Eyefi Review: Hands-On With the Mobi Pro 32GB Wi-Fi-Connected SD Card. Wi-Fi SD card reader

Wi-Fi SD card reader

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If you don’t like juggling SD cards and consider Raspberry Pi with Octoprint too difficult to set up, then we might have the right solution for you: Toshiba FlashAir SD cards. There are already various posts about these Wi-Fi enabled cards in the discussion forums and groups. However, we wanted to share our own comprehensive guide on how to get this thing running without any issues. The whole process is very straightforward, and you will be able to upload G-codes wirelessly to your printer in just a few minutes!

Requirements

This tutorial expects that you have several things ready:

  • Prusa i3 MK2 (or newer) 3D printer with the latest firmware. This method can be used for basically any hardware that accepts SD cards, but we’ll FOCUS on our printers for obvious reasons
  • Toshiba FlashAir SD card with Wi-Fi – any capacity, version W-03. This method would not work with W-01 and W-02, because they lack the capability to be mounted as a drive in Windows. Users reported version W-04 does not work either.
  • A computer with an internal or external SD card reader.
  • An existing Wi-Fi network

eyefi, review, hands-on, mobi, 32gb, wi-fi-connected

What is Toshiba FlashAir

Toshiba FlashAir looks like a regular SD card and works like one, too. But in addition to the standard SD card functionality, it has wireless LAN capability embedded, it can be programmed in LUA and it can also control its GPIO pins. Plus, it can publish its contents via the WebDAV protocol, which is exactly what we need.

To have everything working properly, you’ll need FlashAir version W-03. Older versions do not support WebDAV and can’t be used for our purpose.

You can get your FlashAir card for roughly 20-40 USD from Amazon, eBay, and even AliExpress. You can also check your local electronics and photo equipment retailers but always double-check the version of the card. From my experience, they often have old stock of W-02 or even the original FlashAir (W-01, although it’s not written on the card). So beware!

Configuring the FlashAir card

The card’s configuration is done using a text file. This file is named CONFIG (it does not have any extension) and it resides in the SD_WLAN folder. The folder and the file are hidden, so you’ll have to turn on the Show Hidden Files and Folders function in Windows Explorer.

Create a backup of your CONFIG file and name it “CONFIG.old”, for example.

Then replace the contents of the CONFIG file with the following:

[Vendor] APPSSID=your-Wi-Fi-name APPNETWORKKEY=your-Wi-Fi-password CID=02544d535733324740e35b5979010b01 VERSION=FA9CAW3AW3.00.01 APPMODE=5 APPNAME=3D_printer LOCK=1 PRODUCT=FlashAir STA_RETRY_CT=0 UPDIR=/G-Code UPLOAD=1 VENDOR=TOSHIBA WEBDAV=2

You will have to modify the first four values:

  • APPSSID and APPNETWORKKEY are the name and password of your wireless network.
  • CID is your SD Card ID. It’s a long hexadecimal number and there is no need to change it. Copy the value from your old CONFIG file, because the value in the code above is just an example.
  • VERSION corresponds to the firmware version of your card. Copy the value from your old CONFIG file, because the value in the code above is just an example.

The original file can contain more parameters, but they are not important for us at this point. If you would like to know more about FlashAir’s function, you can check the official documentation. Next, there are some optional parameters you might want to tweak, but it’s not required.

  • APPMODE is Wi-Fi operation mode. In our case, we say that the wireless functionality should be enabled and that the card must be in Station Mode (client).
  • APPNAME is the logical name of our card, I named it 3D_printer.
  • STA_RETRY_CT sets how many times the card will try reconnecting to a wireless network upon failure. Zero will set an unlimited number of retries.
  • UPDIR is the path to a folder on the card that allows remote uploads.
  • UPLOAD set to 1 enables actual uploads to the given folder.
  • VENDOR is the vendor of your SD card.
  • WEBDAV set to the value of 2 turns on the WebDAV functionality in read and write mode.

The settings above will enable anyone who is connected to your network to manipulate files on your SD card. If this is not what you want, you need to set up authentication using the HTTPDMODE, HTTPDUSER and HTTPDPASS values. See the documentation for more information on how to configure it.

Also, you don’t need to worry about saving your Wi-Fi password in a plaintext file. Once the card connects to the Wi-Fi network for the first time, the password is then securely stored and it is replaced by asterisks in the text file.

As the last step, create the G-code directory in the root of your SD card. You can now safely remove the card from your computer and insert it into your printer.

Configuring the printer

You basically don’t need to configure anything on the printer. You’ll only have to find out your card’s IP address. Prusa i3 MK2 and newer have support for FlashAir SD Cards and can tell you the assigned IP address if you activate this functionality.

