Guide to Wi-Fi Camcorders

Can camcorders cut the cord?

Pocket Recorders
Wi-Fi Pocket Recorders. David Becker / Stringer 461096884 Getty

Let's face it, unless you have substantial holdings in a cable concern, no one likes wrestling with cables. USB, HDMI, A/V - you name it, the tangle of cords behind our TV, under our desks and around our computers can be a real pain. No wonder that camcorder manufacturers have started to dabble with wireless camcorders that promise to "cut the cord" and transfer your videos wirelessly, without that tangled knot of cords.

Wi-Fi - the wireless technology found in laptops, cellphones, and a growing number of other consumer electronics - has begun showing up in camcorders as well. It's been incorporated into both traditional and pocket camcorders. Here's what you need to know about Wi-Fi camcorders:

What Wi-Fi Camcorders Can Do

Using Wi-Fi, a camcorder can transfer video (even high definition video) to a computer that's on a wireless network. Say goodbye cables! In some cases, a Wi-Fi camcorder can also be recognized as a device on a network - which means that you can stream the video from the camcorder to a monitor, TV or media player to watch it without having to connect the camcorder directly to a viewing device. To enjoy this feature, your camcorder will need to work with the DLNA specification (check the product's specs, DLNA certification will be indicated somewhat prominently on the packaging).

To date, no camcorders use Wi-Fi to directly access the Internet and it's unlikely that any will soon.

Wi-Fi Camcorder Pros and Cons

Outside of removing cables from the equation, there aren't many other advantages to a Wi-Fi camcorder. However, there are a few downsides. First, transferring videos by Wi-Fi to a PC takes considerably longer than it would to transfer those videos via a USB cable. Not only that, but Wi-Fi is a fairly big drain on your camcorder's battery, so you'll have to either have a fully charged battery before you start your transfer or connect the camcorder to a power outlet before you start (here come those cords again).

Cost is another factor. All things being equal, a camcorder with some form of built-in wireless capability is usually going to be somewhat more expensive than a similarly equipped model without.

Is Wi-Fi The Next Big Thing?

Wi-Fi probably won't be hugely popular in a camcorder, simply because HD video files are so large and time consuming to transfer over a wireless network. Faster Wi-Fi technology (so-called 802.11n) will help on that front, but it will take some time before mainstream consumers have 802.11n Wi-Fi networks in their homes.

That said, a fair number of pocket camcorder manufacturers have expressed interest in adding wireless technology to their products, so there's a good chance that a number of pocket cams will be outfitted with Wi-Fi soon.

An Eye-Fi Alternative

If you want Wi-Fi capability without purchasing a wireless camcorder, you can purchase an Eye Fi wireless memory card. These cards fit into any standard SD card slot and transform your camcorder into a wireless device. Any photos and videos you capture with your camcorder can be wirelessly transferred not just to your computer but to one of 25 online destinations, six of which also support video uploads (like YouTube and Vimeo).
Eye-Fi cards offer more than just wireless functionality: you can add geographical coordinates to your videos and upload them to the web via public hotspots too. You can read more about Eye Fi's technology here.

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