In June we wrote about the all-new Eye-Fi Pro wireless SDHC memory card which allows both professional photographers and amateur photographers to automatically upload images directly from their cameras to a computer or the web. Today, thanks to Eye-Fi Inc, we have our hands on this latest technology which provides many new enhancements and features over its previous generation cards and we’ll take a closer look at them in this full product review.
When you first take a look at this SD card, it doesn’t look any different than any of the other hundreds of SD cards on the market today However, it’s what’s inside of this SD card that makes it so different. That’s because the guts of the Eye-Fi Wireless SDHC memory card include WiFi connectivity and of course the 4GB of internal memory storage like any other ordinary SD card on the market today.
In this review, we’ll take a look at the performance of the internal storage and also dig into the card’s ability to wirelessly upload photos from your camera to your computer or the Internet without the need for wires and of course the performance associated with that.
Table of Contents
- Eye-Fi Pro 4GB Packaging
- Initial Setup
- Configuring and Using Eye-Fi Pro 4GB
- Eye-Fi On Your Apple iPhone
- Benchmarking Eye-Fi Pro 4GB
Eye-Fi Pro 4GB Packaging
The packaging that the Eye-Fi Card comes in is quite a small footprint and actually reminds me a lot of how some Apple products come in the way that you open the box. By pulling the orange tab on the right, the Eye-Fi card and reader are exposed on the left.
The tab on the left will then open further to reveal the simple instructions to get your new wireless memory card up and running.
In the package, you will not only find the Eye-Fi Pro SDHC memory card but will also find the Eye-Fi memory card reader. Please be aware, that the memory card reader IS NOT required for normal operations.
It’s only provided so that you can initially configure the wireless settings and features on the memory card and thereafter, is not required unless you want to make certain configuration changes. The reader is no different than any other memory reader, so you could easily use one of your existing card readers if you desire.
After plugging in the SD card into the memory card reader and then into your USB port on your computer, the Eye-Fi Manager software will automatically be installing on your computer after a few prompts. It only takes a few seconds and once it has been completed a web browser will launch requesting that you ‘Register’ your Eye-Fi Pro card.
- On the “Create an Eye-Fi Account” page you will need to fill out some basic information such as your email, name, and an account password.
- After doing so, you can click on the “Create Account” button and you’re ready to begin configuring your new Eye-Fi card for use. I was using the Google Chrome web browser and was prompted that it was not a supported browser but was able to continue without issues.
- I also want to note that I am running the Windows 7 RC1 operating system and neither the installation of the Eye-Fi Manager software nor the web page had any issues with this.
Step 1 – Selecting Wireless Network
The first step after creating your account is selecting which wireless network you want the Eye-Fi Pro to default to when attempting to upload photos, this will usually be your home wireless network. The web page automatically scans for the closest WiFi networks in your area and allows you to choose one from the list that it provides.
Now, here is one of the brand new features of the new Eye-Fi Pro SDHC 4GB card, and that’s the ability to connect to an ad-hoc network or directly to a computer without a wireless network such as a router or access point. To do this, you will need to first set up your wireless card on your computer and then select “Other Network..” to get started. This is great if you are on the road traveling or stuck in a hotel with no wireless access and still want to use the wireless capabilities of the Eye-Fi Pro SDHC card.
If you already have a wireless network, you are good to go. If your network uses encryption (please tell me it does) then you will be prompted by the Eye-Fi Manager to enter the password or key for that network.
Step 2 – Enable Hotspots and Geotagging
After configuring which wireless network you want your card to default to, you are prompted with a few other wireless options.
One is the ability to turn on the “Connect to Wayport Hotspots and Open Networks” feature. This feature allows for your card to automatically connect to over 10,000 retail locations that offer Wayport hotspots as well as any other free open network that doesn’t require a password or key to use.
This can be really handy if you are always on the go. You might be taking some photos in the park one morning and you don’t have the ability to upload your photos right away. Then at lunchtime, you might go into town to grab something to eat and while you are there, you’re photos will automatically begin uploading to your computer or Internet photo-sharing site.
The other feature that will be presented to you is the ability to enable “Geotagging”. Geotagging is a feature that automatically adds location data to every picture that you take.
It can include the GPS position (latitude and longitude coordinates) as well as the city and state details. All of the information is stored in the metadata of your photo making it easy to search for your photos by where you took them.
Step 3 – Setup Web Sharing
This feature will most certainly appeal to consumers, and it’s the ability for the Eye-Fi card to automatically share your photos and videos online, without ever having to upload them to your computer first. Nowadays, we put everything in the cloud – it’s one of the safest places to store information as to its backed up (usually) and in the event of a computer crash, all of your data is still safe in the cloud.