To enable FlashAir support on your printer, go to Menu. Settings. SD Card and select FlshAir. Once you do this, you will see your FlashAir IP address in Menu. Support as “FlashAir IP addr.” Write it down.

eyefi, review, hands-on, mobi, 32gb, wi-fi-connected

eyefi, review, hands-on, mobi, 32gb, wi-fi-connected

The IP address can change based upon your network configuration and connected devices. We recommend using the DHCP reservations function of your router, which will assign always the same IP address to the same device (MAC address). Also, it’s good to set a DNS name for your card/printer if you can. Again, the process is different for each router model and type.

Configuring the computer

You can map the card’s WebDAV storage as a network drive in any supported version of Windows and in other operating systems as well. The following instructions describe how to do it in the current version of Windows 10. FlashAir should be compatible with MacOS as well, however, some users are reporting compatibility issues in newer versions of the OS. Check the manufacturer’s website to see whether your system is compatible.

Windows 10 instructions:

  • Open Windows Explorer.
  • Right-click the Network node in the left folder tree and choose Map Network Drive from the context menu. Alternatively, use the Computer tab in the Explorer’s toolbar and then select the Map Network Drive
  • It will open the same wizard, where you can choose your drive letter (I use G: as in G-Code) and Folder. The folder path is \\10.0.0.15\G-Code (replace 10.0.0.15 with the IP address of your card). Also, check Reconnect at sign-in, so the mapping will survive a reboot of the computer. Then click Finish.

After a few seconds, the new network drive will be added to your computer and anything you’ll save there will be saved to the G-Code folder on your SD card.

eyefi, review, hands-on, mobi, 32gb, wi-fi-connected

Please note that your printer will not show all files in the printing menu, only files with G-Code extensions like.gcode.gc or.g.

Conclusion

The FlashAir solution is definitely less powerful than the full-fledged OctoPrint or Repetier-Server installation because it enables you to only transfer files. You can’t start or monitor your print remotely etc. On the other hand, it’s a quick, easy and cheap way how to transfer G-Codes to your printer wirelessly, which makes using our printers even more comfortable. So if you don’t need advanced functions of OctoPrint, this might be just the perfect solution for you.

Eyefi Review: Hands-On With the Mobi Pro 32GB Wi-Fi-Connected SD Card

Popular Wi-Fi-connected SD card manufacturer Eyefi recently released a brand new product, the Eyefi Mobi Pro. For those unfamiliar with Eyefi, the company makes Wi-Fi-connected SD cards to give people a way to quickly transfer photos from their cameras to their Macs, iPhones, and iPads, even when a Wi-Fi network is unavailable.

The company’s newest card, the Eyefi Mobi Pro offers 32GB of storage, support for RAW file transfers, and a wireless transfer feature that lets users selectively choose which photos to upload. When used on a home Wi-Fi network, the Mobi Pro lets users transfer images at high speeds, but when away from home, it creates its own Wi-Fi hotspot, so it’s always possible to get pictures from the SD card to an iPad, iPhone, or Mac.

MacRumors went hands-on with the new Eyefi Mobi Pro SD card to check out all of the new features and to figure out whether or not it’s worth the 99 price tag.

What’s in the Box

The Eyefi box contains one 32GB Class 10 SDHC Wi-Fi card, a USB card adapter that’s used to configure the Mobi card, and an activation card that lets the Mobi Pro pair with desktop and iOS apps. The card also allows users to sign up for a free year of access to Eyefi’s Cloud service, which allows unlimited photo uploads and storage.

Setup

The Eyefi box directs users straight to a setup website, which makes finding the setup steps easy. The website has instructions for setting the Mobi Pro up to connect to a mobile device or a computer.

Connecting the Mobi Pro to a mobile device first requires a download of the accompanying Eyefi app. On iOS, the app is called Eyefi Mobi and is available for free in the App Store. Once installed, the app asks for an activation code, which is included in the box, and it will ask you to install a provisioning profile to allow the iPhone to recognize the Mobi Pro card.

From there, you need to put the SD card in the camera, snap a few pictures, and leave the camera on while you go to the Settings app on your iPhone. Navigate to Wi-Fi and choose the Mobi Pro card network. You’ll need to enter the activation code as a password, but the app doesn’t specify that, which makes setup a bit more difficult than it needs to be.

Connecting the Mobi Pro card to a Mac is a similar process, and involves downloading the Eyefi Mobi Desktop app then following many of the same activation steps. On the Mac, you don’t get a full app.- just a mini app accessible from the menu bar. Plugging the Eyefi card into a Mac with the included USB adapter will bring up some advanced setup settings, letting you add a home network to make uploading photos at home easier.

