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DIGITAL CAMERAS: Know your wireless options
Posted by Arne Hess - on Friday, 05.07.02 - 02:28:00 CET under 09 - Thoughts - Viewed 6998x
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"Communication is Cult", a sentence always used by my previous chief and that's what I usually use all my mobile devices (from my mobile phone to my Pocket PC to my Pocket PC Phone Edition) for. For sure you can use your Pocket PC for other things too like word processing but personally I like to use it for communication like E-Mail, SMS, Instant Messaging and other stuff. Also mobile phones can be used for other stuff as communication only today like PIM and games but I still use it mostly for voice for sure, as a modem for my Pocket PC, for SMS or even E-Mail access. In future I will use it for sure more and more for MMS but until the operators has launched MMS and interconnects it, it will takes time; but E-Mail is something all my friends and relatives has today.

However, a SMS and even voice can not transport the feelings of a situation and in Germany we say "A picture says more than 1000 words". So why not using a digital camera also for communication? As we've learned from British Telecom, wearable technologies has the potential to create a completely new marketplace and digital cameras are one of BT's top 5 products in this area; but what's your wireless options today and what's the strength and weaknesses?

For my column I took 3 of my digital camera devices I'm using regular but while I used it regular, I've noticed that all of them has different strength and weaknesses. Non of it was the best solution for every requirement and situation.

The three Candidates
Digital Camera Canon Digital Ixus series
as an example for all digital cameras

Instantly recognizable as a member of the Digital IXUS family, with a stylish stainless steel and aluminum body, the Digital IXUS 330 continues to be the camera of choice for users who desire the best in function and form with style.
Integral to the Digital IXUS 330 is a 2.0M pixel CCD with a f2.7, 3 x optical zoom lens (35 - 105mm, 35mm equivalent).
Extending beyond still photographs, the Digital IXUS 330 can capture movie clips for up to 30 seconds with full sound and can be played back instantly on the camera's LCD monitor and speaker.

NexiCam Digital Camera for the HP iPAQ Pocket PC
as an example for all camera accessories for Pocket PCs

It's the NEX best thing the HP iPAQâ„¢ Pocket PC becomes a digital camera - ideal for business and personal use. Quickly upload photos to your desktop or laptop and access full-color photograph images (24-bit SVGA. 800x600).

T68i Sony Ericsson CommuniCam for Sony Ericsson T68i

A unique snap-on camera for your T68i. Connect CommuniCamâ„¢ MCA-20 to your Sony Ericsson phone, take a picture of where you are and send it as part of a multimedia message or as an e-mail attachment. You can save between 14 and 208 pictures in the camera depending on picture size.

Okay, so far so good. Every of the three candidates can snap pictures and some of them can even record some short video sequences; but the difference - at least for me - is in the convenience.

Candidate 1 - Canon Ixus series
Today's digital cameras, like the Canon Ixus' snaps great pictures and the modern models can even record video files. The picture resolution today is so good, that you can even use it for prints and you don't see much differences to classic cameras. With its zoom lenses and built-in flashes, you can use it for every occasion. The pictures are stored on different kind of storage cards (the reason to bought an Ixus for me was because it stores the pictures on a CF card which can be used on Pocket PCs also) and some models has infrared to beam pictures from the camera to a Pocket PC or Notebook computer.
However, the stand-by time is also limited on digital cameras and they need a recharge pretty more often than classic cameras.
Digital cameras are not so handy which means you don't take it day in day out with you. So I take my camera with me only if I'm joining events like Birthdays, Congresses or others. But if I'm in my car on a trip, mostly I don't have my digital camera with me to snap pictures of interesting situations.
Also it doesn't works directly with my Pocket PCs or mobile phone. It's a stand alone solution, it makes its job - and this pretty good - but that's it. If I want to use any pictures or videos, I have to take the storage card and put it into my Pocket PC.

Candidate 2 - NexiCam Digital Camera for the HP iPAQ Pocket PC
The NexiCam is designed to work with any HP iPAQ. It takes pictures and can also record short video streams. It doesn't came with a built-in flash, like all camera accessories for Pocket PCs today and also doesn't includes optical zooms but a digital zoom only. It is more limited in the picture resolution and for sure you can not use its pictures for prints. It's designed for the digital world only. Other digital cameras for Pocket PCs can be used even for streaming over IP (something I hope to see on the NexiCam also soon) but also the NexiCam interacts with the Pocket PC. The iPAQ screen is the view finder and you control the whole camera through the iPAQ. Expect the manual focus, there is no logical on the camera, everything is handled on the iPAQ, including picture storage. It's not handy enough to be carried every time, like with the Canon Ixus, you need to know before if you want to make pictures or not. CF camera cards are even better but also this cards are forgotten often or if the card is with you, you don't have the Pocket PC or at least an necessary jacket with you.

Candidate 3 - Sony Ericsson CommuniCam
Like the NexiCam, also the CommuniCam works with an attached main device only, in that case the Sony Ericsson T68i mobile phone. So the CommuniCam includes a small piece of application software and storage space for pictures but the whole functionality is included into the mobile phone. It also doesn't came with a built-in flash and doesn't has a zoom - not optical nor digital. However it's small and fits in every pocket, not only into the jacket pockets and you can carry it with its strap around the neck. It's not designed to make high quality pictures but for communication only. It's handy enough to be carried day in day out with you and is available every time you need to make a snap shot.

