Samsung released its first Android-based camera late last year, but that seems to have been merely a test run. The Galaxy NX Camera has just been detailed, and it has the entry model version beaten in just about every way. As part of Samsung’s NX line it’s first Android camera with interchangeable lenses, but the surprises don’t stop there
From the front, this device could almost be mistaken for a DSLR, but from above it’s clear this is a different animal entirely. Whereas the mega-bizarre Galaxy S4 Zoom is really just a phone with a mid-range point-and-shoot grafted on, the Galaxy NX Camera is a high-end mirrorless camera with all its non-photographic electronics replaced with an Android device.
The back screen is a 4.8-inch LCD touchscreen at HD resolution. Presumably that means 720p in this context, but Samsung wasn’t more specific. Samsung loves AMOLED screens, but the decision to go with an LCD is advantageous for a camera. AMOLEDs tend to have very blown-out colors, and to wash out in direct sunlight. Those are things you definitely don’t want a camera to do, so an LCD makes sense. There is also an electronic viewfinder right above the screen with a resolution of 800×480.
The Galaxy NX Camera can take 20.3MP images — which puts it well outside the realm of smartphones — and uses an APS-C sensor. Even phones with high megapixel counts tend to have minuscule sensors that produce a lot of noise (or miss shots entirely) when conditions aren’t optimal. This unit operates a ISO 100 up to 25,600. If you want to take video with the Galaxy NX Camera, it can do 1080p at 25fps.
The lens situation is definitely an improvement over past incarnations of phone-camera hybrids. You can attach pancake, telephoto, wide-angle, or even 3D lenses to the Galaxy NX Camera. However, they will have to be the Samsung NX lenses, which tend to be more expensive less abundant than other mirrorless options.
Inside, this device runs a quad-core ARM chip clocked at 1.6GHz. Again, Samsung didn’t offer specifics on the exact model, but considering the clock and core arrangement, it’s most likely a Samsung Exynos 4 Quad. That’s the same chip used in the Note 8.0. It has last-generation ARM architecture, but should be more than sufficient for a camera. The device also has 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage with a microSD slot.
One of the pain points when taking pictures is getting them onto other devices to manipulate and archive. The Galaxy NX Camera, however, is rife with connectivity options. It has WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, and even 3G/4G. It will be trivial to get the Galaxy NX Camera synced up with your other devices, but another data plan might be foisted upon you depending how you acquire it.
This is an Android camera, so what about the software? It will run Samsung’s flavor of Android 4.2 with a few camera-specific additions. For example, it’s going to have Smart Mode built-in, which suggests scene modes for your photos based on available light. It’s actually a nice feature to have if you’re not an experienced photographer.
All the Google services are going to be built into the Galaxy NX Camera, so you can grab all your favorite photographic apps and even check your Gmail (although, that sounds incredibly awkward). The Play Store access might be the most compelling software aspect. Galaxy NX Camera users will be able to grab the Dropbox or Flickr apps and shoot all their images directly to the cloud.
Samsung has not announced a date or price for the Galaxy NX Camera. Judging from the price of the non-Android NX series, it won’t be cheap. Most of those cost in excess of $600. The new Galaxy NX Camera might show up at a subsidized price on a US carrier whenever it does launch. This is an interesting device, but it’s not clear if it’s going to have general appeal. Most folks just use their smartphones now.