Yesterday, Samsung announced their new Galaxy Camera…a full fledged point and shoot with essentially a full fledged smartphone built in (minus the voice calling). It’s an intriguing idea, and I feel it likely shows functionality that will become more commonplace with cameras going forward. It’s got a 21x optical zoom lens and a 16.3 MP sensor, with a giant 4.8″ LCD capacitive touchscreen and runs Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean). There are a few really big positives for something like this, as well as some negatives.
- Great connected functionality. The best thing about shooting with a camera in your smartphone is that you can snap a pic and immediately share it, whether it’s via text message, e-mail, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. In our connected society, that’s fantastic. Having this capability built into a camera with much greater capabilities than your smartphone’s camera is really cool.
- Most people don’t edit their photos on a computer. Since most of my readers are photo enthusiasts, you likely do some degree of post processing on your machine at home, but I bet a lot of you still use a camera phone for some casual snaps. If you have a smartphone, you probably have done some editing on your phone, whether it be more advanced stuff with apps like Snapseed or PhotoForge, or more automated with things like Instagram or Hipstamatic. This functionality is now built into a more full featured camera.
- The big rear screen allows for an enjoyable display experience when showing your pictures to people. Most people don’t like looking at pictures on the small LCDs of cameras, but this changes that.
- The possibility for massively expanded functionality of the camera. Having a full operating system with third party apps allows for the developer community to do some really creative things that camera manufacturers won’t put on their cameras natively.
- The rear LCD is so dominating that there is no good place to put your thumb. Looking at the rear of this camera, I have no idea how someone is supposed to hold it. Do you have to hold it like all the inexperienced photographers hold their phones? With thumbs on the bottom and both hands outstretched? If I hold it like a camera, my thumb is going to be right on the touch screen, which is not a good thing, considering it’s the only input device aside from the shutter button, and will always be active.
- Battery Life. Android smartphones are not exactly known for their stellar battery life. Is this a camera you’re going to have to charge every few days, even if you don’t use it? I know you can shut it off, but when you boot an Android phone or tablet, it’s not exactly quick (my tablet takes about 40 seconds from power to home screen). Not a good thing for a camera.
- Stability. Yes, Android has made huge strides in stability over the past few revisions, but it’s still prone to the occasional lockup or crash. My camera needs to be absolutely 100% ROCK SOLID. That is, I pull it out, it’s ready to go. This is true even for casual snappers who just want to get their camera out for a quick shot of their kid. Having a full featured operating system means more complexity and more chances for crashing.
- Viruses. Android viruses aren’t a massive issue, but they do exist, and this just presents one more target.
- With a cellular data connection built in, you will likely need to buy this with a data plan, which adds one more cost to your daily life.
Overall, I think if they work out the ergonomic issues, this has really great potential,especially with the possibility of adding functionality via app. However, due to the other concerns I have, I think an even better solution is for your camera to have a similar interface to what it has now, with dedicated, stable camera firmware…but with a direct wi-fi or bluetooth link that can connect to any existing smartphone (Android or iOS). Then you can have apps that you can use to directly access the images on the card and edit or share them just as if the functionality was directly on the camera. This would allow the camera’s LCD to remain off (preserving battery life), would separate the camera firmware from all the overhead, response issues and hacking threats, while still having the same benefits. It would also make it more comfortable to edit photos, as you wouldn’t have to hold your camera the whole time you were editing. In any case, it’s obvious some big changes are still in store for the digital camera industry.