Samsung Galaxy Camera EK-GC100 Review
Dom | On 12, Nov 2012
Since the announcement of the Samsung Galaxy Camera (EK-GC100) at IFA 2012 we’ve been desperate to take one out on the road to give it a proper test run and get a feel for this new category of device in the real world. Samsung has very kindly given us a retail unit to play around with through the Mobilers programme, and we’ve been meandering around the British isles with it ever since. Here are some of our thoughts:
Video Review (General Overview)
All in all we really like the Galaxy Camera. The Galaxy Camera certainly has a lot to offer in terms to connectivity, creativity, procrastination and (most importantly) photography!
In-Depth Galaxy Camera Review
The Galaxy Camera interface is really great. It’s good-looking and intuitive. It comes with 3 different modes, Auto, Smart and Expert – each giving you more control over the type of photograph you want to take than the next. More complicated settings are tucked away inside “Expert” mode for those who already know how to – or want to learn how to – take creative shots with fully manual controls, but “Smart Mode” lets you cheat and take professional(ish) photographs without necessarily knowing what you’re doing. Here, for example is a picture of a child on a horse. Brilliant, I hear you say – “even the horse could have taken that picture” … well yes, it probably could have – and that’s what’s good about automatic mode!
The Galaxy Camera has a 16MP CMOS sensor and 23mm wide-angle lens. What I’ve found really impressive is the 21 X optical zoom – that means that you can zoom in 21 times, and still take photographs and videos at the maximum resolution without losing any image quality (digital zoom just crops the resolution). Check out the example in the above video review (I zoom in on France from England!) – or these images of I took of Big Ben in London all the way from Trafalgar square:
Pointing the Galaxy Camera at the moon also makes me glad that I didn’t buy a telescope. It’s obvious the Galaxy Camera does a pretty good job considering the moon is 380,000 km away (cropped image)!
However, the only way to get a (favourable[?]) 16:9 resolution is to shoot at a lower 12MP, otherwise there are black bars on each side of the screen which looks a bit mucky. For this reason, it’s also set to 12MP by default, which I didn’t notice until after taking all of these photographs – so look out for that one!
Automatic mode lets the camera chose the most appropriate settings based on the lighting conditions of whatever you’re pointing it at. It does a good job, and there’s not really all that much I can say about it!
You have easy access to 14 different filter effects which you can pop-up from the bottom of the screen. It overlays them “live”, so it’s not post-editing. Here’s what you get:
They’re pretty comprehensive, but if it doesn’t wet your appetite enough then don’t forget that the Galaxy Camera runs on the Android Operating system. It comes preloaded with Instagram and Paper Camera and you are able to download any of the multitude of other camera-apps available through Google Play.
Smart mode allows you to take some pretty cracking photographs without necessarily knowing what you’re doing. As well as Best Photo and Best Face which you might be familiar of from Samsung’s flagship Galaxy smartphone series, there are some really clever features like “Light Trace” which allow you to get really creative with your photography. This mode certainly justifies the whopping 1.4GHz quad core processor inside, as many of the smart-modes take a series of photographs and does on-the-fly processing to edit them together.
Here are some of examples of what you can expect to get. Please note that they are taken in the 16:9 12MP 4608×25902 (essentially a cropped 16MP image) because that’s the default setting (which I assumed would be 16MP). The post will be updated with more full resolution pictures when I get a spare moment.
|Mode||Description||Example (12Mp 16:9 4608×2592) [click image for original resolution]|
|Beauty Face||Corrects facial imperfections automatically when taking portrait pictures||[coming soon]|
|Best Photo||Select the best picture when you take a series of pictures||See here for description of this feature|
|Continuous Shot||Take pictures continuously at a rate of 4 per second||[coming soon]|
|Best Face||Select the best picture of each person from 5 consecutive pictures to get the best merged group picture||[coming soon]|
|Landscape||Take pictures that emphasise the landscape and sky by making the green and blue more intense|
|Macro||Take pictures of close objects or text|
|Action Freeze||Take pictures of fast movement||[coming soon]|
|Rich Tone||Take and merge pictures in various exposures to create soft and rich colour [auto-HDR]|
|Panorama||Take panoramic pictures made up of a maximum of 8 consecutive pictures|
|Waterfall||Take pictures of waterfalls and flowing water using a long exposure – A tripod is recommended [I didn't use one]|
|Silhouette||Take pictures of silhouettes with backlighting|
|Take pictures that emphasise the sunset by making the colours more intense||[coming soon]|
|Night||Take pictures by combining pics to get brighter clearer pics in low light without flash|
|Fireworks||Take pictures of fireworks using long exposure at night – A tripod is recommended [I didn't use one]|
|Light Trace||Take pictures of light trails using a long exposure at night – A tripod is recommended|
One small niggle about Smart Mode is that there is often an unavoidable (though short) period of “processing” after each photograph is taken. Sometimes I found that this could be a little bit annoying, especially when you want to be taking as many photographs as possible in a short amount of time (like for fireworks). It would be great if in a firmware update, or Galaxy Camera 2, there could be an option to have this processing (somehow) happen after you’ve stopped taking photographs.
