Let me set the scene before we get started here. Since Apple started making its iPhone devices, I've been an Apple smartphone guy. I'm also a PC guy through and through, but it hasn't stopped me owning Mac products. In kind of the same principle here, it hasn't stopped me being very interested in Google's mobile OS, Android. Believe it or not, it's just I've never personally owned an Android device, that was until yesterday.
I have always loved the idea of owning less devices to carry around - it's just makes logical sense, especially when traveling. From our perspective here at TweakTown, I've often dreamed about a device which could take photos and magically get them online for me fast, and beat other media to the punch with quicker ways of getting events and such online to our readers. Yesterday for me, that dream became real. Yes, I'm talking about the new Samsung Galaxy Camera, or the Samsung "Smart Camera", as I like to call it.
At least in central Taipei Xinyi district in Taiwan, it's hard to avoid the noise that Samsung makes, and as was the case yesterday, it was hard to miss the new Galaxy Camera with its large advertisements around the place, and a well-timed television commercial that I saw over dinner at a local nearby restaurant. It convinced me even more than I needed to own this device.
I ended up picking up the EK-GC100 model here in Taipei for $16,700 NTD (roughly $574 USD) with what needed little persuasion from the shop assistant, who got a quick and easy sale. I found out after buying it that the device had only gone on sale the day before (Saturday) in Taiwan. Good timing for me. I was assured by the shop assistant after asking that the EK-GC100 would receive regular Android OS updates over time - that was a big issue for me always regarding owning an Android device. I'm not sure exactly how well informed she is on the matter, but we'll find out.
Why did I need to own this device, you might ask. Well, as I mentioned earlier, I'm a PC boy, but I wanted to own a Mac to get acquainted with what was happening on that side of the fence, too... you know checking out all the apple trees and such. It's the same deal here with this device. It's pretty clear how massive Android has grown over the years from a mediocre OS to one that is now finely polished with loads of features, and further potential.
Additionally, I have a nine month year old baby boy, and I didn't want to look back in 20 years and wonder why all of the photos were of poor quality, as I've been taking those photos on an iPhone 5 and other similar photo quality level devices. While the iPhone 5 camera is fairly capable, capturing such precious photos requires better - a "real" camera. This sums up why I knew I was always going to buy the Galaxy Camera. It was downright perfect for what I wanted, and needed.
Now I've set the scene, and why you aren't going to get any pearls of wisdom from me on Android, or on cameras for that matter too, we are good to continue. What I want to deliver is my impressions on the smart camera after my first day of use. Those first 24 hours are critical for any new device, determining if you love it, or if it just gets put on the shelf to gather dust. Let's just say, I don't think that my Galaxy Camera will be shelved anytime soon.
This is not a review, far from it - that is Anthony's gig here at TweakTown as our mobile device review editor. However, besides impressions, I do think it's important to at least go over some of the key features and specs. Powering the device is a quad-core Infineon PMB9811C CPU clocked at 1.4GHz with Android 4.1.1 as pre-installed from the store. It features a HD Super Clear 2.35 inch x 4.16 inch LCD screen with a 1280 x 720 (720p) resolution. It's not as good as the screen featured on the Galaxy S3, but this device can do more in other areas, where the S3 cannot. The quality of the screen is nowhere near as sharp as the Retina display of my iPhone 5, but it's still pretty good. It's much larger than what I'm used to on an iPhone, and I really enjoyed that part a lot, especially when streaming YouTube videos on a larger screen.
The model I bought came installed with a 4GB SDXC memory card - a little small in my opinion, but of course it can always be upgraded. It also comes with 3G support via a MicroSIM slot which in my case I can use any carrier in the world (US consumers will probably be locked), Wi-Fi up to 802.11n, HDMI 1.4 display output, and many of the other usual things you would expect from most Android phones, except the phone functionality itself - and vibrating it seems, as long as I'm not missing a setting somewhere.
As for the camera part of the device, it's well equipped for today's standards. It features a Samsung zoom lens with up to 21x optical zoom with an image sensor with effective pixels up to 16.3 megapixels. The 4.1 - 86.1mm lense does its job rather well, and offers substantially better pictures than what the iPhone 5 can offer... as you can imagine, and would expect. It was a great thrill to take a close-up photo of my son and be able to see him pictured in excellent detail for once. I could go on for pages talking about every little spec and feature, but this is as much as I want to discuss here.
Now we get to the important part and that's what I thought about the device after one day of use. In a word, I'm "happy" with my purchase. The device is all I expected, and more.