Picture Qualities and Options
Below you find the same motive taken with the different cameras. As I've said before, a picture says more than 1000 words. All images are original and not modified as it came from the camera (all thumbnails, expect the CommuniCam MMS sized picture, are clickable to get the original size and quality):
Canon Ixus

640 x 480
196 KB - 0,98 €
640 x 480 with optical zoom
197 KB - 0,99 €

800 x 600
116 KB - 0,58 €
800 x 600 with 2x digital zoom
78 KB - 0,39 €
192 x 144 AVI Video
7,20 MB
192 x 144 AVI Video with 2x zoom
6,64 MB
Sony Ericsson CommuniCam
640 x 480 (L)
38,1 KB -  0,19 €
320 x 240 (M)
10,7 KB - 0,05 €
160 x 120 (S)
5,67 KB - 0,03 €
80 x 60 (MMS)
2,76 KB - 0,01 €

As you can see above, there are major differences between the different pictures. It begins with the color quality but even same sized pictures has different file sizes.
While the Ixus pictures are the sharpest and the colors looks most natural, the NexiCam pictures has unnatural colors and it's also not sharp.
Interesting are the CommuniCam pictures as they looks more natural as the NexiCam pictures and also the picture quality isn't so bad at all!

However, if we are talking about wireless communication - what this site is about - not less important is the file size. If you use GPRS, which is billed per KB, the file size might be even more important than the quality, at least if we are talking about sending a snap shot only. For sure the results of the Ixus looks best but if I would transfer it wireless it would costs you something around 1,00 € while the smallest CommuniCam picture costs you 0,01 € (All prices are rounded and based on O2 Germany's standard GPRS prices: 10 KB = 0,05 €). However, the AVI videos would costs up to 37,00 € so we shouldn't think about video telephony via GSM/GPRS networks today!

On the other hand we have also the convenience. I'm not talking about professional photographers like on the past FIFA World Cup, they snap their pictures for sure with a pro camera and send it with notebooks to the editorial but if we are talking about the kind of consumer snapshots like from a party or vacations, you don't want to handle this inconvenient. Here, the NexiCam and CommuniCam are in the advantage! While you have to take the memory card from your Ixus and have to put it into the Pocket PC, to attach it there to an E-Mail; you can attach it to an E-Mail right from the Pocket PC with the NexiCam solution as it is already stored on the Pocket PC. However, if you wrote your E-Mail and you are not a happy owner of a Pocket PC Phone Edition or at least a Bluetooth enabled Pocket PC and mobile phone you have to connect both through infrared or cable to send away the picture. Easier is it with the CommuniCam, just make the photo and the T68i asks you what to do with the picture - if you want to save it or send it right now. If you select sending you are asked if you want to send it as an traditional E-Mail or better as a MMS message. MMS works a little bit like PowerPoint slides, you can add pictures in a row and add even sounds (recorded life too) or additional texts (see an example on a Pocket PC here).
From taking the picture it's just 2 clicks to send it away wireless to any E-Mail account in the world or even better - from the technology perspective - through MMS.
However, also the Pocket PCs have a bright future here because there are several MMS clients announced or in development and with a service like this, Pocket PC cameras might become a new hype.

  Digital Camera Pocket PC Camera Mobile Phone Camera
Battery Life - - +
Picture Quality ++ - -
Handling - - +
Usability ++ + +
Spontaneously -- - ++
Fun - + ++
Connectivity -- + ++

Final Conclusion

First of all I have to admit that nothing compares to Digital Cameras like the Canon Ixus - if you are looking for high quality pictures to use it later for prints or even on web sites. But it's handling is not so easy. First you need to switch it on, than take the picture, now moving the storage card to the Pocket PC, create an E-Mail, connect the Pocket PC to a mobile phone, dial in into the mobile network and send it away.
With a Pocket PC solution like the NexiCam you can save the first steps; however, you still have to create an E-Mail and connect your Pocket PC with your mobile phone/mobile network.
But both solutions has one weakness: you can not do it while you are walking. Using a Pocket PC on the move isn't really convenient at all.
With the most limited camera of all, the attached mobile phone camera like the CommuniCam it's different. Its aim is to be used spontaneous (also because a mobile phone is mostly with you while there are situations where not to take the Pocket PC with) and wherever you are you can use it (except locations like aircrafts or hospitals where mobile phones itself are forbidden). As it is designed for mobile communication its easy to use even while you are walking. But the biggest advantage is that a mobile phone uses a keyboard which can be used on the move (and that even blind). Also Sony Ericsson's idea to provide different pictures sizes is pretty tricky as you can send just a small snapshot of a location or a larger picture with more details, depending on how much you want to pay for the transfer.

So for me it's cleat how I will use the three camera types in future:

The CommuniCam will be with me mostly wherever I go and I will share my impressions with my friends right from where I'm.
My Canon Ixus will be in my Pocket for sure whenever I go to congresses or other business (PPCW.Net) related events but also for family events where I will need prints later on.
For the NexiCam I'm irresolute. My Pocket PC is with me pretty often too but the overall quality isn't such good that it can replace a real digital camera. And because of this weakness, maybe the CommuniCam is enough. However, for video telephony through Wi-Fi I would like to use it for sure!

Cheers ~ Arne


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