Sony Ericsson was first to announce a 12-megapixel cameraphone with the Satio (formerly known as Idou), but Samsung was first to hit the stores with the Pixon12.
The phone is basically an upgrade of the original 8-megapixel Pixon, but with a few improvements that go beyond simply adding more pixels. There’s now a Xenon flash, Wi-Fi, the latest incarnation of the TouchWiz user interface and a much higher resolution display. The UI isn’t as snazzy as LG’s S-Class, but it’s still easy to master – with more widgets than ever to add to the standby screen.
On the main menu, you now have three panels that you can scroll left and right, in a similar fashion to the iPhone. With a tap on at the top right-hand corner, you can re-order the icons to suit your taste – again, another feature ‘borrowed’ from the iPhone. You can also change theme and even font style, to further customise the phone.
What Samsung hasn’t changed, which is a disappointment, is the touchscreen technology. It remains the resistive type (the same as Sony Ericsson’s Satio), meaning you need to apply pressure instead of simply touching it lightly as with capacitive types (as used on the I8910 HD and recent LG models).
Thankfully, the user interface is designed to work without the need for a stylus, but I needed to press the screen harder than I expected.
On the side of the phone is a dedicated button that fires up the camera, with a separate shutter release button and volume-cum-zoom keys. From the rear of the phone, you see a design that shows some time and effort has been spent on making sure this looks and operates well as a digital camera.
You’ll be pleased to know that the camera doesn’t disappoint. It has a wider angle lens than normal, similar to that of the 8-megapixel endowed Nokia N86, and a multitude of smart features normally found only on dedicated digital cameras. In smart mode, for example, the camera will dynamically adjust the settings to get the best picture, while the Xenon flash means you can take indoor photographs without everyone having to stand about a metre away.
There’s a standard LED too, which can be used for lighting up video recordings, and the Pixon12 can also record in a widescreen format, but sadly not high definition like the I8910 HD.
In full resolution, which gets you a photograph that is 4000×3000 pixels (or 4000×2400 if you go for the widescreen mode), the image size in the highest quality mode is an eye-watering 3.5MB per picture. This will mean you’ll probably want a decent sized memory card to save photos to, but it’s a price worth paying as the level of detail captured is not compromised by the use of filtering and over zealous JPEG compression.
The phone can jump from picture to picture quickly too, and the phone always remains quick to get ready for the next shot, despite managing such big files.
Besides the smart mode, there’s another clever feature on the camera called object tracking. With a firm press on any subject, the camera will keep tracking the selected item as it moves about – adjusting the focus and exposure settings as required. Specific scene modes include a ‘Beauty’ mode that softens up the focus on the skin and attempts to remove blemishes and marks, a feature also present on the 8-megapixel LG Viewty Smart.
In video mode, you have a slow-motion mode but the resolution is cut from 720×480 pixels to just 320×240 pixels. It allows you to make amusing videos that you can share on YouTube, but little else. YouTube is just one of many services you can upload content to using the integrated Communities application, including Facebook, Picasa, Flickr, Photobucket and Friendster.
You’ll need to login to each application, and then you’ll be invited to share content with a chosen service after taking a photo or recording a video (or at any time via the gallery).
On the GPS side, the Pixon12 comes with Google Maps. Samsung also has its own navigation software (based on Route 66) but our review model didn’t come with a copy.
A right picture
With so many touchscreen devices to choose from, and many of them are from Samsung, let alone the competition, the Pixon12 is primarily aimed at people wanting high quality imaging. Besides the Satio (p21), the nearest competition is LG’s Viewty Smart, but this only has an LED flash, so there’s little competition.
If imaging isn’t the primary need, the Jet offers a similar user experience in a slimmer shell, and at a lower price, but the Pixon12 feels more substantial and having a decent camera on call at any moment in time is a feature I wouldn’t be passing up.
If the ordinary digital camera world is anything to go by, the race to reach the highest number of pixels seems to be slowing down now too – so the future will be quality imaging and innovative functions, which the Pixon12 has by the bucketload.
While the picture quality is probably neck and neck with Sony Ericsson, I’d be putting the Pixon12 high-up on the shopping list of any wannabe photographer that has no desire to carry around a separate camera.
Samsung knows a thing or two about providing decent photography, but many of the best models have never ventured outside of Korea. The Pixon12 is an exception, and it may look quite like any other recent touchscreen Samsung from the front, but a look on the side and rear shows this to be far from the case. From dedicated camera controls, to the fantastic 12.1-megapixel sensor and Xenon flash, the Pixon12 promises high quality results – along with widescreen video capture (but sadly not HD). The Pixon12 also gets Wi-Fi and a much crisper OLED display.