The Samsung G800 is designed as a cameraphone that gives high quality imaging top billing among its spread of multimedia capabilities. It has a 5-megapixel camera, and unusually for a cameraphone, a 3x optical zoom – it’s the first of the current crop of 5-megapixel mobiles to feature one.
The G800 has a powerful Xenon flash, sports an autofocus system with macro shooting facility, plus has face detection autofocus technology included. Samsung has also added Wide Dynamic Range technology to produce better images in challenging lighting situations.
The design of the G800 reinforces its camera aspirations, with a sliding lens cover and brushed metal-style finish on the back panel helping to give the G800 a standalone camera look from the rear. The size of the phone, to accommodate the internal zoom, is camera-like too.
As well as the main camera, there’s a secondary lower resolution camera for video calling on the front of the phone. The G800 is also capable of shooting video at maximum QVGA resolution (320×240 pixels).
The camera is activated by sliding the lens cover open (or choosing a menu option) with the phone held in landscape mode. Here you get a camera-style user interface, with a selection of on-screen icons for altering the camera settings.
A set of four quick function icons appear on the right of the display, which are activated by pressing the central navigation pad and then swiftly selecting which of the options you want to change. These include flash (this offers a red-eye reduction setting as well as auto or on/off), macro on/off, timer (3, 5 or 10 seconds), and display graphics (icons on/off or gridlines for framing shots).
A set of icons in the right of the display present you with more detailed settings controls. These enable you to switch between the front and rear cameras, or switch to video mode, engage the face detection autofocus option, adjust the white balance settings (from auto to daylight, incandescent, fluorescent or cloudy), change exposure values, and also change flash and macro settings.
Delve into a Settings option and you can further optimise camera settings, There’s an anti-shake digital image stabiliser (particularly useful for close ups in low light conditions), and Wide Dynamic Range control for improving shooting detail in high contrast lighting situations which works when face detection is switched off.
There are also individual contrast, saturation and sharpness settings you can tweak, and you can adjust the image quality and ISO settings, disable the the autofocus feature and adjust exposure metering points.
In addition, there are a variety of shooting settings – multiple shots, panorama images, a mosaic of images or shots with fun frames – and colour effects such as grey, sepia, negative or antique.
Five image sizes can be selected from VGA (640×480 pixels) up to 5 megapixels (2560×1920 pixels).
The G800 uses a 2-step shutter control to help you ensure the autofocus is locked on to the right part of your subject. The autofocus frame in the centre of the viewfinder becomes red when autofocus is fixed, with an audible alert to help you too.
The G800’s 5-megapixel camera is capable of producing some excellent images, producing rich colour and plenty of detail. The contrast on some shots is impressive and it can handle variable lighting sources pretty well. Lower light shooting isn’t quite so good, particularly in auto mode. You do have to take care when shooting in lower light conditions that you don’t add too much movement as the sensor takes the image – it can require amore stillness after pressing the capture button than you’d need with a standalone camera.
Autofocus works swiftly, though it’s not quite as responsive or user-friendly as on a standalone camera. Face detection works impressively well. We’d have preferred it to be higher up the settings pecking order, as it is quite a useful addition. It’s also strange to have the image stabiliser and WDR control tucked away in a camera settings sub menu too.
The macro mode works well in brighter lighting conditions, allowing you to get in very close and capture dramatic images nice and crisply in focus. In lower light settings though, it can be difficult to achieve really sharp shots at the closest range owing to camera shake when the exposure time is longer. A bit of practice will help you master how to get optimum results.
The phone’s Xenon camera is bright at short range but not particularly impressive when the subject is a short way from the camera. This is good and useful for some low light shooting, but does require some discretion to avoid burning out close subjects or over-illuminating a shot. With a bit of practice you can work out when to switch off auto mode.
Using the 3x optical zoom, you can see the benefits compared to a standard digital zoom, with picture quality being maintained when zooming closer in to subjects. There is a digital zoom extension to the optical zoom too, which can and be extend the digital zoom by four times to 12x magnification (though at this size images are grainy).
Overall, the Samsung G800 is is able to capture some fine quality images, with facilities such as the optical zoom and face detection software adding more sophistication to the picture taking packing. There are some caveats though; in some lighting conditions you have to be careful with handling and have a steady hand (even with the image stabiliser activated) – more so than with other 5-megapixel cameraphones we’ve looked at. The flash performance could be improved too.
After you’ve taken images, the G800 has an onboard editor function that allow you to adjust images, crop, add elements to the pictures and so on. It’s pretty good fare for a feature phone, but still basic compared to a PC software editing package.
One of the options after shooting an images or video clip is to upload speedily to an online blog or website, via the ShoZu (see www.shozu.com) service. This enables you to direct your shots or footage to many popular blogs, social networking and community sites like Facebook, Flickr and YouTube.