Who Knows When?

Since I’ve been such a proponent of modern workflow for digital cameras, I was all excited to try SnapBridge. I originally had booked a college sports track meet shoot to show off the D500 and SnapBridge on the Web site. My goal was to show SnapBridge in real-time use for an event-based shooter doing real production work. 

Unfortunately, SnapBridge was really only available for Android at the time, and despite having an Android phablet to run it on, I found the app not quite up to production standards. Ironically, I could do better shooting with an Eye-Fi card in the camera, and with less back-end workflow, too. Not the opportunity I was looking for.

So I postponed such a demonstration. Indeed, I originally planned to break my August Internet-free pledge if Nikon shipped an iOS SnapBridge that was ready for production use. I can see August just ahead of me now, but no SnapBridge update, so we’ll punt on that, too. When I’ll be able to pull off what I originally intended to demonstrate, I have no idea.

The question now is “what the heck was Nikon thinking?” 

The concept behind SnapBridge is correct, I believe: use Bluetooth for all-the-time connection to preserve power and get lower resolution images over to smart devices. The implementation, however, leaves so much to be desired—even ignoring all the start and stop issues I’ve experienced on the Android side—that this was an opportunity wasted. 

SnapBridge wasn’t ready for prime time when announced. It isn’t ready for prime time six months later. No one knows when it will be ready for prime time. No new camera has appeared with it, and the camera that has been able to use it since introduction could use some cleaning up of its own. (Technically, the Coolpix B500 is now available with SnapBridge; maybe SnapBridge only works with cameras that have 500 in their name ;~)

One thing you should never do in tech is promote technology before it’s truly customer-ready. You end up with so much negative publicity detracting from your marketing message, and that impairs you when you finally manage to make the technology work as expected: people will still remember all the negative stuff. 

Then there’s the issue of workflow. Nikon really wants you to move the images up to Nikon Image Space. All the automation so far points towards that. The more “automated” constructs you pile on top of each other, the more likely that you’ll have something break in trying to use it seriously. Consider: (1) automated Bluetooth transfer from camera to smart device; (2) automated transfer from smart device to Nikon Image Space; (3) convoluted automated transfer from Nikon Image Space to where I want the image displayed.

Moreover, we want images to go to multiple places simultaneously. I demonstrated this to Nikon executives back in 2010. I’d like the ability for an image to go to, say, Facebook/Twitter, to my own image server, to Lightroom, to a list of people that need to see it (e.g. photo editors at publications), and to my Web site. Some of those things are “every image goes there” while others are “selected images go there.” 

What Nikon has provided so far is a not-so-trustworthy-and-battery-depleting sneaker net alternative that might get the image from point A (camera) to point B (mobile device). I mean, how difficult is it to move an image from point A to point B wirelessly? 

No doubt the bigger picture here is a difficult problem to solve. But Nikon isn’t solving even the smallest part of it, despite years of working on it. One problem is the proprietary nature of what they’re trying to do. Unfortunately, the world of images moving across the Internet is a constantly changing scene that requires coordination with the big players, or an open system that those of us that can program can take advantage of.

But enough of that, how about just a working app for everyone? The current information posted on Nikon’s site says “SnapBridge App will be coming to the App Store [sic] Summer 2016.” Great. We’re already past one month into summer. Less than two months left ’til fall. 

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