The Samsung Galaxy EK-GC100 is an Android based smart camera, which for all intents and purposes is a smartphone, except for the call making part. Also the body is like a big point & shoot camera.
As the name suggests, the Galaxy Camera is part of Samsung’s lineup of Android powered smart cameras (and smartphones), Jelly Bean in this case. The idea is that you have the sensor of capable taking point & shoot quality photos (a step above smartphone cameras) with a large screen on the back that facilitates the camera to be used as an Android powered smartphone or tablet. With a WiFi connection, or better yet, data plan on your SIM card you can share the photos with anyone instantly.
So let’s have a look at the body of the Galaxy Camera, which is mostly white plastic with chrome blue edging. The main body is relatively thin, with the zoom lens housing popping out in the front, and the hand grip protruding from the right.
The miniUSB charge and data port is on the left along with the 3.5mm headphones jack. At the bottom we have a microHDMI port next to the battery flap, inside which also resides the microSD and regular SIM card slot.
Turn to the back and we have a 4.7-inch TFT LCD touchscreen. Thankfully Samsung decided to forgo their popular OLED screen on most of their Galaxy smartphones because it would have been extremely difficult to see anything on the screen, much less a preview of your photos, under direct sunlight.
The screen itself supports a decent 1280 x 720 resolution, giving it a crisp 306ppi pixel density. Powering the camera is Samsung’s famous Exynos 4412 quad-core Cortex A9 processor running at 1.4GHz with a Mali-400MP graphics processor. Couple this with the 1GB RAM and 4GB built-in memory, the Galaxy Camera is basically a Galaxy S III.
The differentiating factor is obviously that instead of the 8MP camera on the S III, the Galaxy Camera has a 16.3MP camera with 21x optical zoom. There’s a proper pop-up xenon flash with AF assist light and video recording modes ranging from 1080p @ 30fps to 720p @ 60fps to 768 x 512 @ 120fps.
After using the Galaxy camera the first thing you notice is that while the camera is definitely better than any smartphone camera, as you can see from the test images below, it lacks the kind of punchy performance from high-end point & shoots such as the Sony RX100. Of course, the RX100 also costs a third more than the Galaxy Camera.
The battery life is pretty average, with just photos and previews lasting 2 seconds giving me an average battery life of 167 photos. The Galaxy Camera has some pretty aggressive power saving options wherein it goes to sleep soon after its inactive. Push the shutter release button and it’ll resume where you left off. A cold boot is required if the Galaxy Camera was inactive for 24 hours, requiring almost 30 seconds to start up! In this regard it’s left far behind modern point & shoots. Of course, watching YouTube videos, recording and doing minimal editing on videos, taking multiple photos and heavily editing them on Snapspeed along with upload via WiFi drained the battery in about 7 hours, which is not bad at all. If you play games, and use 3G a lot, expect the battery to drain out even quicker.
At the end of the day the results were satisfactory, above average for sure, but nothing remarkable. Obviously the quality of photos really depends on how good of lighting conditions you have. Thanks to the Android Jelly Bean, however, I was able to edit every picture in Snapspeed and make them look really good.
The fact that these pictures were being processed within a second or two after multiple effects were applied to them is thanks to the powerful hardware inside. Sharing said photos was the same as any smartphone; just connect via WiFi or 3G and upload them on Facebook or Twitter, etc. The difference being that you base photo (assuming you edit it) is going to be much better than what you would have gotten from say the Galaxy S III or iPhone 5.
The idea that Samsung portrays is that you can use the Galaxy Camera anywhere, get better photos than a regular smartphone camera, edit (if needed) and share it online instantly and seamlessly. However, throughout my time spent with it I can’t help but feel that people who have a smartphone will probably not want to lug around something as big as the Galaxy camera, they may as well take a micro 4/3rd or mirrorless camera with them.
So who is the Galaxy Camera for? Tourists. If you’re going to travel to another country, grab a SIM with decent data package, take (better than smartphone) photos, share photos on the fly, use the Android OS to do everything and anything, and make calls on Skype if need be. You have a fully capable device in the Galaxy Camera; it’s just a matter of using it in the proper environment, which is not day to day, but on those memorable trips where you want to be connected to the world all the same.
Right now the camera sensor on the Galaxy Camera is found wanting, but hopefully with future iterations we see a better sensor, more aggressive noise reduction and a much smaller body. As more and more mirrorless cameras and DSLRs come with WiFi connectivity, there’s certainly place in the market for a decent camera running on smartphone hardware giving you powerful editing tools and instantaneous sharing ability.