Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 review: Android 4.3 goodness married to a nice 21x zoom point-and-shoot

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The Good As connected cameras go, the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 is an example of one done well. Having Android 4.3, dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi with NFC, powerful processing, and a big, beautiful touch screen makes for a very good shoot-and-share experience.

The Bad At $450, the photo quality and shooting performance might disappoint those looking for significantly better results than a high-end smartphone.

The Bottom Line The Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 delivers the app and connectivity options of your smartphone, but with the shooting flexibility of a long zoom lens.

7.6 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 7

Who doesn't like a good sequel?

Of course, what makes a good sequel is open for argument. For the Galaxy Camera 2, Samsung went with basically the same main characters -- a 21x-zoom wide-angle lens, 16-megapixel backside-illuminated sensor, and a giant 4.8-inch HD touch screen -- put in a new wireless sidekick (NFC) to add some interest, and updated the storyline to almost modern day (Android 4.3 Jelly Bean).

If you thought the original formula was cool, but lacked substance (e.g., a faster lens or larger image sensor), the Galaxy Camera 2 (GC2) is probably something you'll want to skip or maybe catch when the price comes down.

After all, $450 isn't exactly inexpensive for what's essentially a point-and-shoot camera, and there are a lot of cameras available between $400 and $500 including bridge cameras with much more zoom range, high-end bright-lens compacts, and even entry-level dSLRs and mirrorless compact system cameras.

Not everyone needs the absolute best image quality, though, and while the camera specs are easy to come by at lower prices, this is basically a really good media player or gaming device as well as a camera. Well, it's a little awkward for the latter, but you get my point: it's more than just a camera you're buying.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

Back to the camera bit for a moment, though. Photo quality is very good for what you're getting, as it was with the original. Outside in daylight, it'll turn out some very nice photos that you probably won't hesitate to share with friends and family on the Web or for viewing on mobile devices.

While the image processing might be a little better than its predecessor, you probably still won't want to enlarge pictures and heavily crop them. Viewed at full size, you'll see noise and artifacts even at lower ISO settings, and subjects look soft and and are lacking in clean fine details. This really isn't a camera for pixel peepers.

Low-light photos are better than what you'd get from a smartphone, but it's best to stay away from the high ISO settings regardless. Instead, take advantage of the camera's Night mode, which reduces noise and improves detail and color by combining several shots into one photo.

Video quality is good and the optical image stabilization is certainly nice to have if you're tired of the shaky clips from your smartphone. However, like its photos, video does get softer and noisier the less light you have. The zoom does work while recording movies, but it was a bit jerky when moving in and out.

Also, the mic is right next to the shutter release, so it picks up any finger movement or snapping of the zoom lever. The lens motor makes a faint noise when moving, too; there's a Quiet Zoom setting that dampens audio when zooming to help. One thing that's cool, though, is that there's a headphone jack on the right side that can also be used with a microphone.

Key specsSamsung Galaxy Camera 2 (EK-GC200)
Price (MSRP)$449.99
Dimensions (WHD)5.2 x 2.8 x 0.8 inches
Weight (with battery and media)11 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS
Display size, resolution/viewfinder4.8-inch HD touch screen, 921K dots/none
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)21x, f2.8-5.9, 23-483mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video)JPEG/H.264 AAC (.MP4)
Highest resolution size (still/video)4,608x3,456 pixels/1,920x1,080 at 30fps
Image stabilization typeOptical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated lifeLithium-ion rechargeable, 400 shots
Battery charged in cameraYes; Micro-USB cable, wall adapter supplied
Storage mediamicroSDHC card; 8GB internal
SoftwareAndroid 4.3 Jelly Bean OS, Google mobile services

The GC2 looks slightly different than the original, but the overall design remains pretty much the same. It has a new pop-up flash that can be angled back slightly to bounce its light. There are now silver accents along the top and bottom and a leather-grain look to the front making it look more like a camera and less like a smartphone. At least from the front.

The back, on the other hand, is very much that of a smartphone. There's nothing but the 1,280x720-pixel-resolution 4.8-inch display. As was the case with the first version, it's a pleasure to shoot with as well as to view and edit pictures and movies on. As long as you're not in full sun anyway, which is a problem for most screens really.

Much like the photo quality, for $450 you might expect shooting performance to be faster than an average point-and-shoot with a CMOS sensor. It is not. Assuming you did an initial startup of the camera, it sits in standby until you're ready to use it. From standby to first capture takes about 2.7 seconds, mostly because of the lens unfolding and the touch screen kicking in.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

From shot to shot it takes on average 1.1 seconds, but that time jumps to 2.5 seconds when using the flash (a definite improvement over the first-gen model). Shutter lag -- the time it takes from pressing the shutter release to capture without prefocusing -- is 0.4 second in bright lighting and 0.5 second in dim.

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