Picture: Eye-Fi Card being inserted into the camera. A bit of attatched transparent tape eases pulling it out again (invisible in the picture). Foto Jörn.
SD card, SDHC card, Wi-Fi, WLAN, W-Lan, SD-Karte, SDHC-Karte and finally
are the keywords for this refined and somewhat expensive storage card to be used in cameras.
My experiences are mixed. Summarizing: As the card won’t tell you what it does, once it is in the camera, and you can’t tell the card what you want, either it all works or you are out of luck. The setup of the card has to be done with an open online connection to the Eye-Fi server in the web, otherwise the card will not accept any configuration changes. I’d wish you could, for example, take an all black photo with your camera (lens cap closed), and the card would respond with a “picture” of its current status, how far it has been transmitting photoes, if the access to a hotspot had worked out, or whatever happened last. Today however you fool in the dark – or you enjoy the bright idea of a perfectly radio transmitting SD card.
The standard transfer to your PC at home within the range of your own Wi-Fi station works fine. Ten to fifteen seconds after having turned on the camera (display mode suffices), transfer begins. You’ll see one (new) picture after another pop up in the lower right corner of your display (example picture to the right here), until all of them are transmitted. A three to five Megapixel JPG takes under four seconds. If you have many new pictures, you may want to turn the camera back on after an automtically timed switch-off (after five minutes as standard in my camera).
Erratic operation. Some months ago I had an Eye-Fi card (4GB Share Video) that stopped sending pictures after some two or three pictures, and this did happen to others as well. My new card (8GB Pro X2) worked perfectly for a couple of weeks. Then one Monday it stopped with “Uploads to Web pending”. No activity any more. But behold and never give up hope: On Tuesday I turn on the Eye-Fi manager in my PC (which I really ought to have in Autostart) and pictures come rushing down out of the web, even bofore I bring the camera into the range of my Wi-Fi. Something must have happened on Monday in the invisible background. Now it all works again. Why? But – fine! On Wednesday morning then: Eye-Fi still working, with the exception of one little video. My AVCHD lite videos so far have been treated just like pictures by Eye-Fi, this time they are ignored. Mystique. Wednesday afternoon: Eight videos come tumbling down, including those copied manually on Monday in despair, via Eye-Fi (had to turn the camera on for that), and nobody knows why. So let’s leave technology and enjoy nature: a mouse eating the rest of cheese from a recently abandoned pidgeon’s nest (by healthy youngsters). Weekend at the in-laws. I’ve brought my little Thinkpad along, and try to log the Eye-Fi card into father’s Wi-Fi. Some overcareful grandchild had set his Wi-Fi security to 128 bit Wep – despite the fact that the house is the last in a row, the neighbour a single lady with 93, and no danger of someone hacking into the network in sight. No success:
“Connection with the selected network could not be established. Check the network key and enter it again.” – I did. Same flop. Keys do more harm than good.
The possible distance to my Wi-Fi router I didn’t measure, I just found it ok. The battery drain seems ok to me as well. A Dave Hansen has done measurements in 2008: On 5 V 25 mA, then during transfer 120 mA, finally back to 40 mA.
Transfer to my web site via FTP or to a social network like Picasa web albums I didn’t even try. As you probably don’t want to publish all pictures taken, you have to tag the ones for public viewing as being “write protected” in your camera. As I never do this during normal camera use (what for?), I won’t do it for Eye-Fi either. Too laborious.
Use of public hot spots to send pictures home was a major disappointment for me. I got myself a fresh hotspot account with T-Mobile (as T-Mobile customer just sms the word open to 9526), I configured it into the Eye-Fi card, and then “in the field” nothing happened. The Eye-Fi folks told me later that I had indeed logged into two hotspots (i. e. paid for the access), but no pictures were transferred. If this nice little card just had a LED on its rear side along with the antenna, then you could open the camera and see how it transfers. Like this public hotspot picture transfer just isn’t working here, as far as I’m concerned.
The same is true with ad-hoc connections between your Eye-Fi card in the camera and your laptop with its Wi-Fi receiver. To tell the card that you’d like to make these ad-hoc connections while out in the desert next time is so complicated that I rather take the SD card out of the camera and plug it into my laptop than setting up Eye-Fi to do this wirelessly. Again: the problem is that you must be online to the Internet while configuring this feature. As your Wi-Fi link will be used to ad-hoc connect to the card, you must connect your laptop to the Internet via LAN (Ethernet) cable during setup. Also: Who even knows how to connect two Laptops via ad-hoc Wi-Fi link?
Good news is the geotagging feature, in the pictures as seen by Picasa. Locating works surprisingly well, all the way to small Rhine villages here in the vicinity of Bonn. Congratulations Skyhook Wireless! Adding the geo information into the pictures he takes place en route during the passage of the Eye-Fi host. No problem for me. But cautious folks my object to all these pictures, all these Wi-Fi passwords und personal data stored at Eye-Fi in somewhere. This is a security issue one should accept knowingly beforehand.
Finally a word to the non existing manuals. Eye-Fi seems to let its clever users find out its features. You have to wade through blogs to find out how something really works, and then you might be misled initially by flaws the card used to have some time ago. You’ll read how nice it would be if you could selectively upload pictures to social networks and all of them unselectively to your files at home, just to get informed a bit further down that now, yes now this feature is available. The Eye-Fi site and the Eye-Fi program in your PC are just continuous advertisements, rarely serious help. Try to find out what version of Eye-Fi software you are running on your PC and on your SD card and why. Try to find out what happens when you re-format your Eye-Fi card. Try to set up the card without Internet connection on a lone mountain farm; it does not even tell you that there’s an option to set up an "ad-hoc link". Where are those log files? (Answer: Connect the Eye-Fi card to your PC and move the mouse to the Eye-Fi icon in the task bar – see my screenshot here – and wait for the pop-up to give you the option “Get Eye-Fi Card log...”. Latest entries at bottom.)
Telephone support (here at normal German long distance charges to Frankfurt am Main 069 51709874) is good, mail to Support@Eye.Fi took eight days for a substantial reaction (“Finland” seems far away :–). “Email support is like molasses …” writes a user in the forum.
Iphone. There’s an app to get the pictures from the camera to the iphone via Wi-Fi and out to the Internet via Mobile Phone service, all without wires.
Such a great idea. So well placed in hardware. So fantastic when it works. (So expensive too.) Wonderful ways around all kinds of firewalls. Wi-Fi use for geotagging. But a weak usage process.
Fritz@Joern.com in June of 2010
A month later – they never come back …
The process has become a one-way-street. My pictures transfer wirelessly from the card into the web, but they never come back into my PC. When I ask for the “Upload History” I see my pictures, but only far away on Eye-Fi’s server: “Uploads to web complete” and “Waiting for delivery to computer”. The passage should read: “Upload to computer complete”, as seen in the small screenshot on the right down below. What a pity. It had been working a month ago. I guess since my (German) article in the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” has now appeared, the Eye-Fi server has relaxed its efforts to deliver, to “push” …
Wikipedia entry on Eye-Fi
A great look inside the Eye-Fi card
Inside the Eye-Fi: Secrets of the First Wireless SD Card
Hacking the Eye-Fi to avoid Eye-Fi host (Unix)
The Eye-Fi: A Case Study in Next-Generation Application Security Issues
Link to this blog here http://blogabissl.blogspot.com/2010_06_01_archive.html#Eye-Fi
(see here for permalink addressing)
PS. AVCHD lite videos are transferred ok, they just aren’t geotagged. June 2010