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Galaxy Camera

Samsung launched two quirky products last night at a glitzy event in central Auckland. Top of the bill was the Galaxy Note II.

The giant smartphone breaks the touch screen mould by using a stylus. More about that later.

The support act was more interesting: Samsung’s fresh take on the casual digital camera.

Blame it on the smartphones

Smartphones have all but killed off the causal digital camera. For a few extra dollars on their costs, phone makers can add camera features to their devices. While the lenses and image sensors may not always be as good as those on standalone cameras, packing the technology into a device people already carry is just too convenient.

Samsung’s NZ$750 Galaxy Camera turns that model on its head. Instead of building a smartphone with a bolt-on camera, Samsung has added some phone features to a camera. The important part in that last sentence was some phone features – significantly those features don’t include the ability to make voice calls.

Clearly this is not a phone.

Instead the Galaxy Camera is a real camera with a real 23mm optical lens – it can zoom up to 21x. There’s also a good 16 megapixel sensor. In other words you can get good pictures. The Galaxy also looks like a real camera – it doesn’t slip into your pocket as easily as a phone, but it is more portable than, say, a digital SLR.

Big, big screen

There’s also a nice big LCD screen across the entire back plane. The camera is an Android Jellybean device which from the back can look just like any other Android smartphone complete with internet browsing and the usual slew of apps.

Samsung’s demonstrators went to get lengths showing me the clever software gee-gaws like onscreen photo-editing, like having Photoshop in your pocket. These will appeal to many buyers.

A journalist’s phone

The demonstrator had me a few minutes into showing the software when she said: “If you’re a journalist you can instantly email photos….”. Of course you can do this from a smartphone. In fact, I’m a journalist and I already do exactly that from my smartphone. Nevertheless, the Galaxy Camera would be a great tool for journos to quickly fire images to a newsroom while out on a job.

Later another Samsung demonstrator took the 4MB image shown below and emailed it to me, the picture turned up on my phone in under a minute – not bad considering the picture quality.

Bill Bennett and Dave Baxter of Avalanche City at the Samsung Galaxy Camera event in Auckland
Bill Bennett and Dave Baxter of Avalanche City at the Samsung Galaxy Camera event in Auckland

For those of us who need to take good pictures for work, but don’t want the bother of toting a digital SLR and fancy hardware, the Galaxy Camera is near ideal. I was particularly taken aback when a demonstrator switched to a mode that seemed to offer a tutorial on how to fiddle with f-stops and ISO – that’s something I’ve always left to professionals.

Will it fly?

To me the big question is whether there are enough people who need a device like this. My latest smartphone – a Nokia Lumia 920, more about that later – can certainly take images good enough for my work. If I need to move up a step, there’s a digital SLR in my cupboard. If you don’t want to go down the SLR route and need more than basic shots, the Galaxy could be ideal.

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