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Back to School: Do Wi-Fi Enabled Cameras Make the Grade?
by Allison Johnson -  7/31/2012

Look at you, ahead of the curve and already crossing items off your back to school list - such an overachiever.  Should you add one of the many Wi-Fi enabled cameras in stores to your shopping cart? Wi-Fi enabled cameras promise to do, well, what many of us have always wanted cameras to do: upload photos straight to the web for the admiration and "like"-ing of all our friends and family. And if you lose that little USB cord that connects your camera to your computer, no big deal. Your camera can transfer images without it.

But it's not as simple as that. These connected cameras have some limitations that should be considered before you jump right in. Here are a few things to consider, both good and bad, before you enter the world of connected cameras.

Do Your Homework
More and more cameras are appearing on the market with a "Wi-Fi" label slapped on the box. Not all wireless cameras are created equal. Read up on the manufacturer's website about the wireless networking capabilities. Is there a compatible app for your smartphone? Does it store passwords for often-used wireless networks? Can you post directly to Facebook? Make sure you understand the fine print.

Realistic Expectations
Let's be honest. WiFi cameras today have come a long way, but they're generally not as fast as your notebook, tablet or phone in getting your photos to Facebook. The process of snapping a photo on your phone and firing it off to twitter is much quicker. In many cases, you're trading quality for convenience when you opt to use the phone. If you're willing to be a little patient, and if it doesn't bother you to carry one extra device around in addition to your phone or tablet, then carry on.

A Comprehensive Approach
Wi-Fi is nice, but make sure you're picking a camera that meets all of your needs in terms of zoom, video quality and ergonomics. With more cameras offering Wi-Fi, there are a variety of point-and-shoots with different feature sets available. If you're picky about image quality, pay close attention to the lens and sensor specs. If sticking to a budget is the priority, you'll find cameras around $200 that will likely satisfy your criteria - Panasonic's upcoming Lumix SZ5 comes in at a very reasonable price. Need to let unleash your creative side? Samsung's WB150F has plenty of in-camera processing modes. Shop around and check out all of the options.

What You Really, Really Want
Last of all, consider that maybe you don't need a point-and-shoot with Wi-Fi capability. If your phone is going to do the trick with all of the photos you want to share quickly, then maybe you're better off saving your pennies for a brand new interchangeable lens camera. Or maybe a rugged point-and-shoot will serve your needs better. After all, if you leave the camera at home rather than bring it poolside or to a party where it might be damaged, you're missing out on picture-taking opportunities altogether. An Eye-Fi card might just do the trick in getting your photos to your PC without the use of any cords if that's the priority.

As with any camera purchase, decide on a price point and prioritize your list of desired features. With a little research and some consideration, you'll be at the head of the class.

Take a Look at the rest of the TechnologyGuide Back to School 2012 Special Report