During a visit to Samsung's headquarters in Korea earlier this year, we had a chance to talk shop with company execs. The electronics maker's existing mirrorless and point-and-shoot lineups were the primary topic of discussion, but we did catch wind of a Galaxy product possibly to come, from the camera division. A Galaxy camera? That could only mean Android, and a heavy heaping of touch and connectivity. At the time, reps admitted only that they were "considering" such a device, and declined to provide any hint as to design or functionality. And we haven't heard a further peep, until today. As you may have gathered from recent rumors, Samsung's Galaxy Note II is not the only product to be Unpacked this afternoon. Sure enough, the anticipated Galaxy Camera is also on order, and we have all the juicy details just past the break.
Samsung Galaxy Camera hands-on
Samsung Galaxy Camera Press Shots
Nikon beat Samsung out the door with its Coolpix S800c -- a 16-megapixel snapper powered by Android 2.3.3, but this latest version is an entirely different beast. The entire back of the camera is occupied by an edge-to-edge 4.8-inch 1,280 x 720-pixel (308 ppi) display. It looks like something you'd find on a cellphone, like, say, the Galaxy Note -- having a touch-enabled viewfinder on a compact camera is certainly advantageous. There are still a few hardware buttons on board, including a flash release (there's a pop-up strobe in the top right corner), a power button, zoom toggle and shutter release, but you'll spend most of your time interacting with the Galaxy Camera through touch. With the Auto mode, you'll have access to a touch-to-focus system while leaving the rest of the computing to the camera. Smart Pro Mode is Samsung's version of intelligent auto, offering ideal settings for 10 different scenarios, such as the Waterfall Trace and Night Trace options, which slow down the shutter speed for daylight and evening shoots, respectively.
Despite the Galaxy's rather large profile, Samsung opted for a standard 1/2.33-inch BSI CMOS sensor, capable of 16-megapixel snaps. Don't expect top-of-the-line image quality, but the 21x, f/2.8-5.9, 23-480mm lens will let you get far closer to the action than any smartphone on the market today. This latest point-and-shoot falls within Samsung's SMART lineup, which means there's surely WiFi on board. There's also 3G and 4G connectivity as well, though, delivered from the carrier of your choice through a micro-SIM that slides in beside the microSD card and 1,650 mAh battery, which Samsung reps say can provide up to seven hours of battery life while connected.
Naturally, there are plenty of options for sharing. Android 4.1 Jelly Bean's on board, so you can add any of your favorite imaging apps from Google Play (yes, even Instagram -- a future update will add zoom functionality, too). There are also plenty of native sharing and sorting options, including a device-wide search tool that lets you locate shots based on a face tag, location or time. Best Group Pose will automatically select the ideal portrait of you and your friends, while Share Shot lets you use WiFi Direct to send content to your buds with Galaxy cameras and smartphones in realtime. There's also an Auto Cloud Backup feature, which provides redundancy by sending your photos wirelessly as you shoot -- assuming you're connected to WiFi or a wireless carrier.
We had a chance to shoot with the Galaxy Camera for a few minutes today. The camera we had was clearly an early prototype -- we did experience focusing issues and a colleague's device locked up during the demo -- but considering that it's not set to ship until October, Samsung has a bit of time left to work out the kinks. Otherwise the experience was quite positive; we found the camera to be very responsive and intuitive, especially if you're already familiar with Android. Upon boot-up, you're met with a typical Jelly Bean home screen, with a standard Camera shortcut, located front and center, launching the advanced interface. You can, of course, use the device as a data-only smartphone of sorts as well, surfing the web, responding to email and consuming media just as you would on any other Galaxy.
Without standard phone functionality, the Galaxy Camera won't replace your smartphone -- not to mention that the rather bulky form-factor would end up being quite a nuisance -- but if you don't make calls, this could theoretically be the only device in your (rather spacious) pocket. We can't speak to image quality just yet, as we weren't permitted to transmit samples, but based on the existing SMART line, it's safe to expect perfectly acceptable, though not spectacular stills. The device is set to begin shipping in October, and will be sold through camera retailers as well as carrier outlets, though pricing has not yet been released. Catch all the details directly from Samsung in the press release just below.
Update: During its IFA press event today, Samsung confirmed additional specs, including a 1.4GHz quad-core processor and sensitivity through ISO 3200.
Sharif Sakr contributed to this report.
Samsung presents 'Camera, Reborn.' – the GALAXY Camera
The new device combines leading-edge camera capabilities with Android™ 4.1 Jelly Bean and wireless network connectivity, letting users shoot, edit and share images easily anywhere, at any time
BERLIN, Germany – August 29, 2012 – Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd, a global leader in digital media and digital convergence technologies, has today announced the launch of the GALAXY Camera. Developed to fit the changing ways we communicate, the GALAXY Camera combines high performance photography with the latest Android™ 4.1 platform, so called Jelly Bean, and wireless network connectivity, creating a brand new type of device. Samsung GALAXY Camera fits perfectly for those who wish to shoot, edit and share high quality photographs and video easily and spontaneously from anywhere, at any time.
