Nikon releases Android-powered compact camera

Nikon S800c
Image caption The camera can upload images to sharing sites as well as browse the web and download movies

The first mainstream digital camera to be powered by Google's Android system has been released by Nikon.

The Japanese company's point-and-shoot Coolpix S800c model is being marketed as a "social imaging device".

Demand for compact cameras has suffered because of the rise of smartphones.

However, Nikon says its latest model offers superior picture quality thanks to the size of its lens, as well as the opportunity to install photo-editing apps and other software.

A statement from Nikon said the combination of the camera's wi-fi connectivity and new software would make it easier for users to upload their shots to social networks.

"Just like a smartphone or tablet device, the camera has the opportunity to run camera-specific photo and video applications, yet enables the various benefits of shooting with a camera," it added.

"The S800c provides access to a vast world of applications for games, productivity and personal communication/email, including Nikon's photo storage and sharing site."

The device is being marketed for $350 (£220), making it about half the price of top-end Android smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the HTC One X - but one analyst said Nikon might struggle to take advantage of the fact.

Image caption Nikon's D90 SLR is more popular than any of its point-and-shoot models on Flickr

"The challenge for the camera manufacturers at the lower end is that smartphones have become so capable, so a product like this may just be too late to the market," said Martin Gill, principal analyst at Forrester Research.

"In most developed countries mobile phones are now ubiquitous and smartphone use is rapidly becoming mainstream as well.

"People carry them wherever they go, so a point-and-shoot camera will only ever be an add-on product they would also have to take with them."

Android SLRs?

Statistics from Yahoo's Flickr photo support the idea that many social-network users are opting for either smartphones or high-end devices.

Its list of the five most popular devices includes two Apple iPhones, two single-lens reflex (SLR) models from Canon, and one SLR from Nikon.

But the editor of the UK's Amateur Photographer magazine, said the launch should not be dismissed.

"This may help the firm grab a bigger share of a diminishing market," said Damien Demolder.

"But what we may see next is that this kind of technology spreads into other manufacturers products in both the compact market and, in time, in SLR cameras as well.

"Some of the added functionality will be useful to serious users. Advanced in-camera editing is really missing from the market at present - the ability to install and use progams will make being creative so much easier."

Tech site Engadget reported in March that Samsung was also considering installing an "open" third-party operating system on some of its cameras, but had yet to make a decision.

Google does not charge third-parties to use its software.

However, Microsoft does demand a licence fee for patents it owns, which it says are involved in Android technology.

Neither Microsoft nor Nikon were able to say at this time whether they had struck an agreement.

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