If you're up to snuff on your Samsung history, you'll know that the Korean electronics giant is very keen on slapping the word "Smart" in front of all of its products. From Smart TVs to Smart Touch Remotes to Smart Home appliances including a smartphone-controllable washer and dryer, Samsung's got the connected goods.
The only product that hasn't gone to school and come back enlightened is the camera. This year, Samsung's rolling out the smartness to all of its compact-system-cameras (better known as CSC or mirrorless cameras with lens systems). What that means is all of its flagship CSCs have built-in Wi-Fi and the ability and the ability to instantly share photos and videos to popular social networks. How well does the feature work? I went and found out for you.
Built-in Wi-Fi Is A Must Have In Cameras
What does Samsung think photography's next great hurdle is? Take a wild guess. Ready? According to Reid Sullivan, Samsung's VP of mobile entertainment the answer is easy: sharing.
Back in the old days, sharing photos was a process that began with taking the photo, getting the film developed and then stuffing them into photo albums for friends and family to fawn over. Nowadays, we share photos digitally, either through Facebook, Picasa, Flickr, etc. The annoying part is getting the photos off the memory cards, into a computer and then onto the Internet.
Samsung's family of "Smart Cameras" take the computer part out of the equation. In fact, you can literally log onto any available Wi-Fi network (say Starbucks or McDonald's) and immediately upload your photos directly to Facebook, Photobucket or Picasa. Nope, you can't send them to Instagram or Twitter, but theoretically, if Samsung wants to add other sharing networks in a future firmware update, a Samsung rep tells me it's doable.
And really, it's so easy that even Grandma and Grandpa can do it, even if they can't work a computer or still ask you which button is the shutter button. After toying around with four of Samsung's new Smart Cameras (details on all of Samsung's new cameras in the gallery below) for a day, I'm inclined to believe that wireless sharing will have to become a standard every camera maker will have to follow.
If you look at the trends on Facebook and Flickr, you'll see that photos are shared primarily through smartphones via apps. Even Sullivan tossed the figure of three billion images shared on Facebook per month. That's A LOT.
So Far So Good, But In-camera Sharing Still Needs Work
Having played with all of Samsung's new Smart Cameras, I can honestly say that built-in Wi-Fi works as advertised. You take your photos, switch either a dial to "Wi-Fi" or press a Wi-Fi button (NX1000), connect to a Wi-Fi network, select your photos and where you want to share them to and let it do its thing. Depending on your connection and range from the wireless point, upload times will vary.
I noticed uploading was a little on the slow-side — approximately two to three minutes to upload about eight 20-megapixel photos — but it could just be that way too many buzzed tech reporters were sharing photos of mac and cheese to Facebook than was expected.
Occasionally, uploads would time out and I'd have no idea which photos were uploaded and which weren't. As such, when I double checked the Facebook app on my iPhone to see which photos went through, there were numerous duplicates.
To my dismay, video uploading to YouTube is a huge miss. For reasons only Samsung knows, videos can only be uploaded to YouTube if they're 320x240 and under 30 seconds. Well, fat lot of good that'll do if we're shooting in HD video. Who even shoots video lower than VGA (640x480) these days anyway? I didn't even know modern cameras still supported such a low resolution. Needless to say, I opted not to share any video during my day of fun with the Smart Cameras. Nobody would seriously consider looking any of those videos even if I did lower the quality setting.
While Samsung's Smart Cameras still need some more tweaking (Note: I was playing with pre-production models, so the final cameras could be better), the prospect of seamless and simple photo-sharing without any special computer know-how is very promising and a trend that I hope more camera makers will pick up on.
(Note: Rather than bore your brains with all of the specs of the cameras, I'll sum it all up briefly. All of the new Samsung cameras shown in the gallery below took photos that exhibited a good reproduction of color, sharpness and clarity that either matches or exceeds last year's Samsung cameras. At this point, it's pointless to really go on about megapixels, image stabilization and low-light shooting.
Aimed primarily at the mainstream consumer, Samsung's WB850F point and shoot, NX1000 mirrorless, NX210 mirrorless and NX20 advanced mirrorless are more than enough to take great photos of your family, friends, pets and scenes. They all have nice bright and large 3.0-inch AMOLED screens (except the NX1000 which uses a LCD) and easy to use button layouts with plenty of room for proper finger gripping. Pick the one that fits your budget and your shooting comfort level and ignore the megapixel counters because most of us will never print photos large enough to care.)
All photos taken by Raymond Wong for DVICE