Wi-Fi in cameras: an inevitable step into the future and lack of features in the present
Although cameras with a built-in Wi-Fi module appeared on the market relatively recently, the technology itself was available on many camera models and much earlier, through external modules or Eye-Fi cards . Nevertheless, it cannot be said that the presence of a Wi-Fi module in the camera somehow specially captivated photographers. This looks strange, because cell phones with a wireless interface, for example, caused a real wave of excitement when they first appeared on the market. The then reviews of fashionable gadgets were teeming with phrases like “An unremarkable model, but she has attention! “THERE IS WI-FI!”, Forcing users to swallow saliva and save money. But nothing similar happened with cameras.
The answer to the question “Why?” lies on the surface; for most, a smartphone or laptop is a device for extracting ready-made information, while a camera is a tool for creating it (or rather, converting it into a form required by human perception). And as you want to eat more often and more variably than growing food, so devices for providing access to information should be freer from binding to specific conditions than equipment for making content. Using the previous analogy, it is easier to carry a spoon, a fork and a glass with you than a hoe, a cultivator and, in particular, a cow shed, although both of these groups of objects have the most unambiguous relation to a delicious dinner.
Nevertheless, the Wi-Fi interface in cameras is step by step advancing its position to meet the requirements of the camp of broad user masses. There are several reasons for this: universal “Wi-Fi”, and the emergence of applications that allow you to control the camera through a smartphone or tablet with a large screen, and an increasing desire for convenience when copying files from the camera, and even the growing popularity of social networks and instant messaging services. The mirrorless camera boom that I wrote about earlier also plays a beneficial role in the process of spreading Wi-Fi technologies, as the camera is becoming less and less a mechanical device, and more and more a computer , with typical modern requirements for this class of devices.
I would like to say a few words about the diverse use of Wi-Fi when working with modern cameras. I would like to. And it will turn out - an attempt to answer, including to ourselves, the question of why we don’t rush into the store for “Wi-Fi” cameras, and disconnect the existing Wi-Fi module in a squeamish mine in 75% of cases: this, they say, has nothing to do to photography, and in general, the mechanical “Watering Can” and the S-41 process are our everything, and well, you and your digital photo ... We say something like that. And what do we really think about Wi-Fi? And most importantly - why do we think so ?!
Remote control path
The idea to use the screen of a smartphone and, especially, a tablet as a control screen of a modern camera is very attractive. However, a person has only two hands, and both of them are required to work with any of the mentioned devices. Consequently, the camera controlled from the tablet must stand on something or at least be in the hands of the photographer’s partner (in 99 cases out of a hundred, the partner behaves like the dumbest of the partners who have ever defiled the Earth with their presence) . It does not take a lot of imagination to imagine what inconvenience this alignment causes.
Another thing is professional video shooting, when the camera, screen and a bunch of other devices are mounted on a tripod or, in the worst case, on a special body kit fastened on the shoulders around the place that videographers consider to be the waist. With the help of such a kit, you can collect a cool film set, no worse than that of Hollywood operators. However, the benefits of a Wi-Fi connection here immediately becomes very conditional, since the devices are close enough to each other to fasten them with wires and not get knocked out.
Another application is shooting from an ambush, from a pre-prepared position and the like. This borders on militarism, but makes Wi-Fi control very applicable in practice, especially if you pick up a tripod for the camera that can be controlled by a separate widget at the same time as the camera (I heard that there are such tripods, but I haven’t seen them on sale , not even in the reviews).
I will not consider the specific application of Wi-Fi control circuits, such as launching drones with wireless-controlled cameras,. In the best case, this occupation lies quite far from the field of artistic and even documentary photography. The appearance of radio-controlled probes is undesirable in most places where for one reason or another there is nothing for the living photographer to do.
Once we were on an ichthyological expedition in Southeast Asia, and a wild buffalo suddenly ate my friend’s camera with a wonderful collection of expeditionary photographs. It was an excessively curious, rather polite and completely non-aggressive buffalo, but, nevertheless, the Nikon P5000 forgotten on the grass disappeared into her stomach. It's not a joke; such stories do not happen so rarely. A unique collection of pictures of the biotope of rare fish - spherichthys - disappeared forever inside the damned stupid cow, half an hour more contentedly mumbling over its gluttony and stupidity.
Until now, recalling this incident, I think that if we had Wi-Fi, everything could have turned out differently. If the camera that got into the scar of the buffalo were not damaged by anything, we could access the pictures using any handheld device. Moreover, we would have pre-dumped these images daily into the remote storage, without really worrying about the presence of the Internet in the jungle. Transferring pictures to a laptop using a wired interface was a very difficult task, and there is nothing to say that in the middle of the expedition, when rain and mosquitoes were the very essence of our being, we did not always have time to do this. Since then, getting into such conditions, I always think about a dustproof camera with a good Wi-Fi module, and it would be nice to use GPS too. (Yes, I know about Canon 6D. Thank you. I have Nikon.)
