Point and shoot cameras are at an odd place in their lives. On one hand, they’re highly useful for both quick snaps and extended vacation shooting. On the other, considering the power they have (or lack there-of), they’re bulky and don’t offer much in the way of added features. Conversely, smartphones may not have the best photo snapping chops on the block but their added utility via a data connection, various third party apps to alter pictures and quick access to a myriad array of social networks makes them ultimately more useful in our book. And over the last several years as smartphone cameras have increased in quality and gone down in price, point and shoot cameras have seen their market utterly gutted. Why spend $200-$500 on a point and shoot camera when a decent camera packing smartphone can be had for the same price and offer all the functionality mentioned above?
Well, camera phones still come in behind the pack when compared to mid- to high-end point and shoot cameras. So if photos are your number one concern, a dedicated shooter is still a noteworthy consideration. And now that “smart cameras” are entering the scene, the long talked about death of point and shoot cameras could be postponed a few years and possibly even reversed.
Last week, Samsung took the wraps off of their new Galaxy Camera. From the front it looks like every other 16-megapixel point and shoot. Flip it around, however, and the real meat of Sammy’s latest gadget is revealed – a gigantic 4.8″ 720p Super LCD display powered by a quad-core processor and 1 GB of RAM. Even more impressive is that Samsung has managed to get Android 4.1 Jelly Bean prepped and loaded onto a camera before any of their current flagship smartphones or tablets have it. Finally, Samsung hits the ball out of the park by offering WiFi-only and WiFi + 3G models. So much for the “dumb” point and shoot, eh?
Looking over the specs, the hardware itself and re-watching the live keynote, it’s become apparent that this is the first somewhat innovative thing Samsung has done in a while. One could argue that merely slapping the core parts of a smartphone on the back of a camera is hardly “innovative”. And to that we say “you’re right“…kind of. While the hardware itself isn’t anything too special, Samsung’s Galaxy Camera could very well slow the death of point and shoot cameras and maybe even make them somewhat popular once again.
But wait. Didn’t Kodak release an Android powered digital point and shoot back at CES in January. Why yes, yes they did. And how many people have you seen with one? That’s right. Zero. The camera hardware was alright by point and shoot standards but the ancient version of Android, weak battery and questionable build quality pretty much killed it before it ever got started. Oh, and the actual UI was laggy as hell. Not exactly what we’d call a great experience.
Despite phone manufacturers’ best efforts, even the highest end smartphones have merely adequate camera taking abilities. Nokia’s recent PureView 808 is one example of nearing even just point and shoot quality. Though even the PureView’s pictures aren’t what we’d call “out of this world” despite the insane 41 megapixels on board.
We’re not trying to say that the Galaxy Camera will all of a sudden create a massive resurgence in the camera world that will see point and shoots top holiday shopping lists and become a household staple once again. What we are saying, though, is that now consumers don’t have to only decide between super high end (and expensive) DSLRs or low-end (in terms of photo quality/ability) smartphones. Situated neatly in the middle will be new smart cameras like the Galaxy Camera that offers much better picture quality than the best smartphones but also features data access and a full phone OS for quickly editing and sharing pictures with anyone, anywhere in the world. That is pretty unique in and of itself, dare we say innovative…