Fie on Eye-Fi

Transferring photos directly from your digital camera to a hard drive via wifi. A sweet idea, to be sure, and a functionality that now seems to be built into pretty much every new digital camera model coming off the producton lines. This was not the case just a short time ago, though, and this is the raison d’etre for Eye-Fi.

For those of you not already in-the-know, Eye-Fi is a company that produces SD and SDHC memory cards that supply digital cameras with secure wifi capability in addition to the usual photo file storage. They also produce software that works in conjunction with their product line, helping their customers to facilitate the use of their Eye-Fi cards (read: essentially owning the process of wirelessly transferring their customers photos and video from camera to computer). Eye-Fi memory cards work with just about any digital camera that makes use of a SD or SDHC memory card. They come in a variety of different storage capacities, are powered via the camera itself, and — supposedly — work up to a range of 90+ feet outdoors and 45+ feet indoors (yeah, that made me go “Huh?” too). Setup is quite easy, though due to configuration necessities it is a bit more complex than just pop-in-and-go. Of course, with so many different cameras in Eye-Fi’s purview it simply is not possible to offer a single file transfer performance standard, however to the company’s credit they do offer copious information and support on their website that is granulated down to the camera maker model level. And the associated Eye-Fi software extends the basic functionality of an Eye-Fi card, allowing for fine-tuned file organization, real-time file transfer, and file geotagging.

So all in all, Eye-Fi offers one handy-dandy, extremely cool, and very useful piece of digital photography tech…none of which is going to keep me from slagging it from one end of this page to the other.

Regular readers (and understand, please, that by ‘regular’ I am not implying normalcy) know that I have something of a propensity to slightly anthropomorphize objects to which I assign high value. My computer, my bicycle, my moped, certain knives…all tactile things that I have given names to, might in rare moments utter a conversational word to, and which I have kitted out with high-quality accessories. Naturally this extends to my go-to digital camera, my beautiful and beloved Leyna the Leica D-Lux 5, which over the years I have adorned with an EVF (Electronic Viewfinder), a lens adaptor tube, various filters, extra batteries, and a handcrafted leather half-case. And because I adore the lovely Leyna both outside and in, last summer I bought her an Eye-Fi Pro X2 16GB card.

Fie on Eye-Fi

Finally! Wireless file transfer…the one essential feature Leyna did not have! I can take a picture here…and it will render over there! No longer would I need to remove Leyna’s SD card to experience the fruit of her labor. Now I could just navigate to the date-stamped directory created by the Eye-Fi software or open iPhoto and there my photos would be, ready for editing, viewing, sharing. Internet-age technology at its absolute zenith!

Heh. No. Eye-Fi started breaking its promises from the get-go, without even a brief “Honeymoon” period. Dingy slow file transference, an inability to circumvent Leyna’s power savings settings when doing its work, a need to be in a direct line of sight with the network router (thus partially explaining the “outside” versus “inside” transfer distance “Huh?” listed in the specifications…numbers that were wildly exaggerated, too, I must add), dropped connections…it all made for a lot of expectations swallowing on my part, while also forcing me to change workflows and camera settings just to get some semablance of usable functionality from my new handy-dandy, extremely cool…yeah, whatever.

I persisted with Eye-Fi in spite of the distinct lack of satisfaction I was getting from the device and technology, believing that I could adapt to the workarounds I had to put in place to get it working in my digital photo scheme of things. Perhaps a future firmware update would smooth out the kinks between Leyna and Eye-Fi, I thought (hoped), or maybe the two devices would spontaneously comee to work better together over time (OK, I didn’t really believe that, but I’d spent $99 on the darn card and really really REALLY wanted it to work as expected…as promised). And a firmware update did come along, as did a software update, and I boosted the wifi in both the flat and at our Normandy maison secondaire…but still, the relationship didn’t markedly improve. A few months in, frustrated yet again with Eye-Fi’s slow and spotty performance I found myself (gasp!) taking it out of Leyna and putting it into AppleKory’s card reader to more quickly grab the files therein. Purpose defeated, and now I was the owner of an extremely expensive 16GB SD card.

And that is the way it was with me, Leyna, and Eye-Fi tech until just recently when I became just a little more serious in my photography, making the leap to shoot in RAW and migrating from Apple’s game-but-wanting iPhoto to Adobe’s magnificent Lightroom 5. Now, a passionless relationship mired in apathy has gone downright cold. When asked to transfer jpeg files via card reader the Eye-Fi card and software proved up to the task, performing as well as any other SD card. With much larger RAW files, though? This past Sunday evening upon returning from a 4-day weekend I removed the Eye-Fi card from Leyna and set it up in the card reader for file transfer. It had been a few weeks since I had last offloaded the card and in the interim I had snapped about 2000 photos (the result of a conspiracy involving a glorious spring in France, three stateside visitors, a two-day London excursion, a day at Futuroscope, and a three-day weekend spent in and around La Rochelle). 14+ hours. That is how long it took Eye-Fi to empty 12GB onto my hard drive. 14+ hours, a speed of just under 2.1 mbps, and this via card reader…I shudder to imagine how long it would’ve taken via wifi!

I know a lot of people are quite satisfied with their Eye-Fi cards and have been for some time — did my due diligence, I did — and that one man’s bad experience does not a product assessment make. That said, with all of the problems and disappointments I have endured, and following the utter debacle of my last file transfer, I will soon be turning my own Eye-Fi card loose on the ravages of eBay, and let the buyer beware!

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  1. Theodore

    You may want to have a look at the RAVPower 5-in-1 filehub. It works as a wireless SD card reader. And also generates some other features: wireless USB hard drive/thumb drive reader, wi-fi hotspot, 3,000mAh battery pack and NAS file server.
    http://www.ravpower.com/ravpower-rp-wd01-filehub-3000mah-power-bank.html

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