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Sony has introduced the DSC-G3 with a browser: This Wi-Fi enabled camera includes a browser, which Sony assures us makes it easy to gain access to hotspots. The camera includes access until 31-Jan-2012 to a special upload site via AT&T's hotspot network, the Sony Easy Upload Home Page.
Because if there's two things that digital photographers want, it's another photograph/video upload interface to learn and configure, and the ability to type in user names and passwords into a tiny tiny tiny Web browser. Goodness knows, I've been waiting for that.
Sony joins the other Wi-Fi enabled camera makers in creating a problem where a solution exists: multiple companies (Boingo and Devicescape leap foremost to mind) have figured out how to uniquely identify devices and enable no-entry logins at hotspots through an external account.
But Sony gave us a browser. Hurrah.
The camera has 4 GB of built-in memory, and uses the increasingly less-standard Memory Stick format for additional storage. The 10-megapixel, 4x optical zoom camera with Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens has a 3.5-inch touchscreen LCD, and is available today for $500.
Amazon.com is offering a so-called Black Friday special on Eye-Fi Share:
The 2 GB Wi-Fi-enabled Secure Digital card normally runs $90; it's $65 while the sale lasts.
Given that Eye-Fi introduced a limited-time-only 4 GB "Anniversary" model that replaced the 2 GB Share version in its current line-up, and that the Anniversary model was $130 list but $100 for Costco members, it's pretty clear that the 2 GB won't re-appear, the 4 GB model will drop in price, and Amazon's acting as a clearance center.
The Eye-Fi Share lets you upload pictures over a local network to a designated computer, or upload via a Wi-Fi network for which the Eye-Fi is configured to connect over the Internet to Eye-Fi's servers, and from there to a specified photo-sharing, social-network, or photo-printing service.
I'm a fan of the Eye-Fi, although I favor the currently $130 Explore model (see my review), which comes with geotagging (via Skyhook Wireless) and adds a year of included uploading via Wayport locations (now part of AT&T).
The Wi-Fi sharing digital memory card Eye-Fi adds another option for its product line: If you've purchased or plan to purchase an Eye-Fi, starting 5-Oct-2008, you can upgrade the model of card you purchased by paying a yearly subscription fee. This provides more of a try-and-see mode for Eye-Fi's slightly more expensive offerings.
Eye-Fi divided its Wi-Fi SD card line-up into three parts earlier in the year: Home, which transfers to a computer ($80); Share, which uploads to a computer and to Eye-Fi's servers, which relay them to gallery, print, and social services ($100); and Explore, which ties in Wi-Fi positioning and one year of a Wayport hotspot subscription for uploads ($130). I wrote a long review of the Eye-Fi Explore on 12-Aug-2008.
If you bought a Home, you can upgrade to the Share service for $10 per year, and if you bought either a Home or Share, you can add geotagging for $15 per year and hotspot access for $15 per year. It's a smart move, since original Eye-Fi card buyers already had a firmware upgrade that converted their card into a Share model; they'll now be able upgrade to the full featureset. This is something I thought the company was offering at launch months ago, and I speculated it would be easy to add.
Eye-Fi also added two new photo sharing services: Apple's MobileMe and AdoramaPix. I cannot think of any other firm that Apple has partnered with to allow direct MobileMe uploads, although this may be technically less a big deal than it sounds. But I believe it's unique--only the iPhone and iPhoto software can transfers images into MobileMe's galleries; I'll need to investigate further. It's a good feather in Eye-Fi's cap.
Finally, Eye-Fi says they'll release tweaked firmware on 5-Oct as well that will double the speed of photo transfers from their cards to a computer on the local network.
I'm running a link to this story solely to avoid confusion among readers: Eye-Fi signed a partnership deal with Lexar several months ago that should lead to Eye-Fi technology being embedded in Lexar cards. Lexar works closely with so many camera makers and others that it was a smart move for Eye-Fi to link up, as Eye-Fi is selling its smarts as the value-add, not so much the hardware that the smarts are embedded in for now.
Obviously, as a practical stage one, Lexar is selling a private-label Eye-Fi Share as the Lexar Shoot-n-Sync using. Same price, same features.
