Our latest test group of digital cameras includes more wireless cameras than ever before. Here are some of the features and differentiating factors you'll want to be aware of, if you're thinking of trying one out.
Not all wireless cameras are created equal. In the past, the wireless technology built into digital cameras did not vary much, although the interfaces may have looked different: You connected to a Wi-Fi hotspot, selected the photos you wanted to transfer to your computer, and then hit the Send button.
Today, some wireless models are more complex than others. Take the Nikon Coolpix S800c, which was the first camera to include an Android-based interface. You can download any type of app onto your camera and customize it in ways you might not have thought possible. For instance, you can now shoot a photo, edit it, add text or a virtual frame, and post it on a social networking site without ever needing to download the photo to your computer, the way you would on a smart phone.
Wi-Fi is being built into different types of cameras. Previously, all wireless cameras were basic point-and-shoots, mostly subcompacts. But now, more are shipping with longer zooms; the Coolpix S800c, for one, has a 10x optical zoom. But camera manufacturers are also making advanced cameras with built-in Wi-Fi. For example, the Sony NEX-5R, a 16-megapixel SLR-like model, is one of the first advanced models we've seen with wireless features.
Just as on smart phones, wireless features tax battery life. Every leap forward in technology has inevitable downsides. In the case of wireless technology, it's important to note that wireless features built inside a camera--including GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth--can drain its battery more quickly. So be sure to read the manual and find out how to turn off those settings when you don't need them. Or, if you have an Android camera, look for an app that helps you manage your power consumption.
For the details on Wi-Fi models, and other new cameras, check out our latest digital camera Ratings.