Conclusion - The Good
- Very flexible zoom range with 23mm wideangle and comparatively fast aperture
- Full manual control over shutter speed and aperture in camera app
- Generally fluid and swift operation (but slightly laggy camera app)
- 3G/4G and Wi-Fi connectivity options
- Virtually limitless expansion options through installation of apps
- Comprehensive sharing options
- Very efficient optical image stabilization system
- Good quality full-HD video capture, 120fps slow motion mode
- Comprehensive pre-installed movie and image editing options
- Reliably consistent flash performance
- Useful HDR and night shot features
- Voice control useful in certain shooting situations
- You can play Angry Birds on it
Conclusion - The Bad
- Aggressive noise reduction leads to lack of low-contrast detail at all ISO settings
- Lens contributes to generally soft image output, especially at wide angle and toward the edge of frame
- No control over noise reduction
- Slightly clunky and sometimes laggy camera app
- Camera parameters reset to defaults after re-start
- Incompatible with most current camera capture apps
- No ability to place phone calls and no front-facing camera
- Ocassionally slow to wake up from stand-by mode and switching to/from camera app
- Switching between camera and other apps makes lens extract and retract every time
- Panorama mode produces more than average stitching errors
- Battery life not great
The Samsung Galaxy Camera might not be the first Android-powered compact camera, but it is still a first-generation product, and with that considered it works surprisingly well. The hardware mix which contains components of Samsung's flagship smartphone Galaxy S3 and the WB850F compact camera means you get the processing power, large screen and sheer endless choice of apps of a state-of-the-art Android smartphone as well as the flexibility of a 21x zoom lens and benefit of a decent built-in flash, all in one package.
However, connecting the camera and smartphone components and squeezing them into the same body is only part of the story. You have to provide a software interface that links everything in a sensible way. This is where the Galaxy Camera, in its current version, can only convince partly. The default camera app can be a little bit laggy, applying exposure compensation takes too long and the results of the integrated panorama function could be better, too. The camera app is by no means terrible but there is no doubt room for improvement. That said, the Android OS means updating software is much easier than on a conventional camera and we have already heard rumors of Samsung launching an improved version of its camera app.
The ability to install apps is of course one of the key advantages of an Android-powered camera but there are some limitations. On the Galaxy Camera you can pretty much install any app that runs on a smartphone and, while all our favorite image editing apps such as Snapseed, Pixlr Express or Adobe Photoshop Express work perfectly, that's not the case for most third-party camera apps we have installed and tested. Some don't support the Samsung's physical shutter button, zoom rocker or sensor resolution, others don't let you select its full sensitivity range up to ISO 3200. The full potential of the Galaxy Camera and similar devices will only be unleashed once third-party developers take to the device, develop new camera apps or adapt their existing ones, and that's not the case currently.
While we're talking about the negatives, we have to mention image quality. In short the Galaxy Camera delivers pixel-level image quality that is typical for a low-end to mid-level compact camera and nowhere near to what you'd expect from a camera that sets you back almost $600. The Samsung's image output looks decent at screen size, with vibrant color and usually good exposure, but if you zoom in things get pretty ugly. The JPEGs look overprocessed with noise reduction blurring fine detail pretty much from base ISO.
However, it's probably fair to say that putting too much emphasis on pixel-level image quality is somehow missing the point. The Samsung Galaxy Camera has been designed to edit and share images on the go. Most editing apps reduce the dimensions of the original image, and you probably won't want to upload 16MP photos to Facebook via a mobile connection. If you use the Galaxy Camera as it was intended, pixel detail should simply not be much of a concern.
Despite the somewhat questionable image quality the Samsung Galaxy Camera compares favorably to the only other Android-powered mass-market camera currently available, the Nikon S800C, in almost every way. It's much better specified with a larger, higher resolution screen, more processing power, a newer Android version and a more flexible zoom range. And while in terms of image quality there is not much between the two cameras, the Samsung is snappier and more responsive when used as a mobile device. However, it's also twice the price and a little bulkier.
The Final Word
Despite mobile connectivity you can't make a phone call with the Galaxy Camera, the camera interface can be a little clunky and in terms of image quality it cannot keep up with conventional cameras in its price bracket, or even cheaper models for that matter. However, the ability to install and run hundreds of thousands of apps, the processing power of a modern smartphone, a very flexible 21x zoom range and a decent built-in flash make it a lot of fun to use and a great device for photo-centric smartphone users.
Despite being a first generation product the Samsung Galaxy Camera works surprisingly well. The camera interface could be a little sleeker and more responsive and the image quality is average at best but the huge number of available apps, the smoothness of Android 4.1, the excellent screen and the flexible zoom range make up for these flaws. The Galaxy Camera is a great device for those who are planning to make good use of its connectivity features and have $600 to spend. If apps and data connection are not a priority you can find better image quality and camera control at a cheaper price.
If you would like to compare the Samsung Galaxy's score to the Nikon S800C you can do so here. Make sure you check 'Include all categories' and then select the Samsung from the Travel Zoom cameras in the dropdown menu.
There are 43 images in our Samsung Galaxy Camera samples gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter/magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.
Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution.