Samsung adds Android, 3G/4G connectivity to camera; is it a phone?

Samsung Electronics says it is “creating a brand new type of device” with its Galaxy Camera, “for those who wish to shoot, edit and share high quality photographs and video easily and spontaneously from anywhere, at any time.”

While cameras equipped with WiFi connectivity have been offered for years with varying success, smart expandable operating systems such as Android are a much newer feature on consumer  cameras — and Samsung is going a step further with not just WiFi, but also 3G and/or 4G connectivity (albeit with a carrier-connected micro-SIM card slid inside). All told, this new device has the OS and connectivity of a smartphone — but it lacks standard phone functionality. You won’t be making a call with this camera.

However, the Voice Control option allows users to control basic functions such as ‘Zoom in’ and ‘Shoot’ through voice. (See our here for more on this possibility.)

As a camera, this is pretty strong contender: The EK-GC100 Galaxy Camera has a 16-megapixel, 1/2.33-inch BSI CMOS sensor. The 21x lens zooms from 23-480mm, with a f/2.8 – 5.9 aperture.

The camera is operated from its 4.8-inch touchscreen, with touch-to-focus functions, as well as intelligent scene modes such as Waterfall Trace with slowed shutter speed, and Night Trace for evening shoots of light trails. The ‘Smart Pro’ technology “makes it easy to recreate advanced photographic setups in just a few simple steps for stunning artistic results,” Samsung says. Also, the camera includes 35 photo-editing features, a ‘Photo Wizard’ that “allows users to make professional quality edits on the go.”
Additionally, the Auto Cloud backup feature uploads photos as you shoot.

It’s unclear at this time whether the camera’s capture modes use the Android 4 OS, or, like Nikon’s upcoming Coolpix S800c with Android 2, it instead relies on the company’s own firmware for capture — and merely shifts to Android for editing and sharing.

Samsung sites the “new era of visual communication” which becomes “more vivid and lively with high-quality images and instant sharing anywhere, anytime.” The Galaxy “easily outperforms any smartphone camera,” the company says, with “outstanding photography on the go:. Users never again have to sacrifice picture quality if they want to edit and share their photos instantly.”

With a bigger sensor and the ability to work as a phone, a Galaxy camera could replace both the smartphone and the quality camera in the pockets of imaging enthusiasts. This current iteration doesn’t quite fit that bill, but comes closer than previous offerings.
More information is here and here.



Nikon adds Android, WiFi to Coolpix

The long-rumored Android camera from Nikon has officially made its debut: “Designed for the always connected individual,” Nikon says, “the S800c delivers the high picture quality and superior performance expected from a Nikon camera coupled with communication functions and app-based versatility of a smartphone or tablet.”

Nikon compares the $350 camera’s capture capabilities to phones, not other cameras: the 16-Megapixel sensor is “much larger than the CCD sensor traditionally found in smartphones or tablets… This backside illuminated CMOS sensor excels in challenging lighting conditions, and provides images with vivid colors, low noise and exceptional contrast and sharpness.” It also has a 10x zoom lens with optical image stabilization — not something you’ll find on any phone — and an articulated 3.5-inch OLED touchscreen, and built-in GPS.

With its built-in WiFi, the S800c’s “beautiful images can now be confidently and quickly shared with friends and family,” Nikon adds. Customers can “create images they will be proud to share.”

We’ve long sounded the need for consumer cameras to match mobile phones in connectivity and the capability to run interesting imaging apps. However, just WiFi —not 3G or other untethered mobile data — is not exactly new in cameras, and this device is not so much an Android camera as it is a camera that also runs Android separately for image editing and sharing — just not so much for capturing. Users literally switch from shooting mode to Android. Nikon has not apparently developed an Android app for image capture — that is handled much as in its other cameras. And it might be unlikely that third-party developed will program something specifically for this one camera — especially as it runs an older version of the Android mobile operating system, 2.3 (Gingerbread).

Nikon concludes that “the new S800c answers the call for users who need the ability to capture photos and HD video with amazing clarity and color, yet offers a familiar portal to connect to social networks and popular imaging applications through the Android OS.” That much is true — but a real Android-powered camera would also use that expandable operating system to bring new capture capabilities… not just sharing.

Our colleagues at the Imaging Resource have an in-depth hands-on look at the camera here.



Samsung Galaxy Note II camera phone features widest screen yet

With a 5.5 inches wide screen, Samsung claims its Galaxy Note II “enables unique experiences in personalized and expressive content creation, making it the ultimate smartphone for on-the-go creativity.”

The HD Super AMOLED screen provides “breathtaking visuals and crystal clear detail,” the company says. “Its 16:9 screen ratio ensures an immersive and enriched cinema-like video viewing experience, perfect for watching HD videos on-the-go. Its larger screen allows users to see content clearly and vividly, with much enhanced readability. In addition to the stunning content consumption experiences on a larger screen, users will also be able to accomplish more tasks efficiently and create content freely on-the-go, as the GALAXY Note II comes with a thinner and portable body.” The phone is 9.4mm thick.

It has a quad-core 1.6GHz processor, and an 8-megapixel camera. Camera features include burst shot, best photo, and Best Faces, which allows users to choose the most preferred face or pose of each person from group portrait photos. Users can also personalize photos by leaving handwritten notes on the backside of a photo using the S Pen. Handwritten photo notes can be shared with others in jpg format.

The new stylus has a rubber nib to better emulate pen and paper. The S Pen “is longer, thicker and ergonomically designed for the perfect grip,” Samsung says. “Therefore, it provides a more precise, comfortable, and natural writing and drawing experience.”


Sony phone snaps fast 13MP shots

With “Sleep to Snap,” Sony’s latest phone can switch from a black screen to taking photos in just over a second.

The Xperia T has a 4.55-inch screen and 13-megapixel camera. It captures 1080p HD video.

The phone has a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, and provides Near Field Communications functionality. Pricing was not announced.




Google’s Android Goggles see sales

An update to the phone-camera-using Goggles for Android makes its easier to use the app to shop and “discover products that are right for you,” Google says.

The app’s product recognition is improved, with increased coverage of products and barcodes, the company says, “with a focus on international products and barcodes. Give it a whirl while you’re traveling.”

Users can also now browse similar products. “Have you ever struggled to replace a favorite dress?” Google asks. “Goggles can help you find products that are similar to something you’ve owned or seen before.”

When you turn on Goggles within the Android Camera app, the company adds, “as you go about your life taking photos, Google will provide you with relevant information on the things you’ve photographed. It’s a great way to learn more about what you see around you, especially when traveling.”


Athentech offers Android version of Perfectly Clear

Athentech says the intelligent image correction in its Perfectly Clear app for the Android OS “transforms less-than-stellar images into stunning memories to keep and share.”

Perfectly Clear applies 10 patented corrections “in a few seconds, allowing consumers to share perfect photos from their Android device with confidence.”

The company says its taken its iPhone app “and made it even better” with features such as Perfectly Smooth which “renders flawless skin for a beautiful look,” and Eye Enhance/Enlarge, which “brings out the sparkle and details in the eyes.”

Also, the re-engineered app engine takes advantage of the multiple-cores processors available on some Android devices, and can run 1.6 times faster than the iPad or iPhone.

Perfectly Clear is installed in more than 6 million iPhones worldwide, the company adds.

Perfectly Clear for Android is $1 for August, after which it’s $2.



Fujifilm sues Motorola Mobility for patent infringement

Fujifilm says that after more of failed patent license discussions, it is suing Google’s recently-acquired mobile phone manufacturing subsidiary Motorola Mobility.

Fujifilm filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, and says it first notified Motorola in April 2011.

The four patents cover converting color images to monochrome; devices communicating over non-telephone networks; facial detection; and low-resolution display of high-resolution images.
More information is in this Cnet report.




Google shares photos, sells tablet, demoes glasses

It was a busy week for Google at it’s I/O developer conference, with many announcements that included its own Android-based tablet, all capped off with parachuters descending on the San Francisco conference center while wearing prototype augmented reality glasses that captured video all the way down.

On the imaging front, the company enhanced the photo sharing features of its Google + social service with a new “Party Mode.”

“Photos are the cornerstone of any great event,” the company says. “They get people laughing and smiling, and they let us relive our favorite moments after the fact. The challenge—especially with the explosion in smartphones—is that too many photos get stranded in too many places. We struggle to even find people’s photos, let alone enjoy them all in one spot.”

