While others try to bring phones to the level of point and shoot cameras by improving the quality of lenses on them, some manufacturers have decided to put a spin on this formula by bringing smartphone-like capabilities to cameras. Nikon was the first off the mark with the Nikon Coolpix S800C, which ran on Android, and now Samsung has come to the “smart” camera party with the Galaxy Camera.
On the hardware front, you will find very little to complain about. The Galaxy Camera runs on a 1.4 GHz quad core processor, 8 GB of storage (expandable by memory card) and runs one of the latest versions of Android, 4.1 (Jellybean). It comes with a 17.0-megapixel sensor, a 21X optical zoom, Xenon flash and most striking of all, a massive 4.77 inch touchscreen display of 1280 x 720 resolution. Throw in Wi-Fi, 3G, HDMI and Bluetooth connectivity into the mix, and you have a blend of a very good point and shoot camera and top-end Android smartphone. It will, however, split opinions with its appearance. We thought it was way too bulky for a point and shooter — it was almost as tall as our Canon EOS 550D DSLR and although much slimmer, it definitely won’t slip into pockets easily. There are also a few usability issues — the “grip” area on the side of the phone also is of an odd size — it is big enough to protrude from the frame, but not comfortable enough to hold, and the lens is too close to the other edge of the camera. All said and done though, its snow-white body and stunning display will turn heads.
More than a touch of Android
But what makes the Galaxy Camera unique is the fact that it attempts to blend the smartphone and camera worlds, and to a large extent, succeeds. Almost all the controls on the camera are touch-based — you can either prefer to take pictures in simple Auto mode, go for one of the many preset Smart modes (Silhouette, Panorama, Action Freeze, etc.), or if you are in a really camera tweaking mood, switch to Expert mode, and fiddle with ISO, shutter speed and aperture settings, which are shown rather creatively in the form of lens extensions, letting you rotate between different settings. The display is gorgeous and responsive, you can access all your e-mails, social networks and even indulge in a spot of gaming, all with nary a lag. Sterling stuff. Of course, this is a camera, so you have super photo and video editing apps on board and once again, thanks to the display-processor combo, editing multimedia is a real delight. With Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity, you can upload and share images literally in a snap. There is also an element of voice control, but honestly, we found the idea of ordering a camera to zoom in and out a trifle insane. The camera itself turned out reasonably good results. Although shots in daylight came out fine, we had been expecting a little more detail and richer colours, and quality tended to deteriorate as the lights dimmed. Twiddling onscreen controls in Expert mode is not easy, and we were very annoyed to see the camera tip over when the zoom extended to the maximum zoom limit. That said, if you stick to Auto and Smart modes, you will take some very good photographs. Just remember not to venture too far from a charging point — that magnificent display chews up battery life.
The Galaxy Camera is currently priced at Rs 29,900. That places it squarely in high-end prosumer and entry-level DSLR territory. And in terms of picture quality, although it does take very good shots (and superb video), it definitely will not give either a run for their money. But when it comes to a camera that is able to function and connect to the Web on its own without any computer connectivity whatsoever, this is one of the best convergence devices we have seen. The camera functionality has been very well integrated with Android and the big display actually makes editing and sharing on the move an easy task. Yes, we would have liked a more compact body (we really think we could have done with a smaller optical zoom), better picture quality, and a lower price — the current one will tempt many shooters (especially purists) to consider a DSLR or a high-end point and shooter like the uber compact Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-RX100. But even with those reservations, the Galaxy Nexus represents the first really good integration of a camera with a smartphone OS.
Go for it if you love clicking to share rather than frame, have big hands and no budget constraints.