What I'm waiting for, which will likely take into 2009, is for Lexar and Eye-Fi to announce partnerships with a major camera maker or two that will allow the Lexar or Eye-Fi card to talk directly to the camera to control battery savings mode, as well as other details. Conceivably, a camera that supports an external GPS (like the new Nikon D90) could allow the Eye-Fi to retrieve coordinates and perform assistive GPS using its Wi-Fi positioning software, and so forth. There's a lot of potential.
After spending two weeks with the $130 Eye-Fi Explore Wi-Fi memory card, I'm a fan: The Eye-Fi Explore was introduced in July by the eponymous firm to support geotagging - embedding latitude and longitude into photo metadata - and easier uploading of images. The Eye-Fi Explore is a Secure Digital (SD) card with 2 GB of storage, a tiny computer, and a Wi-Fi radio. The Explore uses Skyhook Wireless's Wi-Fi positioning data combined with Wayport's network of 10,000 hotspots, mostly McDonald's, along with revised firmware and software that dramatically improves the experience of uploading photos.
The company shuffled its products into three versions several weeks ago: Eye-Fi Home ($80), which uploads only to a specific computer over a local network; Eye-Fi Share ($100), a rebranded version identical to its first offering last year, which can upload to photo-sharing services or a computer or both; and the Explore. (You can purchase the Eye-Fi Explore from Amazon.com, as well as the other models.)
I reviewed the Explore as a geotagging system for The Seattle Times this last Saturday; I'd reviewed the original Eye-Fi (now Eye-Fi Share) for them last year as well. You can read that review for my take on geotagging, or skip to the bottom of this review, as well.
The hardware is apparently the same or nearly so, and it works just as well as it did last year. The biggest improvements, however, are a few workflow tweaks that make it far easier to manage and track uploads of pictures without draining your camera's batteries down to zero.
Nikon announces new Wi-Fi camera with Wayport hotspot link, WPS: The S610c with Wi-Fi inside, shipping in September for $330 (MSRP), supports Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) for single button connections to home networks, and a two year subscription to Wayport's hotspot network for uploading photos. This is nearly 10,000 McDonald's and 1,000 hotels, and doesn't include the Starbucks locations Wayport is building out for AT&T. The camera has a 10-megapixel sensor, 3.6x zoom lens, and 3-inch LCD screen, as well as vibration reduction, and up to an effective 3200 ISO.
Oddly, Nikon also announced the $500 P6000 with a built-in GPS receiver, 13.5 MP sensor, 4x zoom, and effective 6400 ISO--and a built-in Ethernet jack. Which is a very weird choice. I know Wi-Fi adds cost and reduces battery life-span, but I would think that GPS plus Wi-Fi would allow assisted GPS for faster coordinated lookups (if the Wi-Fi tapped into Skyhook's system and cached some location information), as well as offering automated uploads, and Wi-Fi positioning when GPS signals couldn't be reached.
Seems like a missed ship here.
This story is a bit cute, but it's true: Alison DeLauzon, Reuters reports, had her camera stolen when left an equipment bag in a restaurant in Florida. The folks who allegedly took the bag also took pictures of themselves, which isn't unusual. But DeLauzon had an Eye-Fi wireless Secure Digital (SD) card in her camera, received as a gift. The thieves apparently wandered by an open access point with the same SSID as one that DeLauzon had configured for use, and pictures of her baby and the thieves were uploaded to her picture-sharing account. Nifty.
This is reminiscent of another recent story in which an Apple Store employee was able to use Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard's Back to My Mac remote access software to connect to a laptop that was stolen from her apartment to grab images and screenshots of the two men alleged to have taken the laptop and other gear.
The folks who brought us simple Wi-Fi for digital cameras add locations, modify pricing: Eye-Fi developed a supremely simple 2 GB Secure Digital card that can work with any digital camera and transfer photos over known Wi-Fi networks with no effort. Now they've split their original $99 product offering into three items differentiated by features: Eye-Fi Explore, with Wi-Fi-based geotagging ($129); Eye-Fi Share, for uploading to photo-sharing systems ($99); and Eye-Fi Home, which is a cable-replacement service ($79). The Eye-Fi Explore will be available starting 9-June-2008.
