Samsung Galaxy Camera 2 review: first look
Samsung announced an update to its ground-breaking Galaxy Camera at CES 2014, and we were lucky enough to give an early sample an in-depth test while in Las Vegas. The final version will go on sale in February, with a suggested retail price of £399 inc VAT.
The original Galaxy Camera gained a PC Pro Recommended award, combining as it did the best parts of a camera and phone - a compact camera with built-in 3G, a full-sized screen and Google Android to power it, not to mention a phenomenal 21x optical zoom.
Samsung has made a couple of minor physical alterations to the design of the Galaxy Camera 2: its weight has dropped from 303g to 283g, while the case is a little rounder and easier to hold. Inside, the zoom has stayed the same, and so has the 16.3MP, 1/2.33in sensor.
However, Samsung has made a number of tweaks to its successful formula. To start with, there’s now a 1.6GHz quad-core processor, up from 1.4GHz before, and the RAM has been doubled to 2GB. It should be no surprise that this camera is a nippy performer.
Perhaps the biggest improvement, though, is the larger battery. It’s now 2,000mAh, around 20% bigger than before. Samsung has stuck with the same, rather gorgeous 4.8in display, with a resolution of 1,280 x 800 giving 308ppi. While a higher resolution would have been nice, we aren’t complaining as images look crisp and vibrant.
Naturally, Samsung now uses a more recent version of Android: it’s 4.3 rather than the latest 4.4, but few people will notice the difference. You won't find much on Google Play that won’t work on this camera.
The other core spec we should mention is internal storage: there’s 8GB inside, but Android consumes a fair chunk of this for its own needs, leaving around 3GB of storage available for your photos and apps. You can however add up to 64GB more via the microSD slot, and there’s 50GB of free cloud storage on offer via Dropbox for two years.
If you have an NFC-enabled phone, you can now use Tap & Go to instantly transfer photos from one to the other. Once the devices are paired, you can also take advantage of the Remote Viewfinder feature; so, if (for example) you’re at a gig, you can lift the camera above your head while viewing what the lens can see on your phone.
You'll also have to rely on a paired phone for a data connection if you’re away from Wi-Fi: the SIM slot included with the original Galaxy Camera has disappeared, perhaps to make space for the larger battery.
When it comes to setting up your pictures, there are now a frankly overwhelming 28 "Smart Modes" available – nine more than previously. The most eye-catching addition is Selfie mode, which beeps when your face is in the right place for a shot.
While it may be tempting just to stick to Auto, it’s worth taking advantage of these modes. For example, below we show the difference between choosing Auto and Sunset (you can see the original photos in the samples at the end of this review).
To help you pick the right settings, a new Smart Mode Suggest option attempts to work out what sort of scene you're working with. We found it tended to favour options such as Macro and Landscape, however; instead, we’d suggest you use the My Modes option, where you can pre-select your favoured options.
More advanced users are catered for via manual modes: the Galaxy Camera 2 now includes AF and AE separation, so, with our sunset example, you could tap on an area of the screen to pick the exposure, and tap elsewhere to set the focus.
As before, the standard of photos this camera takes is great for a compact: below, for example, you'll see some lovely images captured whilst wandering around the Neon Graveyard. (If you ever wondered where all the neon signs that define Las Vegas go when they need to be retired, now you know.)
If you zoom in you will see some signs of compression and noise: that's an almost inevitable side effect of extracting such a huge number of pixels from a compact CMOS sensor. But it's mitigated by that 21x optical zoom, which means you shouldn't normally need to crop in to the frame.
The Galaxy Camera 2 also makes an accomplished camcorder, capable of shooting Full HD footage at 30fps. Samsung has added a Multi Motion Video feature this time around too, which cuts the resolution to 768 x 512 but allows you to shoot at 120fps, and then play back your scene at one-eighth speed, quarter-speed, half-speed, double-speed, four-speed and eight-speed.
It all adds up to a camera that’s fun to use and easy to carry around with you. We’ll hold off on a definite verdict for now – we know from the previous version that the images can get a bit noisy in low-light, and we haven’t yet had the opportunity to properly check this out – but so far the signs look good. In every neon-lit sense.
Click on the samples below to view the full photos, including a photo we took of the moon to take advantage of the 21x zoom.