Wireless Transfer from Your Camera!
This little-known company, “Eye-Fi” produces a unique set of products. You just plug an Eye-Fi card in your digital camera and take a picture.
The picture file is then wirelessly transmitted (no cables are needed) from your camera to your computer! It is of great use in studios and also for teaching photography where you can instantly see the results on your computer monitor without removing the memory card from the camera or connecting the camera itself to a computer with a USB cable. In fact, this device is at such a cutting edge of technology that it has won many awards including one from the well-known magazine “TIME”. Also, this product is the recipient of Popular Science’s “Best of CES 2011: Product of the Future” Award.
What it does is amazing, but what is really extraordinary about it, is the fact that the Eye-Fi card is externally indistinguishable from a conventional SD card. It has exactly the same physical dimensions and can be inserted into any normal SD card slot. Within this lies the magic! Not only does the card function like a conventional SD card with 8GB of memory but it has a complete Wi-Fi interface built in, including an antenna for transmission! Computer techies can note that this card is fully compatible with Ethernet 802.11 b/g/n standards.
The Eye-Fi card is supplied with a very nicely made card reader. Once again there is more than what meets the eye, as this is no conventional card reader! In fact, it holds the complete driver software for the computer. All the components (card and the card reader) are packaged nicely in an attractive carton. However, the manual is very brief and there is not even a soft copy of it as no CD is supplied. Help information is only available online. The model Pro X2 card reviewed here is the top of the line model offered by Eye-Fi.
The first and foremost prerequisite is that you need a computer (desktop / laptop) with a Wi-Fi interface. This is a must. To use the Eye-Fi card you need to set up your computer and the Eye-Fi card too. The process is easy though. First enable the Wi-Fi interface on your laptop, activate your Wi-Fi router and make sure that the Internet is connected. Now, insert the Eye-Fi card in the supplied card reader (not any card reader) and plug the card reader to the USB port of your computer. Thereafter simply follow the instructions that appear on the screen of your computer. One of the important points in the setup is that you need to identify the Wi-Fi networks that you want the Eye-Fi card to communicate with. For example these could be your home network, studio network and so on. For safety, Eye-Fi card will upload using only these networks. You can predefine as many as 24 such networks and it is easy to add or delete networks.
After this you can remove the Eye-Fi card from the card reader and insert it in your camera. That is all to it and you are ready to go!
As you photograph, the images captured by your camera will be transferred to your computer through your Wi-Fi router. The Eye-Fi software automatically creates folders in your computer (in the “My Pictures” directory) named after the date and images are stored date-wise in these folders. You can also set up the card in such a way that it will transmit the images directly to a social site like Flickr or Facebook. Even videos can be uploaded.
The Eye-Fi card can be set up in an alternate way called “Endless Capacity” mode. In this mode the images are not transmitted immediately. Instead the Eye-Fi card stores them and waits till it gets filled to a particular level of capacity say 50% (this number is easily programmable through the setup procedure). Only then are the images transmitted and are later automatically deleted from the Eye-Fi card once a confirmation is received that the upload has been successful. This way the card never gets full.
There are a number of other issues that you should be aware of:
File Compatibility: Eye-Fi produces cards in several varieties. They have capacities ranging from 2 GB to 8GB. All support the transfer of JPEG and video files but only the Pro X2 model allows the transfer of RAW files.
Compatibility: One question you are likely to ask is – will an Eye-Fi card work with any camera? Well, it will not work with any camera but it will work with quite a few of them (provided the camera has an SD card slot). I tested it with a Panasonic TZ-3 P&S camera and a Nikon D90 D-SLR. You can visit the Eye-Fi site for a complete list of compatible cameras. There are hundreds of them – all types, viz. P&S, Bridge (prosumer) and D-SLRs are supported.
Latest cameras like Nikon D7000 in fact recognize the presence of Eye-Fi card and will even display on their monitors an icon when pictures are being transmitted.
Internet connection and Ad Hoc connection: Normally, for the Eye-Fi card to work you need a Wi-Fi router and an Internet connection. The card uploads photographs to your computer only through the Internet. There is also a mode called an Ad Hoc mode (supported only by the Pro X2 card) where the camera can communicate with your computer without a router or Internet connection but this mode is difficult to set up.
Also, firewalls and other security software can give problems as they may prevent Eye-Fi card transmission from being received by your computer. If this happens you need to consult a system administrator to sort out the issues.
Eye-Fi specifies a range of 45 feet indoors and 90 feet outdoors. In practice I found that the performance (speed of transfer) is excellent till about 20 feet indoors when there is direct line of sight between the camera and the router. Also, cameras with metal bodies can even further restrict the range because they can reduce the signal strength. Remember that the antenna is inside the card. Opening the memory card door of your camera can sometimes help.
Many cameras shut off power (to reduce drain on the battery) if there is no activity for a specific time period. This is generally less than a minute. This could cause problems as the transmission can stop in the middle if the camera powers itself off. More advanced cameras have this time programmable and should be set to several minutes so that transmission goes on uninterrupted. Once again, many cameras like Nikon D90, D7000, Canon G12, etc. recognize the presence of an Eye-Fi card and will not switch off when transmission is in progress.
Wireless transmission consumes power. Expect the battery to rundown by about 25% faster than when you are using a normal SD card.
The Eye-Fi card is physically identical to a run-of-the-mill SD card and can be handled just as easily. No special precautions are needed. First set it up and then simply insert it in the SD card slot of your camera just as you would insert a conventional SD card!
A 12MP D-SLR JPEG file that was 4.62MB in size was transferred in about 30 sec. This is the time from the instant of shutter release to the point where the file appeared in the directory listing. The memory part itself can record images fairly fast and is rated as a Class 6 device.
This is a product that can provide a Wi-Fi interface to hundreds of models of cameras which otherwise cannot be Wi-Fi enabled. Many major manufacturers are providing special features on their cameras to support the Eye-Fi cards. It is comparatively less expensive to the custom (and perhaps more efficient) solutions provided by manufactures who provide Wi-Fi interfaces for their pro D-SLRs. The Eye-Fi company produces wireless cards in several versions. The prices range from $45 for a 4GB version to $150 for the “top of the line” 8GB Pro X2 version. The lower end cards are economically priced and unless you are interested in RAW format and Ad Hoc connection, are a better value for money.
This product as of today has really no competition. If wireless transmission is what you want then this is the ticket. The main difficulty I expect, is that certain amount of computer network knowledge is needed for setting this up. The transmission of RAW files was very slow though JPEG file transfers are reasonably fast. On the whole a very unique product.
Inside the box: Eye-Fi card, Card Reader, Instructions and Warranty booklet
Eye-Fi Pro X2 Wi-Fi Card Specifications
Form Factor : Identical to SD card
Memory Capacity : 8 GB
Memory speed : Class 6
Wireless Range : Up to 45 feet indoors
and 90 feet outdoors
(maximum). Depends on
environment (see text).