Today is Friday the 13th (as if you didn't know), and apropos I've had nothing but bad luck all week with a product I really want to love and really want to use – Eye-Fi.
Eye-Fi is a regular, everyday, normal SD memory card with one HUGE improvement – it's equipped with Wi-Fi. Placed into a digital camera, photos and videos you snap now are automatically uploaded via Wi-Fi to your PC or to Facebook or a photo/video storage/sharing site such as Flickr, Picasa and YouTube.
Eye-Fi is a compelling product because we're been spoiled. We know we can transmit photos we take with our cell phone, so why can't we do the same from our primary photo-taking gadget?
Samsung's SH100 Wi-Fi camera, which I discussed yesterday, is one way to emulate cell phone digital photo sharing instant gratification. But the SH100 is a tail wagging the dog – you have to buy the camera for its Wi-Fi capability even if the camera itself isn't exactly what you were looking for.
Eye-Fi brings cell phone-like photo uploading to a digital camera near you.
How it works
As you can see, Eye-Fi comes with a USB card adapter. Plug the adapter and card into your PC, then install the Eye-Fi Center software. You then "provision" the card – tell it what your home Wi-Fi network is, and tell the card where to send your photos and video – to your designated folder on your PC, photo sharing sites, Facebook or YouTube.
After you've provisioned the card, put it in any digital camera (many cameras now include Eye-Fi specific menus and functions – check to see if your camera is compatible here). Now when you snap a photo, the card uploads any photos or videos you shoot according to your provisioned instructions, first to Eye-Fi's storage servers, then back down to your PC. Your camera stays on for as long as it takes it to upload the photos. The whole process takes around 5-10 minutes, depending on how many photos need to be uploaded.
If you're not home when you shoot your photos, which is likely, you simply turn your camera on when you get home. Eye-Fi then automatically connects to your home network and uploads all the photos it hasn't already uploaded.
And it works great. I'm one of those tech lazy people I denigrated earlier. You may have noticed I take most of the photos that accompany these daily musings, and I do find taking the card out of the camera and slipping it into my Mac to remove the photos ridiculously annoying. Not any more.
But Eye-Fi suffers two limitations: this auto upload only works when you're in range of a provisioned network, primarily your home network (or, when away from home, to a MiFi, which I discussed Monday), and, unlike the Samsung SH100, you can't email/upload individual photos from the camera – you have to wait until they pop-up in the Eye-Fi Center software, from where you can then email them or publish them to a specific Web site.
Direct Mode solves both these problems. Or tries to.
How it doesn't work
Direct Mode on the Mobile X2 card uses your smart phone or tablet – iPhone or Android – as an uploading conduit when you're not home. In Direct Mode, photos and/or videos you capture are automatically uploaded to your Wi-Fi-enabled smart phone – Eye-Fi creates its own one-to-one Wi-Fi network with your phone – then the phone uploads them to wherever you previously instructed Eye-Fi to send them via the cellular network.
Here's the problem. Apple doesn't allow developers to futz with iPhone settings, which means you have to be a digital Cirque du Soleil contortionist to get all the Direct Mode settings within the iPhone Eye-Fi app right. When Direct Mode worked it was an accident; when it didn't (most of the time) it was because I did something wrong because the whole set-up process was really confusing.
The Eye-Fi folks totally cop to this confusion. I spent more than two mutually mea culpa-filled hours in two separate sessions with customer service execs working through my varying issues and suggestions for simplifying the whole process. They know they have a problem and they're working on it.
But, if you're an Android smart phone user – no problem. Eye-Fi's Android app handles all the Wi-Fi configuration behind the scenes and, well, it worked, with none of the iPhone's settings headaches.
These uploading functions merely scratch Eye-Fi's surface (ow!). Within the Eye-Fi Center settings are a dizzying array of upload and saving options. For instance, you can:
- instruct Eye-Fi (in Direct Mode) to merely transmit your images to your smart phone or tablet, period, without the phone uploading them anywhere else (handy if you're overseas and you don't want your phone doing any data roaming);
- set privacy settings for photos uploaded to Flickr and Picasa;
- from Eye-Fi compatible cameras, select only particular photos or videos you select to upload;
- enable "endless memory," which automatically eliminates older photos from your Eye-Fi card to make room for new shots;
- get notified via text, email, tweet or Facebook when an upload is accomplished;
- upload any or all photos you take with your smart phone;
– and lots of other fun stuff you'll find as you sift through the Eye-Fi Center settings.
Even with its confusing interfaces – which I'm sure they'll fix – I whole-heartily recommend Eye-Fi to make photo transfer life easier for any digital camera user.