Both the iOS and Mac apps will prompt you to connect the Mobi Pro card to an Eyefi Cloud account. You get a free year of Eyefi Cloud service with the purchase of a Mobi Pro card, and it’s 49.99 per year afterwards. It’s not a bad deal because you get unlimited storage and it supports both RAW and JPEG files.

Eyefi Cloud is not required to use the Mobi Pro card, but it’s useful because it syncs photos across all devices and makes them available through the Eyefi Cloud website.

Setting up the Mobi Pro isn’t exactly hard, but it’s not entirely straightforward. Documentation is not as clear as it could be, and there were some quirks we found confusing. For example, connecting to the Mobi Pro’s Wi-Fi required a password that turned out to be the activation code, but that information wasn’t listed anywhere. As another example, when we downloaded the Mac app from the Eyefi site, it downloaded an older version of the software that did not auto update.

How it Works

Once set up, the Mobi Pro card is simple to use. When away from home, the card will create its own Wi-Fi network, so photos (or videos) can be uploaded to an iPhone, iPad, or Mac even when Wi-Fi is not available. Connecting to the card’s Wi-Fi is done through the Mac’s Wi-Fi bar or the iPhone’s settings menu, just like any other Wi-Fi network. When connected, all photos you’ve taken will be transferred to the device you’re connected to (one connection is supported at a time).

If you’re away from Wi-Fi and upload your photos to your iPhone using a direct connection, you can go on to upload those photos to the Eyefi Cloud over cellular if your data plan allows for it, making them accessible anywhere right away.

In the advanced settings menu, accessible by plugging the Mobi Pro into a computer, you can also set it up to work with a home Wi-Fi network by adding your network’s name and password. With your home Wi-Fi network added to the card, it will use your home Wi-Fi to automatically upload photos to the Eyefi Mac app without the need to connect your Mac directly to the card.

Once you get home from a photo shooting session, just open the Mac app and turn your camera on to get all of the photos that you shot from the Mobi Pro to the Mac. If you’ve also signed into Eyefi Cloud, photos will upload to the Cloud, which also makes them accessible through the iPhone app. If you’re shooting at home, photos will transfer to the computer automatically for easy editing as long as the Mac app is open.

So basically, you’ve got multiple ways to get your photos to every device quickly depending on how you want to use the Mobi Pro card. If you do a direct connection to the iPhone app and enable Cloud syncing over cellular, photos will be transferred to the iPhone, uploaded to the Eyefi Cloud and accessible on a Mac via a browser. If you wait until you get home, you can transfer the photos to your Mac, where they’ll also be uploaded to Eyefi Cloud and available on the iPhone.

Whenever you’re uploading photos from your camera to an iOS device or Mac, the SD card slot on the camera needs to be activated. On most cameras, power is set to shut off after approximately 30 seconds to preserve battery, so this will need to be extended in the camera settings menu to make sure the card stays on. Leaving the camera on to transfer photos can drain the battery faster.

This isn’t much of a problem with JPEGs because the file size is relatively small and it takes just seconds to transfer them, but it can be an issue when uploading larger RAW files because those take a bit longer. It’s wise to keep an extra battery on hand if you’re planning to use the Mobi Pro to upload a lot of files when away from home.

Features

Speed wise, the Mobi Pro is a class 10 SDHC card, so it supports read speeds of 13MB/s and write speeds up to 23/MB/s. That means it can record full 1080p video or consecutive high-quality still photos. When shooting RAW, we had no issues taking multiple burst photos, and there were no issues recording 1080p video.

Physically, the card is similar to a standard SD card, and it should be noted that it is more durable than previous-generation Eyefi cards that were prone to breakage. As with most SD cards, there’s a physical write protect switch on the side.

Eyefi’s Mobi Pro card supports several image and video formats, including RAW. RAW files will be uploaded to the Mac automatically, but when you try to transfer RAW files to the iPhone app, they’ll be converted into JPEGs. The full RAW files will then need to be transferred to the Mac later, but they can also be uploaded to the Cloud via the iPhone if you’re signed into the Eyefi Cloud service.

One of the new features unique to the Mobi Pro is selective transfer, which lets you choose the photos that you want to sync to your devices. With previous Eyefi cards, uploading photos was an all or nothing deal, but that’s not the case with the new card. To use selective transfer, you need to enable it using your Mac and then choose photos to keep using the “protect” feature in your camera’s settings. You need to individually flag each photo with the protect option, which isn’t the most elegant solution, but it’s nice to have the option if you only want to sync a handful of photos.

