Can Samsung’s SMART cameras compete with the camera phone?

samsung wifiSamsung is showing off new additions to its camera lineup at CES, telling us that this year we’re going to see fewer products and more focus on their individual features. And they didn’t lie: Samsung only had a handful of devices for us to get our hands on, but plenty of new platform changes and applications to tell us about.  

samsungThe releases include the ST66, ST77, WB850F, WB150F, DV300F, and ST200F. Samsung told us their cameras will have a minimum 5x optical zoom, which both the ST66 and the ST77 have. The other three respectively boast a 21x, 18x, and 10x optical zoom lens and capture with a 12 megapixel sensor. Additions like Live Panorama, filters, and HD video are all brag-worthy, and Samsung seems to have given this lineup a lot of thought. The build quality is also better than we’ve seen from Samsung before. 

But what’s really noteworthy is the brand’s built-in Wi-Fi and cloud-based photo sharing. Auto-share isn’t really notable anymore, and something we’ve called gimmicky in other cameras. Generally, we’ve seen it paired with entry-level, extremely basic point and shoots that try to market how Facebook friendly they are in replacement of specs that actually matter. But Samsung has built a system in these quality cameras and done more than just integrate a Facebook or Twitter link.  

It’s more like including the Internet into your camera, perhaps as some push-back against what’s become a very challenging smartphone camera market. The SMART camera line not only easily shares these photos to the ever-popular social sites, but it includes 5GB of free cloud storage to Samsung’s AllShare Play and Microsoft SkyDrive (a Samsung rep couldn’t tell us how long this 5GB would be free however, but for now it is). Users will be able to connect their cameras to their computers, tablets, or smartphone quickly and easily. 

Which solves some pain that the camera phone-reliant many may feel: storage. Whatever exists solely on your phone (which is plenty) is at risk. Consumers–many of them–don’t back up this data, and there are all too many ways you can lose it. 

It’s quickly going to become an uphill battle to fight against the tide of the smartphone camera. Point and shoots are soon going to feel the pain, and outfitting units with higher specs and accordingly higher prices is the way to go. Bottom of the barrel models, however, are going to suffer and perish. Samsung’s cloud-based cameras are a step in the right direction, one of the first commendable steps toward connected devices. For some reason the whole market has gone connected and “smart,” but cameras have held back universally integrating this. Samsung seems to be interested in focusing on connecting everything in lieu of releasing more units, which is a risk but one we think is worth taking.