Hippo Manchester
December 15, 2005

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Techie: No strings attached

Digital cameras gone WiFi wild

By John ďjaQĒ Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

Digital photography is such a pain. Oh, sure, you can take a vivid, detailed picture and share it with pretty much the entire world either unaltered or touched up, or even completely manipulated to make it look like your drunk best friend shot JFK on the moon in a cowgirl costume. But itís so hard.

After all, you gotta get that photograph onto a computer.

For many people, that meant installing software on your PC and lugging around a cable to connect it up to your camera. Those willing to spend an extra couple bucks invested in a memory card reader to copy photos right to their hard drives. Drag and drop, but still, a drag. If everything else in this world is wireless, why not cameras?

Well, now they are. Nikon and Kodak are the first to release WiFi-enabled digital cameras for the consumer market. Theyíre a little pricier than similar cameras without the wireless feature, but címon, itís sexy and new, what do you expect?

Kodak EasyShare-One

MSRP: $599.95

At only 4.0 megapixels and 3X optical zoom, the EasyShare-One is a bit behind the curve on picture quality, but it makes up for that in snazzy features.

Take the 3.0-inch LCD screen. The camera has no optical viewfinder, so youíll be using this thing a lot. Its flipping, pivoting design lets it assume more positions than criminals on COPS and the Kama Sutra combined. Face it forward to perfectly frame a self-portrait; fold it back to set your sights on that landscape; flip it around to protect the screen while youíre storing your new toy.

As if that werenít cool enough, itís a freakiní touchscreen, and it comes with a stylus.

The EasyShare-One also has a ton of memory. A 256MB ton, to be exact. You can use all of that to store newly-taken photos or dedicate 185MB to toting around your personal photo library. That amounts to 1,500 pictures, claims Kodak, optimized for the small screen. You can add more memory with Secure Digital cards. You can also shoot video and choose from automatic modes or selectable ISOs.

Of course, we canít forget the WiFi. The main benefit is simple transfer of photos to your WiFi computer. You can also upload them to a personal gallery on Kodakís Web site or e-mail them directly from the camera ó assuming you have an Internet connection through your WiFi hotspot. You can also browse your Web gallery (though not the Web in general, sadly) and print to a wireless printer.

Nikon CoolPix P1 & P2

P1 MSRP: $549.95

P2 MSRP: $399.95

The CoolPix P1 is black and 8.0 megapixels with 32MB built-in memory; the P2 is brushed silver and 5.1 megapixels with 16MB built-in memory. Otherwise, these two models are pretty much identical.

Thereís very little remarkable about them other than the WiFi feature at all, really, other than a slightly-better-than-average 3.5X optical zoom and respectable 2.5-inch screen. Again, no optical viewfinder, and again you can add more memory with Secure Digital cards.

Even the WiFi functionality is fairly basic: after you install software on your computer and hook up your camera once via USB, you can save photos wirelessly. You can even do this on the fly, bypassing your cameraís memory entirely and saving straight to hard disk if youíre within range. Thereíve been professional devices for just this purpose on SLR models for years, but itís new to the point-and-shoot world.

In short, the Nikon cameras offer a convenient gimmick; the Kodak model does more with the WiFi technology, but you pay for it.