TOYBOX: Samsung Galaxy Camera – a compact camera with Android & 3G
SAMSUNG GALAXY CAMERA
HOT: Only camera featuring both wi-fi and cellular, plus Android
NOT: Pricey; slow to boot (though quick from standby)
SPECS: F2.8, 23 mm, 21x motorised optical zoom lens; 16.3 megapixel CMOS, micro-SIM slot for 3G Micro-SIM, 4.8-inch LCD display; 340-shot/7 hour battery life; Android 4.1, 1.4GHz quad core processor, 8GB onboard memory plus SD card slot, a/b/g/n wi-fi, Bluetooth 4, HSPA+ 3G (at bands supported by Telecom, Vodafone and 2degrees), HDMI 1.4, A-GPS, 128.7x70.8x19.1mm, 300g.
Full specs on Samsung's site here. Scroll down for more pics.
From the rear, it could be an Android smartphone.
Like most people, I own a compact, point-and-shoot camera, but almost never use it any more.
Why bother when your smartphone can take excellent photos and videos?
Samsung’s Galaxy Camera provides two compelling reasons to take another look at the point-and-shoot cameras.
It’s the camera to feature both wi-fi and 3G (it will take a Telecom, Vodafone or 2degrees Micro-SIM).
And it’s almost the first to run on Google’s Android software, usually associated with smartphones and tablets (it was pipped at the post by Nikon’s Coolpix S800c).
Add these two feature together, and it’s easy to instantly share photos via the Android versions of popular apps like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. The choice is up to you. Just as iPhone and Android put customers in control of the software on their smartphone, Android puts you in charge of your camera. You can install any image editor you like from the Android universe.
And, yes, you can even install the Android version of Skype and make a phone call from your camera. NBR did, and called a cellphone number. The audio was muffled, but perfectly serviceable.
Plus, you get all the grown-up features smartphones lack, including a 21x optical zoom, a proper flash, and the ability to take photos at low light.
For my money, the pictures produced by the Galaxy Camera looked superb (like all compacts these days, it also takes HD video).
Some overseas reviewers (see links below) have criticised it for a modest minimum focus distance (10cm from your subject) and one found a very slight distortion at the centre of the picture when the lens was extended to its full focal length; I could not detect any.
Would I buy the Galaxy Camera?
It would be a no-brainer under $500. Compact cameras with 16mP and 21x optical zoom typically cell for $250 to $400, and 3G Android smartphones now cell for under $150. So $749 seems a robust premium for Android and 3G.
But this is an intriguing gadget. I just love the way Android puts you in control, and I wouldn't be surprised if almost all camera makers are heading down this path in a year's time.
Its Google Android 4.1 operating system software and wi-fi/3G connectivity mean you can install any Android app on your Galaxy Camera. That includes Microsoft's Skype. I duly installed it, and got my beautiful assistant @caleballison (above and below) to call my cellphone. The sound was a bit muffled, but perfectly serviceable. And you can use Google Contacts to load all your numbers. Samsung doesn't promote this as a killer app, or at all. No-one's about to use a bulky compact camera as their day phone. But the ability to load Skype demonstrate's this gadgets extreme versatility. And it would be handy if you're in the field and your smartphone battery goes flat.
More usefully, you can also add install the Android versions of popular social and photo-sharing apps like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook - which combine with the Galaxy Camera's 3G and wi-fi to let you post pics online instantly (though if you're on 3G, you'll want to keep a sharp eye on your data usage). And if you don't like the camera's image editor, you can install your own.
The Galaxy Camera's giant 4.8-inch screen certainly helps when you're using any app.
I've also been checking my Gmail on my Galaxy Camera. And that's not as stupid as it sounds. If you're photographing and a ding sounds for a new email, you can just read it on the camera display rather than digging in your pocket for your smartphone.
Nikon has already added Android to one of its compact too. It's easy to see a day when most camera makers have at least one camera running Android. It puts you in control of your camera - and it's hard to imagine going back, any more than you'd want to return to the miserable days when phone companies and phone makers controlled the miserably tiny number of apps and services on your mobile.
The Galaxy Camera with lens closed ...
.. and extended for a zoom shot.
The Verge: Samsung Galaxy Camera review
DP Review: Samsung Galaxy Camera 4G review*
Engadget: A 21x compact shooter brought to life by Android
Gizmodo: Android Franken-Camera, You Are Absurd and Almost Wonderful
* The Samsung Galaxy Camera comes in 3G and 4G versions. 4G is not supported by NZ phone companies.