Of particular note, is that when taking the photographs for “Firework” and “Waterfall” mode, I didn’t actually use a tripod to get these shots and they came out pretty well regardless!
Expert mode gives you a wealth of options which give you full control of the photograph you want to take. It’s done through a really smart (looks amazing!) interface which resembles an SLR lens: it lets you scroll through all the different settings.
|A (Aperture Priority)||You can control the Aperture settings (F2.8 –> F8.0) | EV (brightness) (-2.0 –> +2.0) and the ISO (Auto 100 200 400 800 1600 3200) | Shutter speed is adjusted automatically|
|S (Shutter Priority)||You can control the Shutter Speed (1/2000 –> 16 seconds) | the EV (brightness) (-2.0 –> +2.0) and the ISO (Auto 100 200 400 800 1600 3200) | Aperture is adjusted automatically|
|P (Programme)||the EV (brightness) (-2.0 –> +2.0) and the ISO (Auto 100 200 400 800 1600 3200). Aperture and Shutter Speed are adjusted automatically|
|M (Full Manual Control)||You can adjust the Shutter Speed (1/2000 –> 16 seconds) | the Aperture settings (F2.8 –> F8.0) | and the ISO (Auto 100 200 400 800 1600 3200) | EV (brightness) is adjusted automatically|
Expert mode gives you full creative control of your photography, and also has helpful on-screen bits of information (see image above) if you’re not certain what it is that each setting does. Perhaps the best thing about expert mode is that the screen will adjust automatically as you tweak the settings, giving you an idea of the final image you’re going to get. This is really useful for over/under exposures and a really smart way – giving instant visual feedback. A “smart” camera indeed! Changing between settings is certainly not as fast on a DSLR – but we’re willing to bet that the majority of DSLR owners
Going into Expert mode and hitting a cog icon in the top left corner tapping on the screen allows you to get access to even more settings in the Galaxy Camera App. These are:
|Setting||Options (defaults on the left)|
|WB (Light Source)||Auto WB | Daylight | Cloudy | Fluorescent_H | Fluorescent_L | Tungsten | Custom set (measures the white balance by taking your own sample)|
|Flash||Off | Fill in|
|Focus||Auto focus (normal) | Macro|
|Drive||Single shot | Continuous Shot | AE BKT|
|Timer||Off | 2sec | 5sec | 10 sec|
|Focus Area||Centre AF | Multi AF|
|Face Detection||Off | Normal | Smile Shot | Blink detection|
|Photo Size||16M 4608 x 3456 (4:3) | P14M 4608 x 3072 (3:2) | W12M 4608 x 2592 (16:9) \ 10M 3648 x 2736 (4:3) | 5M 2592 x 1944 (4:3) | 3M 1984 x 1488 (4:3) | W2M 1920×1080 16:9|
|Quality||Super fine | fine | normal|
|Auto Contrast||Off | On|
|Metering||Center weighted | Multi | Spot|
|Sharpness||0 | +2.0 | +1.0 | -1.0 | -2.0|
|Contrast||0 | +2.0 | +1.0 | -1.0 | -2.0|
|Saturation||0 | +2.0 | +1.0 | -1.0 | -2.0|
|OIS (anti-shake)||On | Off|
So yeah – lots of things I don’t really understand right there! There are also a load of other “general” settings you can find here, such as sharing options, review, date-stamp, Geotagging and voice control (you yell “shoot” at the camera and it takes a picture).
The Galaxy Camera is also able to take videos at full 1080p resolution… and a variety of others:
|Resolution||FPS||Recording Time||File Size||Video Pausing/Restart||Simultaneous image capture|
|1920 X 1080||30FPS||25 Minutes||2.99GB|
|1280 X 720||60FPS||25 Minutes||2.99GB||[icon icon_name='ok']||[icon icon_name='remove']|
|1280 X 720||30FPS||25 Minutes||2.12GB||[icon icon_name='ok']||[icon icon_name='ok']|
|768 X 512||120FPS*||25 Minutes (1 hour 40 minutes rendered)||2.38GB||[icon icon_name='remove']||[icon icon_name='remove']|
|640 X 480||60FPS||25 Minutes||[coming soon]|
|640 X 480||30FPS||25 Minutes||[coming soon]|
|320 X 240||30FPS||15 Minutes||[coming soon]|
You are able to pause the video capture and restart it again at any point. You are also able to take simultaneous photographs while shooting video – though this doesn’t work in certain video modes – as detailed above.
For battery life while filming – check the battery life section.