The Mobi Pro, like all of the Eyefi SD cards, is compatible with a wide range of cameras. Companies like Olympus, Nikon, and Canon even have Eyefi support built-in to their cameras. You can check whether your camera is compatible using Eyefi’s site.

Eyefi Apps

The Eyefi Mac app is basically just used to facilitate photo transfers and to adjust the Mobi Pro’s settings, but the Eyefi Mobi iOS app has a few more features. Unlike the Mac app, it will display all of the photos that you’ve uploaded from your Mobi Pro card, and if you’re signed into the Eyefi Cloud, it’ll display all of your Cloud photos too.

There are some basic editing tools for cropping and straightening photos built in, plus it organizes all of your photos into albums by date. It also supports tags, includes EXIF info, and lets you delete info. Settings within the app give you the option to send photos you’ve uploaded to the camera roll, and there’s also a setting to import photos you’ve taken on your iPhone, giving you a way to get all of your photos, taken on camera or iOS device, into the Eyefi Cloud if you’re using that.

Customer Service

During our testing of the Mobi Pro, we ran into a major bug that caused the card to be nearly unusable and unable to connect to a home Wi-Fi network. It wasn’t being recognized by the Mac app because as it turns out, our card was never activated properly. This was an error that came up during the activation process, and it turned out to be an error the Eyefi team said it hadn’t seen before.

We had a conversation with an Eyefi product manager who, with the help of engineers, talked us through reactivating the Mobi Pro card and then pushed a fix so it wouldn’t happen again to other users. As we had a review unit, we obviously got straight to the top of the customer service ladder, but we were impressed with the company’s support database and its willingness to spend several hours on a Friday night fixing an obscure bug.

Who’s it For?

The Eyefi Mobi Pro is a card that’s suitable for DSLR users who want a way to automatically transfer RAW and JPEG files to their computers or mobile devices. On average, a 32GB class 10 SD card can be purchased for under 20, so at 99 for the Eyefi Mobi Pro, you’re paying quite a premium for convenience.

Is that extra money worth it? It depends on your workflow. If you want a way to quickly get photos from your camera to your iPhone, the Mobi Pro is a good solution. If you need a way to get photos to your Mac or iOS device even when you don’t have Internet, the Mobi Pro does that. If you don’t want to hassle with removing the SD card from your camera and plugging it into your Mac after a long day of shooting, the Mobi Pro will upload them automatically, and for some, the time saved will make the Mobi Pro worth the money.

For computers that don’t have SD card slots, like Apple’s upcoming MacBook, the Mobi Pro will be especially useful, especially during the early months when no SD card adapters exist.

Many DSLRs and mirrorless cameras these days come with built-in Wi-Fi. If you already have a Wi-Fi-enabled camera, the Mobi Pro may make less sense, but many Wi-Fi cameras are somewhat more limited. For example, with Olympus’ line of mirrorless cameras, you can upload to iOS via an app, but there are no options for automatically syncing all photos to the desktop.

If you’re going to get a Mobi Pro SD card, keep in mind that it works best with the Eyefi Cloud service. With Eyefi Cloud, all of your photos are available on all of your devices almost instantaneously for quick sharing and editing, and that’s a benefit that can’t be overlooked. You get a free year with purchase, but you’re probably going to want to keep using it after storing a year’s worth of photos, so take into account the 49.99/year charge.

  • Uploads photos automatically at home
  • Uploads photos via direct connect when no Wi-Fi is available
  • Convenient
  • Supports RAW and JPEG files
  • Eyefi Cloud makes photos available everywhere
  • Setup is a bit confusing
  • Expensive
  • Some battery drain
  • Selective transfer is time consuming

How to Buy

Eyefi’s new Mobi Pro 32GB Wi-Fi SD card can be purchased from the Eyefi website for 99.99. That price includes a complimentary year of the company’s Eyefi Cloud service, with unlimited syncing and storage.

Review: Eye-Fi Wireless 2GB SD Card

It’s not often that an SD memory card comes out and creates a ton of fanfare. When that SD card has integrated Wi-Fi abilities to immediately upload your photos, then you start to understand why all the buzz is justified. I am of course referring to Eye-Fi’s long awaited wireless SD card. Amazingly, they were able to pack in 802.11 circuitry along with 2GB of flash memory in the familiar 24mm — 32mm SD form factor.

Surprisingly everything is inside the SD card, including the Wi-Fi antenna. If you factor in that the SD card will be somewhat buried inside a camera during use and the use of a strictly internal antenna, you can see why I was initially skeptical of wireless performance.

