The Samsung Galaxy Camera at 10: Why I’d love to see this lost classic reborn

Ten years in the past in the present day, the way forward for compact cameras arrived. Or so it appeared. Samsung launched the Galaxy Camera to a baffled crowd at the IFA 2012 commerce present, who’d assembled to see the Galaxy Note II. The Android-powered compact was bizarre, forward of its time, and sadly short-lived. But it is also an idea that I’d love to see remade with in the present day’s digicam expertise.That may sound like a wierd factor to say a couple of Frankensteinian concept that was so clearly of its time. The Galaxy Camera was born within the age earlier than computational images took our telephones to unimaginable, compact-killing heights. To construct it, Samsung successfully took the Galaxy S III, eliminated the telephone, then slapped on a compact digicam with a 16MP sensor and 21x optical zoom.The Samsung Galaxy Camera from 2012 – this is what “Space Zoom” seemed like a decade in the past. (Image credit score: Samsung)That’s all been made utterly out of date by in the present day’s digicam telephones, proper? After all, the Galaxy S22 Ultra has 4 cameras, together with 10x optical zoom plus a 30x-to-100x Space Zoom. Just wanting at the Galaxy Camera in the present day reveals the unimaginable advances which have been made in cell images in solely ten years.And but, the idea behind Samsung’s Android-powered digicam stays a very interesting one to me. Its big 4.8-inch touchscreen, with its first rate 306ppi pixel density, nonetheless outshines most of in the present day’s mirrorless cameras. And the comfort of getting each modifying app and social community in your digicam continues to be a distant dream for picture and video creators.But wanting again at the Galaxy Camera has additionally obtained me dreaming concerning the form of compact journey digicam that could possibly be doable with Samsung’s tech in the present day…Early adopterThere was a easy cause why the Samsung Galaxy Camera obtained such blended critiques again in 2012; it did not take significantly good images. Particularly for a digicam that price $499 / £399 / AU$599.It was successfully a Samsung WB850F compact digicam fronted by an Android Jellybean 4.1 telephone, and again then point-and-shoots weren’t making an attempt very exhausting. The Galaxy Camera had a 16MP 1/2.3-inch sensor, which is smaller than those in most of in the present day’s telephones, and solely provided some sluggish contrast-detect autofocus.This all meant that you simply could not actually push the Galaxy Camera past ISO 1600 with out it wanting like somebody had attacked your snaps with Photoshop’s Smudge software. Night Modes have been a number of years away and this Android compact actually was constrained by the digicam tech of the time.(Image credit score: Samsung)What it actually did nail, although, was a brand new form of photo-taking expertise. Android Jellybean might now appear like a college coding mission, but it surely was a steady residence for many helpful apps – Angry Birds, after all, however primarily photographic ones like Snapseed, Photoshop Express, Instagram, and EyeEm.The Galaxy Camera wasn’t simply inventory Android bolted onto a compact both. Because Samsung truly made correct cameras again then – together with a number of the most modern of the period, just like the Samsung Dual – it additionally put a number of effort into the digicam interface itself.(Image credit score: Samsung)Alongside “Auto” and “Smart” modes, a neat “Expert” interface (above) gave you entry to issues like aperture precedence or publicity compensation, letting you flip the rings with a flick of your finger. It was enjoyable to use, with our Samsung Galaxy Camera evaluate concluding at the time that “lots of the folks we confirmed it to – each photographers and non-photographers – have instructed us that they need one”.Unfortunately, not fairly sufficient to truly purchase one, it appears. The Galaxy Camera idea limped on for one more couple of years with the arrival of the Galaxy Camera 2 and the mirrorless Galaxy NX, earlier than Samsung abruptly packed up and left the digicam enterprise in 2015. There have been good causes for it to achieve this, most probably some panicked scrawlings from the finance division on its steadiness sheet. But that does not imply I can not assist however marvel what Samsung may do with the Galaxy Camera idea in the present day in this new period of computational images.A brand new premium compactThere are nonetheless many events the place I discover myself caught “in-between” my smartphone and mirrorless digicam for images: on day trip strolling throughout a metropolis break, stay music reveals the place the safety treats “correct” cameras like hid weapons, household reunions, and so forth.This is why the “premium” compact digicam continues to be an enormous factor amongst photographers. Popular fashions just like the Fujifilm X100V and Ricoh GR IIIx are constructed for on a regular basis snapping and observational road images, and so they’re completely developed for that. But we now have the expertise to create a next-gen compact, a real all-rounder that’d be one other step above our smartphones. The solely hassle is, Samsung might be the one firm that would make it. A contemporary-day Galaxy Camera would have to be made by one of many computational images giants. It’s fairly clear that neither Google nor Apple has a style for doing that, barring the miraculous rebirth of the Apple QuickTake. And Sony is clearly wedded to the telephone route with the Sony Xperia Pro-I. So Samsung, you are up.The Samsung NX Mini (above) with computational images and 30x optical zoom? That’d be pretty, in idea. (Image credit score: Samsung)What would my ultimate Samsung Galaxy Camera 3 appear like? Something like a cross between the unique mannequin and