Samsung Galaxy Camera in-depth review
Lars Rehm | Published: Feb 6, 2013 at 23:31 UTC84
The Galaxy Camera's phone central processor and most of the components of the 'phone part' of the device are identical to the Galaxy S3, Samsung's current flagship smartphone. This means that while you are performaing 'phone tasks' on the Galaxy Camera such as starting apps, browsing the web, emailing, or navigation with Google Maps etc., the device is very responsive and quick. I've been using the Galaxy Camera as a phone subsitute on several occasions and its performance is essentially line with 2012 top-end smartphones.
Also keep in mind that like any Android device the Galaxy Camera first has to boot the OS after you switch it on. This takes a little while, so make sure you don't switch the device completely off if you want to be ready to take a shot at any time. Instead, it's worth keeping the Galaxy Camera in stand-by mode by short-pressing the power button. From stand-by it takes approximately three seconds before you can take a picture. Most of this time is consumed by the lens extending. The lens also retracts every time you switch away from the camera app to another app. You can always get back to it by pressing the shutter button, but again it takes a couple of seconds or so before you can snap a picture.
The native camera app can feel a little laggy, especially if you like to set some shooting parameters manually. In any of the Expert (PASM) modes you can change ISO, exposure compensation, shutter speed and/or aperture by tapping on the displayed values. Doing so opens the parameter screen. Each parameter is represented by a lens on a a 'virtual lens barrel' but while this looks quite nice, it takes about a second and a half or so for the barrel to 'extend' on the screen.
Shot-to-shot time in single drive mode is just under two seconds, but if you need faster shooting you can set the Galaxy Camera to continuous shooting in two ways. You can either select the 'Continuous Smart Mode' or shoot in one of the PASM modes and set the drive mode to 'continuous.' The latter method has the advantage of giving you manual control over ISO and shutter speed. In the Smart Mode all parameters are set automatically and Auto ISO limits itself to ISO 800. This means that, in lower light, you often end up with shutter speeds that are way too slow for capturing fast motion and your subjects can appear blurry.
In the PASM mode you can set the sensitivity to ISO 1600 or 3200 if needed which allows for fast shutter speeds even indoors or in overcast conditions. This is a real advantage over smartphones which rarely offer this option when shooting a burst.
Whichever way you select continuous shooting, the Galaxy Camera captures approximately four frames per second up to a maximum of 20 frames in one burst. The camera takes a couple of seconds or so to save the frames before you can start shooting the next burst. The ability to set a fast shutter speed even in non-optimal light in combination with the long zoom makes the Galaxy Camera a much better tool for capturing sports and action images than any smartphone.
However, like most cameras in continuous shooting mode, the rear screen displays the last captured image rather than a live-view image. This makes it difficult to follow the action, which is one of the reasons DSLRs with their optical viewfinders will remain the weapons of choice for action photography in the foreseeable future.
In terms of auto focus the Galaxy Camera's performance is on the level of a typical consumer digital compact camera. At wide-angle the lens takes approximately 0.5 sec to focus. Focus at the tele end of the lens is not noticeably slower but in low light focus times can double. Generally, if the camera is able to acquire focus and the focus indicator turns green, it works very reliably. We did not find any "false positives" among our several hundred samples shots.
The camera's focus illuminator helps in low-light situations but it always illuminates the center of the frame and is therefore of little use if your focus point is located in the corner or toward the edge of the frame.
At 1650 mAh the battery is actually smaller than Galaxy S3's which, given that the Galaxy Camera has to move its zoom lens back and forth, doesn't inspire too much confidence. The Galaxy Camera's CIPA-rating is 340 shots which is roughy in line with our real-life experience. However, this number will decrease significantly if you use the device for anything other than taking pictures. Editing and uploading them or using Google Maps or any other app will reduce your power reserves and the number of pictures you can take.
In a typical mixed-use scenario with some picture taking and other activities, you should try and find a power outlet in the evening and recharge. Like most smartphones the Galaxy Camera's battery won't get you through two consecutive days without charging, even with moderate use. If you are using the device for navigation, emailing and similar activities, keep an eye on the battery status to make sure you've still got enough juice left when you actually want to take some pictures, especially if you keep GPS, Wi-Fi and/or mobile data on all the time. You might run out before the end of the day.