Samsung’s Galaxy brand is about to extend past the whole smartphone and tablet thing, marrying the screen and processor technology from its phones to a new breed of camera that lets you jump online and share right after you’ve snapped the shot.
At the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, we saw the first cameras to be shown that ran on Google’s Android operating system, potentially opening up the world of Android apps to a device that could take quality pictures, not just images from yet another smartphone camera.
Think of the potential: high-quality Instagram images, Photoshop editing on the camera, and tweeting with a capable camera.
Now at the end of 2012, Samsung has released its first attempt at this new area, and while it’s the third camera we’ve heard of to incorporate Android, it’s the first to bring with it an insanely recent version of Google’s operating system, with Samsung equipping it with Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean,” which is so new that it’s not even on most of Samsung’s phones and tablets.
There are more smarts to this camera than just the operating system, though, with Samsung literally combining a smartphone and a camera to make this device.
There’s the 4.8 inch 720p HD Super AMOLED screen sitting on the back, and a quad-core Exynos CPU sitting underneath alongside 1GB of RAM.
Those specs are literally found on the 3G Galaxy S3, and this camera even supports WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, a microSIM for connecting over 3G, Bluetooth, microSD, and a GPS, cementing our belief that Samsung pretty much just strapped a phone to the back of a camera.
That camera is obviously different from the one inside a smartphone, however, supporting optical zoom, something no smartphone has had before this. The lens in the Galaxy Camera is of the 21x variety, supporting a whopping 23-481mm when compared to a traditional 35mm camera, and shooting on a 16.3 megapixel sensor.
RAW functionality isn’t expected here, but ISO is supported from 100 to 3200, as well as Full HD 1080p video capture with a stereo microphone and 8GB of internal memory that can be expanded easily through the microSD slot.
A pop-up flash is included, activated by a button on one side, and the zooming can be done through the ring around the shutter. You can turn the camera on and off at the power button on the top.
Charging the device is handled through the microUSB port on the side of the camera, another mainstay from its smartphone heritage, close to the 3.5mm headset jack.
Underneath the camera is a tripod screw hole, as well as a door that opens up to reveal the 3G microSIM slot, microSD slot, battery, and a proprietary HDMI port.
Upon first glance, the Galaxy Camera is the sort of gadget that you would expect from Apple: it’s a camera with an operating system that supports the apps you know and love.
If you’re a fan of social networking apps, you can share your images shot in a high resolution and with more reach, thanks to a long lens. Emails can be received on the device, as can messages from Google Chat, Skype, and even SMS sent directly to a phone.
In the hands, this isn’t a small device by any stretch of the imagination. With a screen nearing the five inch mark, the Galaxy Camera features one of the biggest touchscreen displays we’ve seen on a compact, and this adds to the size.
While the lens does fold into the camera, it’s not the flat slate that a smartphone is, and there’s still a camera grip and reasonably thick lens protruding from the camera, so you can’t just pocket this and hope for the best. No, you’ll want to throw this in hand luggage or a backpack, since it tends to make pocket look clumpy, weighing them down with a body that’s as heavy as the iPad Mini.
The Galaxy Camera is a little front heavy, something you’ll notice if you switch the camera on when it’s standing up and it leans forward, settling on the lens that has just automatically come out.
Using it is more or less like using a Samsung phone, and if you’re at all familiar with the Galaxy range of smartphones – especially the S3 – you’ll be at home on this device. The power button on top lets you into the camera, and the controls – which are almost completely touchscreen based – will allow you to wander through the operating system and change camera modes, switch into manual, and swipe to and from photos you’ve taken.