the Samsung NX Mini (above) could be good. One of my major points with smartphone capturing is the ergonomics, so the previous’s small-but-helpful grip could be very welcome.A tilting (or totally articulating) display screen like on the NX Mini could be a should for each images and video. This would assist it double as a compact vlogging digicam with the abilities to trounce the Sony ZV-1, as would together with a USB-C port that would join straight to mics just like the Rode Wireless Go II. A pop-up viewfinder, like on the Canon G5 X Mark II, could be a serious bonus, maybe as a substitute of a flash.On the again, there’d be a big (however not too large) 5-inch touchscreen with 500dpi pixel density for a phone-like expertise when reviewing, modifying, and sharing snaps. Samsung’s new “Expert Raw” app – discovered on telephones just like the Galaxy S22 Ultra – would come pre-installed for handbook controls. And one other large benefit of an Android digicam, after all, could be putting in customizable launchers like Nova, Minimalist, or maybe a brand new photo-centric different.This form of interface tweakability would make in the present day’s mirrorless cameras really feel like full dinosaurs. At the identical time, I’d be very joyful for Samsung to proceed with one of many major criticisms of the unique Galaxy Camera – no telephone calls. WhatsApp messages by way of Wi-Fi or a 4G knowledge plan could be greater than sufficient distraction whereas I’m out taking images.All of this could be window dressing, although, for some photographic expertise that might (in my unrealistic goals) take point-and-shoot images to new heights…Part of the methodThe major driver behind the rise of computational images has been overcoming the restrictions of smartphone sensors and lenses. But the factor that also hasn’t been actually explored (past, maybe, the OM System OM-1) is what these algorithms may do when mixed with bigger sensors and true optical zoom. With in the present day’s processing energy, that is what a next-gen Galaxy Camera may do.Recently, Samsung has proven a propensity for chasing headline-grabbing megapixel counts with its new sensors. The Galaxy S23 Ultra has been tipped to get its new 200MP ISOCELL HP1 sensor, which has already landed on the China-only Moto X30 Pro. But I’d want a Galaxy Camera to preserve its processing targeted extra on clever stacking (combining one of the best components of a number of frames) than pixel-binning.It may mix a 20MP 1-inch or Four Thirds sensor with a real optical zoom lens. I’d be joyful to commerce a number of the attain of the Galaxy Camera’s 21x zoom for pocketability and a bigger sensor – the Sony RX100 VII, for instance, affords a terrific 24-200mm f/2.8-4.5 lens. Alongside that, a robust cell processor like an Exynos 2200 or Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 may use all that gentle to do some spectacular multi-frame uncooked processing and computational trickery.The computational processing that is baked into Samsung’s telephones could possibly be much more highly effective on a devoted compact. (Image credit score: Samsung)The newest smartphone periscope lenses are nice, however I’d have an interest to see what super-resolution strategies can do with a significantly better optical zoom lens. Samsung’s newest AI algorithms may additionally ship subject-tracking autofocus, HDR video and low-light noise discount, plus specialist modes like astrophotography.You solely want to look at the OM System OM-1 to see what different modes are doable. Unusually for a mirrorless digicam, the OM-1 has a devoted “computational modes” part, the place you could find useful tips like Focus Stacking (useful for macros), High Res Shot mode, and Live ND (for lengthy publicity results). To get all of this, and extra, in a pocketable digicam with smartphone-style menus and connectivity could be fairly unimaginable. Sadly, it nearly actually will not occur.Out of timeRealistically, the market simply is not there for a next-gen Samsung Galaxy Camera, regardless of how good it’s. The variety of people who find themselves ready to carry a standalone digicam alongside their telephone is now fairly small. And Samsung’s imaging tech is now very a lot geared in the direction of the likes of the S22 Ultra. But that does not imply that others aren’t making an attempt to fill the hole.The Alice Camera, a Micro Four Thirds digicam that makes use of your telephone as its brains and display screen, is due to lastly begin transport in September. It’s slightly extra clunky than an all-in-one answer just like the Galaxy Camera, however the basic concept is identical, albeit with extra of a vlogging focus. As one if its co-founders Liam Donovan instructed me final yr: “there’s a complete era of people that have grown up with smartphones of their pockets and if you happen to gave them a mirrorless digicam they’d don’t know what to do with it. We wished to carry a high-quality optical system to these folks to allow them to truly profit from it.” I’m wanting ahead to seeing the ultimate end result quickly.(Image credit score: Yongnuo)Perhaps the closest factor to a modern-day Galaxy Camera, although, is the Yongnuo YN455 (above). It combines Android OS with a Micro Four Thirds sensor, a 5-inch touchscreen, livestreaming powers and 4G connectivity. But it is China-only and would not embody the computational trickery that might actually make a brand new Galaxy compact fly.Ten years on from the Galaxy Camera, then, it is destined to stay an enchanting relic from an period when one of many large tech giants tried to re-invent standalone cameras with smartphone tech. Samsung has subsequently finished that spectacularly with its Galaxy telephones, however that does not make me desire a sequel to its good compact digicam any much less.

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