Most recent cameras include integrated Wi-Fi, which enables them to send images – and often movie clips – to smart-phones and tablets or upload them to devices connected to a wireless network. With the majority of people carrying a smart device these days, Wi-Fi is the logical choice for a camera that needs to communicate with the rest of the world.
Simply having Wi-Fi isn’t enough, however. The camera must be able to be told what to do with the image files. Consequently, it needs to be able to access social networks like Facebook or Twitter, upload files to storage facilities like Flickr, Google+ and Instagram, and email pictures.
Since it would be expensive to transmit a batch of 16-megapixel files via smart-phone, the camera needs to create the right-sized image to pass along the Wi-Fi link to the smart-phone app. And it must include the destination information so the smart-phone app can place the file where it’s wanted, including back-up in the Cloud.
The process must also be interruptible and recoverable in case the smart device is switched off or the internet connection is broken. It must be able to pick up where the transfer left off without forcing the user to re-send.
There isn’t a camera on the market yet that can accomplish all these tasks in a user-friendly fashion, although most manufacturers have come part of the way. But most smartphones can and the majority of Wi-Fi-enabled cameras require a link to smartphones for their internet connection.
Touch screen controls make it easy to select images for sharing and send them to a smart-phone. (Source: Olympus.)
Setting Up Wi-Fi
If you’ve ever set up a Wi-Fi connection between two devices, you know how frustrating it can be at times. Several companies have introduced ways to make this easier.
A Wi-Fi connection between a camera and smart device can be established without much difficulty when both have Near-Field Communication (NFC), which allows data to be interchanged by two devices when they are brought into close proximity. Olympus provides a QR code that is displayed on the camera’s monitor screen. When it is photographed with the camera in the smart device, the QR code is unpacked and the link is established.
Most cameras require an app to be downloaded to either the camera or the smart device ““ or both. The downloads are free and usually available from the camera manufacturer’s website as well as through Google Play and Apple App stores.
Future cameras will probably be easier to connect to wireless networks and capable of more things. If your camera lacks Wi-Fi, it will probably be able to use a Wi-Fi card. Alternatively, you can plug the memory card into a computer (or card reader) and transfer files the old-fashioned way.
Integrated Wi-Fi in some cameras can provide remote control over key shooting functions. If you can display the camera’s live view screen on the screen of the smart device, you should be able to adjust any function that is accessible via the camera’s touch controls. This includes selecting the focus point, adjusting zooming, setting exposure compensation, ISO and white balance and triggering the shutter.
Some cameras restrict remote shooting to the auto mode, but more recent models make the P, A, S and M shooting modes available for adjustment. All adjustments made remotely are displayed on the smart device’s screen, giving you direct feedback. It’s not exactly instant, because the image data is heavily compressed, but delays should be no more than a second or two.
Wireless remote control is great for wildlife photographers because they can place the camera in a spot close to where animals and birds will be and trigger the shutter from a remote location. Being able to see exactly what the camera ‘sees’ on the smart device’s screen lets you shoot at exactly the right moment to record the subject.
Adjusting the lens focal length on the camera via a slider on the connected smart device. (Source: Olympus.)
The touch screen on the smart device displays a shutter button that can be used to trigger the camera’s shutter release. (Source: Olympus.)
While installing GPS receivers in cameras was in vogue a year or two ago, some manufacturers have stopped doing it because they are too power-hungry; they decided it’s better to use the GPS receiver in the photographer’s smartphone instead. Once the two devices are connected and their times and dates are synchronised, it should be possible to transfer location data to images in the camera and have it recorded in the image metadata. Positional information may also be used to update the camera’s clock while travelling across multiple time zones.
An app in the smartphone records where you’ve been during the day. Then when the camera is connected, this data is transferred to the images via Wi-Fi and embedded in the image metadata. Once a day’s log is synched, the app can display a map showing where you’ve been with pinpoints indicating where pictures were taken.
Excerpt from Compact System Camera Guide.