The Party Mode feature “fixes these problems with a single tap.” For users of the service who have received an event invitation, “new photos are added to the event in real-time. And as more guests turn on Party Mode, more pictures will instantly appear to fellow invitees. Once the guests go home… we bask in the afterglow of shared experience for as long as memory allows. With Google+ Events you can now relive the party whenever you want, with a captivating and comprehensive set of photos.”

The Google Nexus 7 tablet will be manufactured by ASUS, but sold directly by Google for $199 for 8GB of flash storage, or $249 for 16GB. The 7-inch display has a 1280×800 pixel resolution. It lacks a main multi-megapixel camera, and will have only a 1.2-megapixel front-facing one suitable for video chat. “And best of all, it’s only 340 grams, lighter than most tablets out there,” Google adds.

The Glass wearable internet glasses are always-on cameras and AR displays. A beta version is now available for $1,500. Members of the Project Glass team stressed they’ve taken pains to ensure the technology doesn’t disrupt people by, among other things, limiting the number and type of messages that pop up.

On Friday, the company launched new “Glass Sessions” where potential users can “experience what it’s like to use Glass while we build it, through the eyes of a real person, in real life.” The first Glass Session follows a new mother “as she shares her story of welcoming a new baby, capturing every smile, and showing her entire family back in France every ‘first’,” Google says.

The parachuting product launch can be seen here.



Waterproof camera phones from Sony

New rugged phones from Sony are “made to resist life’s challenges without compromising on design or functionality,” the company says.

The 5-megapixel “fast capture” camera in the Xperia go “goes from sleep to snap in just over a second,” Sony says. The phone has a scratch resistant, mineral-glass 3.5-inch display with wet-finger-tracking — it will read a touch even underwater — and the highest level of dust and water resistance in a smartphone, Sony claims. It’s dual-core 1GHz processor runs the Android OS.

The Xperia acro S ups the specs with a 12-megapixel camera with a dedicated shutter button, and a higher-resolution 4.3-inch screen.

The phones are due in the third quarter of 2012.

More information is here.


Facebook hiring Lightbox developers


Facebook hired the developers of Lightbox, an Android-focused social imaging platform.

While the Lightbox team is joining Facebook, the social network is not actually acquiring the service, it’s site, or its user base. Existing members can use until June 15, when the UK-based service shuts down.



Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone watches you

Samsung Electronics says its third-generation Galaxy S III “recognizes how you are using your phone by having the 2-megapixel front camera identify your eyes” to register when you’re looking at the phone, and, for example, keep the screen lit while you’re reading.

The phone also features new social imaging features such as the “Buddy” function which shares photos simultaneously “with all your friends pictured in an image, directly from the camera or the photo gallery.”

The main 8-megapixel camera features zero-lag shutter speed, which “lets you capture moving objects easily without delay – the image you see is the picture you take,” the company says. Also, the burst function captures twenty continuous shots, and the “Best photo” feature selects the best of eight photographs, to “ensure a more enhanced and memorable camera experience.”

Both front and rear cameras capture HD video.

The phone runs the Android OS on a quad-core processor, and has a 4.8-inch display.

The Galaxy S III will be available in May in Europe, before rolling out to other markets globally.



Kodak App prints to CVS, Target

Kodak says that with its improved Gallery app, you can “order prints using the one thing you always carry with you: your iPhone” for same-day pickup at a CVS or Target stores.

The Gallery app lets users upload, share and collect photos with friends in a group album. “Ever been to a party or taken a trip where a bunch of friends took pictures that you never saw?” Kodak asks. “Problem solved — just start a Group Album, invite your friends to add their photos and voila! Everyone’s photos are in one place. “ The app can also share images by email, text, Facebook, or hundreds of other social networks.

Version 3 is free at the App Store.




Instagram now on Android

Popular photo sharing service Instagram has now expanded from Apple’s iPhone, where it launched, to Google’s competing Android mobile phone platform.

“We’ve already seen more than 30 million people join Instagram to create and share beautiful photos on their iOS devices,” the company says, “and now we’re thrilled to offer a way for Android users to join their iOS friends on Instagram to share their photos with the world.”

