The Eye-Fi line of wireless wifi memory cards has been around for years. Until recently, they were viewed as gimmicky novelties not suitable for serious photographers. The original Eye-Fi cards only worked with jpg files and were very slow. With the introduction of the Pro X2 card, Eye-Fi added wireless N networking transfer, RAW file support, and iOS apps to allow files to be transferred to an iPad or iPhone without the need for access to a router or Internet connection. Theses new features made the cards viable for professional photographers who wanted to add wireless capabilities to their cameras without spending the $1,000 plus typically charged by Canon or Nikon for their wireless modules.
The Eye-Fi cards come with a dizzying array of features including:
- Wireless uploading of images and video from camera to a computer or the Internet.
- Endless memory-basically an upload and delete feature.
- Upload on the go via AT&T hotspots if used with an annual subscription.
- Geotagging of images when used with an annual subscription.
- Direct mode upload to an iOS device like an iPad or iPhone.
It’s important to keep in mind that the Eye-fi is not a standalone product that connects your card via wifi. When you buy an Eye-fi card, you are buying into an entire system which, for better or worse, requires you to register your card on their website. Some services such as geo tagging and hotspot uploading are subscription services requiring an annual fee.
This article will focus on wireless tethering using the iPad. Professional photographers sometimes need to work with art directors, stylists, designers, and makeup artists. The ability to review photos on the larger screen of an iPad is a tremendous asset in the creative workflow allowing other members of the creative team to see results immediately. Until now, there were limited options. One way is to shoot tethered via usb cable attached to the camera but that restricts the photographer’s freedom of movement and slows down the pace as image transfer is often slow. Another option is to add a networking module to the camera but Canon’s wireless module cost over $1,200. The last resort is chimping but the camera’s lcd is too small to accurately evaluate photos for focus and other details.
By pairing the Eye-Fi card with an iPad, a photographer can get nearly instant feedback on photos. Images recorded on camera are transferred to the iPad allowing for a much better view as the shoot progresses.
Setting up the iPad app is not a simple or intuitive process. It involves the following steps:
- Create and register an account on Eye-Fi
- Download and updating the firmware if applicable
- Enabling Direct mode networking in Eye-Fi Center on your desktop
- Download the iPad app
- Log in to the iPad app
- Add the Eye-Fi card as a network to the iPad app
- Disconnect your iPad from your current wifi network and connect to the Eye-Fi card’s network. The Eye-Fi card creates an adhoc network without the need for a router.
Problems you may encounter
Eye-Fi provides step by step help here but even when followed perfectly, it may not work or only work intermittently. There are a few show stoppers to be aware of.
- Direct Mode networking is an alternative to private network. Unless you are out in the middle of nowhere, you are likely already connected to your local home network. To enable direct mode, you must first go into Eye-Fi Center on your computer and remove any connectable private network under Network-Private Network (check the network and click remove).
- The Eye-Fi network may not show up to allow you to connect your iPad until you first take a picture. Snap a picture and it should show up as a selection on your iPad. Connect to this network and then go to the Eye-Fi app on the iPad.
- In some cases, RAW files may not show a preview. If you require RAW files, shoot RAW+JPEG.
- Check the compatibility of your camera model. Some camera bodies block the wifi signal severely or entirely. When shooting, keep the iPad as close to the camera as possible. In test with the Canon SD800, I was able to transfer files from about 20 feet away but obviously your results will vary.
Conclusions and recommendations
Overall, the Eye-Fi Pro X2 is a powerful wifi SD card with lots of promise. It has an overwhelming array of features and it is this broad range of features that creates some of their support issues. The desktop and iOS software are not intuitive and non-linear. The documentation can use a lot of work. Performance is decent transferring a 7 megapixel jpeg image in about 10 seconds. There is no impact on there camera’s performance as the transfer occurs. For this specific task of previewing and transferring images from camera to the iPad, the Eye-Fi Pro X2 may be the only game in town until Toshiba starts shipping the FlashAir wireless LAN SD card in April of 2012. If you have a need for this feature, I recommend purchasing from a vendor who allows returns and of course, check the camera compatibility chart before you buy.