Wireless SD card for Digital Cameras: Eye-Fi Card Review

Aug 31, 2010 (Updated Dec 28, 2012)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Automatic wireless transfer of pictures from camera
to PC and photo sharing web sites

Cons:Upload takes time- about 1 min per picture
Battery consumption- extra batteries for upload highly recommended

The Bottom Line:

This product simplifies the process of downloading pictures from your digital camrea.


The Concept
Simply imagine this: you never have to connect your digital camera to the PC any more to upload pictures. As soon as you take new pictures, they will automatically show up on your PC, and even on your favorite photo sharing web site such as snapfish, flickr or others-- without any particular action from your side, and without wires. It just happens.
Too good to be true? Let's take a more detailed look at how this works, and how practical it is in everyday use.

How it works
(Warning- we'll be getting a little technical. Feel free to skip ahead to read what you need to know about Everyday Use)
The form factor is standard SD-Card size, comes with 4MB or 8MB capacity and includes an on-board wireless interface. Yes, they can make the wireless technology so tiny that you would not notice the difference to a normal SD card! You stick it into your camera, and as soon as new pictures are stored on the card, it tries to connect to your wireless network (which you have configured before). This requires the camera to be turned on, of course.
Once a connection has been established, which usually takes less than 2 seconds, your new photos will be uploaded to the Eye-Fi server via your wireless home network. Note that your PC does not have to be turned on at this point; so far this is purely between your camera, the Eye-Fi card, your wireless network router, your ISP/network provider and EyeFi server.
When you turn on your PC next time, the installed software (Eye-Fi Manager) will connect to the Eye-Fi server, check for new photos and download to your PC to the configured location (e.g. My Pictures/Eye-Fi), sorted by date with a folder for each day. Note your camera does not have to be turned on at this point, as the pictures have already been uploaded to the server.
Also, in parallel, your PC will log in to your favorite photo sharing site (if you chose to configure this feature) and automatically upload the new pictures from PC to photo sharing site.
The nice thing is that above process can be performed sequential, as described, or everything can go on in parallel, if/when you have your camera and PC turned on at the same time. It really doesn't matter, as the pictures will find their way to the PC and the photo sharing site sooner or later!

Installation

The package comes with a small USB adapter that accepts the brand new SD card, which you plug into your PC's USB port for setup and configuration. The card also contains the software which will be installed on your PC. Setup includes configuring your wireless network and some preferences such as folder location where you want your photos, your photo sharing web site of choice and login information. It was relatively straightforward, but I had to walk over to my wireless router to check out some settings. Overall, it took about 15 min to get up and running, but let's be honest a non-technical person probably would have to rely on some tech-daddy type or similar to get things going.

Everyday use
I decided to get this for my wife's camera, as she frequently got frustrated with finding the right USB cable, launching the right software, folder naming conventions etc, so that in the end usually I had to upload and sort her photos. As you can already tell she is non-technical so this will be a good test.
Once configured, things are completely hands-off and the only thing you have to remember is to sometimes turn the camera on in reach of your wireless home network and just let it sit there and do its thing. Which brings me to the first downside: It takes time to upload photos. The normal time you'd turn on your camera to snap pictures is not at all sufficient for upload. In average, in my Pentax Optio, one 4MP picture takes about a minute to completely upload to the server, download to the PC and upload to Snapfish. So when we returned from our summer vacation with about a 120 photos, we had to leave the camera running for a good two hours. Note that the closer you move the camera to your wireless router, the faster upload speed you'll get.
Which brings me to the next issue- power consumption. The wireless connection uses more battery than standard camera operation. When uploading pictures, my Pentax Optio will last about 20-30 minutes. So it is pretty much mandatory to have a couple of extra batteries that you can use while re-charging the others.
Keeping above points in mind, everything else works just like a charm. Photos show up in the expected location on the PC and on Snapfish. This has definitely simplified the process to down-/up-load our digital photos.
Speaking of photo-sharing, as a side note, you may want to double-check who can see your photos on-line. If you have set all your albums to public access, keep in mind that whatever picture is taken with your camera, it will end up on the public internet within minutes! Imagine this scenario: two-year old grabs camera on a Saturday morning, running around the house and bedrooms, snapping pictures.. Five minutes later you get a call from grandma telling you really shouldn't wear those shorts at the breakfast table. Or worse.. you get the idea!

The Verdict
I recommend this product to simplify the process of uploading pictures from your digital camera to PC and photo sharing web site. It takes more time than you'd expect and you'll have to keep some extra batteries around but I prefer this over the cumbersome manual process fiddling with USB cables and picture download software. And last but not least- it is really cool technology at work!

Pre-requisites
Camera compatible with SD card memory media
Wireless network in your home
PC with Windows (XP, Vista, Win7)
High-Speed internet connection (DSL or cable)
Optional: account on photo sharing web site such as snapfish, flickr, photobucket or others
Recommended: extra batteries (rechargable Li-Ion) for your camera


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