The Eye-Fi Explore product relies on Skyhook Wireless's system of analyzing the signal strength of nearby Wi-Fi networks to extrapolate latitude and longitude. Eye-Fi ties that into their system to stamp images with locations. This deal also ties into Wayport's domestic network of 10,000 hotspots, most of which are McDonald's outlets, allowing free uploading via those systems. The purchase price covers one year of hotspot service. All three products work with Mac OS X Tiger and Leopard, and Windows XP/Vista.
Because Skyhook needs a live Web connection to look up the Wi-Fi environment, Eye-Fi can store the Wi-Fi snapshot when the picture is taken, and manage inserting the appropriate photo metadata (EXIF format) at upload for Flickr and other services that support geotagging.
Geotagging is a very popular idea, something that I'm quite taken with because it pairs the act of taking a photograph with the location at which the picture is taken, making a digital photograph seem a little less untied to reality. But until now, it's been generally quite involved to match a picture with coordinates. A handful of specialized cameras embed GPS chips, and there's software to facilitate other methods, but the cost and battery drain of GPS chips have apparently so far kept it from being a widely deployed feature, while the wonkiness of alternatives doesn't appeal to mainstream users.
Sony once sold this wacky GPS companion (which I just found out isn't available in either released model) that would track your location over time, and use that information to geotag images via a special software program that let you pair its stream of data with your photographs.
Eye-Fi and Skyhook are doing something almost the same, since the camera isn't capturing the GPS data, and the Eye-Fi isn't applying the information live, much of the time. But it's eminently more usable than the Sony system, because the Eye-Fi handles the assembly seamlessly for you.
Now there's just one thing to worry about. Think about this: McDonald's are everywhere, and nearly all of the U.S. locations have Wi-Fi. The Eye-Fi uploads whenever it can, as long as the camera is turned on. You're geotagging images without any effort. Okay, got it? So...you call in sick to work, and run off to take some photos. Your boss, using RSS to subscribe to your Flickr feed, not only sees your pictures as you wander the town, unknowningly promiscuously uploading them via quick-serve restaurants' networks, but also knows precisely where you are.
This makes me suggest that you might set your Flickr upload preferences to keep images private and your geotagging preferences the same. You can then expose the images you want for public consumption. The Panoptican is...us!
Eye-Fi supported by Nikon D60 firmware: The Wi-Fi Secure Digital card offered by Eye-Fi can now be recognized by Nikon's D60 SLR, a just-announced 10.2-megapixel camera due in March; pricing for the camera wasn't released. The Eye-Fi integration solves a problem I heard widely discussed at Macworld Expo, where Eye-Fi won a Best of Show 2008 award: because cameras can't detect the Eye-Fi, the makers of the Wi-Fi card say you should disable automatic power conservation on your camera to avoid the card--powered by the camera--shutting down while still uploading photos.
This makes logical sense, but it's irritating. I suggested in a review and to the company that because they have a server component to the offering, that they offer an option to email, send SMS, or offer a pop-up message on a host computer when uploading is complete, so a consumer would then know to turn the camera off. At Macworld Expo, when I talked to employees at the booth, they nodded without responding. I said, these aren't good ideas? They said, no, in fact, they're hearing the same ideas all the time, and they're trying to figure out how to work them in. That's good news.
But the integration with camera firmware is, of course, even better, because it makes the Eye-Fi essentially an accessory for a camera, rather than an unrelated third-party add-on. Older cameras could have firmware upgrades, but I find even though that's possible, most people who use cameras would never think of this, and thus camera makers would be unlikely to upgrade older cameras unless they sold well, and the maker could slipstream a branded offering into the retail channel that noted the camera was Eye-Fi ready.
After more than a year of providing hints at their capability, Eye-Fi has released their flagship product: a 2 GB Secure Digital flash card with built-in Wi-Fi for $100: The Eye-Fi Card connects over a Wi-Fi network using its own onboard processor to transfer images from the card to a computer or upload the photos to Eye-Fi's servers for further distribution. The camera has to be powered on within range of a Wi-Fi network; there's no other intervention needed.
The company has partnered with 17 major photo-sharing, photo-finishing, and social-networking services and sites to enable direct transfer to one or more of those services when pictures are uploaded, based on your choices.
