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The Eye-Fi SD Card

A few months ago I had read about this product – an SD card with wi-fi capabilities. You could say that I’ve been “eyeing” it for a while. Anyway, I made it a point to stop by their booth at CES in early January to learn more about the Eye-Fi card. There I spoke with Berend Ozceri, one of the founders of the Eye-Fi Company.

After he explained its features and capabilities, I was sold on the Eye-Fi and decided to review this interesting product. When I returned home, I visited a local computer store and picked up a 4GB model on sale for $39. It’s slightly more expensive than a plain vanilla SD-card so I was curious to see if the extra features were worth the price.

The Eye-Fi fits into any camera that accepts an SD-card. Its one unique capability is that it is able to wirelessly connect to a wi-fi network while still inserted in the camera. How would someone use this capability? I can suggest three ways:

  • use it to make an automatic backup of the images onto your computer
  • use it to transfer images to a computer while the camera is still being used to take additional photos
  • use it transfer images from the camera to a computer without any intervention – for lazy photographers such as me

The Eye-Fi package includes the wireless SD-card, a USB adapter for the card, a CD-ROM and a short instruction manual. One preliminary step is to install the Eye-Fi software on my PC. When I started the software I was asked to insert the adapter with the Eye-Fi card into my PC’s USB slot and to identify my wi-fi network (entering my WEP security code). This information is written to the card.

With the setup complete, I removed the adapter from the PC, inserted the Eye-Fi card into my digital camera and started taking a few test pictures.

About 30 seconds after pressing the shutter, I saw a small thumbnail of my first picture appear on the PC taskbar. The image was being wirelessly transferred to my computer!

To the right, you can see that the Eye-Fi Center software shows the transferred images – arranged by date.

I measured the transfer speed. After a fifteen second delay (the software seemed to be connecting to the Eye-Fi card), it took about 90 seconds to transfer ten 3 to 4 MB jpg images to my PC. Not bad.

In addition to transferring them to PC, the Eye-Fi Center software can forward the images to many online sites for either sharing or printing.

According to Eye-Fi, the most frequent sites are: Flickr, Picassa, mobileMe and Facebook. I successfully used the Eye-Fi Center software to share my photos with all four of these sites. This has been a real timesaver for me.

As you can see from this screen, Eye-Fi lets you forward your photos to many other sites as well. The Eye-Fi Center can also send an email, Facebook SMS or Twitter message when the forwarding has completed.

There are actually several “versions” of the Eye-Fi card.

Connect X2 This is the card that I purchased. All of these cards transfer jpg stills and videos to both PC and Mac computers.

Geo X2 This card add location data to your images – geotagging.

Explore X2 This card adds one year of Hotspot support that lets you share your photos from thousands of open networks such as Starbucks, McDonalds, Barnes & Noble and others. Also includes geotagging.

Pro X2 This card lets you transfer RAW files in addition to jpgs. Also includes geotagging and Hotspot support.

One caveat is that you’ll need to be no further than about 50 feet or so from your wi-fi receiver. And like other wi-fi devices, the Eye-Fi may not be able to transmit the images through walls or other structures.

Eye-Fi has a few other features such as:

  • you can setup the Eye-Fi card for use on multiple wi-fi networks
  • you can transfer only selected photos by using your digital camera’s Protect option
  • you can use the card as “endless memory”; each image is erased after it is transferred to your computer
  • you can use relay transfer to automatically send your images to an Eye-Fi server for seven days; your wi-fi network can do this even if your computer is turned off.

I used the Eye-Fi card for about a month on a variety of digital cameras – simple point-and-shoot models, advanced point-and-shoot models and several digital SLRs. My conclusion is that the Eye-Fi is exceedingly convenient for transferring the photos directly from a camera to a computer without any effort on my part. For me, the bonus is being able to forward these photos to Flickr and/or Facebook automatically thus saving me lots of time.

Is it worth buying one? If you have access to a wi-fi network, the answer is a firm Yes.

You can find more information at Eye.Fi


Written by Arnie Lee

Note: I also installed the Eye-Fi Center software on an iMac. Annoyingly, the Eye-Fi Center software refused to accept my WEP code a dozen or so times while connecting to my network. Although the software told me that my WEP code was invalid, it actually accepted the code despite the erroneous message. Later, I contacted Eye-Fi technical support to learn if this is a known problem but have yet to receive an answer. Except for this installation problem, the software worked flawlessly and I was able to transfer and forward images through my iMac.



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