The free Android app “offers an extremely familiar Instagram experience” with “all the same exact filters and community as our iOS version.”

Instagram limits photo size and shape to square 2,048 by 2,048 pixel images.



Kodak adds Pinterest support to Android app


Kodak has added support for the Pinterest image sharing serve to its Gallery app for Android.

A recent survey shows 28 percent of Kodak Gallery users say they have joined Pinterest, Kodak reports. “Since we added Pinterest sharing to the app, it’s the 2nd most popular way people share photos behind email — almost 2X more popular than Facebook.”

Users can now share a single photo or entire album to a Pinterest board using the app, the company says. “Being able to pin photos directly from the Kodak Gallery mobile app addresses a basic issue for Pinterest users with Android devices. Since there is no Android app for Pinterest, we felt we could simply solve a problem for Android Pinterest users. Whether you are a Kodak Gallery member or not, this is the easiest way to pin your pictures from an Android device.”

The Kodak Gallery app for Android is free.






Sony’s Android camera app pre-captures pics

The “pick pic camera” Android App from Sony takes pictures before and after the shutter clicks, letting you “shoot, and pick your best shot from past and future.”

Sony Digital Network Applications’s pick pic camera smartphone application “allows you to record photos right before and right after the moment you pressed the shutter button, along with that very moment,” the company says. “You will then be able to pick the best shot among the pictures taken and save it as a still picture.”

Also, “the app is a perfect match” for taking pictures of moving objects such as kids, pets, and group pictures with everyone smiling, Sony adds, as distinct recording modes optimize the time interval between images to help ensure the best shot is captured.

The $2.50 Android software is available here.
More information is here.



Scalado removes unwanted objects in mobile images

Scalado reports its upcoming “Remove” mobile imaging technology automatically highlights and removes any unwanted object from a captured photo. “It is the world’s first object removal software to be released on a mobile device,” the company says.

Remove solves common photographic problems with unwanted objects in captured images, such as people getting in the way of our camera shot, Scalado adds. Remove detects and selects the unwanted objects which simply can be removed automatically or by touching the selections on the screen, or after capturing the image.

Scalado is headquartered in Lund, Sweden.

More information is here.

Engadget reviews the software here.


Polaroid makes connected camera smarter with Android OS



debuted an innovative camera that duplicates many of the capabilities of a camera-equipped mobile phone — because it’s a camera equipped with the Android operating system used in many phones.

The Polaroid SC1630 “makes snapping and sharing high definition digital images an instant experience,” the company says. It has a 16-megapixel sensor, 3x optical zoom lens, touchscreen, and WiFi, “making uploads to social networks as easy as the touch of a button.”

As it “merges the optics of a digital still and video camera with the limitless power of the Android platform, the Polaroid SC1630 Smart Camera evolves the process of clicking, editing, uploading and tagging to an instant experience on one device” the company adds. “You will no longer need to choose between your smart phone and your point and shoot camera because it offers the best of both worlds.”

Pricing was not announced.

Polaroid debuted an innovative camera that duplicates many of the capabilities of a camera-equipped mobile phone — because it’s a camera equipped with the Android operating system used in many phones.

The Polaroid SC1630 “makes snapping and sharing high definition digital images an instant experience,” the company says. It has a 16-megapixel sensor, 3x optical zoom lens, touchscreen, and WiFi, “making uploads to social networks as easy as the touch of a button.”

As it “merges the optics of a digital still and video camera with the limitless power of the Android platform, the Polaroid SC1630 Smart Camera evolves the process of clicking, editing, uploading and tagging to an instant experience on one device” the company adds. “You will no longer need to choose between your smart phone and your point and shoot camera because it offers the best of both worlds.”

Pricing was not announced.







Xperia ion is Sony’s fastest camera phone yet.

“For photo enthusiasts, Xperia ion features a new Fast Capture innovation to make sure life’s unexpected moments are not missed,” Sony says. “The HD camera goes from standby mode to first shot in 1.5 seconds.”

The latest Android smart phone from Sony Ericsson combines a 12 megapixel rear camera, HD front camera, and 4.6-inch HD display. The 1280 by 720 pixels screen “provides a visual brilliance for superior viewing experiences” the company says.