The Eye-Fi is not a generic Wi-Fi adapter: that is, it doesn't magically add Wi-Fi capabilities to a digital camera. Rather, it's a separate computer that happens to live within an SD card and can access the same stored data that the digital camera can. I expect to review the unit in the next week or two.
In an interview with Jef Holove, Eye-Fi's chief executive, he explained that Eye-Fi had honed in on a very simple offering, with the potential to become more complicated later as the market dictated. He describes Eye-Fi as "a wireless memory card that lets you upload your photos," a concise summary.
The Eye-Fi's intent is to allow zero-effort uploading of photographs taken on a digital camera. I haven't seen anything close to this amount of simplicity, including in the consumer cameras that have Wi-Fi built-in from Nikon, Canon, and Kodak. Those cameras generally don't allow full-resolution Internet transfers of photos, and lock you into specific upload services, such as Kodak Gallery (renamed for the third time in a handful of years). Eye-Fi wanted to provide full-resolution uploads, no preferred service, and eliminate the effort in initiating or managing the transfer.
An Eye-Fi needs to be set up before it's used in a camera. The device comes with a small USB dock, and software for Windows and Mac OS X that can configure internal settings in the card. The software mostly exists to connect you with Eye-Fi's Web site, where you create an account, enter Wi-Fi network settings (including passwords), and enter or sign up for any of the 17 services you may use or belong to. Various settings are then installed on the Eye-Fi and it's ready to go.
Whenever you're within range of any of the networks you've configured, the Eye-Fi transfers any pictures you've taken since the last transfer. The camera isn't involved. Holove said that there are three modes that the card can work in for transfers: transfer to the host computer; transfer to Eye-Fi's servers directly; or transfer to Eye-Fi's servers and then download to the host computer.
The last option sounds a little confusing: why download photos again rather than transfer them over the local network? Holove explained that it would double the battery usage to transfer the images twice, so they opted to retrieve the images after upload rather than reduce the camera's charge.
Holove said that they estimate the card consumes about 5 to 10 percent more battery than a camera would use otherwise; they found their beta testers hardly noticed the power consumption due to the increased capacity of modern batteries and more energy-efficient camera designs. The Wi-Fi component, an Atheros AR6001, uses very little energy while idle.
If you choose to upload photos, Eye-Fi's servers automatically transfer the photos to the service you selected. You can register at all the services you regularly use, and then choose which single service gets the uploaded images when you're between uploading sessions. If individual photos size or resolution exceeds the maximum allowed by a given service, Eye-Fi's system resizes the image just for them. (I'd prefer Eye-Fi uploaded to one or more services at once, but that's not in line with their approach, which is "keep it simple at this stage.")
There's no option to downsample photos on upload to reduce the upload time, however. Holove said that in this first iteration, they wanted to appeal to what they found was a common sentiment among photographers they're aiming at: the desire to upload full-resolution images. Holove said "As storage for these [photo-sharing] companies becomes cheaper and cheaper and cheaper, it becomes more affordable for these companies to store higher res images."
The Eye-Fi is shipping initially as a 2 GB SD card because higher capacities require the use of SDHC (SD High Capacity), which isn't supported on many older and less expensive cameras. SDHC is required for 4 GB and higher memory cards, and Holove said that the firm "wanted to launch a product that would work with all the SD cameras out there."
Initial partners are dotPhoto, Facebook, Flickr, Fotki, Kodak Gallery, Phanfare, Photobucket, Picasa Web Albums, Sharpcast and Gallery, Shutterfly, SmugMug, Snapfish, TypePad, VOX, Wal-Mart, and Webshots.
Nikon puts new Coolpix S51c on T-Mobile HotSpot network: The $330 Wi-Fi-enabled camera, shipping later this month, comes with six months of free use on T-Mobile HotSpot's U.S. network. The camera has an 8.1-megapixel sensor and 3x optical zoom. The six months begin from the first connect, which has to start before Aug. 31, 2008. These deals simply further emphasize how difficult it is to connect cameras to hotspots, as the cameras lack browsers.
None of Nikon's information explains the down-sampling that will be involved with emailing photos from the camera; it's unlikely that full-resolution images would be transmitted. Further, Nikon's previous software releases required software to be installed to transfer images at full resolution over a local network. The S51c comes with Mac and Windows software, so that's likely still the case.
