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Nikon's latest camera runs Android

Nikon's newest point-and-shoot camera, the Coolpix S800c, is powered by the Android 2.3 operating system.

Story highlights

  • Nikon's new point-and-shoot camera is powered by the Android operating system
  • The touchscreen camera can access the Google Play store and run apps
  • For instant sharing, photographers can use the camera's Wi-Fi or tether it to a smartphone or tablet

The gulf between smartphones and cameras is getting smaller, thanks to a new point-and-shoot camera from Nikon that's powered by the Android operating system.

The 16-megapixel Coolpix S800c camera, announced Wednesday, will be the first camera running Android on the market when it hits shelves in September.

The addition of Android brings a few much-needed features to the point-and-shoot. Users can download mobile apps from the Google Play store and share images over cellular networks by tethering to a nearby smartphone or tablet.

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When phone makers first started adding tiny, low-resolution cameras to their devices, the camera industry was not terribly threatened. They had glorious digital SLR cameras with interchangeable lenses, sleek pocket cameras with large sensors and manual controls, and features like high-ISO for low-light shooting, megazoom, and rugged bodies for the outdoors.

Anyone who loved photos would certainly prefer the high-quality shots captured on "real" cameras, right?

But the camera companies underestimated just how important convenience was to consumers, and the public's appetite for sharing photos of moments right when they happened. The resulting cellphone images were low-quality, but nothing a little sepia-filter couldn't fix.

The iPhone was not the first phone to have a camera, but it made sharing images online, over its cellular connection, a snap. In 2011, more than a quarter of photos and videos were captured using a smartphone, according to a study from research company NPD Group. That number is only getting larger.

The $350 Coolpix S800c is bringing some of what has made those smartphones so popular to a camera. It doesn't have a cellular connection, but it does have Wi-Fi. Wireless connections have been around for a while on cameras, but the addition of Android means the camera can tether to a smartphone or tablet running Android when there's no Wi-Fi network handy.

The 3.5-inch touchscreen display gives users access to the Google Play store, where photogs can go to download more apps for their camera, including editing tools and social networks, such as Twitter, Facebook and, of course, Instagram. The camera can also run all the regular smartphone apps, allowing users to send e-mail, browse the Internet, listen to music and play games.

Like Apple's iPod Touch, it draws the line at making phone calls, however.

The camera has 10X zoom, can shoot 1080p video, and includes GPS and maps for tagging images with locations. There are no manual controls. The S800c is running Android 2.3, known as Gingerbread, which is not the most recent version of the operating system.

That Nikon is the first to bring an Android camera to market is a surprise, since competitors Sony and Samsung already make Android devices and were in a better position to combine the two products. Polaroid showed off a demo camera running Android at the Consumer Electronics show in January, the SC1630, but it isn't yet available.

Nikon's Android camera may be a first in the camera industry, but it's still playing catch-up to the real competitors: smartphones with increasingly higher-quality cameras.

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