The Galaxy Camera has taken a lot of its design cues from Samsung’s Smart camera line, the WB series. It has a clean, aesthetically-appealing look, but it is wider and thicker than your average point-and-shoot compact, due to the large 4.8-inch touchscreen rear display and quad-core processor inside. Unfortunately, having a large surface area dedicated to just the display doesn’t leave much space for your fingers to hold on to the camera. That and its overall size makes the Samsung Galaxy Camera unwieldy to handle unless you've large hands. Furthermore, unlike a number of compact cameras, the Galaxy Camera isn't pocket friendly. Sure, the surface area is not much bigger than the Galaxy S III smartphone, but not once you factor in near 20mm thick profile with its lens barrel and hand grip elements. On upside, the camera's overall build quality feels robust, despite being constructed mainly out of plastic.
The curved hand grip on the front which features a textured surface which isn’t as effective as it should be. While most users will grip the concave portion of the handgrip where it meets the camera body, the textured surface actually ends before that, so you end up gripping the smooth surface of the camera body. The top of the camera is clean and uncluttered; there’s only the combined zoom lever/ shutter release button, the power button and the pop-up flash up top. Most of the ports are located beneath a flap at the camera’s base. There’s a microSD slot, micro-SIM slot and micro-HDMI port.
Powering up the camera for the first time will launch users into the familiar setup process for Android devices, where the camera will prompt users to connect to a Wi-Fi network and log into your Google account. The experience of navigating the Galaxy Camera’s Android interface is no different from an Android smartphone or tablet. Running Android 4.1, the Galaxy Camera is quick and responsive. Similar to a tablet, the Galaxy Camera allows for a 3G data connection via its micro-SIM slot. Running Android 4.1 also means the Galaxy Camera has full access to the Google Play store; this will appeal to casual shooters looking to edit their images instantly with many of the photo-editing apps found in Google’s app store. Of course with access to the full Google Play store, you're free to equip the camera with other kinds of apps as well, though the likelihood of yourself using them (effectively) are going to be rather slim.
Since users can tap the screen to set the focus area as well as take a shot with the virtual shutter release button onscreen, it meant there were many instances of us taking shots by accident or setting a different focus area from just holding the camera. This is a pretty big design weakness in our opinion, since this affects the handling of the camera. Partly, this goes back to the problem of having a very large touchscreen with hardly any room for your fingers to balance the camera from the rear. Our photos below illustrate this.
Due to the lack of physical controls on the camera, much of the camera’s menu navigation and settings adjustment are conducted via the touch interface. Similar to a smartphone, when left unattended during normal usage, the camera will enter sleep mode. Waking it up from sleep mode will result in the camera launching the camera app. The ability to change modes as well as select preset modes via the Smart mode with just taps onscreen is a welcome exchange compared to the slow and text-heavy menus of conventional digital cameras, making the switch between modes easy and quick.
While the Auto and Smart modes lend themselves well to touch interaction, the Expert mode doesn’t do so well. A lens barrel appears onscreen when you enter Expert mode, and there’s a list of adjustable settings such as aperture, shutter speed and ISO that run along the length of the barrel. The lack of physical buttons and controls means that you will have to tap and swipe to change the various settings. While this interface appeared nifty and cool during the first few times we used it, the repeated swiping to adjust a few settings made the entire process feel cumbersome, especially when users have to change settings frequently. Granted the camera wasn't designed with expert usage mode in mind, you could forgive our misgiving. Of course, this is also feedback for Samsung to improve upon their next iteration of the advanced controls user interface.