One great advantage is that you have full “OIS” (optical image stabilization) while shooting videos. This means that shakes and wobbles will be considerably reduced – so you can expect to get some great smooth footage while taking video with the Galaxy Camera.
Here are a few video samples for those of you who are interested. In all honest, I’m not that sure how they would compare to other camera footage so please let me know in the comments!
One slightly negative thing we did notice is that the Galaxy Camera does pick up the noise of the lens zooming while shooting video. It does have some ‘noise-cancellation’ settings for this (although we couldn’t find them the second time we looked), but all this seems to do is make everything a bit quieter while zooming.
Slow Motion Video Mode
What we’ve really enjoyed is the Slow Motion video feature, which allows you to shoot at 120FPS, albeit at a lower resolution of 768×512. You can get some really nice, interesting videos from this – as you can see from our test drive:
Low Light Video test
As I took the Galaxy camera out for a walk at night, I took a turn down a dark alleyway. I was quite relieved I didn’t get mugged (phew!). I’m not really sure how this holds up in terms of video quality (not terrible?), so I’d really appreciate your comments below to let me know what you think!
Optical Image Stabalisation (OIS) Demonstration (vs Galaxy S3)
Best viewed in full HD around 43 seconds in.
The Galaxy Camera has a 1650mAh battery. Although, in camera terms, this is considered a large battery, given that it is being gobbled up by the 4.8” LCD screen, the relatively battery-heavy Android Operating system and data connections we were initially somewhat worried that it would be a major flaw in the device. We have been pleasantly surprised with the Galaxy Camera battery life – and it’s not nearly as terrible as we expected (especially if you don’t have a SIM card in there, or use it in flight mode).
Here are some of the Galaxy Camera battery life tests we’ve performed so far. We will update this list as we do more tests, or as people submit them to us. Please note – there are rough tests and many do not simulate real-world usage of the device. For some of the tests we have used 3rd party Apps like “Lapse It Pro”, and we are not convinced they are fully-integrated with the Galaxy Camera (yet). For example, we set “Lapse It Pro” to take a shot every 3 seconds in all of our tests, though often it would take significantly longer. During these tests, we didn’t turn the camera off at all – which is not typical camera usage.
Do not take these tests too seriously.
In all honesty, we’re not entirely sure how to interpret these results. Given that there’s nothing really out there that can do what the Galaxy Camera can do, it’s not sure what the reference point should be. Ultimately, though – we think Samsung should have put a bigger battery in the device. The good news is that you can always pick up a (relatively cheap) battery pack charger – which you could use in conjunction with a smart phone. Ultimately a better solution than externally charging multiple batteries, but not ideal.
One option you might consider, is to buy a (now very cheap) battery for the Galaxy S2 – the Galaxy Camera and Galaxy S2 batteries are fully compatible; so buying high quality official replacement batteries from somewhere like amazon (affiliate link) is another good solution – especially if you are travelling.
Although the Galaxy Camera does not allow phone calls, you are able to send an receive text messages, so there’s no reason other than inappropriate positioning of microphone and loudspeaker, why you shouldn’t be able to make phone-calls from it. Using third party services such as Viber it is perfectly possible – which makes the Galaxy Camera one of the most versatile devices on the market. We proved this last week in London by making the world’s first(?) Google Hangout from a camera. Ridiculous!
I can use any app on the device which is available from the Android Market
The Galaxy Camera really is a marvel of technology. It’s one of the only Samsung devices we’ve seen get a whopping big round of applause (and cheers) at a launch event, as people couldn’t quite believe how much stuff had been crammed into it. The build quality and design are excellent, and as well as being a good looking device – it takes good photographs and videos (though please judge that for yourself) for you to ogle over on the 4.8” LCD screen or share/sync it instantly through a variety of wireless connectivities. I can check my emails on it, play games and update my Facebook on the camera – and there are limitless other Apps (camera related or not) which will run on it.
We’re not pretending that the Galaxy Camera can take better quality pictures than a DSLR, because it cannot. Nor does it have the same amount of options or control. However – what it does offer is an extremely comprehensive package for the price (which isn’t cheap, either). The amount of capture-diversity (macro, wide angle, 21x zoom et cetera) in the device is excellent , especially when you consider that a DSLR requires many different lenses to achieve the same effect, some of which cost more than the Galaxy Camera alone. The “Smart Mode” and “Expert Mode” are excellent: they provide the means for you to be creative, and learn about the possibilities of photography without necessarily having to know anything about F-Stops and shutter speeds… but still gives you full creative command if you do.
For a do-it-all device, the Galaxy Camera really has raised the bar with what a “Camera” is and should be. In all honesty, it leaves me looking at my DSLR in a slightly lackluster way… why can’t it do all the things the Galaxy Camera can if I’ve spent so much money? Though… I guess the Galaxy Camera isn’t exactly a light investment, either:
If you have any other questions about the Galaxy Camera, if we’ve missed something or you just fancy a chat – then please get in touch!