WiFi enabled digital cameras/cards: a good idea?

June 13, 2007 | General | By: Mark VandeWettering

I was reading the article linked below about why WiFi enabled cameras or cards aren’t a good idea.

» Wi-Fi-enabled digital cameras: Five reasons why you couldn’t care less | IP Telephony, VoIP, Broadband | ZDNet.com

I think the author misses the mark on this. His reasons are:

  1. You already have a camera phone. Well, yes. And chances are your $400 camera phone takes really, really bad pictures. I know mine does. Not quite as pathetic as the old MPX220 that I had, but still worse than a $75 digital camera. A lot worse. That is, of course, why I actually have both a camera phone and a digital camera.
  2. Why buy a WiFi enabled digital camera when you already have a digicam? Well, golly, why buy upgrades to any gadget that you have? The question itself is one of economics: do you gain enough features to merit the upgrade given the cost. WiFi is becoming a very, very cheap upgrade (the Nikon P3 and P4, whose sole difference is the presence of WiFi in the P3, sell for exactly the same price on Amazon). The 2GB card that Eye-Fi is proposing will sell for about double what a normal 2GB card would sell for now. Is it worth it? It very well might be for me, but more on that below…
  3. Why look around for a WiFi hotspot to payfor when you have a cell phone plan already? Because I don’t pay for WiFi hotspots of course. And because cell phone data plans are expensive. And slower than WiFi. And my data isn’t on my cell phone, it’s in my camera. And cell phones aren’t optimized to doing large, bulk data transfers.
  4. If you are really out photographing stuff, there is no urgency to upload your photos. During my trip to Paris a couple of years back, I took about 1200 photos. The problem was, I only had space for about 1000 on the memory cards I had with me. I found an Internet cafe that would burn them onto CD for me, but if I had access to a wireless access point, they could have been transferred while I was sipping a cafe au lait.
  5. Many Wifi hotspots are indoors, and who wants to take pictures of themselves indoors? Uh, duh. There is this thing, it is called memory. Photos are captured onto it, and transferred at a later date.

Okay, well, that was a long diatribe. What would cause me to buy such a camera?

  1. Relatively small price premium. While I think that Wifi enabled cameras are a good idea, they aren’t really the killer app, so don’t price them as if they are.
  2. Unattended image transfer. I want to click a button, putting my camera in some kind of bulk download mode, and have it upload pictures either to my home server (integration with gallery would be cool) or post to a photo sharing site (flickr would be a must).
  3. Ability to use open wifi networks, and efficiently scan for them.

With this kind of feature set, you could take your camera with you on vacation, without a laptop, and snap pictures more or less continuously, with the assurance that in the evening, at either a paid hotspot or a free open one, you could backup all your photos and provide live updates to your friends about where you are and what you are doing. I think that’s pretty cool.

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