The phone also has a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, and 16GB flash storage.

The Xperia ion is the first LTE smartphone from Sony. It will be available exclusively in the U.S. from AT&T in the second quarter.

More information is here.




Panorama add-on for Android

More smartphone users can soon capture the entire world around them and share panoramic video: Kogeto is bringing its iConic optical technology from its Dot panoramic video camera accessory for the iPhone to Android in the first half of 2012.

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is the first Android model supported by the company.

The lens is a simple optical attachment and does not require batteries or external power, the company says, resulting in an unobtrusive design that adds no significant weight to the phone. The iConic technology integrates the full 360-degree video into an easy-to-share format without stitching frames together. Also, Kogeto’s catadioptric optical system provides the best color fidelity in mobile panoramic video, the company claims, and offers the highest resolution on the market today.


Facebook developing its own phone

“The Facebook Phone: It’s Finally Real and Its Name Is Buffy.”

That’s the claim of The Wall Street Journal’s All Things D technology news site. [“Buffy” is the TV vampire slayer.]

The company is working with phone manufacturer HTC on its own Android-running smart phone.

Facebook is already the leading online photography service, with hundreds of millions of photos uploaded every day.

The complete article is here.






Google, Samsung intro latest Android camera phone

Samsung Electronics and Google announced the Galaxy Nexus,  the first smartphone running Android v4 — and with the new Face Unlock function  that uses facial recognition to unlock the phone.





The Galaxy Nexus has a redesigned camera with panorama mode, 1080p video capture, zero-shutter lag, and effects like silly faces and background replacement, the companies say. It has a standard 5 megapixel main camera resolution, however, and a 1.3MP rear cam for video calls.

It also provides a new People app, which lets you, browse friends, family, and coworkers, see their photos in high-resolution, and check their latest status updates from social networks.

The Nexus features a 4.65-inch Super AMOLED display with “HD” resolution at 1280 by 720, and a 1.2GHz dual core processor.

Android has a redesigned user interface with improved multi-tasking, notifications, Wi-Fi hotspot, NFC support, and a full web browsing experience, Google says. “The lock screen, home screen, phone app, and everything in between has been rethought and redesigned to make Android simple, beautiful, and useful.”

The phone will be available in the U.S., Europe, and Asia in November.

More information is here and here.


HTC Amaze 4G provides “advanced camera experience”

The HTC Amaze 4G features “the most advanced camera experience of any smartphone,” T-Mobile says.

The Amaze has an 8-megapixel camera with a backside illuminated sensor for improved low light performance, as well as zero shutter lag, and a dual LED flash. It also captures full HD 1080p video and has a built-in video editor. Other camera features include:

• ”SmartShot,” which captures five photos and creates the best shot using clear faces with smiles and no blinking.

• “PerfectPics,” which is a separate album in the gallery created by scoring and filtering the best photos to the surface. PerfectPics prioritizes photos by using criteria such as important calendar events, the presence of faces, and overall picture quality.

• SweepShot, ClearShot HDR, and BurstShot.

Customers can instantly capture quality photos and videos with a dedicated camera button and T-Mobile’s first direct-to-camcorder button, the company says. “Sharing photos is easy with one-touch access to post to Facebook, Picasa or Flickr — all at 4G speeds.”

The device runs on Android and a Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 Processor with a 1.5 GHz dual core CPUs. It measures 5.10 by 2.58 by 0.46 inches, and has a 4.3-inch display.

The HTC Amaze 4G is $310 with a two-year service agreement and qualifying Classic voice and data plan.


In its First Look review, Consumer Reports says the Amaze “packs a ton of big-camera features, including one that makes taking that perfect group shot easier than ever: …SmartShot snaps five pictures within about a second. The phone then plucks out the best individual poses from all five pictures and combines them to form one “perfect” composite picture. I found the technique worked well much of the time, though it occasionally included in the composite shot images of people who were looking down or staring off in an odd direction.”


Adobe develops new six tablet apps, cloud service

Adobe Systems says its six new apps “enable anyone to explore ideas and present their creativity anytime, anywhere.” The tools will “bring professional-level creativity to millions of tablet users,” the company adds. “The apps address multiple areas of the creative process: image editing; ideation; sketching; mood boards; website and mobile app prototyping; and presenting finished work.”


