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IFA 2012: Samsung shows off Galaxy Camera or a smartphone?

What a nifty idea: a camera with full mobile connectivity which runs a mobile OS. Or is it?

Samsung unveiled its Galaxy Camera at a photogenic event ahead of IFA in Berlin on Wednesday. But is it a smallish tablet with a reasonable camera attached, a chunky mobile with a reasonable camera attached, or a reasonable camera with added mobile connectivity?

It’s two of those three things. And on paper, it is a really good idea – a logical evolution of the cameraphone that we’ve come to know and love.

On paper, the specs are pretty good: 16.3 megapixels, a 21x optical zoom, a beautifully sharp, rich and clear screen (308ppi, 4.77in), all the flavours of connectivity you can imagine (3G and Wi-Fi or 4G and Wi-Fi), a 1.4GHz quad-core processor, 8GB of storage plus a slot for micro SD cards, Android Jelly Bean – and, of course, the ability to record video to your heart’s content.

On top of that, Samsung has added all kinds of software smarts to make taking, editing and sharing photographs as easy as possible: you can tag and organise them into folders on the fly (no need to wait until you’re at a computer); you can upload your images or movies to Samsung’s cloud service and you can share them directly with other Samsung devices, including the Galaxy S3 and the new Samsung Note II.

The camera (or is it a phone?) doesn’t stint on the help with actually taking pictures, either. If you know what you’re doing, you can have complete control over the shutter speed, ISO and so on. If you’re more of a set-the-mode-and-shoot snapper, there are plenty of modes to choose from.

From the front, it certainly looks like a camera: a long lens whirrs out and there’s a chunky handgrip.

Samsung Galaxy CameraRear view of the Samsung Galaxy Camera

Turn it over, though, and it looks (and feels) like a fat tablet: those who like button and dials on their camera will be disappointed, as all the controls are menu-driven.

On the limited evidence of a quick play with it surrounded by hordes of people, it’s not the camera for me. I found the menus confusing – I couldn’t work out how to invoke the various modes, never mind save or share a photo.

And it’s bigger and heavier than I was expecting, tipping the scales at 305g and measuring 128.7mm x 70.8mm x 19.1mm: big in my smallish hands.

Having said that, I’m not a regular Android user: someone who uses the OS on their tablet or mobile will doubtless find their way around the menus and modes without too much difficulty.

It’s certainly an innovative device, one that sets a benchmark for other manufacturers to reach.

It also makes a lot of sense: after all, we’ve been snapping pictures on our phones and quickly sharing them for a while now, and Android certainly has the flexibility and power to bring a great deal of creativity and tweakability to that process.

But might it just be a bit too damn clever? Or a bit too much of a hybrid? Do you actually need all the Android functionality on a camera?

The answer might well be yes. You may love it. Doubtless the mobile network providers will adore it, as it gives them a whole new way to extract money from you – even though you can’t actually make a standard mobile call on it.

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