The Samsung Galaxy EK-GC100 camera, the first camera with 3G/4G connectivity, isn't the first wireless camera to run on the Android mobile OS—that honor goes to the Nikon Coolpix S800c, which connects via Wi-Fi, not 3G or 4G. But the Samsung camera breaks new ground in other important ways: It features an enormous display, voice-activation features, and a plethora of manual modes, effects filters, and smart-scene modes.
I've been using a press sample of the Samsung Galaxy camera for several days. Here's what I've found.
Wi-Fi, Android OS, and apps. You can download apps to the Samsung Galaxy camera, edit photos right on the camera, and upload them to your computer or the Internet wirelessly. At the moment, the Nikon Coolpix S800c is the only other camera that can do this, and the Galaxy seems to do it quicker.
For instance, uploading images to Facebook was very fast—they appeared almost instantly. Downloading apps took very little time as well. Uploading video took longer, since video files are larger than photo files.
Camera features, photos, and video. Part of what makes this camera easy to use is the large 4.8-inch LCD touch screen, which is more than an inch larger than any other camera on the market. It makes a big difference, because you'll be touching and tapping the LCD quite a bit. I found the screen to be very responsive and sharp.
Another great feature is the long 21x optical zoom, which goes from 23mm to 483mm. That's a really wide-angle lens, which is great for capturing a landscape shot or a wide group portrait.
The Samsung Galaxy camera also features voice-activation controls: You can zoom in and out, shoot a photo, and activate or deactivate the flash via voice commands. All the voice commands worked for me except the video-recording mode.
The menu system of basic camera features is nicely organized and includes a general auto mode, scene modes, and full manual shooting. Using the auto mode, you can select various Instagram-like filters, which worked on both still photos and HD video.
It's interesting to note that some of the most creative modes on this model first appeared on smart phones. One example is the Best Face feature: In this mode, the camera fires off a burst of three to five shots. Once the shots are processed, the camera identifies faces. You can then select and replace one or more faces in the image to get the best possible image.
Best Face mode.
Not everything worked flawlessly. At the highest ISO (3200) and shooting in dim light, the Samsung Galaxy camera captured noisy or somewhat spotted images.
Interface, ergonomics, and help. I'm not crazy about the camera's Android interface, which sometimes feels unintuitive and a bit cluttered: As with the Coolpix S800c's menus, I sometimes got lost. But it gets the job done,
Because the screen is so big, it almost felt like navigating on a mini tablet computer. But I didn't find many help or tips included in the camera.
In terms of ergonomics, the camera is only .75 inches thick, which puts it among the thinnest superzooms on the market. It's also just less than 11 ounces, which is very lightweight for its class.
Bottom line. The Nikon Coolpix S800c was the first Android camera, but this Samsung Galaxy camera gives you much more. The wireless features were nice to have too, but I'm not convinced that 3G or 4G connectivity is essential to a camera.
The downside of the speedy connection is cost. At $500, the camera is already expensive. And to use the 4G network, you need to buy into a data plan with AT&T, the only provider offering this camera. According to AT&T, the cheapest plan lets you share between 1GB and 20GB for $10 a month, but only if you already have other AT&T devices. If you want a plan just for this camera, you have to choose from the following AT&T DataConnect plans: up to 250MB for $15 a month, up to 3GB for $30 a month, or up to 5GB for $50 a month.
We'll have more on the Samsung Galaxy EK-GC100's image and video quality and how well it performs when we test it in our labs. For information on other digital cameras and to see our Ratings, go to ConsumerReports.org.