Kodak To Add Wi-Fi Features To EasyShare

By Greg Scoblete On Jan 6 2005 - 8:00am

Fresh off encouraging news from the market research firm IDC, which put the camera company within 10,000 units of displacing long- reigning Sony at the top of the category in the third quarter, Kodak hit CES with its first Wi-Fi camera and printer dock in addition to several new cameras and a portable image viewer.

Kodak's EasyShare One will be the capstone of a new generation of EasyShare digital cameras and was positioned by a company spokesman as a transition product, moving the category from “point and shoot” to “point and share” photography. It will work with an accessory Wi-Fi card (pricing not available) which lets the camera connect to home and public 802.11b networks.

The company will offer a firmware update in the third quarter of 2005 to permit direct connections via hotspots that require WEP key authentication.

Once Wi-Fi-enabled, the camera can connect to Kodak's Ofoto Web site for uploading and e-mailing photos or for wirelessly transferring images to networked devices. Consumers can also view existing Ofoto albums on the camera's 3-inch touch screen LCD but the camera cannot connect to third-party photo sites, the spokesman said.

The LCD, which can fold out from the camera's body, is also designed to double as a digital photo album. The camera offers 256MB of internal memory —the most yet in a consumer camera — for displaying up to 1,500 digital images. The camera ships with a stylus for the camera's touch screen menu.

The 4-megapixel Easy-Share One also offers a 3x optical zoom lens, scene modes and VGA movie capture at 30 frames per second (fps). At a suggested $599, the camera will be Kodak's highest priced model in several years. It ships in the spring.

The same Wi-Fi card employed by the EasyShare One can also connect to the existing Printer Dock Plus, allowing it to both wirelessly transfer pictures from docked cameras as well as wirelessly print photos from the EasyShare One camera. Kodak will also update its free EasyShare software to enable Wi-Fi transfer and synchronization.

The company also added a new ultra-zoom series to its EasyShare camera lineup. The Z-series will ship in February and be packaged with the company's new Series 3 printer dock. The bundle will be billed as a Digital Photo Solution.

The 5-megapixel Z740, for a suggested $499, features a 10x optical zoom, a 1.8-inch LCD screen, electronic viewfinder, 17 scene settings, and automatic and manual exposure modes.

The 4-megapixel Z700 will sport a 5x optical zoom, multiple scene modes, and automatic picture rotation for a suggested $399. Both models are PictBridge-enabled.

The Printer Dock Series 3 bundled with both cameras will ship as a standalone item in the spring at $149.

Kodak will offer the EasyShare Picture Viewer in May for a suggested $149. The viewer is approximately the size of a credit card with a 2.5-inch LCD screen. It can hold 75 photos internally and uses SD memory for storing additional photos. It ships with a USB cable.

By pressing the red share button on the viewer, users can designate photos to be automatically e-mailed or printed whenever the viewer is docked to the Printer Dock Series 3. The device is also PictBridge-enabled and incorporates a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which provides up to three hours of picture viewing when fully charged.

All of Kodak's new introductions will be compatible with the recently announced Imagelink standard for printer docks and cameras. Imagelink members include Konica Minolta, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, Ricoh, and Sanyo. The standard allows them to manufacturer cameras that can connect to Kodak's printer dock, in addition to their own printer docks.

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