This is the Future of Photography

When I was a wee lad, photography was one of those things that was meant for adults — between the costs of film and developing and printing, letting junior snap away was an expensive proposition. The advent of digital photography allowed for a more affordable way to let a child develop their inner Ansel Adams — the instant feedback of the LCD screens and the zero cost of taking multiple shots meant that you could improve your skills on the fly. It’s such a huge leap that pretty much every professional photographer has turned to digital (the fact that a professional photography these days is as much about Photoshop as it is about lighting is another reason film has gone by the wayside).

But a huge part of consumer digital photography these days is the ability to share pictures with others. Once the carriers introduced picture via SMS, camera phones took off in a huge way. You could take pictures on a fancy DSLR, but it could be weeks before they were offloaded. Cameraphones afforded an immediacy that trumped their poor quality. After all, the picture you have on a memory card is worth the two that are only in your memories. Personally, the lag between picture taking and picture distribution from my point and shoot got so ridiculously stretched out that I was sending out pictures from Thanksgiving the next August. Yes, I admit that if I were more industrious it wouldn’t be that way, but c’est la vie.

Everything changed for me the summer of 2010. That was when I got my HTC Evo, an Android smartphone with a more than decent 8MP shooter. The trick to the Evo was this: with a couple of taps, I could upload any picture I had on the phone to Facebook. In fact, the realization that I could do this was the reason I joined Facebook. Instead of 8 months between taking the picture and emailing it, I could upload pictures to Facebook in almost real time. The act of sharing pictures had now become transparent. And if you’re not sharing your pictures, why are you taking them?

Which brings us to the future of photography. Sorry for the protracted prologue.

There have been cameras with wifi connectivity that uploaded to Facebook, but they were all a bit on the kludgy side. They were also limited — say you had a camera that worked with Facebook and Flickr but you wanted to upload to your Google+ account? Or you wanted to email the picture? Or use Instagram? Or whatever social or file sharing site that crops up? What about Dropbox, dammit? None of these proprietary interfaces were flexible enough or simple enough to be the best solution for a wifi-based photo sharing camera.

Here’s the solution: Android. Merge a Nikon point and shoot with a cellular-less Android phone (or tiny Android tablet if you will) and now you have this bad boy:

Nikon Coolpix S800c hands-on: a closer look at the Android camera (video)

Why, do yo ask? Because the Android part can connect to almost anything. Probably everything. You can email, upload, text (using Google Voice) — basically, it’s like having a phone with a 16MP camera and 10X optical zoom. That’s optical, not digital. 1080p video? Hells and yeah. Let’s upload that to YouTube. No one uses Facebook anymore? Download the app for the latest and greatest social networking site. It’s flexible and future-proofed. It’s flexture-proofable.

Now, this won’t replace my smartphone camera. My phone is always with me, and it’s available whenever I need impromptu snaps — this camera is for those times when I know I’ll be taking pictures. Holidays with the family. A day at the beach. A trip to the Corn Palace. Times when you know you’re going to want photographic mementos. But the whole offloading pictures business has gotten so bad that I frequently don’t bring the camera even if it’s one of those picture taking occasions because I know they’ll be stuck on the camera forever. The better picture quality wasn’t enough to make a difference over the overwhelming convenience of my smartphone. But the Coolpix S800c is the convergence product I’ve been looking for since I bought my first digital camera, only maybe I didn’t realize it until now. Now it seems so obvious. So obvious, in fact, that I’m sure Apple is scrambling to make their own iOS camera. Because it makes so much sense.

Maybe the reviews come out and there are a touch too many negatives. Maybe the picture quality isn’t all that great. Maybe the Android interface gobbles up too much battery. Maybe there’s some other horrible blemish that makes this a less than desirable product. It doesn’t matter. Even if this is a buggy first iteration alpha device, it’s going to happen with the next product. Because this is the future of consumer photography.

Also, Angry Birds. Yes, you can play Angry Birds on it.

One thing that went through my mind at the Nikon announcement was, “why didn’t Samsung think of this already?” Well, they did.

It’s nice to have 3G connectivity I suppose (although I have zero need for it), but to be forced to buy a data contract for acamera is sheer insanity. And not the good kind. If it sells through carriers, it will be something like $600 off contract, $400 on. That’s nuts. And it don’t even make calls!

Hopefully, they will have a wifi version in time for the holidays. Selling through carriers absolutely killed the original Galaxy Tab. I have no idea why they’re going down the same low adoption route with what appears to be a hot shit device.

This entry was posted in Android.

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