Eye-Fi 101

The Eye-Fi is like any other SD card, except that there is some setup to do first. Once that is all done, the point of the Eye-Fi is to upload your photos while your camera is on and connected your wireless network to one of the many supported photo sharing services and/or your computer. It appears as though Eye-Fi is aiming to make repetitive card readings and fiddling with a USB cable things of the past.

eyefi, review, hands-on, mobi, 32gb, wi-fi-connected

Setup

Setting up the Eye-Fi is fairly simple but involves installing local software on your Mac/PC (no Linux support) which receives settings from an Eye.fi account you must create. The first step is plugging the Eye-Fi with its included SD card reader into your computer. From there, you find the appropriate installer for your OS then install and run it.

Running the Eye-Fi Manager fires up the Eye.fi website where you create an account. This account manages all of your Eye-Fi settings from whether to upload to your computer and any web services.

Detecting wireless networks and entering network passwords.

The Eye-Fi automatically detects wireless networks and if you give it permission through your OS (at least OS X did this), automatically fills in your WEP/WPA encryption key. Edit: The Eye-Fi can be configured to know several networks and connect to them when in range. Unfortunately, if you want to add another network, you’ll have to change the settings manually on Eye.fi and place the card in the card reader. there is no way of doing this on the fly.

Don’t worry about being in range of the network when taking pictures; Eye-Fi will upload pictures per your settings when you are back in range. Also, the Eye-Fi card cannot connect to networks that have login websites such as a T-mobile Starbucks hotspots and the like.

Eye-Fi supports many photo sharing services.

In this next step, you tell Eye-Fi which photo sharing services you will be using if any. Many are supported: Fotki, Sharpcast, Flickr, Picasa Web Albums, Webshots, dotPhoto, Photobucket. SmugMug, Vox, Walmart, Snapfish, Shutterfly, Phanfare, Kodak Gallery, TypePad and Gallery 2.

Setting Flickr photo upload preferences. I set them as private so I can see which ones I want to keep.

Setting up Eye-Fi to upload photos directly to a folder on my computer.

Depending on what camera you have, you might have to go through your camera’s menu and change the Auto Power Off setting. The default on my Nikon D80 was 6 seconds and Eye-Fi instructed me to up that to 30 minutes to power the SD card while not actively saving photos on it. After you take pictures and are within range of your wireless network, you need to keep your camera on and Eye-Fi will automatically begin uploading photos.

Performance

Transferring an image from the Eye-Fi card to my computer.

After transferring several photos on my wireless network, it became clear that the Eye-Fi card is great for transferring a few shots you just took to your computer. That is, it isn’t terribly fast if you’re trying to dump 2GB of photos onto your computer. In that case, you will likely want to take it out and use a card reader.

Taking the average size of a 10MP image from a Nikon D80 set to JPEG normal, which is about 2MB, and dividing that by the ~15 seconds it takes to transfer each image I can calculate that the approximate transfer rate is 135KB/s. As this was from wireless access point 2 floors below me, I can imagine a throughput speed of up to 250KB/s being attainable. If you have an Eye-Fi card, I would be interested in hearing how fast images transfer for you.

Thoughts

While the Eye-Fi has noticeable drawbacks, I still love it and I’ll tell you why. Ninety percent of what I use my camera for is indoor product shots for reviews. Prior to the Eye-Fi, I would constantly take the SD card out and stick it in a reader to see if the last shot I took was crisp enough to publish. Pictures might look great on the little display LCD on the camera, but they look completely different on a computer display. As such, I’ve found utopia in the Eye-Fi. Snap a pic, wait a few seconds and see if the image turned out okay. all without removing any cards or hooking up any cables.

However, therein lies another problem. What if I know an image I just took was bad? If I don’t delete it immediately, it will be uploaded to my computer/photo sharing services automatically. There is no filtering or review system of sorts pre-Eye-Fi-upload. Also, professional and hobbyist photographers won’t like the Eye-Fi as it doesn’t support the RAW image format.

On the other hand, imagine this ideal use case: John is a 21 year old college student and has an Eye-Fi card in a tiny point-and-shoot camera that he takes with him to parties, fraternity functions and so on. At the end of the night, all John has to do is turn on his camera when he gets home and a short while later all of his pictures will be on No fidgeting with any confusing photo uploading software or websites.

For 99 I would definitely recommend the Eye-Fi. At that price you get 2GB and wireless functionality. that’s a steal. I’m going to set this up on my mom’s camera so she can put family pictures on her neglected Flickr account. The Eye-Fi receives 9 out of 10 Stammys.

My friend Amit Gupta over at Photojojo currently has a bunch of Eye-Fi’s in stock and he was kind enough to provide me with this review sample just when the Eye-Fi launched. I ended up liking the Eye-Fi so much that I bought it from him.

Do you think the Eye-Fi would fit in with your camera use?

