Samsung's new Galaxy Camera is an interesting addition to the point-and-shoot or compact camera category.
Some of its elements could become the saving grace for a category that may be obsolete in a few years as smartphones continue to improve their internal cameras and compact cameras continue to lose market share.
It certainly seems like the Galaxy Camera was designed with phone in mind, it runs Google's Android 4.1 operating system, Jellybean. Think of it as a regular Samsung Galaxy phone strapped to a point-and-shoot camera.
Jellybean gives the device an impressive array of functions, from editing and sharing to simply surfing the Internet or watching movies, but it drains battery and distracts from the camera's real purpose: taking pictures.
The camera app interface is OK, but can be clunky at times. The camera has a wide selection of settings. While some, like the fully manual and special long exposure settings are cool conceptually, only a few are really practical to use and most of the time you will be in Auto.
Other than packing in a large megapixel count (16-megapixels), the camera's hardware is relatively standard for point-and-shoots. While 16 MP is supposed to sound impressive to consumers, the more important measure, the camera's actual sensor is a 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS, the category standard since 2010. Without a better sensor the extra megapixels mostly mean bigger not better quality image files.
However, the fact that it really is a camera with a zoom lens means you can be more creative with your shots that you can with a smart phone. The camera's widest angle is really wide and with a 21x (23-481mm) zoom (lens zoom not digital zoom) the versatility it provides is great.
Unfortunately, the camera's focus system is not so great. It can be hard to get a clean shot of moving subjects and many times it just took too long for the camera to get into focus, focused on the wrong part of the picture, or failed to focus at all.
Pictures come out fine, but not as good as a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) and not much better than an iPhone. Basically, it's just like many other compact cameras.
The video function captures 1080p HD video and it works well, in manual mode you can even control the exposure +/- 2-stops (i.e. you can make the image darker and lighter). The slow motion mode at 120 frames per second (but at a drop down to 720x480 resolution) is a fun feature.
Design-wise, the camera is minimalist and sleek. The clean white casing actually stays clean and white and the 4.77-inch touch display has remained remarkably scratch-free despite a lot of time spent floating around my bag and one drop to the pavement. Small enough that it can fit in a pocket (it's tight but it fits) but big enough to hold comfortably, the physical design works well.
At the end of the day, this camera/phone has some bright ideas but seems confused and at its current price, $500 (plus a data plan), it is simply not worth the money.