Look Ma, No Wires!

My son dressed up
Harry Potter apparently lives at my house

I was given a wonderful present for my birthday, a first generation Canon EOS Rebel DSLR. It's my first “real” camera, and getting a DSLR for free took away the obstacle of, “How can I justify getting a camera I don't even know how to use?” Now I can learn on a great device, and if/when I out-grow it I can always move up to a newer model.

I love using the camera, the ability to do depth of field, manually focus, and set my shutter speed and f-stop make taking pictures a lot of fun. White balance is difficult, and I don't much care for the “auto” settings, but I'll learn. In fact, after owning the camera for a couple of weeks there was only one thing which bugged me.

Wires.

Ever since I got a smart phone my point and shoot had been all but retired. Aside from the convenience of the form-factor, the ability to move images off my phone without wires was super appealing – especially after Photostream debuted (even if it can be a bit confusing). With the Canon, though, I either had to pop out the memory card or plug a USB cable in order to retrieve images from the device. I didn't like this even a little bit. Even worse, the camera takes compact flash memory, which meant my MacBook's built-in SD slot was useless. I needed a card reader. How 2003!

This led me to seek a solution for my wire problem. I was familiar with eye-fi, an SD card with wifi and GPS on it – so I went searching for something similar in compact flash format. Instead, I found something I'd never seen, an SD to compact flash adapter. It didn't take me long to figure out the adapter worked with eye-fi cards, so off my went my order to Amazon. I chose to order the 8GB pro x2 card, because it came with GPS included and could also transfer Raw images wirelessly.

The card arrived today, and after some testing, I had it transferring images from the DSLR to my MacBook, Nexus 7, and iPad. It's pretty amazing to have my camera send the pictures to my devices, and I can set it up to transfer only images I mark as “protected” on the camera. Additionally, when I transfer the images to a mobile device I can have them automatically transferred to my MacBook as well (though on the iPad this doesn't make much sense given the presence of Photostream). I don't know what impact this is going to have on battery life. I know it will certainly have some, but eye-fi seems to have done a stellar job implementing power management on the card.

Configuring the card requires either a Mac or windows computer, also, the eye-fi cards needs to be inserted into the SD card reader which came in the package, without it the card cannot be set up. While this is a pain, and a non-starter for people who have gone entirely mobile, I understand the limitation. Configuring the card via an on-board interface might be too much for to ask for such a compact device. The card also requires users to set up for an account with the eye-fi service. This is used to upload images temporarily to their web-service, as well as for pairing different devices with the card. This web-service keeps photos online for seven days (it can also be disabled), where they can be shared and downloaded. Long-term storage in eye-fi's system costs $49.99 a year and includes unlimited storage – that isn't a bad deal for a cloud backup of every image taken with a camera! In addition to eye-fi's service, users may also set the card to upload images to a variety of web sharing sites – including Flickr, Facebook, and Picasa.

My one issue with the eye-fi mobile apps is the location data obtained by GPS doesn't seem to be applied to the pictures. I noticed this on the desktop manager as well, pictures would appear in the manager and it would take a bit for the location data to be applied. This is because the geotagging seems to be accomplished on eye-fi's servers, but I do hope the ability to have the geotagging data applied to the photos comes to the mobile apps soon. It is, after all, one of the reasons I purchased the more expensive card. Also, the lack if geotagging data on the photos imported to iOS makes Photostream less useful – it seems to get the location data images have to be passed through the desktop software, or downloaded from eye-fi's web-site. This is kind of a bummer. If the eye-fi app can't apply the geotagging data to my images I'd almost rather it not add them to Photostream. I could simply automatically upload my images to the Mac when I returned to it. That way all the data would be attached to my photos, and I wouldn't end up with multiple copies of the same image. I can turn on the automatic upload, but keeping eye-fi images off Photostream isn't something I've figured out yet. I could turn Photostream off completely, but it's an essential part of my iPhone workflow at this point.

Despite this hiccup, I am quite pleased with the card thus far. If you use a DSLR and have been looking for a way to avoid wires when transferring you images, this is a stellar solution.

 

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