The tech that's changing photography - and it's just getting started

Wi-Fi, NFC, and Bluetooth are giving our cameras the facelifts they need

Canon

10 years ago clunky digital cameras were used to take a few pictures in the hope you had something decent when you looked later on the laptop. Photos were still locked to the device, the film replaced with a memory card that was useless until connected to a computer.

But in recent years they've been come technologically-imbued marvels, opening up new avenues of photography, sharing and even revenue for professional photographers.

The addition of Wi-Fi, NFC and Bluetooth chips inside even mid-range cameras means that whether you want to watch live footage from a pro-snowboarder's action cam or control your snapper with your smartphone, connected cameras have broadened photography's horizons.

With the help of our resident expert, we're here to look at how connected cameras are shaping the world of photography, and how they might adapt again to alter the way we take and share photos forever.

Quick photo transfers

Sharing your photos used to be a laborious process. After a day of snapping, you'd go home, wire your camera up to your PC, and twiddle your thumbs waiting for photos to transfer. Only then could you email them to friends and family or post them online if you could be so bothered.

Connected cameras cut out that wait entirely. Wi-Fi cameras have internet access if they're in range of a router or hot spot, allowing you to transfer photos straight to your phone or laptop with no fuss.

The Canon 750D, one such camera, allows for automatic uploading to social media through a suitable Wi-Fi access point, and can also beam photos to your smartphone, prompted by tapping them together through the near field communication (NFC) chips embedded in both.

Samsung Galaxy Camera
The Samsung Galaxy Camera

Nikon's new D500 also features always-on low-energy Bluetooth that can share an (admittedly lower-quality) version of your snaps with your smartphone instantly should you be out of range of Wi-Fi, so you can post it online using your phone's data connection.

The Samsung Galaxy Camera range went one further by running on the Android operating system, and featured 3G and 4G, giving you Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat at your fingertips.

However, the tech giant hasn't updated the range since 2014, so the progress of mobile-connected cameras is something people are watching to see how (and if) it will progress, given users would need another mobile contract and a decent data bundle to use it properly.

And beyond instant uploading, cameras connected to other devices offer new ways to interact with the high end photography equipment.

Remote shutter release

Most connected cameras – including Nikon's D5500 DSLR and its COOLPIX compact range – allow photographers to use their smartphone as a remote release for the camera's shutter through their Wi-Fi connection.

That's useful for a number of reasons, the most obvious of which – and the most popular – is selfies. Set up your DSLR, strike a pose, and tap your phone to snap your face in all its high-quality glory.

But it's also useful for long-exposure photography, be that shots of stunning nightscapes or flowing water scenes. They both require a separate remote shutter release anyway, so why not do it with your phone?

Canon
Even better if you can use your smartphone

It's especially helpful when you don't want to get too close to the action but still need cracking shots, as Rod Lawton, TechRadar's camera channel editor explains. "Let's say you're photographing sport. You set the camera up, retreat to a safe distance, and work it from there," Lawton says.

The same could be said of photographing wildlife: instead of disturbing whatever animal you're trying to capture by crashing around in the bushes, set up your tripod and wait away from the action for the perfect moment.

But it's not just the remote shutter that's improving sport, as connecting up our cameras has similarly improved photography from sporting events - and even given photographers a chance to enhance their income.

Sports photographers, as Lawton explains, have cameras that can beam shots instantly back to photo editors in comfy studios. "A lot of professional photographers are using Nikon or Canon pro DSLRs," he says.

"They have quite powerful Wi-Fi connections, but they can also plug directly into Ethernet cable sockets. The faster you can get it back [to your editor] the better. If you make it instantaneous, you've got the scoop."

Seeing the action live

Action cameras (strapped on to extreme sports lovers to give a real-time view of what they're seeing) have become hugely attractive since they've added connectivity into the mix,by allowing users to stream footage live.

GoPro teamed up with streaming app Periscope just last month, and users will be able to switch broadcasts between their phone and action cameras on the fly.

GoPro

But the popular action camera brand wasn't the first to try it: Android-based Sioeye's Iris4G launched back in December, offering live streaming over LTE. The Sony HDR-AS100V Action Cam also includes the same feature, posting updates to Facebook and Twitter whenever you start filming.

The benefits are there for both those using the cameras – sharing their live footage with friends, family – and for sports fans, who now can enjoy the prospect of riding along in real-time with their favourite skier, snowboarder, or skater.

Keeping you safe

Away from the glitz and glamour of WiFi, 4G, and live sports, connected cameras can also silently keep you safe: smart security cameras have been pouring onto the market over the last couple of years and are becoming cheaper and more usable all the time - we're a world away from the 'one frame of fuzzy monochrome image every 10 seconds' of a few years ago, as that was all common yesteryear connections could handle.

As a base level, these cameras film your home while you're away, and alert you if they detect any untoward movement. Withings Home streams 1080p video at 30 frames per second direct to an iOS or Android app, and sends you stills from its 5 megapixel lens if it detects movement or sounds.

Withings Home
Withings' Smart Security option

Similarly, Nest Cam streams sharp, 1080p HD video from inside your home to your computer, phone, or tablet, and offers cloud storage and face recognition if you're willing to cough up a little extra each month.

Panasonic announced Nubo last year, which doesn't even need a WiFi connection to work – it will transmit 720p video to your smartphone over 4G even if the power's out, provided you've paid for the data package.

It's a growing market, and one that will keep on adapting and improving as connections in the home increase (crime, after all, never sleeps).

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