Samsung Galaxy Camera in-depth review
It pretty much depends on your point of view whether the Samsung Galaxy Camera is a mobile device with a zoom lens and flash, or rather a long-zoom compact camera with connectivity features. However, in terms of zoom range, sensor size and megapixel count, the Galaxy Camera is much closer to the current crop of long-zoom compacts than any smartphone. Therefore, for the purpose of this comparison, we have decided to put the Galaxy Camera up against the Panasonic Lumix TZ20, Canon Powershot SX260 HS and Nikon's version of an Android powered camera, the Coolpix S800C.
These three cameras range from 12.1MP (Canon) to 16MP (Nikon) sensor resolution. The Canon and Panasonic have 20x zoom lenses while the Nikon has to make do with a 10x zoom factor. The Canon and Nikon offer a 25mm equivalent wide angle setting, the Panasonic at 24mm captures a slightly wider angle of view. So, purely in terms of specification, with its 16MP sensor, 23mm wideangle and 21x zoom lens the Samsung Galaxy Camera compares favorably to its non-connected competitors and the Nikon.
That said, it's significantly more expensive. At almost $600, it is $300 more than the Nikon, which is the most expensive of the trio we compared to the Galaxy Camera. Let's have a look at our image quality comparison widget below to see what all these numbers mean in real life.
This is our standard studio scene comparison shot taken from exactly the same tripod position. Lighting: daylight simulation, >98% CRI. Crops are 100%. Ambient temperature was approximately 22°C (~72°F). The Galaxy Camera was positioned on a tripod and was set to flourescent WB.
One look at our comparison widget reveals visible differences between the best and worst in class, even at low ISOs. Unfortunately the Samsung Galaxy Camera belongs to the latter. The combination of a slightly soft lens and heavy noise-reduction leads to a distinct lack of fine low-contrast detail, even at base ISO. This is most visble in the bills just left of center and the feathers and hair on the right side of our test scene. Edge contrast is decent though and at smaller magnifications you won't be able to spot much difference between any of the cameras here.
Things don't get better at higher sensitivities. By ISO 400 almost all fine detail has vanished and if you go even higher up the ISO scale, the effects of noise and noise reduction become so intrusive that the Samsung's output becomes unusable for anything but small print sizes and web publication.
Generally in this class of camera image quality and sharpness are being sacrificed for a maximum of zoom range in a small package. Compared to some of its non-connected competitors in the long-zoom bracket of the digital compact camera market, the Samsung offers the most flexible zoom range. In terms of pixel-level image quality, it clearly lags behind the best in class such as the Canon Powershot SX260 HS or the Panasonic Lumix TZ20. That said, with its Android OS, the Galaxy Camera is designed for use with editing and filter apps which typically can't process full-size images and therefore make pixel-level detail a less relevant test criterion than on conventional cameras.