Wi-Fi SD card reader

We suspect it also morphed into the Lexar Shoot-n-Sync Wi-Fi Card last week, too, but we can’t confirm it.

But at photokina, the company announced three more innovations:

  • Faster wireless uploads and the ability to add services from the other cards like Web sharing (9.99 annual fee), geotagging (14.99 annual fee) and hotspot access 14.99 annual fee. Geotagging doesn’t use the GPS system but nearby wireless routers to divine your location.
  • Expansion of the product’s distribution to Japan and Canada before the end of the year
  • The same power management introduced with the Nikon D60 will be available in the Nikkon D90 dSLR. The D90 will also include an Eye-Fi menu to disable wireless transmission, for example, in a hospital or airplane
  • The company also announced new support for Apple’s MobileMe and AdoramaPix. Eye-Fi has also added Best Buy as a vendor, joining Circuit City, Ritz Camera Centers and online sources.

    THE SCHEME OF THINGS | Back to Contents

    In the grand scheme of things, the Eye-Fi has turned out to be all that we hoped early this year when we first saw it at PMA and awarded it two of our PMA Envy awards.

    In fact, it has managed to provide more Wi-Fi capability that current Wi-Fi digicams from Nikon and Panasonic. And if your dSLR uses SD cards, an Eye-Fi can add sophisticated and trouble-free Wi-Fi capability to even that class of camera.

    Eye-Fi. The original SD card (left) and the included card reader.

    Shortcomings. In our several months of use primarily in review cameras, the Eye-Fi’s shortcomings have all been pretty minor.

    One issue, though, is card speed. While we’ve been able to shoot movies to the Eye-Fi on some digicams, most require a faster card. The Eye-Fi, which is not an SDHC card, just isn’t fast enough to keep up with most digicams’ demands to clear the buffer. We just use another card to shoot video.

    Another is that the card only transmits JPEG images, not audio, video or Raw files. Of course, it will store them, but you’ll have to pop the card in the included reader to transfer them.

    Transmissions must go through a router, not straight from your camera to your computer. So if you’re on the road, you’ll have to set up your computer as a connection point to transfer images wirelessly or configure a small router like the Apple Express.

    And it can’t manage camera power. The camera really doesn’t know it’s there or on or even transmitting images. If a transfer gets interrupted, however, it will pick up where it left off when you restart the camera.

    Finally, the Eye-Fi can’t retrieve your images from an online album for display on your camera like the Panasonic TZ50 does from Google Picasa. On the other hand, the TZ50 can only upload to Google Picasa, not to your computer or any other device. And Nikon’s Wi-Fi digicams have a similar limitation, transmitting solely to my Picturetown and not your computer.

    Both Nikon and Google provide a small amount of free storage space as part of the deal, but you may have to resize images to make it worthwhile. The TZ50 offers to resize by default, shortening upload time (and battery drain) at the expense of leaving your full resolutions on the card to deal with later.

    Only the Eye-Fi, among current offerings, allows you to transfer full resolution images wirelessly from your camera to your computer.

    HOW IT WORKS | Back to Contents

    It’s easy to FOCUS on the card itself as the story, but the real action is in the software. After all, the camera doesn’t know anything at all about the card. It can’t display a menu on its LCD and prompt you to initiate a transfer, like a wireless Coolpix might.

    And it can’t manage battery power either, like a popup SD card on your PDA or an Easye. Nope, the card’s job is pretty much limited to staying awake. To that end Eye-Fi recommends turning off any power saving option on your camera so your images can be copied before your camera goes to sleep.

    Managing the transfer is really the work of two applications: the Eye-Fi Manager software that runs in the background on your computer and the Eye-Fi Service that runs on the Web. They work together but independently, too. And much of what they do depends on how you’ve configured your card (as we’ll explain later).

    Let’s just say you’ve set up the card so it copies your images both to a folder on your computer and to one of the 20 online sharing services Eye-Fi currently supports. And that your Eye-Fi card has been updated with the latest Smart Boost feature (a free firmware update).

    With power on, when your camera comes within range of your router and your computer is on and running the Eye-Fi Manager software in the background, images are pulled off the card and copied to the folder on your computer that you selected when you configured the card.

    If your computer is off or the Manager software isn’t running, the images are sent to the Eye-Fi Service on the Web which routes them to your online sharing services and copies them back to your computer when it next runs the Manager again.

    Only JPEG images are transmitted. No movies, no audio files, no Raw files.

    Uploading images to the Web isn’t as fast as transferring them from the card to your computer. This is particularly true of cable broadband connections, but DSL connections typically aren’t very fast uploaders either. So performance is much improved when your computer is on and images can be pulled off the card to the computer first.

