Technology launch events are fun. In fact, according to me, they are the last source of real amusement that borders on pure comedy. Apart from the fact that you get to see some really cool devices, it's the add-on entertainment from the sidelines that comes with the people you meet. First, of course, are the brand ambassadors (at the last three events I've met Bill Clinton, Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif - but enough gloating about my amazing life) who of late have been doing a great job of adding more than just glamour to the proceedings. This is far removed from the tech launch celebrities from a few years ago who would wear short dresses, plunging necklines, pouty smiles and as an add-on bonus, have zero knowledge of the device they were launching. And to prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt, they would either hold the product from the wrong side or claim that they've used the device for more than a month and love it but then not know how to switch it on.
The warring factions
But much more than the celebrities, it's us, the journalists that are even more fun. There are now two distinct factions at all tech events. The conventional tech journalist (TV, magazine, newspaper) and the new breed (blogger, online columnist, tech aggregator websites) and the divide is quite obvious. Before the event starts, a little game of one-upmanship is played out (who got which gadget to review first, strong opinions, putting down bad products - the bloggers win outright) but it's when the event starts that all hell breaks loose. The onliners (for want of a better word) hunt down the Wi-Fi password (worth its weight in gold), start setting up numerous gadgets and devices (the average minimum is about four), are very tense, have a perpetual frown and are all set for the mad frenzy to have the first picture, first tweet, first news, first report, first review out.
The conventionalers are more relaxed but become tense as they start questioning themselves as to whether they are doing a good enough job, considering the hyperactivity around them. Some obscure questions to company reps, a very mundane lunch (it's almost always the same menu irrespective of the venue), a press kit-cum-goodie bag (something distinctly tacky) - and the fun is all over! I have always sat on the other side of the fence, relaxed and marvelling at the activity around me - but at the last few events I decided to go to the dark side. I would report the event in real time!
The only rule I devised was that I wasn't going to fall prey to carrying extra gadgetry (you have to see the arsenal of devices some onliners carry) with me to do so. The weapon of choice to achieve this was going to be device that could take pictures as well as share them without going through a transfer to a computer. Thus, I had only two choices.
The case for camera phones
This is the obvious choice, but not necessarily the correct one. While smartphones are perfect (they have Wi-Fi, 3G plus all the apps you need) for taking a picture and sharing it straight to Twitter, Facebook, a live blog or even email - it's what you're sharing that seriously suffers. Most events are staged in dark places with very melodramatic lighting and most of the activity takes place on a far-off stage. You need a camera that does good low-light photography, can optically zoom in at great distances and also do good colour separation - pretty much the three things that every camera phone totally sucks at.
While the optics on a camera have improved dramatically in the last two years - they still aren't a match for dedicated cameras. Plus if you use your camera phone as a dedicated sharing device - you're going to be out of battery within an hour. Thus the obvious and easy choice was out.
These are the new hot ticket. Everything great about standalone cameras (optical megazooms, nice big sensors, greater control over aperture and light, real image stabilisation, fast burst mode, interchangeable lenses) plus the ability to connect to Wi-Fi and wirelessly transfer photos and videos. There are now cameras that can send them anywhere you like, including dedicated cloud services, as well connect directly to a computer and transfer photos fast. There are many that can use the direct connect Wi-Fi feature and connect to a tablet or laptop and remotely control the camera; where your tablet's screen becomes your viewfinder.
Some of the better ones I've tried in the last few months are the Samsung Galaxy camera (Android-based, super innovative but images aren't as good as expected), Sony Nex 6 (fantastic image quality but Wi-Fi set-up can be fiddly), Panasonic Lumix DMC-SZ5 (very well-priced but the Wi-Fi is slow), Canon 320 HS (tiny, fast, idiot-proof but requires you to use Canon's cloud service. Duh!), Nikon S800c (good images, Android-based, poor battery, very slow) and the upcoming Samsung NX300 mirrorless camera (retro design, interchangeable lenses, 3D shooting and currently the most exciting in this category).
Should you be buying a Wi-Fi camera?
I'm currently totally sold on a Wi-Fi camera and wouldn't buy one without it. I can't even think of using a USB cable or to go through the drudgery of popping open a slot, extract an SD card and transfer photos to a computer to share. A camera with faultless Wi-Fi is a perfect sharing machine and one that gives great flexibility. I strongly believe that all cameras from here on should come with idiot-proof Wi-Fi, backed by easy-to-use features, to make full use of that ability. Is there a Wi-Fi camera in your future? As I look into my Wi-Fi enabled crystal ball, a resounding yes is what I'm getting.
Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3
From HT Brunch, March 17
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