on June 14, 2013
First the good news: as a camera, this is fantastic. It takes beautiful pictures, and the low light performance and image stabilization are incredible. I've taken pictures in dimly lit rooms at full 20x zoom without a tripod, and they come out crisp and flawless. The operation is simple and intuitive, and go from fully automatic, to automatic with "tweaks", to scene selection and finer control.
In addition to the incredible zoom, another extremely nice feature that was once unavailable at this price is a 10 shot burst mode, which can go at 2 or 10 frames per second. Very handy. [Update: I recently used the burst burst to photograph some break dancing street performers, and got some truly *amazing* shots].
I could go on, but I honestly don't think you'll get better pictures from any point and click on the market in this price range.
Now for the thing that cost them a star. Built-in WiFi is the "new thing" in cameras, and it was one of the things that sealed the deal for me on this camera. I'd guess in a couple of years they will have worked out all the bugs. Unfortunately, however, they're not there yet. WiFi is so new in this camera that it's not discussed in the manual. They have a special little instructional insert about it with *extremely* limited information.
There are two ways to use WiFi. The first, and most useful, is to send pictures directly to a smart phone, to upload to FaceBook, email, etc. To do this, you go to playback mode, click "menu" and tell it to send pictures to the camera, then select the pictures to send. The camera then sets up its own hotspot, which you connect to with your phone and then use a special app to copy them.
Here's the problem, at least on an iPhone: because the hotspot is not a fully functioning WiFi server, the phone sees it as a limited function connection and will eventually switch over to another server if it's available, which will interrupt the transfer. That means that if you try to use this feature with a known server nearby, you have to *tell the iPhone to forget that server first*, or the transfer will fail after a picture or two. If the server has a password, it will be kind of a pain to reconnect. Once I solved this problem (by trial and error), it worked fine and the pictures copy directly to the camera roll, from which you treat them just like pictures taken with the phone. I think this problem is ultimately due to the stovepiped architecture in iOS, so it might work better with Android.
One additional warning: by default pictures are transferred at a lower resolution in this mode. You have to go into settings (on the phone, not the camera!) to enable full res. transfer.
There's a variation on this mode which allows you to control and view the camera with your phone. That might have a few niche uses (some of them rather unsavory!).
The second way to use Wifi to send your pictures directly to your home computer, much like a wireless scanner does, but it appears to be undocumented. You go into the settings menu and connect to your local WiFi server. Then, the first time you connect you camera to the computer with a cable, one of the virtual "disks" which appears will lead you to software to download to configure that computer to receive images wirelessly from the camera. After that, when you're on that wireless network, you can go to the menu and send all pictures to that computer. This works OK, but sometimes the app hangs at the end after the transfer is complete. Since I'll be at home already, I'll probably just use the cable. [Addendum: I've discovered that this mode is *very* unreliable. When transferring a large number of pictures, it will often fail part way through. I strictly use the cable connection now].
Bottom line: fantastic camera, but if the Wifi functionality is important, consider waiting a year or so until they iron out the bugs.
Ironically, if the camera hadn't had WiFi, I probably would have bought it anyway and given it 5 stars.