Review: Kodak EasyShare-One Wi-Fi camera

If you think about it, having a camera in your cellphone would be virtually useless if it wasn't a communications device. I mean, who would want to snap pics from a phone if you had to connect it to your PC's USB port, manually offload the files, then fire up Outlook before you could share them with your pals? So thank the tech gods for picture messaging — just point, shoot, and dial. But what if VGA-resolution stills don't cut it for you? There are plenty of better-quality digital cameras out there, but only one that attempts to mimic the convenience of a cellphone camera: the Kodak EasyShare-One.

The superpower of the EasyShare-One is its Wi-Fi abilities, which you can use to upload photos directly to Kodak's EasyShare Gallery on the Web. The camera doesn't actually send the photos themselves as e-mail attachments, but it will upload the shots and e-mail out messages with links to your gallery all in one fell swoop. The big back-panel LCD is also a touchscreen, and Kodak provides a peewee stylus for typing in addresses.

It all works surprisingly well. The steps for e-mailing pics are as simple as they could be with Wi-Fi — which is to say they're a bit more involved than sending pictures on a cellphone, but not by much. Even if you've never used Wi-Fi before, the camera has a few perks (like remembering passwords for secure networks you have access to) to smooth the learning curve. And if you live in a big city like New York or San Francisco — where free and unsecure Wi-Fi networks blanket the landscape — you'll be able to share pics almost anytime you want.

My one beef with the EasyShare-One is the strangely unwieldy nature of the Wi-Fi card. For some reason, it's not built right into the camera. Instead, you tuck the small SD-shaped card into a slot on top, and it sticks out whenever you want to fire it up — essentially, it's a removable (read: easily lost) pop-up antenna. Why do it this way? If you can have a Wi-Fi card deep in the belly of a laptop that's always on, what's the problem here? Still, it's an inconvenience, not a deal-breaker.

What is kind of a deal-breaker is the $600 price tag. With the other features of the camera clearly leaning toward amateur hour (4 megapixels, simple menus, 3X optical zoom), the Wi-Fi ability comes with quite a premium. Although the EasyShare-One is a decent technological idea, I say wait for the next-gen model, which I'm betting will be more full-featured and easier on your wallet.