If you want a camera that's better than your smart phone and more connected than your regular camera, then there's a new type of camera that attempts to accommodate both needs.
The Samsung Galaxy Camera and the Nikon Coolpix s800c, both released in the last few months, offer photographers a new type of camera to meet the demands of those who want to post high-resolution photos directly from their camera to online sites without using cords or uploading them to a computer.
Think of them as your mobile devices minus the phones, but with a higher quality camera.
The Samsung Galaxy Camera has 16 megapixels that can zoom in 21 times closer using an optical zoom, for starters. It takes high-definition videos and has access to mobile applications on the Google Play app store for Android phones. You can edit photos on the device and share them directly from the camera to social networks via your 3G/4G network (Verizon or AT&T) or WiFi. It starts at about $450 for the WiFi-only version, and goes up with the connected versions, which also come with data plans.
And if you want to take a break from working with the photos, you can use the camera's brightly lit touch screen to check your email or go to your favorite websites.
Verizon Wireless recently loaned me the Samsung camera for a couple of weeks and I took it everywhere with me that I needed a camera — on a fun trip to southeast Oklahoma, to a party and to the reenactment of the Oklahoma Land Run at my son's elementary school. A Verizon representative said the camera is especially popular with bloggers who want to shoot a photo and post.
Those familiar with these types of camera believe the concept is here to stay.
“I like the idea,” said Eric Williams, general manager of Bedford, which carries the Nikon Coolpix s800c. While he said the Nikon camera doesn't do all that a DSLR would do, “this (category of cameras) allows you to have something that's decent quality and acts like a phone.”
Working with Verizon's Samsung camera, I downloaded Instagram, Facebook Google Plus and Yahoo mail to the device and used it to read the news using the Google Chrome browser. If it were my own camera, I'd also download Words With Friends and maybe even another games to play. Angry Birds, anyone?
The camera was a hit among my colleagues in The Oklahoman's newsroom who tried it out as well — Tim Money took videos at child's baseball game, George Lang took it out on a news story about a new documentary and Clytie Bunyan used it for a celebration among graduates at a high school.
We all connected the photos taken on the Galaxy Camera to our own accounts in Dropbox (dropbox.com), an extremely useful cloud storage service that is available for multiple devices, including Android phones, iPhones, iPads and desktop computers. Almost as soon as we took the photos, the camera automatically uploaded them to Dropbox via Verizon's 4G LTE network.
“You really do get the best of both worlds,” said Tom Nix, data sales consultant for Verizon in Oklahoma City, noting that you don't need extra accessories, memory cards or cords to use the camera. People have loved getting the quality photos as standard digital camera in a smart phone-like device, and at $5 a month to connect the camera to Verizon's network, it is also affordable, Nix added.
New York photographer John Barnett, creator of the Wood Camera — Vintage Photo Editor app for the iPhone, wasn't familiar with the Samsung camera but said he could see the concept of a camera like this becoming more popular: People introduced to photography through their smart phones want more from their camera but still want to be connected to social media.
“They want to share what they are doing the easiest way with the least resistance,” said Barnett, who uses an iPhone for that. “I think this will be a big hit among people and probably a growing trend.”
As with most devices, figure out what you want to do with your camera and your price range, and pick the best one for you. This is a good option if you like to share your photos online frequently and want a step up from a smart phone camera.
Here are some things to know about the Samsung Galaxy Camera:
It is really nice having a smart-phone-like device that is actually an excellent, higher-end camera. The camera takes better photos than most point-and-shoot cameras, including your smart phone.
It is nice having a good camera that can post directly to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, a blog, and any other site or service like email that you use to share photos.
While the camera comes with its own editing apps and filters, all of the ones you like that are designed for Android devices are also available.
If you have an iPhone, you can still use the camera on its own, especially since many apps and services are available on both Android and iOS devices, but Samsung has designed it to integrate with other Samsung devices.
While using the camera is extremely intuitive and you can be ready to go on automatic settings in just a few minutes, it is also complicated. I felt like I needed to set aside some time to really get to know all the workings of the device. There is a lot to it. You can even take it off automatic and adjust shutter and aperture speeds.
It has a flash that you can pop up and that you can set for automatic or manual use. I didn't quite figure out the manual part.
The camera's “Smart Mode” offers about 15 settings like “panorama,” “sunset” and “fireworks” that can improve your photos. I wish I had read the manual before experimenting with them because it explained what they were and how to use them. Settings like “macro (take vivid photos of subject at close range)” and “action freeze (fast-moving subject)” were easy to understand, but I wish I knew to try out the “best photo” setting that lets you take a series of consecutive photos and choose the best shot or even “best face,” which takes consecutive photos of subjects and lets you combine the best face in each one into a single photo. I don't know how that would have turned out, but if you've ever tried to take a photo of a group of children whom you wanted to smile AND look at the camera at the same time, that option is very appealing. The settings “light trace” letting you take photos of light trails and “waterfall” also were intriguing as well — but I didn't read about those until after I had turned in the camera.
While I loved the quality feel of the camera and using it, here are some minor annoyances that wouldn't keep me from considering buying one for myself:
Finding the right place to store your photos on the cloud long-term might be tricky. While it was easy to connect the camera with Dropbox, taking several hundred high-resolution shots filled up the rest of my available Dropbox memory quickly.
On a related note, I found myself concerned as I filled up storage space on the camera and in Dropbox that all of my photos didn't transfer across cyberspace to online accounts. All worked just fine, but I felt like I needed to double-check or keep syncing to make sure.
Switching from shooting video to camera mode took too many steps.
The sensors in the device automatically changed the white balance on the video in the middle of the video, so the color of an overcast sky turned from grey to purple during a baseball game without prompting. While it didn't change the video quality too much, if you're serious about videos, you might look more closely at whether it's possible to prevent that from happening.
In general, these types of cameras will run down your battery faster than a regular camera, especially if you're uploading a lot of photos over a network. Bedford Camera and Video's Eric Williams said. Also, he said, while they're better than many point and shoots, for the same amount of money, you could get a DSLR.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Photos were taken with Samsung Galaxy Camera on loan from Verizon (Verizon.com) Photos from southeast Oklahoma taken during a media trip provided by McCurtain County Tourism Authority (www.mccurtaincountygetaways.com).