    The Eye-Fi Manager software also configures your card when you attach it with the included USB card reader. You can add networks, change destinations and adjust other settings. We’ll look at that right after a brief look at the technical specifications, system requirements and camera compatibility.

    SPECS REQUIREMENTS | Back to Contents

    The technical specifications are:

  • Wi-Fi Security: Static WEP 40/104/128, WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK
  • Range: 90 feet outdoors and 45 feet indoors
  • Storage Capacity: 2GB (1.0-GB is defined as 10^9 Bytes)
  • Power: advanced power management optimizes use of camera power
  • Card Dimensions: SD standard 32mm x 24mm x 2.1mm
  • Card Weight: 0.1 oz.
  • The card itself is based on Atheros Communications’ AR6001GL Radio-on-a-Chip with automatic power save deliver and Atheros’ proprietary, low-power sleep mode to extend battery life.

    System requirements include:

  • Eye-Fi Card works with 802.11g, 802.11b and backwards-compatible 802.11n wireless networks; it is a Wireless G device, supporting up to 54 Mbps.
  • Eye-Fi software runs on Windows XP, Windows Vista, Mac OS X (10.3, 10.4 and 10.5)
  • Eye-Fi software works with Internet Explorer 6 and 7 (Windows only), Firefox 2 and 3 (Windows and OS X) and Safari 3 ( OS X 10.4-10.5)
  • Eye-Fi Card requires Internet connection for set-up and a wireless router with DHCP enabled for wireless transfers
  • Eye-Fi Card works with virtually all digital cameras accepting SD memory cards
  • CAMERA COMPATIBILITY | Back to Contents

    While the SD format would seem to promise widespread compatibility, Eye-Fi does maintain a list of compatible cameras. Some manufacturers present no problem, like Canon, Casio, Fujifilm, Nikon, Panasonic and Samsung. Others, like HP, Kodak, Pentax and Polariod, have the odd exception.

    So the next question is what about cameras that use CompactFlash cards? Can you slip the Eye-Fi card into an SD-to-CF adapter and put that in your camera?

    Eye-Fi demurs that they neither support nor test such arrangements, but they do provide a little advice nonetheless. They suggest using an SD/SDHC CF adapter like the Synchrotech CFMulti rather than the more common SD/MMC CF adapter, especially if you’re trying this in a Canon 20D, 30D or 40D.

    Formatting the Eye-Fi card in an adapter “has caused the Eye-Fi card to fail,” the company also notes.

    And finally, the company observes that the wireless range of the card is “noticeably reduced.” That stands to reason. You are, after all, shielding the card in a metal jacket.

    Some experimenters have reported the card adapters damaged their cameras, bending the CF pins in the camera card slot. That required a repair that cost up to 200 on average.

    INSTALLATION | Back to Contents

    Step One, according to the included Guide, is to connect the card reader to your computer. The EyeFi card is shipped inside the reader. We tried to connect through an unpowered hub, but we had to pull the hub and connect directly.

    Step Two is to install the software located on the card. The actual procedure varies depending on whether you’re using a Mac or a PC.

    The software is distributed on the card itself but you can also go to the Eye-Fi site to download it. It’s a quick download, 2.3-MB for the Mac version and just 1.2-MB for the Windows executable.

    Once you’ve found the Eye-Fi Manager application, you copy it to your hard drive and launch it.

    Step Three is to configure your card. Configuration starts by testing your firewall settings so the card and software can talk to each other. Sounds hairy, but it was a piece of cake. In three quick steps, the software tested our firewall by listening for incoming connections, testing them and testing outgoing connections. We passed, the Manager loaded in our menu bar and took us to a Web page to create an Eye-Fi Account.

    You need an online account to be able to activate your card and actually upload photos. Eye-Fi only needs to know your email address, your first and last names and your password. The page charmingly warns you to make sure you have your camera with you because you’re just seconds away from uploading your first image.

    As soon as we did that, the site informed us we had to update our card’s firmware. We clicked the “Update” button. The page told us not to pull the card until it’s been updated and gave us an estimate of the time remaining (which was just a few seconds). We’ve updated it again since then with no issues.

    Once that was done, we confirmed we wanted our card named Mike’s Eye-Fi Card, as the Web page suggested. Then we selected a wireless network.

    The software actually found our network (and our neighbor’s, too.- hi, guys!). When we selected our network from the popup menu, our password manager popped our password in, too. We then clicked “Connect Card to Network” and waited while the wireless network connection was tested. It connected, confirmed the password, received a network address and contacted the Eye-Fi server.

