December 11, 2012 1 Comment
(Note: this isn’t intended to be a comprehensive review of the Samsung Galaxy Camera, rather initial observations and opinions on the camera’s core features and suitability as a tool for a Mobile Journalist).
The Samsung Galaxy Camera is a compact point and shoot camera with an integrated Android smartphone.
Its features include:
- 16 megapixel sensor
- 21x optical zoom
- Optical image stabilisation
- Lens aperture f2.8 at widest
- 4.8″ 1280 x 720 HD touchscreen
- Android 4.1 Jellybean
- Wi-Fi and 3G connectivity
- 1.4GHz quad-core processor
- 4GB of internal usable storage, expandable to 64GB with Micro SD
- Standard 1/4-20 tripod mount
- Removable battery
** Video Mode
The video mode on the camera, accessible directly from the main camera app, records 1080p footage at 30fps, 720p at 30 or 60fps, with even faster frame rates at lower resolutions. There is no 25fps (PAL) option.
Does the lack of 25fps really matter? It’s an omission the Samsung shares with other similar compact cameras, the recent Nikon One for example.
If you are likely to mix footage from a Samsung Galaxy Camera with that from other cameras, or with assets playing at 25fps this will be a headache, but if the aim of working with this camera is to shoot, edit and upload from within the device then it doesn’t necessarily present an issue.
The Samsung Galaxy Camera shares a lot in common with the Samsung Galaxy S3. The 3.5mm jack is a four pole type, supporting simultaneous stereo output and mono input. Typically in a phone this might by used to connect a hands free kit, but with cheaply available breakout cables separate headphones and microphones can be attached.
I tested the Samsung Galaxy Camera with IK Multimedia’s iRig PRE, a compact XLR to 3.5mm pre-amp/adapter which provides phantom power, variable input levels and live monitoring through headphones (requires app support).
As with the Samsung Galaxy S3 the iRig PRE does indeed work, recording sound from an XLR source, in my case a Beyerdynamic M58 reporter microphone. I’ve used this combination in the field with the iPhone to record interviews and sync sound for video with very acceptable results.
Disappointingly, when used in conjunction with the Samsung Galaxy Camera’s native video camera app the output suffers from poor audio with a heavily compressed feel. This is the same symptom I reported when testing the Samsung Galaxy S3’s videography capabilities , a complaint well-documented online
An inspection of the Samsung Galaxy Camera stock camera app’s default video footage output reveals:
Video – H.264 @ 17019kbps 1920×1080 30.0fps
Audio – MP4A, 125.9kpbs, 48.0kHz 16bit, 2 channels
An internal microphone is mounted on top of the SGC’s body and, surprisingly, resulted in better quality audio (though still not great) than using the mic jack when indoors, but it appears to be very susceptible to wind/vocal pops, likely to be a problem when outdoors.
** Video Editing
The bundled Video Editor app is tedious in the extreme, but I write this as a competent video editor with desktop edit suites as well as iOS iMovie and Avid/Pinnacle Studio. Perhaps with perseverance the Video Editor app could indeed be usable, but unfortunately there’s little alternative on the Android platform at present for cutting video, the Clesh cloud editing software perhaps the only realistic exception.
The Samsung Galaxy Camera unpacks with a stingy 4GB of usable internal storage, but does support Micro SD cards up to 64GB in capacity. With Dropbox installed on the camera all photos and videos can be uploaded to the cloud in the background automatically – by far the easiest way of getting footage back to a desktop (even more attractive with the 50GB free special offer from Dropbox and Samsung)
I attempted to ingest footage onto an iPad directly over USB via the iPad camera connection kit. While iOS initially recognised the tethered camera ultimately there seemed to be problems with the file format that prevented me from browsing and importing the footage. Further testing here may yield a workaround.
One practical limitation of the Samsung Galaxy Camera is the lack of accessory shoe on the top of the body, preventing easy mounting of lights or microphone equipment. I’d hazard a guess that it’s unlikely a case featuring accessory mounts (such as the ALM mCAM) will appear for the Samsung Galaxy Camera, although it does benefit from a handy wrist strap.
** Usability Notes
It’s fair to say that by integrating an Android OS the camera’s usability has been compromised. There is a significant wait while Android OS boots up from ‘off’, a killer for run and gun jobs. Shooting from standby fares better, but still feels very laggy in comparison to a standard point and shoot.
Ergonomically, it’s not too easy to hold as a phone, the lens preventing a comfortable grasp.
On the plus side the minimalist buttons work well and look great, and the almost-five-inch screen is bright and colourful, handy for shooting outdoors. The touchscreen controls are generally intuitive for those used to Android, with the onscreen Home, Back and Menu icons hiding when not required.
My first impressions of this device reads like a list of gripes, but the fact is that at the moment I find the Samsung Galaxy Camera difficult to recommend to a mobile journalist. Many compact cameras currently on the market shoot better video and some will do so at a far more attractive price. The poor sound recording quality in the camera app, seemingly a wider Samsung Galaxy issue, is a major flaw but hopefully a software update can resolve this.
The compelling proposition of the SGC is that it offers the optics of compact camera with the flexibility and app store richness of the full Android operating environment, along with some great internet connectivity options. However, the Android integration currently does very little for the mobile journalist while there are so few genuinely useful and productive apps, particularly in the video editing category.
As a lifestyle camera for the casual social media snapper with cash to splash the Samsung Galaxy Camera could be just the ticket. But for a journalist searching for a device to be at the heart of his MoJo workflow the Samsung Galaxy Camera will almost certainly disappoint.