The Samsung Galaxy 2 - Is it actually a camera?

This is the most incredible 'camera' I've ever bought. After having it about an hour I'd taken some pictures with it and uploaded them to stock photography sites, I'd also checked my emails, watched a YouTube video and played a few tunes. All on the 'camera' !!!!!

All pictures above - Samsung Galaxy 2 Camera - Snapseed

This is the Samsung Galaxy 2 'Smart' camera, complete with Android OS and all the trappings and functionality you'd expect from a smartphone. Without the ability to make phone calls of course. However, smartphones don't have the ability to select apertures and have a 21x zoom lens. (Yet!)

First off I have to say I've always liked Samsung compact cameras. They have a nice mix between retro and modern and I find that curved grip very comfortable. 

It's interesting that when you turn it on the camera goes through a whole wi-fi and social media group setup. Fortunately it's very straightforward and took a few minutes only. I also got 50GB of Dropdox storage with it for the next 12 months. That's enough for around 10,000 pictures from this camera. Lens is zoomed by the ring around the shutter button, which works OK. It's touch screen as well of course. There's enough internal memory for a LOT of pictures, just under 1000 I reckon, plus I've put a micro SD card in it, which will hold another 1500 or so. Files are jpg. only, no raw. 

It's around the same size as my Nokia 1020, screen is big and good but not as sharp and clear as the Nokia in bright sunlight. AF speed is about average for a camera like this and overall speed, while not m4/3 fast, is acceptable for me. It's light, though not throwaway, has a nice positive shutter and overall is pretty nice to use.

The zoom is incredible. Longest lens I've ever owned. IS is just ridiculous. Pin sharp at 1/15th. sec. at the long end. Honest!! See above. The apps. are easy enough to use. Though for all the internet stuff, you do need wi-fi, so if I'm out and about with it I'm pretty much unconnected. Though I can Bluetooth images to a phone if I'm desperate!! Getting the images off the camera is by plugging it into a computer or bluetooth, or by one of it's more amazing features, dropbox backup. When it connects to wi-fi it starts sending the high-res files to my dropbox account. So after a while they are all sitting there accessible to my laptop, desktop, iPad and anything else I may have connected to dropbox with. Very useful, and saves me lots of time. 


I suppose the big question. It's a micro sensor, a ridiculous lens, so what are the pictures like? Well pretty much standard compact point and shoot camera quality. Though at the high end of that. Very similar to a Panasonic LX7, from the samples I've seen from that camera. Not as good certainly as my GM1, but certainly capable of A3 reproduction. Because let's not forget, even something with a sensor this small, at low ISO's, is going to reproduce as well or better than a scanned 35mm slide and I should know. 

It is a thoroughly modern camera and to be honest, I love it. It just makes my life so easy. My whole workflow of shooting, editing and uploading is made significantly quicker and easier by using it. You will probably gather from the pictures above that I took it out on my bike yesterday and that's where it's a total star. When I'm out riding, I actually spend more time off the bike than on it, stopping to shoot pictures all the time and it was so nice to have that zoom at my disposal. The images are slightly softer at the long end, but I was pleasantly surprised by how usable they were. This isn't m4/3 or Fuji X quality, but just imagine what a 23-483mm (35mm film approximation) would look like. Yes, you did read that right 23-483mm !!!! The shots above of the sheep with the haybales behind and the tractor were both shot at the longest end.

It is obviously a technological wonder. However, it has a stone-age battery. Terrible battery life. This really needs to be addressed. We have all these wonderful devices, which all of course consume incredible amounts of power to perform their wonders, but we are stuck with these ridiculously low powered batteries. Perhaps the R & D departments of these companies could turn their minds to developing small, high-powered cheap batteries for their devices. Surely it's not that difficult.

I bought this on a whim. It's an Amazon special. £250 from a source in the Netherlands I think. Certainly it arrived with Dutch as the language plus a a 3rd. party UK mains adapter and an English manual obviously burnt onto a CD. However, grey import or not, it's got an EU guarantee and it was £80 cheaper than anyone else is selling it in the UK. But whim or not, it's a terrific little thing and unbelievably useful. And this may signal the beginning of Samsung's world domination of the camera market (Or not!!)

Despite their undoubted abilities to make great sensors and lenses (check out that 85mm f/1.4) Samsung have failed to find a niche in the camera market. Their phones are best sellers and they are the worlds market leader for those, even outselling Apple, but despite their cameras being decent enough, they have failed to stir the blood of pixel heads. However, this mix of smart device and camera could be (could!!) their way to get us all interested. Because the rumour is that at Photokina they are poised to announce a souped up 'pro' version of the Galaxy NX. That certainly is interesting, if true. 

The NX was a great idea, but somewhat of a 'first draft'. However, what it offers is spectacular for Pro's. The ability to shoot on the other side of the world and instantly send pictures, the ability to have a time pressured studio shoot and also instantly send the pictures is not to be underestimated. Instant backups as well as that fabulous huge screen would also be very welcome. We'll see what we see, but the potential is there if they get it right. Not always a given of course with Samsungs track record in the camera business. It would be nice however if they could marry an exciting camera body concept to what is a seriously high quality lens range. 

Finally using cameras like the Galaxy 2 makes me wonder about the future for DSLR's. It's devices like this that make them seem even more outdated. Because little of the Samsungs extraordinary capabilities are even possible with that slapping mirror. I was thinking about this yesterday. If I was a news photographer covering some outdoor event, would I want to be shlepping around with some monster Nikon or Canon outfit when I could use one of these small camera and have the picture in front of my picture editor in the time it's taken one of the DSLR guys to change a lens? These cameras and indeed the higher end smartphones are much easier and quicker to use, much more anonymous and unthreatening than those huge black polycarbonate behemoths with their equally portentous lenses. 

The ability to blend in rather than stand out, strikes me as a way to get a better insight into what's going on around us. In the way that Leicas transformed documentary photography in the 1930's, I think that smartphones and 'smart' cameras can transform it now. I do realise, however, that many of my professional colleagues would find it difficult to give up their 'badge' of credulity, the DSLR. But then if we let the gear we use define us as photographers, just what use are we?


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