    That last step took a while as some 233 items were being copied before we got an error message. “Unable to connect to Eye-Fi server. This will occur if network redirects your browser to a splash screen when first connecting. Otherwise, please move closer to the preferred Wireless Router and Retry.”

    That was when we remembered reading that Eye-Fi doesn’t support Safari (although the company does claim it now supports Safari 3.0). We had a similar problem with Safari and HTML forms when we tried to configure a DSL modem recently. We had entered the modem code from the bottom of the modem into a field on a Safari page but the server kept telling us it wasn’t the right code. Of course it was. So we entered it in Opera and it worked. Something fishy about Safari, apparently. Or the character set encoding. Anyway, we copied the URL into Firefox and recreated our account. This time, we connected to the Eye-Fi server in the blink of an eye.

    You can add more networks, but you have to be within their range and mount the card in the USB drive to do it with the Eye-Fi Manager software. You can’t do it from the camera. So if you were at a friend’s house and wanted to push the images up to his drive, you could install the software (or bring your laptop), mount the card and add your friend’s network. A bit cumbersome but you only have to do it once.

    The next step was to select an online photo service. “Upload Photos to the Web?” the page asked. Well, OK. The choices now include BlueString, Costco.com, dotphoto. flickr, Fotki, Gallery2, Kodak Gallery, phanfare, photobucket, Picasa, RitzPix, Sharpcast, Shutterfly, SmugMug, snapfish, TypePad, VOX, Wal-Mart, webshots, Windows Live, MobileMe and AdoramaPix.

    We have accounts at three of those, so we picked one at random (after updating all their local clients, grumble). We entered the user name and password for one service (you can always add more but images are sent to every service you add) and then continued to the next step.

    That was to select a local destination. We don’t use iPhoto (or we could have just had the photos sent to iPhoto). So we created a special temporary folder for Eye-Fi transmissions and pointed to that. Another piece of cake.

    Then the online manager told us we were ready to Upload Your First Photo! To do that, you remove your card from the reader and put it in your camera. We slipped it into a Coolpix S510 we were reviewing.

    Then we turned on the camera, took our picture (that was what it said to do) and watched in horror as the camera buzzed and our picture showed up as a thumbnail with a progress bar in a little window below the menu bar on our laptop. Then, seconds later, it was uploaded to our online service. The Eye-Fi Web page for our account showed us it was uploading our image and, indeed, when we visited our service, it was there.

    There was just one more step, the page told us. Turn off power management on your camera so uploads can complete.

    Our image was indeed stored locally in our Eye-Fi temp folder in a folder with the day’s date, a nice touch (and optional). The Eye-Fi Web page took us right to our folder, provided an upload history, settings for the card or our online accounts and links to more help.

    Pretty nicely designed software, we thought.

    SINCE THEN | Back to Contents

    Since then, we turn to the Eye-Fi as our card of choice when working with any review camera. The convenience of wirelessly sending test shots to the computer can’t be beat.

    When we have to shoot movies, we use a SanDisk SD/USB card which, when removed from the camera, can be folded in half to reveal a USB plug. And you should hear us complain that we have to do that much to transfer the videos.

    GEOTAGGING | Back to Contents

    Eye-Fi uses an unconventional scheme to geocode images on the Eye-Fi Explore card (or with its geotagging service). Most geocoding devices find out where they are by communicating via microwave with the Global Positioning System, a set of 24 medium-Earth-orbit satellites. The Eye-Fi uses information from nearby wireless (and presumably public) routers to plot just the latitude and longitude (but no altitude unlike the GPS system) of the camera’s location.

    Skyhook Wireless has mapped the coordinates of “millions of wireless access points around the world,” Eye-Fi claims. Using their data, latitude and longitude are added to the Exif header of your JPEGs.

    This is nowhere near as comprehensive as a GPS-based solution and, given the short range of wireless routers, hard to believe. Caveat emptor.

    CONCLUSION | Back to Contents

    We may have fallen in love with the idea when we first saw Eye-Fi but after using one for several months, we’re no less smitten. Both the online software and the background software are well designed and well integrated. The setup and configuration process was very easy, even if it isn’t possible to set up the card for networks you aren’t connected to.

    Performance, whether transferring images from the card to our computer or to an online service, was efficient. Transfers to our computer were pretty quick in fact.

    Best of all is that we can indeed move images from an SD camera to our computer wirelessly. We don’t have to upload them to an online service (as Nikon obliges you to do with my Picturetown), bypassing our computer. But you can also upload to an online service. Any of a number of them, in fact.

    So while it may be a limited Wi-Fi experience, the Eye-Fi does do exactly what it promises. Which, it turns out, is more than most promise these days. And around here that makes it the product of the year.

    | Denial of responsibility | Contacts |RSS