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Samsung Galaxy Camera Review – EK-GC100

Samsung Galaxy Camera Review – EK-GC100

| 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

Photography

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!

Galaxy Camera - EK-GC100 - SamsungGeeks - Auto

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:

Galaxy Camera - EK-GC100 - SamsungGeeks Zoom Test Big Ben

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)!

Galaxy Camera 21X Optical Zoom on the Moon - EK-GC100 - Samsung Geeks

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

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:

Galaxy Camera Filter Effects - EK-GC100 - SamsungGeeks

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.

Galaxy Camera - Ek-GC100 - SamsungGeeks - HomeScreen

Smart Mode

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.

ModeDescriptionExample (12Mp 16:9 4608×2592) [click image for original resolution]
Beauty Face Corrects facial imperfections automatically when taking portrait pictures [coming soon]
Best PhotoSelect the best picture when you take a series of picturesSee here for description of this feature
Continuous ShotTake 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]
LandscapeTake pictures that emphasise the landscape and sky by making the green and blue more intenseGalaxy Camera EK-GC100 - SamsungGeeks - Landscape
MacroTake pictures of close objects or textGalaxy Camera EK-GC100 - SamsungGeeks - Macro
Action FreezeTake pictures of fast movement [coming soon]
Rich ToneTake and merge pictures in various exposures to create soft and rich colour [auto-HDR]Galaxy Camera - EK-GC100 - SamsungGeeks - Rich Tone (HDR)
PanoramaTake panoramic pictures made up of a maximum of 8 consecutive picturesGalaxy Camera - EK-GC100 - SamsungGeeks - Panorama
WaterfallTake pictures of waterfalls and flowing water using a long exposure – A tripod is recommended [I didn't use one] Galaxy Camera - EK-GC100 - SamsungGeeks - Waterfall
SilhouetteTake pictures of silhouettes with backlightingGalaxy Camera EK-GC100 - SamsungGeeks - Silhouette
Sunset
Take pictures that emphasise the sunset by making the colours more intense [coming soon]
NightTake pictures by combining pics to get brighter clearer pics in low light without flashGalaxy Camera - EK-GC100 - SamsungGeeks - Night
FireworksTake pictures of fireworks using long exposure at night – A tripod is recommended [I didn't use one]Galaxy Camera - EKGC100 - SamsungGeeks - Firework
Light TraceTake pictures of light trails using a long exposure at night – A tripod is recommendedGalaxy Camera - EK-GC100 - SamsungGeeks - Light Trace

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

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.

Galaxy Camera - EK-GC100 - SamsungGeeks - Expert Mode
ModeDescription
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

Extra Settings

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)
FlashOff | Fill in
FocusAuto focus (normal) | Macro
DriveSingle shot | Continuous Shot | AE BKT
TimerOff | 2sec | 5sec | 10 sec
Focus AreaCentre AF | Multi AF
Face DetectionOff | Normal | Smile Shot | Blink detection
Photo Size16M 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
QualitySuper fine | fine | normal
Auto ContrastOff | On
MeteringCenter weighted | Multi | Spot
Sharpness0 | +2.0 | +1.0 | -1.0 | -2.0
Contrast0 | +2.0 | +1.0 | -1.0 | -2.0
Saturation0 | +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).

Video

The Galaxy Camera is also able to take videos at full 1080p resolution… and a variety of others:

ResolutionFPSRecording TimeFile SizeVideo Pausing/RestartSimultaneous image capture
1920 X 108030FPS25 Minutes2.99GB
1280 X 72060FPS25 Minutes2.99GB[icon icon_name='ok'][icon icon_name='remove']
1280 X 72030FPS25 Minutes2.12GB[icon icon_name='ok'][icon icon_name='ok']
768 X 512120FPS*25 Minutes (1 hour 40 minutes rendered)2.38GB[icon icon_name='remove'][icon icon_name='remove']
640 X 48060FPS25 Minutes[coming soon]
640 X 48030FPS25 Minutes[coming soon]
320 X 24030FPS15 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.

Video Samples

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.

Battery Life

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.

TestDescription & Results
No Usage/Idle: No SIM | WiFi OffThe Galaxy Camera performs extremely well in standby mode – with hardly any charge drain while not being usedGalaxy Camera - EK-GC100 - Battery Test - Idle Usage
Extremely Light Usage: No SIM A few photographs | Small amount of Video footage/Some Wifi Uploads gave over 2 days of use while draining the battery to only 49% Galaxy Camera - EK-GC100 - Battery Test - Very Light Usage
Light (typical?) Usage: No SIMSome photography and videography and WiFi uploads at certain points | gave over a day and a half while only draining the battery to ~30%Galaxy Camera - EK-GC100 - Battery Test - Typical Light Usage - SamsungGeeks
Medium/Normal usage | No SIMUsing the Galaxy Camera for typical 'medium' use without a SIM-card proved fine : the camera lasted over 24 hours with us being careful about turning on WiFi
Very Heavy Usage| Continuous Shooting: Screen Off. Data OffUsing "Lapse It Pro" we were able to shoot 2200 images in full resolution with the screen off (one every 3 seconds – using Full sensor) before the battery reached 10%. This included 10 minutes of WiFi to download and configure the App which gave just over 2 hours and 30 minutes continuous shooting.Galaxy Camera EK-GC100 Battery Life Test - Continuous Shooting - SamsungGeeks
Very Heavy Usage| Continuous Shooting: Screen On. Data Off Using "Lapse It Pro" we were able to shoot 1609 images in full resolution with the screen on before the camera reached 2% Battery . 2 hours and 37 minutes of continuous shootingGalaxy Camera EK-GC100 Battery Life - SamsungGeeks
Video Recording  1921 X 1080 @30FPS25 minutes of continuous footage | screen on max brightness | no zoomingBattery drained by 21% (100%-79%)
Video Recording 1280 X 720 @60FPS25 Minutes of continuous footage | screen on max brightness | no zoomingBattery drained by 23% (79%-56%)
Video Recording 1280 X 720 @30FPS25 Minutes of continuous footage | screen on max brightness | no zoomingBattery drained by 19% (56%-37%)
Video Recording 768 X 512 @120FPS25 Minutes of continuous footage | screen on max brightness | no zoomingBattery drained by 22% (36%-14%)
Video Recording 640 X 480 @60FPS25 Minutes of continuous footage | screen on max brightness | no zoomingBattery drained by [coming soon]%
Video Recording 640 X 480 @30FPS25 Minutes of continuous footage | screen on max brightness | no zoomingBattery drained by [coming soon]%
Video Recording 320 X 240 @30FPS15 Minutes of continuous footage | screen on max brightness | no zoomingBattery drained by [coming soon]%

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_link id=”B004WMGI94″ target=”_blank” ]amazon[/amazon_link] (affiliate link) is another good solution – especially if you are travelling.

Connectivity

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

Galaxy Camera Review - Texting - SamsungGeeks.com

Conclusion

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.

Galaxy Camera - EK-GC100 - SamsungGeeks - Macro shot of log

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:

[amazon_enhanced asin=”B009K27FMK” /][amazon_enhanced asin=”B009K27FNY” /]

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!

 

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Samsung Galaxy Camera Review – EK-GC100
Written by: Dom Armstrong for SamsungGeeks.com
Samsung Galaxy Camera – EK-GC100
4.5 / 5 stars

Review Overview

It is the Future
10
Connectivity
10
Functionality / Features
10
Build Quality / Design
8
Picture/Video Quality
7
9

The Galaxy Camera is the future

Although the Galaxy Camera might not take the world's best photographs, the level of connectivity and gadgetry packed in here makes it hard not to love.