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Smart camera buying tips

The Polaroid iM1836 is the brand's first smart

The Polaroid iM1836 is the brand's first smart camera and is the only compact interchangeable-lens camera to feature an Android operating system, the company said. The camera comes with a 10-30mm lens and has both WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity for sharing photos between devices and uploading to social media. Polaroid has yet to announce the release date or price of its new smart camera. Photo Credit: Polaroid

With summer's arrival you might be thinking about sharing vacation photos. To aid in that process, many camera manufcaturers have begun selling cameras that connect to WiFi and mobile devices. Learn more about these devices here, and check below for tips from camera executives on what to look for as you shop for these new devices. 

1) Make sure it has the camera features you want.

“Yes, you want to share,” explains Mark Soares, a technical marketing manager at Nikon, “but you want to share great quality photos. So you should look at camera specs first.”

Keep a close eye out for the type of lens, the zoom magnitude, the flash and the low-light sensitivity, advises Canon’s technical advisor, Chuck Westfall. These, of course, are the features that differentiate stand-alone cameras from their smartphone brethren.

But keep in mind that the price premium for connected cameras begins to increases as you travel up the camera market, so it could be worth seeking WiFi alternatives if you’re heart is set on a connected DSLR-style camera. For example, Nikon makes an SD card that doubles as a WiFi connector. (See our gallery of smart camera options here.)

2) Double check that you completely understand the “smart” features of the camera so that you know you’re getting the functionality you expect.

Determining the extent of the connectivity “is not necessarily obvious simply from the bullet points on the retail tag,” says Westfall. Be sure you understand exactly what level of connectivity the device is capable of.

Most of the so-called “smart” cameras synchronize directly with smartphones, automatically forward photos to them and even use them as remote viewfinders. Others, including a Samsung Galaxy Camera we played around with, are equipped with the complete Android operating system, which allows for sharing and editing directly from the device. Cameras with WiFi capability don’t necessarily communicate with smartphones, but may allow you to email photos or load them on to social media applications.

Jay Kelbley, senior marketing manager of digital imaging at Samsung, warns that some cameras advertise WiFi connectivity but don’t have any level of browser; so if the hotspot at your hotel or coffee shop requires a log-in to access the WiFi you could be out of luck.

3) Seek out cameras that connect easily.

Now that you’re positive the camera supports your social media or sharing vehicle of choice, you’ll want to know how easy it is to connect. Look for cameras with one-touch set-up that easily recognize and connect to WiFi or your smartphone after the initial set-up. You got the smart camera for instant sharing capability, and enduring a complicated set-up process every time you power up the camera completely mitigates that advantage.

4) As with any big technology purchase, consider how the device fits into your lifestyle.

Think about the situations where you’ll find yourself using your camera most often. Make sure you pick a model that doesn’t become a burden to carry around, that’s rugged if you’re spending a lot of time outdoors, or that has great zoom, fast shutter speed and good light sensitivity if you’re shooting events. If you want the ability to link to your smartphone, make sure the camera has that capability with your specific device, especially if it doesn’t run iOS or Android.



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