Smart cameras are worthwhile even if you have a smartphone

The Samsun NX1100 is an example of a The Samsun NX1100 is an example of a smart camera that can communicate directly with a user's smartphone. Photo Credit: Adam Fusfeld

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With summer finally here, it’s time to start thinking about vacations. And to consumer-facing technology companies the word vacation immediately conjures images of people spending their hard-earned cash on devices that capture memories from those trips – cameras.

After years of fighting the battle of megapixels – where camera marketers relied upon a single, largely misunderstood, specification to distinguish their devices – the advertising wars have turned to a new front: camera connectivity, or so-called “smart cameras.”

Today, camera manufacturers including Nikon, Canon and Samsung are putting their full weight behind cameras with WiFi connectivity, and other elements traditionally reserved for smartphones, in an effort to attract consumers in the age of Facebook and Instagram.

“The reason people take pictures in the first place is completely different these days,” Jay Kelbey, senior marketing manager of digital imaging at Samsung, said. “People aren’t shooting pictures to throw them in a shoebox anymore; they’re shooting to share.”

Like smartphones, many of these cameras can instantly upload photos to social media applications and email inboxes; some even link directly to a smartphone and work in unison with it.

But unlike smartphones, these cameras actually take high-quality images, camera executives argued. Granted, these brand representatives have reason to want consumers to believe their phone’s camera is insufficient, but they also have a point: Between limited zooms, poor lighting adjustments, weak flashes and uncomfortable ergonomics, it’s incredibly difficult to capture great photos on a smartphone under anything less than ideal – that is, stationary, well-lit – conditions. And those ideal settings typically aren’t ones that produce the most shareable images.

And even if you don’t feel the urge to update your social media pages in real time, these connected cameras still might be the best option. The price premium for WiFi capability and other “connected” functions – especially at the low- to middle-end of the market – is virtually non-existent.

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“Having WiFi doesn’t really cost all that much more,” said Chuck Westfall, a technical advisor at Canon. “We’re charging less in 2013 for cameras with more features and the benefit of WiFi.”

Westfall pointed to a WiFi-enabled Canon PowerShot camera that retails for just $199 as an example of the relative lack of added cost (some go for as little as $129), but said the $329 price-range was the “sweet spot” in the market.

Simply put, “the value that you get out of being able to share wherever you are is worth the small added cost,” according to Mark Soares, a technical marketing manager at Nikon. He said many consumers are literally thinking with whom they intend to share a photo as they hit the shutter. It’s only natural that they’d want to share them instantly.

So what should you look for in this suddenly crowded “smart car” market? Find tips from the experts on our tech blog and learn more about some of the connected cameras currently on the market with this gallery.

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