Samsung has today announced the Samsung Galaxy Camera – a 16MP, 21x optical zoom compact powered by version 4.1 of Google’s Android operating system.
The device is touted by Samsung as being the rebirth of the camera, and it’s truly packed feature-set hints that such a claim may not be too far fetched.
Combining the best features of both cameras and phones, the Samsung Galaxy Camera offers wireless connectivity through Wi-Fi technology, although the real highlight is that it enables either 3G or 4G connectivity, and is the first camera to do so.
In terms of conventional imaging the Galaxy Camera packs an optical punch way beyond any cameraphone, housing a 21x optical zoom which covers a focal range equivalent to 23-483mm. The Galaxy Camera also features a 16MP 1/2.3in BSI CMOS sensor akin to many of the manufacturer’s other compacts.
The combination of camera and smartphone is no more evident than on the rear of the Galaxy Camera. The model boasts the world’s ‘largest and most vivid’ camera display according to Samsung – a 4.77in HD Super Clear LCD touch panel far outstripping any found on a previous digital camera. As well as touch operation, photographers can also use Samsung’s Voice Control technology to operate the Galaxy Camera, with commands such as ‘Zoom In’ and ‘Shoot’ recognised.
The Galaxy camera offers a range of shooting modes. In addition to full auto, the Casual and Smart Pro modes offer a selection ofscene modes and shooting effects such as Beauty Face, Panorama, Action Freeze and Silhouette. There’s also an expert menu which includes Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program and Manual Exposuremodes with a nifty and easy to use control interface.
A built in editing suite enabes photographers to enhance their images and apply a range of effects, while the Android OS gives photographers access to the full array of additional apps on Google Play, including everything from photography favourites such as Instagram, right through to Angry Birds. Users can also use Skype on the camera to talk to friends and family.
Q&A with SH Lim of Samsung about the Galaxy Camera
Will Samsung be putting 4G into all its cameras?
No.The consumers want to connect more and more, so that is the direction that we will be going in. Whether we add wifi or 4G will depend on the consumers needs. Wifi is a very stable and affordable technology now, and for some users wifi is enough. The Android and 3G and 4G connected devices will be the premium cameras because of the extra costs of fitting it.
Would you consider launching a Windows camera?
For the time being Android is the most popular operating system, so we are concentrating on that, but we would look at producing a Windows version if there’s a demand.
Will you be putting Android and 3G/4G into your NX cameras?
If there is a demand and this camera is popular we will look at adding it to our other cameras. It would be a natural progression.
The Galaxy Camera is relatively large. Will there be smaller cameras with 3G/4Gin the future?
The wide screen is one of the strong benefits for the consumer. It makes the camera more enjoyable to use. It makes it easier to appreciate the picture quality when they see it on a big screen and its much more convenient for editing. Its much more difficult to edit images on a small screen.
Smartphone screens are getting bigger and bigger, because people prefer them, as it improves the experience of using the Android operating system. We’re prepared the sacrifice a little of the compactness for a better user experience, and we see the Galaxy Camera not as a camera for the pocket, but for the bag.
How long did the camera take to develop?
Usually it takes around a year to develop a camera, and the Galaxy was created over a similar time period. But we had a bigger team for the Galaxy Camera project.
Do you think there is a demand for such a camera?
This is a new category of device. It’s not a conventional camera, or a conventional phone. The camera is based on a lot of consumer research. People told us they want good optical zoom performance; they want to be able to edit their pictures, and then they want to be able to share them with others. At the moment no other devices can satisfy that consumer need.
Our plan is to continually develop this Smart Camera concept continually, with our existing wifi cameras and the new 3G cameras.
Will you be working to with app developers to produce apps that take advantage of the camera’s features and image quality?
Yes. We have already released our SDK (software Developers Kit) and hosted a Developers Conference for those interested parties. and some have already started to develop exciting apps especially for the camera which we will see very soon.
What accessories will you be producing for the Galaxy? You displayed some in a glass cabinet at the launch event.
We showed a prototype ring light, a flashgun, a wideangle adaptor and an electronic viewfinder, but we have no definite plans to produce these at the moment. We will see what the demand is.
A lot of people in the forums are asking why Samsung didn’t put a phone on it too, since it has a sim card. Would you consider this for future models?
This is primarily a device not for voice communication but for image communication, but if you want you can make a phone call using the Skype app and a Bluetooth headset.
Do you worry that people will find the camera too complex?
One of our aims at Samsung is to make our cameras easy enough to use without having to read the manual, and even easy enough for a child to use. Anyone who has used a smartphone will find the Galaxy Camera very easy to use.
Would you consider adding a pen to any future cameras, as you do with the Samsung Note?
Yes we would. A pen give more precise control which makes it easier for editing the pictures, in particular.
Does the Auto Cloud Back up have a limit?
We provide three different types of cloud for users of the Galaxy Camera. For back up we provide 50GB of free storage for two years, and then we will give you 5GB. You can pay more to increase the size of the cloud.
How do you see the camera market developing in the next few years?
At the moment the smart phone market is five times bigger than the digital camera market. In one sense this is a big threat to compacts, but this also presents a great opportunity. Why? Because all smart phones have a camera, so all smart phone users are also camera users. Smart phone users who want higher quality pictures and features such as optical zoom we will convert many of them to our smart cameras, which we see as complementary to the smart phones. We see demand for traditional cameras decreasing as demand for smart cameras increases.
Video: Worldwide announcement of Samsung Galaxy Camera
Video of the announcement:
To watch the larger version
Samsung Galaxy Camera: Hands-On Preview and Photos
The Samsung Galaxy Camera looks set to be a game changer in the compact camera market. Up to now the big advantage that phones have had over cameras is the ability to share images instantly, from anywhere. The recent arrival of WiFi cameras was a first step in the fight back but WDC has long argued that cameras need full 3G connectivity, and an interface such as Android enabling users to download creative processing apps such as Snapseed.
The Galaxy camera does both, and more.The first thing that struck me when I saw it was the size of it. It’s quite wide and tall, though also fairly thin apart from the handgrip on the side. The reason for the size becomes apparent when you turn the camera around and see the enormous LCD touch screen. From my brief hands on the screen quality looks to be excellent, and images appear very sharp and well saturated. The touch screen is very responsive and Samsung has created an imaginitive yet easily navigable interface. Aside from the regular Android screen, with its grid display of apps, there are several on screen buttons for the camera controls. I especially like the design of the advanced PASM modes, where users can control apertures, shutter speeds, ISO etc.
The inclusion of a 21x optical zoom is a smart move, and gives consumers a good reason to choose the camera over a smartphone, such as Samsung’s own Galaxy, since no phone has yet managed to incorporate a zoom. The deployment of a 1/2.3″ sensor, which is typical for a digital compact but much bigger than most cameraphone sensors, suggests that the image quality will be comparable to that from Samsung’s better compacts.
There was no opportunity to test the camera, but we’ll be publishing more information as we get it.