"The GALAXY Camera opens a new visual communication era and shifts a paradigm in communication. With the growth of social networks and the prevalence of smartphones and tablets, people today communicate faster than words. As we increasingly articulate our experiences through pictures and videos the GALAXY Camera has been created to lead the way in this new era of visual communication. Communication becomes more vivid and lively with high-quality images and instant sharing anywhere, anytime," said JK Shin, President of IT & Mobile Communications Division at Samsung Electronics.
Andy Rubin, Senior Vice President of Mobile and Digital Content at Google, congratulated the Samsung team on their launch. "When we first started work on Android, we envisioned building a smart camera that would take digital photography to the next level. The GALAXY Camera is an innovative product that speaks to the openness and flexibility of the Android platform."
The GALAXY Camera makes outstanding photography on the go. Users never again have to sacrifice picture quality if they want to edit and share their photos instantly. It easily outperforms any smartphone camera. The GALAXY Camera, boasting a 21x super long zoom lens and a super-bright 16M BSI CMOS sensor, delivers pictures in brilliant quality. The device also features 'Smart Pro' technology, a series of modes that make professional-looking photography easy for anyone to achieve. What truly revolutionizes this photography experience is Android™ 4.1 Jelly Bean and wireless connectivity, which opens up the device to applications for photo-editing, sharing, and much more. Users will experience all of GALAXY Camera's great features on a market-leading HD Super Clear LCD. With stunning clarity, incredible ease-of-use and unparalleled connectivity, the GALAXY Camera is the next step in imaging innovation.
Shoot stunning quality images
The GALAXY Camera's 'Smart Pro' feature makes it easy to recreate advanced photographic setups in just a few simple steps for stunning artistic results. Using the easy-to-navigate menu system, users can choose from a series of preset scenario options which will automatically adjust the camera's settings in order to capture the perfect photo. For example, the 'Rich Tone' setting delivers images with greater intensity – particularly effective for reducing overexposure in bright surroundings, while the 'Light Trace' setting automatically controls shutter speed for atmospheric night scenes full of light trails.
The GALAXY Camera's 21x optical zoom can be controlled by either button or touchscreen, rendering long-distance pictures in a quality that users will be proud to share, while OIS ensures that images stay clear and crisp. The camera's 16 Megapixel 1/2.3" BSI CMOS sensor captures images in brilliant color and resolution, while the 23mm aperture lens delivers impressive wide-angle shots incomparable to smartphone pictures.
Enjoy your photos and video on a world-leading display
The GALAXY Camera boasts large and vivid enough camera display - a 4.8"(121.2mm) HD Super Clear LCD screen, which makes it a pleasure to shoot, share and edit images from the palm of the hand. Another advantage of smartphone technology is the Voice Control option which allows the user to control a number of functions such as 'Zoom in' and 'Shoot' through voice. All these features are housed in a beautifully designed, ergonomic body with the GALAXY Camera's minimal, organic design complementing its easy-to-use professional features.
Edit and perfect images on your device
The GALAXY Camera includes a comprehensive set of 35 powerful photo editing features through the 'Photo Wizard', allowing users to make professional quality edits on the go. The new features take advantage of the ultrafast quad-core processor and HD Super Clear LCD, giving access to a feature like Auto Face Calibration so edits can be made in precise detail and with ease. The 'Movie Wizard' also allows users to create and edit expert-quality videos easily from the touch screen.
The GALAXY Camera also features 'Smart Content Manager', an innovative on-device organization tool which intelligently creates folders, tags faces, and even suggests which pictures to delete when they don't come out as desired. Thanks to the combination of wireless connectivity and Android™ 4.1 Jelly Bean OS, the internet capabilities of the GALAXY Camera are equal to those of the latest smartphone so that users can get even more enjoyment out of their device. In addition to the pre-installed applications from Samsung, users can browse the web and enjoy any applications from Google Play or Samsung Apps stores. If users are not sure which app to download, 'S Suggest' will help them recommend a new photo editing app or fun game to download.
Share your images anywhere, anytime
The camera's convenient 'Auto Cloud Backup' feature will automatically save precious photos into the cloud via Samsung's AllShare the instant they are taken. The GALAXY Camera also allows users to share photos at the same time as they shoot them with 'Share Shot.' As well as sharing to social networks and cloud services, users can also connect to a range of GALAXY devices including the GALAXY SIII and GALAXY Note II for effortless and automatic sharing of pictures across the GALAXY family. The new device enables connection to 3G or 4G, allowing photo sharing and browsing anywhere. The GALAXY Camera also functions on Wi-Fi with Dual Band and Channel Bonding for extra speed. Connectivity is supported by a quad-core processor that enables fast web-browsing and multi-tasking, as well as high-speed image processing without a significant impact on battery life.
The GALAXY Camera comes in two connectivity options: a 3G and Wi-Fi version or a 4G and Wi-Fi version.