It’s been over a year since Samsung made the bold decision to create a ‘Smart’ camera running an Android operating system. It was only recently announced that the second edition – the Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 would be heading our way. But with an RRP £60 less than the original’s and with some small upgrades, can the clever compact do enough to tempt prospective buyers that missed out first time around? We put the Galaxy Camera 2 through our own rigorous tests to find out if it’s a must-have for bloggers, adventurers, explorers or anyone else who needs to upload photos on the go.
Features & Build
At face value, the Samsung Galaxy 2 looks very similar to its predecessor. Though Samsung has stated its dimensions to be 71.2x132.5x19.3mm, the 19.3mm refers to the thinnest part of the Galaxy, and it’s actually 34mm deep from the back of the LCD screen to the front of the retracted lens. It’s fractionally larger than its predecessor but 19g lighter, weighing in at 283g.
The sleek design has been kept relatively unchanged, the Galaxy 2 maintaining the minimalist appearance of its predecessor, and remaining uncluttered by clunky knobs or dials. On top you’ll find the pop-up flash which sits flush with the body when retracted, plus the power switch, shutter button and zoom toggle. On the right-hand side there’s a USB socket for charging the device much like a smartphone. Interestingly there’s a headphone port on the right too, allowing you to use the Galaxy Camera 2 much like a phone or tablet for playing multimedia content, streaming videos or listening to music. Controls on the camera body are sparse as the majority of the functions are accessed via the large 4.8in, 1,036k-dot HD SuperClear touchscreen LCD which occupies most of the rear.
Taking pictures is carried out in a similar way to a smartphone, with touch gestures like pinching to zoom or tapping to focus. But the inclusion of a dedicated shutter button and zoom toggle make it feel more like a compact camera.
On the front is the same 4.1-86.1mm f/2.8-5.9 lens found on the previous model. With a 21x optical zoom it has an impressive film-equivalent focal range of 23-483mm. Optical image stabilisation is also on hand to help tame camera shake. This is useful at the long end of the zoom, where image blur is more likely to occur.
Delve inside the new Galaxy and you’ll find the same 16.3Mp 1/2.3in BSI CMOS sensor, though its Quad Core processor now runs 0.2GHz faster at 1.6GHz to handle processor-hungry tasks and apps. The Android operating system has also been updated from the 4.1 version to 4.3.
Core shooting capabilities remain untouched with the ISO ranging from 100-3200 and the shutter offering speeds from 16secs to 1/2000sec. Battery capacity has been increased though. Its power has been extended by around 20% at 2000mAh. This equates to an extra 60 pictures in normal use.
It accommodates a MicroSD memory card, much like many Android tablets and phones. There’s 8GB of built-in memory, too. We’d have liked a RAW shooting option to have been on the spec sheet, though as a blogging, on-the-go, travel compact, shooting in the SuperFine JPEG format is likely to be enough for most people looking to edit pictures within Apps and upload swiftly to online media.
Performance & Handling
Though aesthetically the Galaxy 2 looks curved, sleek and futuristic, the handgrip is a little on the small side. There’s not much for your fingers to grasp and with no rubber pad on the rear your thumb is forced onto the touchscreen. It’s very much a two-handed camera in operation for this reason.
Moving onto the screen performance, we loved the large 4.8in LCD as this really made it easy to browse the web and use apps. With 1,036k-dots, it certainly isn’t low-resolution, though when shooting, the huge screen size does make it susceptible to glare when you’re in strong sunlight.
Focusing was quick on stationary subjects, though features such as Macro and Movie modes are hidden away within a Settings menu. This was a little confusing at first, as there’s a ‘smart’ auto macro mode too. This was an occasion where having a regular, physical D-Pad would be handy, though accessing the screen-based options does become easy once you know where they are.
Running an Android operating system has a distinct advantage over standard non-smart cameras. Access to the Google Play Store means you have a whole host of apps to choose from. Once downloaded, your general-purpose apps can be used just like on a regular tablet, or you can use specific photo-apps to edit and enhance the images captured on the device.
Though not as big as a tablet, the healthy screen size does make it easy to perform even quite fiddly editing tasks.
The Galaxy 2 has its vices though. With no rear-facing camera, apps like Skype cannot be used to their full potential. Finger smears are also an issue from constantly touching the screen, but this is part and parcel of a touchscreen system.
Despite boasting a faster processor, when it came to speed the Galaxy 2 took a sluggish 26secs to fully boot up from a cold start. This was frustrating as it meant you could potentially miss the moment when in a hurry to catch the shot.
That said, once it’s turned on you can hit the power button to put the camera into Standby mode. From here, it switched on instantly, so this is the way to use it when you’re shooting. It took 1.9secs to write a single SuperFine JPEG to the card and it didn’t slow when shooting multiple pictures at 3fps.
Value for Money
Do you need the Galaxy Camera 2 if you already use a smartphone to take pictures? Well, it certainly feels more like a camera and offers far greater control over your pictures. But if you’re after a compact it’s worth considering the Panasonic TZ60 which has Wi-Fi and a 30x optical zoom. It doesn’t run Android though, so there are no apps to play with.
If you’re looking for a small tablet, the iPad Mini has a much larger 7.9in screen and is priced at £249. This doesn’t have the same control over shooting, though, so the Galaxy Camera 2 does bridge the gap between a specific photo tool and a mini tablet. That makes it a unique product for those who want to share high-quality shots as fast as possible.
Web browsing, using apps, instant photo editing and uploading to social media are what the Samsung Galaxy 2 excels at. The actual process of capturing shots isn’t as intuitive as with a ‘non-smart’ camera, as screen-based adjustments take longer than buttons and dials. But overall it’s fun to use, and is very much targeted at the active blogger. If you need a fully connected compact for instant editing and uploading, this is the one to go for.
- Street price: £339 (Discontinued as of July 2016)
- Resolution: 16.3Mp (4608x3456px)
- Sensor: 1/2.3in BSI CMOS
- ISO range: 100-3200
- Shutter: 16-1/2000sec
- AF system: TTL contrast detect
- Focusing modes: Manual Focus, Centre AF, Continuous, Multi AF, Face-detection
- Metering: Centre-weighted Multi, Spot, Face detection AE
- Burst rate: 3fps
- Monitor: 4.8in, 1,036k-dot ClearView touchscreen LCD
- Viewfinder: No
- Flash: Pop-up
- Hotshoe: No
- Video: Full 1080 HD @ 30fps
- OS: Android 4.3 Jelly Bean
- Write speeds: 1.9secs SuperFine JPEG RAW capability: No
- Storage: MicroSD, 8GB internal
- Weight: 283g (body only)
- Dimensions: (WxHxD) 132.5x71.2x34mm
- Visit: www.samsung.com/uk
This review was first published in the September 2014 issue of Digital Photo - download back issues here.