Samsung Galaxy Camera Review: Image Quality
I was really excited about the Samsung Galaxy Camera – especially the first time I got out of the house to use it for more than snapshots. It was in the evening, right after a snow storm – prime conditions for winter sunset photos of the mountains above Salt Lake City. The long 21x zoom lens with optical image stabilization let me zoom in super tight on the mountain peaks as they were lit up by the setting sun, and the excellent camera app allowed me to get the exposure settings just right. The images looked great on the Galaxy Camera’s beautiful Super AMOLED touchscreen display and I couldn’t wait to get home and see how they looked. Unfortunately, when I got them up on the computer, they did not live up to my expectations. Click on the photo below to see what I mean. It looks fine here but when you look at it larger it really starts to fall apart. Even printed at 8.5 x 11 inches it looks noisy and mushy. I expect more from an ISO 400 image – even from a point-and-shoot camera. This photo definitely should have been better.
A certain standard has been set over the past couple of years with point-and-shoot cameras – pocket superzooms to be exact. I love these little cameras that pack 10x, 16x or even 20x zoom lenses yet are still small enough that I can drop one in my pants pocket. And the image quality has become surprisingly good. There are fancier, more expensive compact cameras with larger sensors and better controls. But those cameras all have shorter zooms and it’s the big zoom that I want – as long as it fits in my pocket. Since the Samsung Galaxy Camera has a 21x zoom lens and the same type and size of sensor as the pocket superzoom cameras I’ve been using for the past few years, I expected it would produce comparable image quality. Unfortunately that is not the case.
In good light, at ISO 100 or 200, the Samsung Galaxy Camera generally produces very nice photos (see photo, above). But as soon as the light gets even a little low or you need a faster shutter speed – look out. At ISO 400 or higher, the Galaxy Camera photos start to look bad – especially if you’re trying to take landscape photos with lots of details. Keep in mind that I’m not comparing to a digital SLR or a high-end compact camera like the Canon S100 or Panasonic LX7. I’m comparing to a normal point-and-shoot camera with a 1/2.3-inch sensor, just like the Galaxy Camera uses. I’ve come to expect pretty decent image quality from cameras like this – all the way up to ISO 800, if not ISO 1600. Unfortunately, the Samsung Galaxy Camera let me down at ISO 400 with super mushy, watercolory, unusable image quality. Basically, if you’re not shooting outdoors in bright light, keep your expectations low. That’s too bad because the Galaxy Camera is the perfect solution for people who want to step up their Instagram party photo game. In low light indoor environments I found white balance was often very red and my images were super soft. The flash is terrible, too. Sometimes it worked ok but most of the time the flash was way too bright and blew out all the detail in my subject. After I figured that out, I usually opted to go with dark and mushy instead of blown out and white. The second photo below is one of my rare successful flash photos. It looks great – the flash exposure is perfect and the ISO 100 image is nice and sharp.
I was so disappointed in the Samsung Galaxy Camera’s Image quality that I started to wonder if it was really any better than a good Smart Phone. Let me assure you though – it is. A lot better. All it took was one quick comparison to prove that. I took a picture below with both my Samsung Galaxy S III phone and the Galaxy Camera and the difference is very clear. The Galaxy Camera image is sharper, more contrasty, has better saturation and looks better in pretty much every way. So for people who are looking for something with Smart Phone mobile functionality that can take better pictures, the Galaxy Camera definitely fits the bill. It’s only when you compare it to “normal” point-and-shoot cameras that the image quality starts to look deficient.
For more rigorous image quality evaluation, i.e. “pixel peeping,” check out our Samsung Galaxy Camera studio test photos by clicking on the image below.
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