When we think about cameras we hardly think about them having the possibility to do other things besides take pictures and shoot video. That can all be done of course with smartphones which have been getting better and better cameras as of late, but true cameras just simply don't have this feature. Not most at least. With the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2, there is a little bit of a breakaway from the norm as it sports a fairly large display and runs Android Jelly Bean. Yes, the full version of the OS with the Play Store and all, meaning you can install just about any app from the Play Store on it. Its main functions are pictures and video of course, both of which it does very well in most cases as I found out this week at Google I/O where I used it for all my shots and images from the event, as well as some ones here at home, like for my Gear Live review for example. Will it get the job done for those that want a point and shoot with some advanced features? More than likely yes, let's take a look at what it can offer.
We'll start with the specs. The Galaxy Camera 2 sports a 4.8-inch Super HD Clear LCD display with 16 million colors, and a covering of protective Gorilla Glass 2. It has a 720 x 1280 resolution with a 306 pixel density, and runs the Android 4.3 Jelly bean OS with Touchwiz UI. It's running a 16.3MP CMOS sensor with 21x Optical Super Long Zoom, auto focus, optical image stabilization, pop-up xenon flash and AF light. It has 8GB of internal storage(roughly 3GB available to the user while the rest is for the OS and the software)so you can start taking pictures and shooting video right off the bat without the expandable storage via microSD, but it will support up to a 64GB card. Any card for extra storage is recommended as you won't have much to work with immediately. It has Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n built in so you can upload photos directly to dropbox or even Google Drive or any other cloud storage you use so long as you have a connection. It's powered by a quad-core 1.6GHz CPU with 2GB of RAM, and carries a rechargable 2,000mAh battery.
The Design of the Galaxy Camera 2 compared to last years model, is great and definitely seems to be refined a little bit more. That isn't to say there isn't still some room for improvement. It's still a tad bit on the heavy side like the original Galaxy Camera, and I would have liked to have seen hooks or something for the capability to attach a neck worn strap as opposed to the simple wrist wrap. It just would have made taking pictures much simpler especially at a big event like Google I/O. Other than that things feel very nice and the camera not only feels solid and quality built, but it also looks pretty sleek and has the same "fashion" oriented design scheme like other devices from Samsung recently which is evidenced by the faux leather styling.
Operating System/User Interface
As stated above, the Galaxy Camera 2 runs on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean, which isn't bad, but it would have been nice to have Kit Kat on this thing instead. The Touchwiz UI is as always not a favorite of mine, but to be completely honest it doesn't get in the way and it still seems to run fluid 99% of the time. Since this isn't a phone, the overall feel is more like a really small tablet seeing as how things that require data can only be used over WiFi, but as I said things run pretty smooth and for the most part lag-free. The user interface is Touchwiz, and while I prefer stock android myself it works decently here. The camera and the video UI are very involved and have plenty of settings and features that can make it feel like a professional camera. There's lots to play with but ultimately getting to know most of the features can help you take a better picture. Trial and error is really the only thing to do. Once you find your footing with it though, you'll be able to get some really excellent shots with it. You'll find plenty of options like settings for changing the ISO, aperture, brightness, shutter speed, white balance, metering, and driver mode. You'll also find a bunch of pre-set camera modes like Macro, Snow, Dawn, Landscape, Kids Shot, Food, and Action Freeze just to name a few, but there are many more suitable modes for just about any occasion or any type of shot.
Besides the camera features we just listed, it has Bluetooth 4.0 LE, and tons of photo editing stuff right out of the box from Samsung themselves. Since this is full Android though running Jelly Bean 4.3, the features list can be potentially endless, and you can edit your photos with third party apps as well like Snapseed or Instagram if you like. It's NFC enabled so sharing photos is easy with just a tap, and you've got everything from Google Chrome to widgets to a music player just in case you want to listen to some tunes while you shoot your masterpieces. There are embedded speakers or you can use Bluetooth stereo earbuds or regular headphones via the built in 3.5mm audio port. If you have used a current Samsung device, basically expect all the same types of features you'd find in one of their more recent phones, minus the heart rate sensor and the dust and water resistance of course. It is also a Samsung device, so there is plenty of extra Samsung apps(referred to as Bloatware by many)which is obvious from the visible apps and the amount of storage you can use upon powering on for the first time.
As stated above the display size is 4.8-inches, and sports a 720 x 1280 resolution with a 306 pixel density. Instead of using the Super AMOLED like they did on last years model though, the Galaxy Camera 2 uses a Super HD Clear LCD display. Even though it's not Super AMOLED, the display is bright and crisp and easy to view even in sunlight in most cases with minimal to no glare. At least in my personal experience. It's big enough to allow for a very easy user experience with taking pictures or video and viewing them afterwards is easy because of the size.
Samsung certainly stepped up their game here with the quality of the camera stills. I used this all through Google I/O and the only place where it could have done a little better was in the Keynote speech where it was very dark and I was further away from my subjects. This was a good way to demonstrate the quality of the Optical Zoom though as it didn't take away from the resolution of the images too much. Close up and macro shots look absolutely stunning of course, and anything in between near and far will look great as well.
Here's an image with the flash on that I took of the Gear Live, which can certainly help in lower light salutations although the flash won't always be needed when taking a picture in with lower light.
Video works and looks great, as you can see from the short walkthrough I did of the conference center this week in an earlier post, and of the the Android Auto demo video below. Video looks crisp, and there are settings for 1080p at 30FPS or 720p at 60FPS as well as 720p at 30FPS and a movie size of 640x480 at 60FPS just in case you need the file size to be small for sending. The only thing I wish was different was the way that the camera begins recording. Instead of placing the option on to start recording on your own after you switch from camera mode to video mode, hitting the video mode button automatically begins the recording process. This is easily overcome as long as you're already pointing the viewfinder at what you want to record, but it's a small thing that could have been implemented to make things easier.
Style And Pricing
The Galaxy Camera 2 comes in two color options, white and black, and will cost about $400 most places online. Amazon has it for slightly under $400 brand new, while picking it up straight from Samsung will cost you the regular retail price of $450. This isn't bad compared to last years model which was $550 at full cost, this I suspect though is because it doesn't carry any network connectivity besides WiFi, while the original Galaxy Camera had support for AT&T and Verizon networks.
- Big screen, with clear HD resolution
- Lower cost than previous model
- Great quality pictures and video
- Full Android with Play Store support
- No option to attach Neck Strap, which means you always have to be carrying it in your hand. For people using this as a serious camera at something like this weeks event, this made things much more inconvenient
- Onboard storage is very low considering what's built in
- Battery Life can be short if you're taking pictures non stop
Conclusion And Final Thoughts
Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 is a great camera in the point and shoot category especially for the price. The picture quality is well beyond what I expected, and you'd be hard pressed to find a camera that takes better pictures in most situations for the price of the Galaxy Camera 2. It isn't a DSLR, so don't expect it to provide you with professional grade images in the worst of lighting conditions, but it does hold its own and still does a great job. So far my time with it has been enjoyable, and the capability to upload images over WiFi has made editing pictures much easier after the fact, and with the price drop from last year's model it's a much more enticing buy. There were only a few small things that felt overlooked, but this is definitely a great camera for anyone looking to take a step towards a much better quality of images and video.