Offloading digital stills

Smartphone cameras have improved over the years, but even budget digital cameras take better photos than high-end smartphones. The main reason phone photos have proliferated on the internet is because it’s still sufficiently annoying to get data off an SD card. People (including me) forego the superior image quality to avoid the comparative hassle of USB cables and memory card readers.

The camera is better
Photos taken with a cheap Sony DSC-WX50 camera (left) versus a Nexus 4 (right). Camera £98, phone £279.

Meanwhile even phones from years ago with awful sensors can effortlessly get images onto the internet over wifi or 3G within seconds. Automatically, even, with new syncing from Dropbox, Google+, Facebook, and others. Instagram has also become popular on the back of this ease-of-use, not because it improves the photos, but because it makes them look as if their poor quality has some kind of aesthetic intentionality.

The camera manufacturers have started to realize that people want the convenience of wireless. Samsung and Panasonic in particular seem to have added this feature to sensibly-priced cameras, but from what I’ve read, the implementations aren’t great, requiring awful software that usually only runs on Windows. Samsung, of course, has also released a 3G camera running Android, which, while it does solve the problem neatly, is not cheap, and has received rather lukewarm reviews.

There’s also the Eye-Fi SD card, which builds a wireless chip straight into the memory card. But again, I think this requires proprietary software and is not an ideal solution—though it does raise the question of why wifi isn’t in every camera if the chips fit easily enough into SD card.

My method at the moment is a bit roundabout and I discovered it by accident. Basically I put my camera SD card into a USB card reader, which I plugged into an OTG USB cable, into my Nexus 7, just to view the pictures. I browsed to them in the Android Gallery app, and then got a notification that they had been synced to Dropbox as I’d at some point enabled picture uploading from the tablet (which I’d forgotten as I don’t take photos with the tablet). This seems a bit easier, especially at home, where I don’t have easy physical access to the server on which I want to store the photos.

I’d like to hear what others do about this (admittedly small) issue. I was hoping that the Nexus 4 camera would be good enough to solve this problem for me, but it’s still not quite there. Is your phone camera good enough? If not, do you put up with the phone images for convenience? How do you get your images off your digital camera? Let me know in the comments.

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