BERLIN — After being reduced to second-class citizens by smartphones that take photos, point-and-shoot cameras are striking back — by essentially having an Android smartphone inside. While it's not exactly a phone, the new cameras do have the ability to connect to cellular networks (over 3G or 4G) to download apps and upload photos to social networks on the spot.
The latest and most ambitious model is Samsung's Galaxy Camera, first shown to the public here today (Aug. 29) at the IFA technology convention in Berlin.
Why would you want such a frankengadget?
Imagine the ability to immediately upload photos shot with a 21X zoom lens to Instagram, for example.
iPhones and high-end Android devices certainly have nice cameras. But simple laws of physics dictate that they can't compare to functions that a "real" camera has — including zoom, ultra-wide-angle shots (starting at 23mm in the Samsung's case) and big image sensors that let you crop way into a photo and still get a crisp image.
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Many people already have great point-and-shoot cameras, even though they might be hiding somewhere in a drawer or under a pile of papers. People are largely choosing to leave them behind because the ability to share photos is so important, and "real" cameras haven't been able to do that.
How much will it cost to get the Galaxy Camera online?
Samsung representatives were vague on that topic, saying only people would buy it through wireless carriers, which would set the price of the camera and the plan. And they couldn't tell us if it had set up any deals yet with American carriers.
If the camera requires a contract, users would have to be really serious about their photography to commit to one. And if they are so serious, they will probably be using a higher-end camera like a digital SLR.
Perhaps another option for users would be paying monthly for wireless service, as people do with iPads. But the fee would have to be way below the $15 per month that tablets cost. After all, this is a one-trick pony.
Samsung representative said people might also be able to buy the camera outright, just like an "unlocked" cellphone, at a price they only said would be comparable to other high-end point-and-shoots.
And the Galaxy Camera is high-end — from the 21X zoom lens on the front to the 16-megapixel sensor inside to the 4.8-inch, high-definition (1280 by 720 pixels) LCD touchscreen on the back. The screen is super-detailed, packing 300 pixels per inch. And it has the same capacitive technology found in smartphones.
You can launch apps such as Instagram or Facebook Camera to apply effects and upload automatically. In fact, you could download any Android apps. We saw an email program on the camera for example — which is a bit odd.
You can also choose from a plethora of camera modes, such as one for group photos that takes three images and combines the best parts — replacing the smirking face in one picture with a smiling face from the other, for example.
But until Samsung says what the camera, and especially the wireless plans, will cost, it's hard for anyone to decide if the apps and wireless connection is worth the price, or if the camera on the smartphone they already have will do just fine.