It offers more than what I first saw from the advertisement for this device, as I didn't realize it was also a full-on Android device. When you hold the device and really study it, it makes sense. In very simple terms it's just a bit of a cut-down Galaxy smartphone with a good quality 21x optical lens and proper flash put on the other side of the screen, and of course with a ledge to the side of the lens on the front for easier holding whilst taking photos. I'll have to say though that while I really like the Galaxy Camera, it's not perfect.
I'm used to holding a thin iPhone 5 without any strange objects (lens) bulging out the back of it. This made typing on the device a little tough and it took longer to get used to than usual. The weight of the device means that you probably won't be holding it as long as regular thinner and lighter smartphones, too. I'm not sure I'll ever get fully used to the bulkiness of the Galaxy Camera, but it's important to remember here that this device isn't designed to replace your S3 or iPhone 5 or whatever other high-end phone you have. I think it's really designed for people like me - a kind of "switch" device for Samsung, if you will, to pull people away from Apple or Microsoft / Nokia. And of course for people like me who are looking for a device just like this, where there are very few (if any?) on the market currently. And with Samsung seemingly doing no wrong lately, they are surely set to sell a whole stack of these smart cameras to fans as well as new fans around the world.
As far as the Android experience itself goes, I was very pleased. As mentioned my Galaxy Camera came installed with 4.1.1 out of the box and Google has done a lot of work to improve the fluidness of devices using its mobile OS. The Galaxy Camera with its quad-core 1.4GHz CPU does well and provided a good first experience for me coming from what I consider a very solid, tested and tried Apple iOS on the iPhone 5. The UI doesn't feel as smooth to me as the iOS experience (which I'm quickly getting bored of now!), but it's not too bad.
I experienced some slight slowdowns and even app crashes in my rush to try out all the apps I'm used to using on my iOS devices and all the exciting Google stuff like Google Now, but it wasn't too bad. After I slowed down a little and got my A.D.D in check, the OS smoothness gradually returned to what I considered an acceptable level. Keep in mind I was doing all sorts of "funky" stuff like setting live wallpapers and widgets all over the place - of course my iPhone has nothing like that.
I don't think there is anything entirely amazing about the camera or camera app of the Galaxy Camera. It just works well and does what you want it to. Of course being an Android device means you can get your happy snaps and videos online very quickly providing you have Internet access (I doubt I'll sign up to an additional data plan for this device at this stage) in your apps, or direct from the camera app itself, as long as you have those apps installed on the device - such as Facebook or Instagram (latter comes installed by default). It has a real flash too which is a great addition, not an LED "flash" like on normal smartphones - this is something I've missed when taking snaps.
The flash is engaged by pushing the small flash button on the top left of the device, as looking as the device from the screen. I like that at any stage no matter what you're doing on the device, you can prompt the photo button on the top of the device by tapping it, and then the lens will open, as will the camera app. You're good to start snapping or taking 1080p HD video within just a few seconds. I took some photos around Taipei (Xindian) today near where I live and you can see those samples below (and there are more in the gallery below, too). Keep in mind they have been reduced in resolution by 50% and some compression has been added.
And at the end of this article you can find a sample video that I took that was uploaded directly to YouTube without any compression on my side. While I thought the photo quality was rather good (of course a massive jump from my iPhone 5) and without issue, I did notice some auto-focus issues while recording video. Now, I'm not sure if this has to do with me getting used to shooting video on this device, or if it's just an issue that exists with it. I did end up being able to get certain scenes to focus, but it seemed to take quite a bit longer than I would have thought it should take. This is not a deal breaker or anything in my opinion, but it is something to keep in mind.
It's also important to remember that you are spending under $600 on this device which not only offers a good, "real" camera, but also a good Android experience. It's unique, exciting and cool and sure to get looks and attention from friends and the public. I would like to see Samsung come out with another model later which also includes the phone functionality and maybe a visit to Jenny Craig. Then you have a "really smart device" that does calls, quality photos and your online stuffs. We are at two-in-one at the moment, but I want to see three-in-one next, Mr. Samsung.
That covers my impressions of the Samsung Galaxy Camera after my first day of use. I'm satisfied with my buy, and while not perfect, I think this device will go with me wherever I go for some time to come. I take issue with the size, weight and bulk of the device, especially for when typing, and some of the video auto-focus issues, but if that's all I can find wrong, then we're looking at a pretty solid device in my opinion. It's going to enable me to take better pictures of my son and my travels, allow me to get into the exciting and ever-changing world of Android, and it also manages to look cool and nifty in its modern-looking white and black skin at the same time.
In the end this is a device that I'd say give a try if you are in the same boat as me. It's not a device for everyone, but it certainly has its place, if you examine your needs carefully.