Fujifilm gets that cameras are social devices

After continuing on his fruitless anti-megapixel campaign, David Pogue’s review of the vividly colored Finepix Z (as in Generation) touches on a topic I wrote about two and a half years ago in Switched On — the difficulty in sharing photos on the spot with others, say, at a party.

Fujifilm has enabled these cameras to beam pictures to each other the way early Newtons MessagePads and Palm Pilots could beam virtual business cards (this was quite the geeky spectacle at Macworld Expos after the Newton was launched although there’s really been no replacement for exchanging digital contact information). Pogue lays out the scenario:

Think of those group shots where you all have to stand like statues so that every single person’s camera can take the same shot. Think of the times when you were performing or speaking and somebody else took a picture–a picture you’d love to have for yourself. (Or maybe you were the photographer, and the other guy asked for a copy.) Think of the time you captured some amazing event with your crummy little point-and-shoot camera, while the guy next to you took a much better shot with his expensive pro camera.

Most people cannot share photos on the spot. Some people scribble down (and later lose) an e-mail address or use a Web photo gallery as an intermediary. It would be so much better if you could just share a photo with someone else’s camera right now, in person, and cross that to-do item off your list.

How very David Allen. Of course,  a more awkward and primitive version of photo sharing is built into some digital cameras today via the inclusion of integrated flash memory. Assuming another camera uses the same memory card, you can pop it into your camera, choose the photo you want, and copy it to the internal memory of your camera.

With SD a common format among many consumer camera brands (even now for Fujifilm), this is more feasible than ever, although I’ve never seen anyone do it nor have I ever done it myself (partially since I tend not to use digital cameras with integrated flash memory).

Using an updated version of the IrDA spec callled IRSimple, two Finepix Z cameras can beam full-resolution images to each other with three button presses and within three seconds. Satisfied with the experience, Pogue says, “Let’s hope IRSimple catches on.”

Let’s not. This is a nice feature for such an inexpensive camera, but in another year or two, we’ll have more cameras adopting Wireless USB , which should be an order of magnitude faster and more convenient than this. What I’d really love to see is the ability to “subscribe” to other cameras at an event and automatically get their pictures as they’re taken.

I can see how this would eat up memory card space and, more importantly, battery life, especially if my camera was publishing photos as well as subscribing. Perhaps a battery-powered hard drive somewhere in my camera bag could suck down others’ pictures at the touch of a button.

Such photo proliferation would help create a de facto backup system using the same distribution of resources around which the Internet intself was created.

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