updated 06:52 pm EDT, Fri October 5, 2012
Point-and-shoot packs Android, tons of features
Last night at AT&T's Unwrapped 2012 event, Electronista stopped by the Samsung booth to check out what the South Korean electronics maker had on hand. We've taken a special interest in Samsung's Android-powered Galaxy Camera since its announcement at IFA in late August, and had been hoping the company would have a few models on hand at the AT&T event, given that the carrier announced the Galaxy Camera for its network that very day. Well, neither Samsung nor AT&T disappointed, and we got a bit of hands-on time with what Samsung hopes will be the standard in the next generation of point-and-shoot cameras.
The first thing one notices about the Galaxy Camera is its size. It's a bulky device, and it's got a considerable weight to it. If you were hoping for something you could shove into a pocket, and you don't typically wear cargo pants, you'll be disappointed. The Galaxy Camera is going to fill up your hands, with your thumbs likely resting on either side of the touchscreen.
The Galaxy Camera's physical controls blend into the camera's design well. You might actually pass over the power button upon first looking at the device. The zoom knob, while it stands out, is still unobtrusive and easily accessed. It also features a flash that pops up out of the body of the device, one that we didn't even notice on our first handling of the Galaxy Camera.
The 4.8-inch 1280x720 screen is bright and generally responsive. A couple of times, we had a bit of trouble getting touches to register, but otherwise it seemed to work well. It's clear enough to provide the same app and web surfing experience one might expect on a comparably-equipped smartphone.
Of course, the main differentiating factor for the Galaxy Camera is Android. Android 4.0, to be exact. The device does in fact run Android, but nowhere in either our own handling of the device or the demo the Samsung attendant gave us did we see anywhere in particular that this addition made the camera a must-have.
Don't get us wrong, there's quite a nice amount of cool stuff you can do with the Galaxy Camera. With apps such as Instagram or other photo editing offerings, you can tweak shots directly on the camera before sending them off using AT&T's 4G network.
Speaking of the camera's connectivity, we asked the Samsung rep whether the company would be coming out with a Wi-Fi only version of the Galaxy Camera. We got the standard marketingspeak non-denial: "We haven't announced any non-cellular-enabled units yet."
The Galaxy Camera also includes a number of modes Samsung crafted for the device. These include modes that make it easier for non-professionals to take professional-level pictures, as well as other modes that can make snapping pictures easier, artsier, and more fun.
Yes, you can do all those things, but there's the question of whether the the Galaxy Camera needs to exist. Most of your amateur photographers are going to stick with their smartphone cameras, while serious shutterbugs are likely to go with a more powerful device that doesn't have Android but may have other features they want.
Of course, we've learned not to underestimate Samsung. The company's Galaxy Note came virtually out of nowhere last year to very solid sales, so Samsung has already proved that it can essentially create a market for a non-traditional device. The same could be true for the Galaxy Camera, as it's a powerful and capable camera and even fun to play with. We suppose we'll see if Samsung can hit the same novel product sweepstakes two years in a row when AT&T releases the Galaxy Camera some time in the next few weeks.