What is Eye-fi?
Eye-Fi is an SD card which transfer all your images to your computer magically. It’s finding nearest wireless access point and uploading all photos as soon as possible, even when you are taking the next photos. In the other words, Eye-Fi is basically SD card plus Wi-Fi and uploading service. The reason why it is Wi-Fi and uploading service is you need to have Eye.fi server to get this work. You just can’t use your computer as a server yet. Well, technically, there are 2 kind of access points. One is yours; the other is public. Eye-Fi is kindly enough to let us use affiliated access points around, e.g. in McDonald, Starbucks, etc. From what I know, this service is free for a year; who knows if they’ll change plan after that?
Test setup: Canon Rebel XSi + Eye-Fi Explore Video 4GB
note: I have no video camera, so I couldn’t give any opinion on video uploading =)
Basic iteration to get it work
When you first get eye-fi, you have to run setup in eye-fi SD. Then you will be able to setup your account and configure your things including upload directory, access point password, all kind of things. Basically, it takes only couple minutes.
After completed steps above, you are ready to take a picture. Click shutter and wait for < a minute, that file will fly to your computer effortlessly.
What a catch?
The idea is pretty neat, but there are compromises along the way also.
- first and foremost, you have to give up your Wi-Fi security to eye.fi, not only to the card itself, but also to eye.fi as a company. They might not care about all this thing, but hey, Google is this rich since we are feeding up all our information. I don’t say Eye-Fi do the same. They are not as far as I’m concerned, but heck, I don’t like the idea sharing sensitive info although there is nothing to hide.
- As I observed, there are 2 ways to upload; on-the-fly by using Eye.fi server as a trigger & relay upload which stores every photos in eye.fi server while your computer is off. When your computer is on, the photos will transfer magically. Either way, eye.fi gets at least a thumbnail image [presumably from EXIF?] (Film Rolls is what they called) Well, as a professional photographer or just someone who like to take a picture, no one would like to share their work/memory w/o permission by any mean.
If they added “upload to our own server” feature and a local app for setting wireless network security code, this would be pretty darn good.
What is an issue?
- Geo-tagging is working periodically I don’t know why, but when uploading via public access point, most of the time my photos don’t have geo-tag with them. FYI, geo-tagging in eye-fi definition is tagging the location of the access point that picture was uploaded. For instance, you might take a picture at Glacier National Park, surely no access point around there. All photos could be uploaded while you were at Starbucks in Seattle. As a result, all your photos taken at Glacier National Park have geo-tag as taken in Seattle or the worst case, everything would have a geo-tag at your home location. Not really useful IMHO. You would have to clean up the mess too.
- Everything is automatic. They all are working seamlessly quietly; There is no way to tell if thing works alright anytime w/o checking your pictures in your computer!
- Cameras these days have a picture orientation set in EXIF inside the file. Eye-fi doesn’t do rotation automatically at all time1.
1 From my tests, some were rotated properly, some weren’t. I still can’t find what causes this issue.
Does eye-fi SD really work?
From the way I see, it’s working, but by the fact that I’m using Canon Rebel XSi for most of the testing time. You might know that Eye-Fi Explore Video won’t do anything to any file but JPEG. If you do want to play with a RAW file, only eye-fi PRO will do the trick. However, I realized this limit; in the test, only JPEG was chosen. I was walking around midtown Manhattan, NY. Let’s say around 34th St from Empire State Building to B&H superstore; stopped at McDonald, tried playing w/ camera to keep power on, auto power off 2 minutes. I took about 44 pictures. What I had in my computer when I got home was exactly 3 files—blank geo-tag.
The rest I have to keep playing with my camera at home, not letting my camera shut off on power on SD slot or eject SD and import traditional way. The later choice is annoying a bit because while you are importing, eye-fi SD works simultaneously too. You’ll end up having 2 copies in the computer.
Another scenario, assumed that Eye-fi worked perfectly while I was taking pictures. When I got home, I had a bunch of pictures in my computer. I still had to check if those were all of them or not by checking the last image filename or something. If everything was good so far, I had to delete all images/format. That was a lot of work.
a short note if you are worrying about battery consumption, I still don’t see any sign of short battery life as far as I have tested. You shouldn’t have to worry about this also since most cameras are saving power pretty well, but do auto-power-off or enter power-save mode which don’t allow power drain to any memory slot anyway.
In short, while it’s a great innovation I still don’t see any significant advantage using eye-fi SD card over traditional one seriously especially if you are using DSLR and might have a chance to take RAW sometimes. For now, I still prefer to take SD out, insert to SD slot, and import via Live Photo Gallery. This way I will get photos in the directories I want, have some tag if needed, have photos in an appropriate orientation, and last but not least, erase uploaded one on card for me. If eye-fi can simplify this in the future, I surely give them a try again.
- uploading via wifi while taking a photo
- work like a spy; no sign or anything at all
- geo-tagging can be a mess
- expensive – if it’ll work with public wireless network only a year after bought.
- security issue if you are concerned