As photographers we all like to work as fast and efficiently as possible. Nobody enjoys anything that slows down us down, whether it’s at the shooting stage or when we’re transferring images. There are ever-increasing amount of cameras offering some form of alternative connectivity to make uploading and viewing faster and more intuitive, with Wi-fi cameras fast becoming a popular way of getting our images online and available to see by the world in an instant.
There’s also NFC (Near Field Communication), which is starting to be rolled out across more cameras and works on the basis of touching devices together to transfer images. With connectivity constantly evolving, it’s an exciting time in camera development. Lets take a look at the options in closer detail and unearth more about the direction connectivity seems to be heading.
What is Wi-Fi?
The term ‘Wi-fi’ refers to a wireless technology that uses radio waves to exchange data via a computer network, or high-speed Internet connection. Best known for wirelessly connecting computers, smart phones and tablets to the Internet, Wi-fi is a popular alternative to using unwieldy Ethernet cables and has the benefit of allowing multiple devices to be connected to the same network or internet connection simultaneously.
Benefits of Wi-Fi
One of the key advantages of having a Wi-fi camera is being able to connect to a Wi-fi hotspot, which gives you direct upload access to social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Though this modern way of sharing images won’t appeal to everyone, it’s particularly useful when you’re travelling and provides a way of keeping your family or friends updated with your whereabouts, while allowing you to shoot and share your images with the camera that you enjoy using most. With these two reasons in mind, it’s perhaps no surprise that the types of camera we’re used to seeing with Wi-fi are those designed with travel in mind, such as pocket compacts with powerful optical zooms or compact system cameras.
So, if you already own a smart phone that has the power of taking photos and connecting via Wi-fi, what’s the appeal of a Wi-fi camera? The simple answer to this is that even cheap point-and-shoot compacts offer more advanced control and features than those you’ll find on a smart phone. The benefits of having a longer optical zoom, larger sensor, higher resolution and improved handling all add up to make it a better tool, capable of delivering better image quality.
The Canon EOS 6D is the first DSLR to feature built-in Wi-fi
Aside from uploading, Wi-fi cameras have other benefits. With manufacturers having free rein over the way their Wi-fi cameras are controlled, we’ve seen more and more companies start to produce iOS and Andoid apps to give their users extra wireless control. These apps not only allow you to see a live feed of what the Wi-fi camera sees, they enable you to trigger the shutter remotely, or setup a self-timer. There are numerous applications for this type of functionality, such as wildlife photography, where photographers like to monitor composition, shoot discreetly and work at distance from their subjects all at the same time. Of course, we shouldn’t forget Wi-fi cameras can also be used to download and save pictures to your computer wirelessly, and if you have a Wi-fi enabled printer it gives you the option to instantly transmit the shots you wish to print without the need of USB cables or a card reader.
Disadvantages of Wi-fi cameras
Although there are many manufacturers producing Wi-fi enabled cameras, it was Samsung that were one of the first to tip their toe into Wi-Fi waters, applying their knowledge of wireless connectivity from their smart phones and Galaxy tablets to their NX-series of Compact System Cameras. Since then we’ve seen Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Polaroid and Sony all produce cameras that support Wi-fi, however there’s been no sense of urgency from manufacturers to feature Wi-Fi within DSLRs. To date, there’s only the Canon EOS 6D that features built-in Wi-Fi. This full-frame model is supported by a free EOS remote app that offers excellent wireless control. The EOS remote app (compatible with iOS and Android devices) allows you to adjust all the different exposure values remotely, including ISO. Adding to this, there’s the option of taking control of AF point positioning, firing the shutter and saving images taken on your DSLR straight to your mobile device for sharing or attaching to an email. The only omission is that Raw files can’t be transferred by Wi-fi and instead the camera automatically has to convert Raw files to JPEG prior to transmission.
Nikon’s philosophy of wireless transmission from DSLRs to mobile devices is slightly different. It requires the use of a Nikon WU-1a mobile adapter (£49), which is designed for the D3200, D5200 and D7100. Rather like the EOS Remote app, images can be captured wirelessly from iOS or Android devices before being shared, but you’re required to download the Wireless Adapter Utility app from iTunes or Google Play first. Unfortunately, the app doesn’t allow you to take the same control of exposure values as the EOS remote app and the drawback of having to plug in a small adaptor at the side of the camera is that it’s more prone to getting lost or being damaged than if it were built-in. Compacts such as the Nikon S800c already feature built-in Wi-Fi, so we predict it’s only a matter of time before this technology transfers across to DSLRs to make the process of wireless image transfer even easier for Nikon’s consumers.
Disadvantages of Wi-fi cameras
The disadvantage of choosing a Wi-fi camera is that its convenience comes at a price. Wi-fi cameras cost more than those with comparable specifications that don’t support it. As more cameras are rolled out with Wi-fi, we can expect the saturation in the market to slowly bring down the cost. One other point to note is that not all apps support sharing of high-resolution images and HD video, so you should be prepared for your images to be automatically resized to an optimal size for the device you wish to view or share it on.
Near Field Communication, better known as NFC, is an alternative type of wireless connectivity that enables a short-range communication between mobile devices. To initiate a NFC connection, two NFC enabled products are required to be placed within 4cm of each other, after which data or images can be transferred via a Wi-Fi connection. Rather than relying on radio waves, NFC uses electromagnetic radio fields to form its communication. NFC remains in its early stages of development and you only need look at the handful of NFC cameras on the market today to realize this. Samsung’s latest flagship compact system camera, the NX300, has recently been launched with NFC technology and allows its users to instantly transfer images between the camera and an NFC mobile device by simply bringing the products within touching distance. Panasonic also features NFC on its TZ40 and FT5 compacts, which could be a sign that the company is looking at introducing it across more of its products in the near future.
NFC technology enables you to transfer images by simply touching devices
At present, NFC is only supported by smart phones and tablets that run on the Android system. Rumor websites have suggested that Apple could be next to roll out NFC technology across iPhones and iPads, which could potentially spur on other camera manufacturers to embrace the world of NFC and adopt it within their latest products so they’re be left behind in the connectivity race.