New Nikon cameras speak Wi-Fi

No. 2 camera maker unveils two new Coolpix models that tap into consumer need for instant gratification. Photo: Wi-Fi in a snap

Nikon on Thursday unveiled what it says are the world's first built-in Wi-Fi-enabled digital cameras to hit the market.

The Coolpix P1 and P2, on sale Sept. 15 and priced at $549.95 and $399.95, respectively, can transmit images to PCs or printers via 802.11b and 802.11g-compatible wireless networks.

Nikon will sell an adapter for $49.95 in October that can connect the cameras to printers equipped with PictBridge technology .

Wi-Fi camera

The 8-megapixel P1 and the 5-megapixel P2 measure 3.6 inches by 2.4 inches by 1.5 inches, weigh 6 ounces and sport a 2.5-inch LCD screen. The new cameras can also record video at a rate of up to 30 frames per second with a choice of seven movie modes. Sound records in six of those modes.

Cameras that use wireless connections to upload pictures or to print photos aren't new. Many models use Bluetooth technology to get the job done , but only a handful of companies are investing in Wi-Fi to connect cameras to other devices.

Earlier this year, Kodak began selling its EasyShare-One camera with an optional 802.11 Wi-Fi card.

Nikon said it's hoping the convenience of wireless will help bolster digital-camera sales, which several market researchers forecast will hit $39 billion by 2009.

Currently, 9.7 million digital cameras were sold in the United States in the first half of 2005, a healthy 20 percent more than were sold during the same period last year, according to Framingham, Mass.-based research firm IDC.

But New York Times writer David Pogue isn't so sure Nikon will hit paydirt with its new Coolpix models. In a story published Thursday, Pogue assesses the P1, hailing the concept but saying that Nikon has "a lot of work to do...with the wireless element.

"The camera," he writes, "can't connect to a computer or printer until you first install the software on your computer, connect the camera through its USB cable, walk through a series of setup screens and name your connection (or, as Nikon calls it, your profile; the camera can memorize nine of them).

"This process is far more technical and jargon-laden than it needs to be; in fact, the whole ritual should be unnecessary. Why can't the P1 auto-detect and auto-join wireless networks the way palmtops and laptops can?"

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