Two years ago, I was on my way to Finland and was sitting in Stockholm airport when a guy named Erich Hugo tweeted at me and talked to me about cricket and what some of his mates were working on — a startup that made connected products including a connected camera. A sucker for both — cameras and connectedness (though not cricket as much these days) I stayed in touch with him and heard from him the updates about the camera.
Today theQ, a Stockholm, Sweden based lifestyle products company (that Hugo introduced me to) is releasing the TheQ camera, a 5-megapixel camera (available in nine colors for $199) with a 24mm wide-angle lens and a f/2.4 aperture that has 2 GB of integrated storage and 3G connectivity — just add a SIM card — and allows you to take and publish photos directly to your social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Google+, Flickr, email and Tumblr (but no Instagram.) That’s one of the reasons they call it the first Social Camera.
TheQ camera has a 2.7-inch display and is waterproof up to 3 feet. The camera has a manual focus lens and three pre-set capture modes for automatic camera control. The diminutive device comes with unlimited online storage space courtesy of theQ and has something called theQ light, a low-level ring flash built into the camera design that enables users to take beautiful photos at night. It also comes with nine software filters.
Photos are social
“With over 500 million photos uploaded and shared daily, more than double the amount from two years ago, the market is ripening for socially connected devices,” theQ CEO Steven Christensen said in a press release. While I agree with his thesis, that the market is ready for connected devices, I wonder if theQ camera is a little underpowered for today’s market (though I like their premise of shoot-and-share.)
The modern smartphone cameras have become amazingly good and are getting better. Most importantly they are the camera which are always in our pocket and as a result the photos taken by my iPhone, and occasionally by a Samsung Galaxy S4, have a sense of immediacy which is not there on other non-connected cameras. Smartphones are a good way to snap and load photos to social networks — there photos need not be perfect but need immediacy.
Now compare this with more traditional non-connected cameras. I have a couple of cameras — a Sony RX-1, a Sony RX-100 and an old Lumix — and I lament the lack of connectivity in those cameras, for the photos I take on those cameras as a result lack the immediacy. I end up coming home, downloading the photos to my computer and then playing around with them on Lightroom and sharing them very rarely on my personal blog. Sometimes I forget that I took photos all together.
Where there is a camera, there needs to be connectivity
And that is why connectivity on cameras ranks pretty high in my books. The big brands are waking up to the influence of social networks and connectedness and some have added Wi-Fi to their cameras but it still is early days. Samsung tried its hand with an Android-based camera and at best I can describe it as “meh.”
So, from that standpoint, theQ camera team has an opportunity to make a dent in the low-end of camera market. While $199 is a low enough price, they are competing with smartphone as a camera. So as a company they need to take a good look at their roadmap and then at the roadmap of mobile phone makers and figure how best they can get ahead or on par with the handset cameras. And at the sometime they need to embrace the wider web — from storage services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Weibo or whatever — and use the device software as a strategic weapon. They need to add Wi-Fi sharing and Bluetooth 4.0 LE to allow me to use the phone as connected device option as well.
That said and despite the shortcoming I am buying the Berry Fields model – it does sound tasty and looks quite cool. And connected and I am a sucker for startups building consumer hardware — we need to take a chance on these guys or live in a world of slow moving dinosaurs.