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For cameras and camcorders, CES 2014 brings more Wi-Fi, wearables, 4K, fewer models

At this year's show, we learned that wearables aren't just for fitness and phones, action cams are plentiful, and camera lineups are thinning out, and that's probably for the better.

Joshua Goldman/CNET

LAS VEGAS -- More Wi-Fi, more NFC, wearables, and fewer traditional cameras and camcorders. That pretty much sums up CES 2014 for digital imaging and video.

If you own a smartphone and haven't picked up a regular camera in a long time because of it, you're probably not surprised that CES didn't have a ton of camera news. However, because of smartphone adoption, camera and camcorder manufacturers have finally stepped up wireless features, giving consumers more reasons beyond zoom lenses and resolution to buy.

In fact, every camera and camcorder mentioned in the rest of this story has built-in Wi-Fi and in several cases NFC. Wireless features alone won't stop declining sales, though.

The traditional consumer camcorder market tends to follow whatever is trending with TVs. At CES 2010 and 2011, 3D TVs were big, and so we saw the first wave of 3D consumer camcorders. This year more 4K TVs were introduced, and in turn there were consumer 4K camcorder announcements. Panasonic even announced a 4K wearable action cam (though it looks a little ridiculous).

The number of traditional camcorders being announced at CES has been rapidly shrinking for the past couple years. This year, Canon announced just three models and they were little more than firmware/software updates. JVC had only two camcorders at the show, but they are rugged, weather-resistant Everio models, so that's cool at least.

If there is any growth in the camcorder market, it's in niche models. For example, Canon announced the Vixia Mini X, a personal minicamcorder targeting buyers who want to self-record and need better audio. It has improved built-in stereo mics from the original Mini and external mic and headphone jacks with manual level control. It also records in AVCHD at 24 frames per second with linear PCM audio.

Canon's Vixia Mini X targets musicians and bloggers with its high-end audio features. Joshua Goldman/CNET

Action cams were plentiful, too. The market leader, GoPro, announced its latest Hero models at the end of 2013, but it had a large booth to show off the cameras and its ever-growing mount and accessory lineup. Sony used CES 2014 to introduce the AS100V Action Cam, which targets potential GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition buyers with broadcast-quality high-bit-rate video, time-code recording, and a pro color mode. Liquid Image also showed up with the first mountable action cam we've seen that can live-stream video over a 4G LTE network, the Ego LS 4G LTE.

Though the line between them is thin, joining the mountable cameras at CES were a handful of wearable cameras. Both categories still seem to be growing and it should be interesting to see if the market can actually sustain multiple players doing essentially the same thing -- allowing you to easily capture hands-free video or photos primarily designed for sharing online.

As for still cameras, it was a pretty tame year. Past shows have usually had a smattering of interesting cameras, but it seems like manufacturers are perhaps saving those for the relatively new CP+ show that takes place in Japan in mid-February. Or maybe not and they're just slowing down their production cycle in response to declining sales.

Nikon announced the D3300 entry-level dSLR (video) with a new collapsible 18-55mm kit lens alongside a 35mm f1.8 FX lens. Nikon also took the opportunity to reveal the upcoming D4s by putting it in its booth at the show. Unfortunately, no other details were available.

Camera manufacturers have typically used CES to announce their point-and-shoots, but either they held back this year or the shrinking market is finally shrinking their models. There were three models worth checking out though: the weather-resistant megazoom Fujifilm S1, the 60x zoom dual-grip Samsung WB2200F Smart Camera, and the Canon PowerShot N100, which puts the lens, processor, and sensor of the PowerShot S120 enthusiast compact into a camera made for family memory keepers.

So, in the end, while it wasn't a terribly exciting CES for cameras and camcorders, it didn't disappoint, either. But I'm still not buying a wearable camera for lifelogging.