Samsung is a big name in cameras, and it's an even bigger name in Android devices. Bringing the two together was logical -- perhaps even inevitable. The result is the Samsung Galaxy Camera.
This isn't the first camera I've looked at that runs Android -- that was the Sony Alpha NEX-5R did that, too. It is the first Android camera from a big name in tablets and phones, however, and that's what makes it interesting.-- neither is it the first to run downloaded applications, as the
The Samsung Galaxy Camera is available now for £400.
Galaxy Camera is much more than a phone with a better camera bolted onto the back. For starters, the camera itself has a 16.3-megapixel backside-illuminated CMOS sensor that puts out 4,608x3,456-pixel images and has been engineered to draw less power. In front of this, the lens sports a 21x zoom, equivalent to 23-483mm on a conventional 35mm camera. That puts it firmly into the realm of the superzooms.
At the widest end of that range, the maximum aperture stretches to f/2.8. At full telephoto, it's f/5.9, and in either instance the tightest position is f/8.
Sensitivity tops out at ISO 3,200 with compensation of +/-2.0 EV in one-third stops. In manual and shutter priority modes, the shutter speed runs from 16-1/2,000 second, although auto mode won't hold it open for any longer than 1/8 second.
It's got 10GB of built-in flash storage, of which just 3.87GB is available for use, for storing photos and apps. Additional storage is handled by a microSD card.
The really exciting part is what Samsung has done with the operating system. It runs Jelly Bean -- Android 4.1 -- and can be upgraded. The Nikon S800c, on the other hand, ran Gingerbread -- -- which in tech terms is starting to look a bit long in the tooth, now almost two years old.
The 'computer' side of the device will be immediately familiar to anyone who has used an Android tablet or phone before, and as you'd expect you can organise the widgets and icons for your most commonly used apps on the various home screens.
Where Samsung has let its imagination run wild, though, is in the camera app itself.
Faced with the opportunity of a 4.8-inch screen and the challenge of building an Android-based interface that wouldn't intimidate less technical users, it's recreated the best features of both a dSLR and a compact in its software.
It's all controlled by tapping and dragging the screen, without a stylus in sight, as the only physical buttons are the power, shutter release and flash release. The zoom is physical, too, implemented as a regular rocker around the shutter button, but you can tap the screen to both focus and fire the shutter, as well as start video recording.
Various fly-out overlays at the top and bottom of the screen let you set the flash, timer and so on, as well as picking creative filters, such as sketch, sepia and cartoon, all of which are previewed in real time.
The mode selector has been rendered in software, too, allowing you to drag through the various image types you want to capture or switch to one of the manual modes, such as shutter- or aperture-priority.
It's here where Samsung has really pushed out that proverbial boat, with each of the applicable settings, such as speed, aperture, exposure compensation and sensitivity rendered on a series of graphical wheels that you literally drag into new positions like tumblers on a safe. In many ways it's similar to the intuitive i-Function feature on the company's NX lens system.
It also has voice control. This isn't new on tablets -- we've already seen it in Google Voice Search and Apple's Siri -- but it's a first for photography. Switch it on and you can literally tell it to zoom in or out, activate the flash, set the timer, change the mode and so on. The four options for firing the shutter are a particularly nice touch, with regular "capture" and "shoot" commands supplemented by "smile" and "cheese".
Samsung is bundling the Galaxy Camera with a one-month data SIM on the Three network, which you can top up once it expires or swap out for a rival network if you prefer. This is used not only for the browser, email and so on -- you can also use Wi-Fi -- but also sharing your photos using the built-in Instagram, downloaded third-party tools like Twitter and Facebook and, most intriguing of all, Dropbox.
Dropbox support is built-in, and Samsung has bagged a deal to give all Galaxy Camera buyers a free 50GB account for two years. If you already have a Dropbox login, as I do, you can sign in with your regular credentials and your account will be upgraded with an additional 50GB for that length of time.
The reason for bundling so generous an amount is that every picture or movie you shoot is synchronised straight back to your account, so it'll be waiting for you on your PC or Mac when you get back home. It's pretty impressive taking a photo at your desk and seeing it pop up on your computer screen a few seconds later.
This means you could get away with never removing the microSD card from your Galaxy Camera, by simply wiping its contents every time the sync is complete.