I’m always astounded by the number of people, photographers included, who haven’t heard about Eye-Fi. Yet, when I explain the product they are, without exception, excited (in fact when I told one person he immediately rang his brother who then bought one).
Eye-Fi are SD cards with a difference. The difference is that they have WiFi built in, allowing instant uploading of photos. In the case of the top-of-the-range Pro X2 they can do much, much more as well.
They look no different from a “normal” SD card, except for the orange coloured plastic that they’re constructed from. They look no bigger, have no buttons or blinking lights, and come in the usual range of capacities (I have the 8GB version). Only their increased price give away that something is amiss.
Most cameras don’t provide power to the SD card when turned off and, even when switched on, often have aggresive power settings to get the most life out of the battery. As a result the Eye-Fi can struggle, as it needs power from the camera. Thankfully, there is a camera list on the Eye-Fi website listing workarounds to any issues – in my case, my Nikon D40 has a particularly dislike of the card (with power savings turned off, leaving my camera on after use will usually ensure any uploads occur).
As well as a manual the Eye-Fi comes with a neat SD card reader that plugs into a USB slot. This is needed as desktop software is needed to interface with the card and set it up. The Eye-Fi Center software, available for both Windows and Mac, is easy to use and allows you to manage any picture uploads. You can also, as mentioned, configure the card – such as providing your Wifi settings or updating the firmware.
Android and iOS Apps also exist and you can choose to have your photos uploaded to one of these devices instead, if you wish, for quick previewing “on the go”. The Eye-Fi card will even transmit the photos directly to your device.
Here’s how it works… the card will attempt to connect to a known WiFi network. If it can’t connect then it will wait until it can. If it’s to your PC and that’s turned off, it will send the photos to servers belonging to Eye-Fi. As soon as your PC is turned back on Eye-Fi Center will then download them from the servers. Photos are only stored on Eye-Fi servers for a short amount of time, but you can pay a subscription to increase this. You can also configure the software to upload copies elsewhere – in my case they go to my Picasa web albums too – and inform you when the uploads have been done via Twitter, email or Facebook.
All Eye-Fi cards also sport a featured known as “endless memory”. This has to be switched on to work but will delete photos off the card once they’ve been uploaded, ensuring that it’s pretty hard to fill the card.
In my case I have my PC as my upload location. The Eye-Fi App on my Android phone allows me to upload any pictures taken on that device to Eye-Fi Center.
The Pro X2 model provides 2 further options – Geo-tagging using WiFi positioning and RAW upload ability (you can only upload JPG files on the other models). The Geo-tagging works great and is a great addition if your camera can’t already do this. You also get a year’s subscription to assorted WiFi hotspots – allowing you to upload whilst out-and-about. Alternatively, if you’re already signed up to any of these services then you can identify them to your card via the provided software.
I’ve had my card now for 10 months an can honestly say I’ve loved it. To fit all of that technology into that card is amazing. However, at £74.99 it wasn’t a cheap decision. Now, though, you can get the same card for £54.99 from Amazon, and that definitely makes it a lot more palatable. If you don’t need RAW uploading and Geo-tagging then you can save even more with other models.