while PCs tend to be pricier but are general purpose workhorses.
Here's a scenario of what you can do with the Galaxy Camera. You can broadcast video live of an event (there are several apps that do this, including Google+ Hangouts on Air), even if you can't get close (e.g. you're sitting at the back row) and get a steady shot even if you have to zoom in thanks to the Optical Image Stabilization.
Then when it's time to get up close, you can snap several photos, upload them anywhere they need to go (Picasa, Dropbox, Facebook, you name it) and write a blog post to go with them, say with a dedicated app (e.g. WordPress for Android) or a custom web-based interface you normally use on the computer or a tablet.
That's a lot like what we need to do during CES or MWC, except these events don't usually allow you to do your own video stream, but you get the idea. It's great that you get all this functionality in one package that can be adapted to your individual needs, but there are several big issues.
First, if you're doing professional work you'll want good image quality and the Samsung Galaxy Camera just doesn't cut it, certainly not when others are using micro four thirds and up. Second, the 1,650mAh battery will get drained pretty quickly, especially if you use a wireless connection, you'll have to carry one or more spares.
And third, very few people actually need all this functionality - most will just use the camera and only occasionally tap into the Android side of things. The Galaxy Camera is already dropping in price and it might reach a point where the extra cost over a regular camera is justified, but it's not there yet.
So, while the Galaxy Camera shows great promise, for now it's more prudent to use a regular camera with Eye-Fi or a USB Host adaptor hooked up to a Galaxy S III. You lose the convenience of having it all in one package, but the functionality is pretty much the same and you get to pick a camera + Android phone combo that works for you (the Galaxy S III was just an example, you can go with a Motorola MAXX phone for the amazing battery life or even a tablet, whatever works for you).
In the end, the Samsung Galaxy Camera is let down by the quality of the photos it produces - very few (if any) people will need the advanced on-board functionality offered by Android and be okay with a camera that can't beat a cellphone camera. But we'd love to see a sequel - especially if Samsung takes its usual approach to covering the entire range. Now that they have made a point with the versatile zoom, something more compact and with a larger sensor would be most welcome.