No Wi-Fi camera has yet been released for the consumer market that simply allows file transfers at full resolution over any network reachable when connected via Wi-Fi, nor full-resolution image transmission. None that I'm aware of include secure file transfer, either, although Nikon says its associated picture service for this and other cameras uses some secure method, not defined.
Even the iPhone, with access to Wi-Fi, and with low-resolution photos, only emails or posts to Web galleries downsampled versions. You have to sync over USB to transfer the full resolution.
The Eye-Fi adapter for digital cameras is edging closer to release: Eye-Fi has developed a Secure Digital (SD) card with what will probably be 2 GB of storage and a Wi-Fi radio in it that work in almost any camera that supports SD. The likely sales price is $100, according to this News.com article. News.com and other publications published stories yesterday and today triggered by the announcement of a $5.5m investment in the firm from venture capital firms.
I have not yet seen an Eye-Fi card, but my expectation is that they have managed to hijack the process by which cameras can print to a USB printing, with the Eye-Fi simulating a printer for the purposes of transmitting an image. Or they may have a set of triggers or default behavior that causes the Wi-Fi radio to transmit images when stored in a special folder (supported by some cameras) or just on the card at all.
Eye-Fi requires configuration of their card through special software. And because the camera's don't require any direct support of the Eye-Fi device, you won't be able initially to configure to any arbitrary network. It's a perfect match for Devicescape, where an Eye-Fi user could maintain network profiles on Devicescape's servers and obviate any configuration whatsoever.
The folks at Eye-Fi will release their Secure Digital (SD) Card with Wi-Fi and 1 GB storage to beta this month: Engadget reports that the combo card will support a variety of cameras that are qualified by Eye-Fi. This makes it sound like the card will require separate configuration, and then, when inserted into a camera that can work with it,
This is a better deal than, say, Kodak's first Wi-Fi camera offering, which just facilitated T-Mobile connections: The CoolPix S7c is the only one of five new Nikon cameras that has Wi-Fi. The camera can also connect to other hotspots and home networks. It's $350, has a 7.1-megapixel sensor (3072 by 2304 pixels), emulates up to ISO 1600, and sports a 3x optical zoom lens.
he details on Wi-Fi are scanty--there's no information on whether it supports WPA, for instance--and it doesn't appear to have a useful file-transfer feature like Secure FTP built in. Rather, you can email photographs to people from the camera. Woo! Please, folks, just built Secure FTP in, and perhaps something like PictureSync, which uses the APIs from many different photo services to allow direct uploads. You can only seemingly transfer images via Wi-Fi directly to a computer while on the same WLAN, with the computer having special Nikon software installed. No, no, no! Open it up, folks.
The T-Mobile deal is 12 months of free usage via the camera, with service needing to be activated by Sept. 30, 2007.
A Canon PowerShot with built-in Wi-Fi will be launched in December in Japan: Canon showed off Wi-Fi controls without a specific product plan or timetable earlier this year. Since then, Kodak and Nikon have released Wi-Fi-equipped cameras that have distinct drawbacks and quirks in how they transfer files and use Wi-Fi networks.
Canon's first entry will be the Canon PowerShot SD430 Digital Elph Wireless. Elsewhere, it's called the Digital IXUS, according to Engadget. The notes for the camera state that you can only use wireless features with Windows XP SP2.
The camera includes a feature I've suggested to Kodak: auto-transfer as photos are taken. It can even multi-task and allow you to continue to shoot while photos are being transmitted. Windows software can control the camera remotely over Wi-Fi as well. No FTP or other support is mentioned or documented, which is a crying shame.
The camera uses 802.11b and supports WEP and WPA-PSK (TKIP or AES), but only supports WEP for computer-to-computer connections, but it will use AES with its wireless print adapter. It also has USB 2.0.
It's a five megapixel sensor with about a 3x optical zoom. It supports SD cards up to 2 GB in size. It can create 640 by 480 pixel movies at 30 frames per second or smaller movies at 60 fps.
The camera will cost ¥50,000 or about US$435 in Japan. The UK launch will be in January at a cost of £399 or US$712, which seems like too big a spread. In the U.S., it will appear in January for US$499. [link via Engadget]