But, in principle, and in the most urban conditions, the wireless transfer of images to the storage is cool! Firstly, it’s not enough what will happen to the card (it’s not without reason that in the most “serious” camera models they put 2 slots for cards and provide configuration options for very various recording schemes on them, such as organizing a RAID1 array). Secondly, it’s always nice to receive a picture and immediately process it, or even dump it on Instagram, to the delight of familiar hipsters. Thirdly ... however, what am I saying here? I’m not a marketer, but the amount of advertising for Wi-Fi modules promoted on the market is gradually starting to go off scale even in the most serious magazines. But we are talking about serious everyday tasks, and not about the marketing advantages sucked from the finger!
Naturally, wireless communication with the goal of pumping data can help in thousands of situations, but the main one is the ability to quickly drop data to a safe place before a technological failure occurs, the guards visit with a ban on shooting, or some other such unpleasant event. We should not forget about backing up images as such; in particular, if the developers of my highly respected Handy Backup fulfill their recent promise and will soon update the Android client, the connection between the smartphone and the Wi-Fi camera can be a very useful working tool for me. Distribute and send pictures for backup right in the process of shooting - the charm of this opportunity will be appreciated by anyone who knows the essence of the expression “shooting day”.
Social networks and publications
I have already touched on the topic of quickly uploading photos taken to social networks and a variety of messaging services, since these operations can be considered as a form of backing up images. But this phenomenon has another aspect: instant publication.
I did not work as a photojournalist in the literal sense of the word, but I have often heard and read that in this lesson, everything is often decided by the seconds during which a news agency (or independent blogger) dumps the freshly recovered Great Revelation of the Season onto its website. Things like the new blouse Kate Moss or the ball scored by the Brazilians from the corner into the throat of the goalkeeper of the Argentine team, just can not keep the audience waiting! And so the race begins with shaking hands: a photograph - a memory card - a laptop - a call to the editor - publication - copyright ... Having Wi-Fi connection does not eliminate the horrors of this process, but it optimizes it significantly (as well as in-camera JPEG of decent quality, for example) .
At the same time, social networks are not so demanding on speed, but many users still need the opportunity to urgently post just taken pictures from anywhere in the world in their cozy diary, providing them with an appropriate commentary in the style of “Katya, Seryoga, we already we’re sitting by the fire, the kebab is fried, come to us! ” (Here, by the way, the GPS / GLONASS module will not prevent Kate and Seryoga from accidentally getting lost.) In other words, this is not about speed, but about the comfort and reliability of communication. Some companies, for example, Samsung, already integrate directly into the cameras the ability to merge raw images to the cloud storage and / or social networks for photographers.
In a word, for gadgets, casuals and amateurs to keep pace with the times, having a device in their pocket or two, Wi-Fi is becoming, as advertisers say, an actual trend. But, unlike the two previously described applications, which were, in fact, an intimate affair of camera manufacturers and users, the “household” use of built-in Wi-Fi requires a developed infrastructure. Social networks should be adapted to receive streams of photo content, their interface should further meet the requirements of touch control, and even the cameras themselves ...
What do we expect from cameras with Wi-Fi (instead of conclusion)
It should be noted honestly that the functionality of the Wi-Fi interface in the camera is much more dependent on the software “body kit” than on the very fact of the presence of a wireless module in the camera.
In this sense, the giants of the computer industry are again ahead of the monsters of the photographic industry. Canon and Nikon are just “swinging”, although they have had Wi-Fi devices in the functionality of their systems for a very long time, and Sony and Samsung, it seems, have not yet attached their wireless protocol only to a chip that is built directly into the photographer’s brain.
And yet, Wi-Fi remains an unpopular feature among us photographers. So what are we, in the most literal sense, waiting to master this technology on a daily basis, as we have already mastered smartphones, digital players, TV set-top boxes, and, in fact, cameras with a digital sensor?
At a minimum, cameras should learn to save battery when working with Wi-Fi; modern compact (in the sense of dimensions, not the class of cameras) models already allow us to take about 300-400 shots from a single charge, or even less, as a standard. The connected Wi-Fi module reduces this value by one and a half to two times. It would be nice to also improve the interface for selecting and transferring pictures; the touchscreens that appeared on many cameras are still quite small and dark, and twisting and pushing the wheels requires a habit.
A bigger dream is an affordable controlled turret for the camera, which allows you to turn a camera installed at a distance into a radio-controlled module. Such a turret should, in a good way, be controlled from the same application as the camera itself. However, with the advent of such devices on the wide market, I foresee a surge of paranoia, especially among employees of the private security company, owners of trading stalls, as well as all sorts of celebrities who have reason to fear arrogant paparazzi. (The scandal with the photo of "Max Fry" has not yet been erased from the memory of generations, oh, it has not been erased!)
Well, at the modern level, Wi-Fi in the camera is more likely a toy than a serious appendage to the camera’s functionality. However, this has already happened with many things, from a 35 mm film to contrast autofocus. And all this has become mainstream. Most likely, Wi-Fi is waiting for the same thing, because the camera is a computer, and computers, like all communication technologies, in our unsettled society are developing so far in the “wireless” direction. Well, wait and see!