This review is going to introduce you to one of my all-time favorite travel gadgets – the Eye-Fi wireless memory card. Eye-Fi cards look and feel like every other SD memory card on the market – they are available in capacities from 4GB to 8GB, and to your camera, they work exactly like a normal SD card.
What makes the Eye-Fi card so impressive is what is inside the card. In addition to memory, Eye-Fi cards also contain a full Wi-Fi adapter.
The combination of memory and wireless access means these cards can actually send your photos and video online as soon as you shoot something. Just think about that for a second – you can take a photo, and as long as there is Wi-Fi access, your photo will be sent to your photo hosting site or computer within seconds.
The system may sound complex – but in reality, it is one of the most reliable and impressive pieces of camera kit I own – it has made my life so much easier.
Photo sharing sites
The Eye-Fi card can send your photos to more than 25 different photo sharing sites – from the large ones like Flickr, Smugmug and Snapfish, to smaller ones like My Picturetown. The card also supports wireless transfers to Facebook, Evernote, Gallery (an open source photo sharing system), YouTube and Movable Type blogs.
Some of these sites also support video uploads – which means you can shoot video, and as long as you are in range of Wi-Fi, your video clips can be up on YouTube without any user interaction.
Eye-Fi card lineup
The Eye-Fi lineup consists of several different cards – each targeting a different user. The basic card is the Eye-Fi Connect X2. This 4GB card features class 6 memory and 802.11 b/g/n wireless capability.
The next card is the 4GB Geo X2 – this card adds automatic geotagging to your photos, embedding the location in them. I’ll mention the geotagging feature in a moment.
The third card in the lineup is the 8GB Explore X2 – inside this 8GB card are the same features as the previous two, but with the added ability to access wireless hotspots. With this feature, you’ll be able to walk up to most McDonalds, Starbucks or Barnes & Noble locations, turn on your camera, and send your photos to the Internet.
The top of the line card is the 8GB PRO X2 – this card adds the ability to upload in RAW, and transfer directly from card to computer, without the need for a wireless router. This is of course perfect for on-the-go photo shoots.
Prices are very reasonable – $49.99 for the Connect X2, $69.99 for the Geo X2, $99.99 for the Explore X2 and $149.99 for the Pro X2. Yes – these prices are obviously a bit more than the regular price of a class 6 SDHC memory card, but you get so much more for your money.
Extra card features – geotagging
Photo geotagging is one of my favorite features on the card – without any interaction. The cards accomplish this without GPS – thanks to the network address transmitted by every wireless router. When you upload your photos, this address is cross-referenced against a massive database of wireless hotspots, and the photo location is embedded in your photos.
Best of all – the hotspot it picked up does not even have to be “open” – In the photo above (taken at Chicago’s Navy Pier), it picked up a random hotspot, and managed to determine that the photo was made in Chicago.
With geotag information in a photo, you can search your photos, display them on a map or figure out where you were when you took a shot.
Endless memory is a dream come true for people who always find themselves running out of space. When you enable endless memory, the Eye-Fi card deletes pictures it successfully transferred – you select the threshold, but when set correctly, you’ll never run out of space, as long as you let the card do its wireless transfers when you’ve taken photos.
Because the card knows which photos were safely transferred, you’ll never need to plug it into your PC again!
Cards with hotspot access can upload your photos from thousands of Wi-Fi hotspots – once again, without any user interaction. Simply turn your camera on when you are in range of a hotspot, and it’ll go to work. There are tens of thousands of hotspots available, and chances are, you’ll always be no more than 10 minutes from a location.
The hotspot enabled cards come with one year of access, and additional years can be added for just $14.99/each.
Because you don’t need to do anything to get uploads started (other than turning your camera on), Eye-Fi cards can send email, text message, Twitter or Facebook alerts when they start sending your photos. This allows you to stay within range of the wireless access point until the upload is done. You can also enable notifications for interrupted transfers and for when transfers are completed.
Eye-Fi Center is where you manage all your Eye-Fi cards and settings. Within the well designed app, you can name your cards, configure all their individual settings, configure upload settings and more. The app also takes care of firmware upgrades and makes it easy to find photo uploads.
If you value your photos, you’ll be glad to know that Eye-Fi cards can send your photos to your photo sharing site and your computer at the same time. Best of all, the photos can be sorted by date, making it much easier to find photos when you need them.
Eye-Fi cards work in almost any SD(HC) compatible camera. If you own an older camera without SDHC support, you’ll want to find one of the older Classic Eye-Fi cards. These go up to 2GB and are regular SD format.
On the Eye-Fi site, you’ll find a list of all tested cameras and any known issues – there are several cameras that may have problems with a specific card, so be sure to check the list before you purchase.
If you are looking for a new camera and an Eye-Fi card, consider getting an Eye-Fi connected camera. We already took a look at one of these last week, in the Canon SX210 IS. With Eye-Fi Connected features, the camera is able to communicate with the card, and offers neat features like staying powered on until the upload is completed.
Showing Eye-Fi at work
I’ve long considered myself an Eye-Fi Evangelist – I’ve managed to convince a lot of my photo buddies to invest in an Eye-Fi card, and once they see for themselves how easy it is, they are hooked. But I also run into a lot of people who just don’t get why I’m so enthusiastic about the cards – most people don’t mind plugging their camera in, and many of them don’t want to invest in a card that costs 3-4 times as much as a regular memory card.
There is no easy way to convince you to make the purchase – but if you value your photos and your time, the Eye-Fi cards will make your life so much easier. No longer will you have to mess around with cables, and during most trips, all your photos will be on the Internet before you get back home. To me, these are the top five reasons I love the cards so much:
Safeguarding my photos – as long as I am in range of Wi-Fi at least once a day, all my photos are always online and safe. If I break my camera, or it gets stolen, my photos won’t be lost.
Automated uploads to sharing sites – I used to spend hours sorting through photos and uploading them – now I just do some basic moving around and renaming when I get back home. Best of all, I also have copies of all these photos on my PC, should anything ever happen to my sharing service.
Hotspot access – To upload my photos, all I need is a local Starbucks or McDonalds – there is no signup or login process – I simply turn my camera on and let it do its work.
Geotagging – No need for additional hardware or a GPS enabled camera – when I take photos in range of a known Wi-Fi hotspot, my photos are geotagged. This makes searching for photos much easier, and preserves the location for years to come.
Speed and size – My first Eye-Fi card was a 2GB card with 802.11b/g Wi-Fi – the newest generation Eye-Fi cards are much faster (I have 802.11n at home), the cards also have class 6 memory, making them suitable for recording HD movies.
Final thoughts + Eye-Fi giveaway
There isn’t much more I can do to convince you that you should invest your hard earned cash in one of these cards, but I am pretty sure you won’t regret it.
Still, if you’d rather save your money and try an Eye-Fi card at the same time, you are in luck – later this week, we’ll be giving away five 4GB Eye-Fi cards, so make sure you keep a close eye on the site for the contest.