I was checking out some of the latest mass-market cameras at Best Buy the other day. It had been quite a few years since I bought any new camera equipment (my Nikon D70, so that gives you an idea) and so I was quite amazed by the current offerings on sale and the progression in camera technology over those years.
As an old film guy I clearly remember considering the cost of film and developing before deciding whether to put a specific image on film or not. I also clearly remember shipping the canisters off for processing and waiting a couple of weeks for the pictures to be returned before deciding whether I had got “the shot” or not. (On one west coast trip I had 35 rolls to process when I got home!)
But that all changed with digital. The technology now allows us to take as many pictures as we want at no cost, and with no waiting. We can see right away if the picture is any good, delete those that aren’t, and perhaps still have an opportunity to retake a better image. The sniper shot that was the hallmark of the serious amateur has become a Gatling gun.
Then some bright light decided that a good place to put a camera lens was in a telephone (I know, what could they have possibly been thinking?). Now anyone who has a cell phone is, by definition, a photographer as well.
And so cameras are now ubiquitous. The technology is on computer monitors, laptops, in tablets, on cell phones, and the list goes on. And the really cool thing about much of the new technology is its tight integration into our wider technological sphere. You can post pictures directly from your smart phone or tablet camera to Facebook or MySpace, send them via email, or store them in one of the cloud-based services. Your camera has become an integral part of your internet.
But for all that there was still a problem - device-based camera image quality could never match that of a purpose-built camera.
The Nikon Coolpix S800C is representative of the latest generation of ‘smart’ cameras. First and foremost a camera, design attention has been paid to image quality and usability as a camera. And then it has been loaded up with a nice screen and the Android operating system so it is also a smart device. Granted you’ll still need a phone, but for all the other features this little Nikon (or one like it – there are several competing products now or soon to be on the market) is well up the must have list for the semi-serious motorcycle photographer. Consider the benefits: small, pocket sized; no need to carry a tablet or laptop to share pictures with distant friends and family; you can check e-mail and browse the web through the built in Wi-Fi ; and play Angry Birds when waiting out a nasty thunder storm under a freeway overpass.
I expect it won’t be long before someone adds voice (cell phone capability or perhaps a Skype-type interface) to a smart camera but I don’t think it’s worth waiting for that; this little beauty has everything I need for a convenient, compact travel cam.
(No, I’m not employed by Nikon; I just like their gear.)