Friday, 10 July 2009

New Adventures in Eye-Fi

@technicalfault and @paulie asked what my experiences with an Eye-Fi card were and I had more than 140 characters on the subject so here goes.

I bought a 2gb Eye-Fi Explore SD Card from eBay a few weeks ago. It arrived in a sealed pack sitting inside its own USB connector. When I plugged it into the PC it was instantly recognised, but when it fired up the browser to connect me to to register and configure the settings it told me that it had a known fault and it was impossible to register, configure or otherwise use. Doh!

However, the site captured my name and address and committed to send a replacement f.o.c. within a few days from the States. This replacement duly arrived and I was able to register it straight away and configure it.

(Config is about telling it your router's WEP key, setting up a directory to dump pictures into when it's near youe network and giving it your Flickr (or similar) login details should you wish it to automatically post stuff there. You can also input your Twitter details so that it sends you a DM to let you know when it's started uploading photos and when it's finished.)

If you don't want it to automatically send all you pictures to Flickr you can configure it only to upload photographs that you have "protected" in your camera's settings.

Once you're configured, you just need to set your camera so that it doesn't automatically switch itself off after a couple of minutes and, provided you're within range of your network it starts uploading your pictures.

In theory, provided your camera is on, it should start uploading pictures whenever you're in range of an open wifi network but I've never experienced this and remain to be convinced.

Anyhow, the Eye-Fi card works fine in my little Fuji Finepix Z20fd. However, I was also hoping to use it in my old trusty Canon EOS 300D, which actually takes Compact Flash cards. So when I bought my Eye-Fi card I also bought a converter so that I could slide an SD (or SDHC) card into a CF shaped adaptor and use it in my Canon. The good news is that the adaptor works, in that I can take photographs and they are saved on the SD card. However, the automatic upload functionality of the Eye-Fi card don't seem to work whilst it's in the Canon even if I set it so that it doesn't switch off automatically and where I opt to 'protect' selected frames.

A point to be aware of is that it does takes a long time to transfer the photographs from my Fuji, so if you take a lot of photographs like me do opt for the 'protect' option and be selective about which ones you want to upload in this way. Either way, it's a real battery drainer. I always carry two spare batteries with me along with the one in the camera and I've sat and watched it drain all three and still not be finished uploading.

Given that I've not really seen it work on an open wifi network, I'm only using it at home and, frankly, it's quicker, cheaper and greener to take the card out of the camera, bang it into the PC and whizz all the pics across in seconds/minutes than go through all of this palaver. It would be useful if I could set it up to recognise networks at friends', family, the office etc, but to configure this I'd need to input all the individual WEP keys and, as the config is done on the laptop, I'd need to trail it round to everywhere to set it up before I ever might want to upload from the camera 'in real life'.

So on balance, I like the Eye-Fi card in principle but they're expensive (£80ish) , faffy and, given that SD cards are pretty cheap, I don't think they currently offer huge convenience or represent value for money (but I'd love other's views - @spooons?).

Furthermore, chatting to @documentally about them, he tells me that a friend of his had some problems with one breaking inside his camera... the plastic does seem a tad more brittle than a conventional SD card... so if you're going to have a dabble... take care.


Paul Capewell said...

Thanks Tim, this is much appreciated. I was reading about these again today after hearing of them ages ago but assuming they didn't work with normal cameras.

I was surprised that the geotagging uses wireless hotspots - which effectively makes that function useless!

Anyway, your experiences echo what I half presumed, so thanks a lot for taking the time to post about it.

Tim Difford... said...

Hi Paul

Yes I forget to add about the geotagging function. You're right, it's a bit of a scam. I presume that if your camera natively supports geotagging then the eyefi card might send each photo's specific location rather than the wifi hotspot where the photos happen to be uploaded from... but then again.

Larry Gonzales said...


Couple of things, for the record CF adapters are not a supported configuration as range and reliability are affected.

The geotagging system used by Eye-Fi is quite a bit more complicated than simply adding the location of a WiFi hotspot to a photo. Eye-Fi Cards use the Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS) from Skyhook Wireless for geotagging. WPS uses surrounding wireless networks instead of satellites to triangulate the location where the photo was taken.

When a photo is taken the Eye-Fi Card scans for the Wi-Fi networks in the area and records the MAC addresses and signal strength of each access point detected. When the Eye-Fi Card comes into contact with a configured wireless network and the photos begin transferring, the WPS data are sent to Skyhook Wireless. At that time, Skyhook Wireless translates and triangulates the access point data collected, calculating a latitude and longitude that represents where the photo was taken. Skyhook Wireless then sends that information back to the Eye-Fi Servers which add the calculated latitude and longitude to the EXIF portion of the JPEG photo.

This system works quite well especially in denser urban areas and suburban areas. For example here is a map of photos automatically geotagged while on a walk in San Francisco. I hope this helps illustrate how one can take advantage of WPS for geotagging photos.

Benjamin Ellis said...

I too was a bit shocked about the geotagging feature - I had assumed it had a built in GPS (interesting that geotagging = GPS in our minds :) ). Was a bit disappointed to find out that it didn't. Will see how well the geotagging works.

On the battery thing - yes, WiFi is a battery hog!

I shoot at lots of events where a group of us are blogging/reporting, so having photos go up in real-time is pretty essential for the rest of the team, and I don't have the time to stop and fire up the mac and play with USB cables.

I'm hoping the Eye Fi-will be good for this. We'll see!

Josh said...

Apparently the newest Eye-Fi cards don't work with SD/SDHC -> CF adapters :(