The family of six touchscreen applications are designed for both Android tablets and the Apple iPad

“Touch Apps deliver high-impact creative expression to anyone who has a tablet,” Adobe says. “With Adobe imaging magic coming to tablet devices, new apps like Photoshop Touch will open your mind about the potential of the touch interface for creativity and demonstrate that tablets are an essential part of anyone’s creative arsenal.”

The top draw is likely to be Photoshop Touch, billed as “a groundbreaking app that brings the legendary creative and image-editing power of Photoshop to tablet devices for the first time.” It will let users transform images with simple finger gestures, combine multiple photos into layered images, make edits, and apply professional effects. The tablet-exclusive Scribble Selection Tool allows users to easily extract objects in an image by simply scribbling on what to keep and then what to remove.

Adobe Touch Apps will be available for Android devices in November 2011. Adobe expects to make an announcement regarding iOS availability in early 2012. Pricing is $10 for each app.


The apps are also components of Adobe’s new “Creative Cloud,” which the company says will “become a worldwide hub for creativity, where millions can access desktop and tablet applications, find essential creative services, and share their best work.”


More information is here.



Picture Platform? Amazon sets Fire to Android tablet prices

Amazon set an unbeatable price in the color touchscreen tablet market: $199 for its new Kindle Fire.

Amazon is likely selling the 7-inch tablet at a loss. It is reportedly based on and very similar to the Blackberry Playbook, which sells for $499. Amazon can take the price hit because, unlike everyone else making tablet hardware, it primarily profits be selling content: books, movies, magazines, and music. [Even though Apple does profit through its content sales, the bulk of its cash comes from hardware.]

However, the Kindle Fire lacks one [two, really] key feature found on every other Android tablet: a camera. That is, a 5 megapixel main camera for photography, and a front VGA cam for video talk.

That said, we think this is still potentially a powerful platform for pictures: that is, picture viewing, not picture taking.

For years we and most every other trend watcher in the photography field have looked to one “soft display” or another as being the true replacement for traditionally sharing a stack of 4 by 6 prints while sitting face-to-face. But PCs, laptops, TVs, wall-mounted LCDs… all these and many other have a had a multitude of drawbacks: price, primarily, but also bulk, and ease of use. Of course mobile phones often fulfill that function — but with a rather small screen.

The Fire might prove to be just what the market needs: an affordable, easy to use, expandable, connected hand-held high-quality color display.

While Amazon wants its Fire customers to buy content, the Android-based tablet will also have Web browsing and email — meaning its users can view photo sharing websites, and receive photos from friends and family.

And if nothing else, it is a great device for looking at — and buying! — photography books.


Apart from such picture prognostication, what will the Fire tablet deliver when it ships in November? A bevy of specs, speeds and feeds follow:
7-inch IPS (in-plane switching) display
1024 by 600 resolution
Dual-core processor
8 gigabytes storage
Free Cloud data storage
7.5 hours video playback
3.5 mm stereo audio jack, top-mounted stereo speakers [No microphone.]
USB port
Measures 7.5 by 4.7 by 0.45 inches, and weighs 14.6 ounces.

Amazon also refreshed its line of e-readers with a $149 Kindle Touch 3G, a $99 Kindle Touch without 3G, and a non-touch $79 Kindle.

One final comment: as a very happy and satisfied Apple iPad user, I was planning to buy one for my mother this Christmas. With the Fire, Amazon might have just saved me $300.

More information is here.



Flickr shares photos, does Android

Yahoo’s Flickr online site calls its new Photo Session “a whole new way to share photos with friends around the world.”

Photo Session lets you flip through photos with your friends from anywhere, the company says. Just create a Photo Session, invite your friends and browse photos together in real-time. When you move to the next photo it moves for everyone else too. While you’re all browsing, have fun chatting and drawing on your photos using the built-in tools.”

Also, the Flickr Android app “lets you take photos, enhance them with filters, and quickly send them to Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and everywhere else you share photos,” the company says. “Browsing and navigating has been custom designed for Flickr to make use of maps, tags, and activity around your photos.

More information is here.