Keeping your photos safe isn’t the only great thing about this service, there is also the time-saving aspect. Instead of uploading your photos to your computer, then uploading the photos from your computer to the Internet and sorting them in an online photo album, Eye-Fi card can do this for you without even having the photos touch your computer.
There are dozens of compatible photo-sharing services that the Eye-Fi card supports. Some of the most popular ones include –
- Kodak Gallery
For the video-sharing side of the house, the software supports; Flickr, Photobucket, Picasa, SmugMug, and of course YouTube. Think about it, you can be shooting a video and within a few seconds it can be posted on YouTube, without even messing with a computer.
Step 4 – Upload Your First Photo
The fourth and final step for configuring your new Eye-Fi Pro wireless memory card is; disconnecting the memory stick from your computer, installing the memory stick into your camera, and snapping your first picture! A few seconds after your picture is first snapped, you will see an image preview of the photo (this option can be changed) on the system tray of your computer.
The balloon popup of the photo shows the upload status and then your first photo will be shown in the web browser like the image below, indicating that your first photo upload was successful!
Configuring and Using Eye-Fi Pro 4GB
After your initial setup of the Eye-Fi Pro wireless card, you can plug the card back into your computer to further configure more advanced settings of the card. From here you can view your last 5 uploaded photos, read Eye-Fi news, get help with certain aspects of the card and or your camera, and you can also rename your Eye-Fi Card which we renamed ours to “Tech Fragments”.
Let’s take a closer look at all of the settings that can be configured on the Eye-Fi card. The first one, we have already seen and it deals with configuring the default wireless network and enabling Hotspots which we did in the initial setup.
The Upload Settings are quite handy and also include a new feature for the all-new Eye-Fi Pro SDHC Wireless Card and that’s the ability to selectively upload certain photos instead of all photos automatically.
The “Selective Transfer” feature can be set to automatically, which means any and all photos taken are uploaded OR it can alternatively be set to “Upload Selected” which only uploads photos that you select for it too.
How do you select which ones you want to upload? By using your camera’s “Protect” function. Simply, “Protect” each photo you want to be uploaded and the Eye-Fi Pro card does the rest.
This is actually a VERY cool feature that I really enjoy and I know all of the previous generation Eye-Fi card users will love this as well. With my camera, the Protect button is within a thumbs reach making this especially handy.
The last feature under the Upload Settings is the ability to Relay Upload photos. With relayed uploads, your camera and computer don’t need to be on at the same time for your media to upload.
If your computer is offline or the Eye-Fi Manager happens not to be running, your media will be sent over the WiFi network to the Eye-Fi servers. Then the next time your computer is online, the media will automatically be delivered to your photo location on the computer that you previously configured. Pretty slick feature and it’s free – no subscription or service fee is required to utilize this.
Next, let’s take a look at the “Photo Destinations” setting. From here, we can configure which folder on your computer photos are uploaded to. Furthermore, you can customize what the folder should look like.
I have configured mine to include the Month, Day, and Year the photo was taken so that I can easily view all of my folders and know where my pictures are located. This makes for sorting photos much easier later on if I desire.
You can also select which date you want the photos to utilize for the folder creation. You can choose to use the photo creation date (the date you took the photo) or the photo upload date (the date the photo was uploaded using Eye-Fi Manager).
The next feature on the settings page is the GeoTagging which we have already configured in the initial setup therefore we will not be covering it again, but it’s here on the settings page if you ever need to change it.
The last configurable feature on the settings page is the Upload Notifications. With upload notifications, you can have the Eye-Fi Manager automatically notify you, or your friends when a photo is uploaded to say your Picasa Web Album on the Internet. There are three notification types to choose from; Email, SMS, and Twitter.
The email notification type will allow you to enter one email address for notifications. The email will come from email@example.com so you will need to make sure it doesn’t go to your Spam box to see it. I wish that the Eye-Fi Manager would allow for multiple email addresses here. As you can see from the “Preferences” you have the ability to notify if an upload is successful or fails.
The SMS notification type allows for the same notification preferences but you will receive a text message on your phone instead. You simply select your carrier from the list and enter in your mobile phone number and you are ready to receive text alerts. We tested this with AT&T service and used the iPhone 3G without any issues at all.
Finally, we have Twitter. This can be a great way to notify a large group of people that you have new photos automatically uploaded to your photo-sharing site. All you have to do is enter your Twitter login credentials for the service to work.
Now that we have gone through all of the configuration options for the Eye-Fi Manager, let’s take a look at the last tab “My Eye-Fi Account”. From here you can change your password, name, device management, or even delete your account so that you can give your Eye-Fi to a friend or family member and allow them to register it. There is also an RSS Feeds option that will automatically show your latest photos to friends and families.
Eye-Fi On Your Apple iPhone
Yeah, no cool technology gadget is complete without its own iPhone app! Eye-Fi Inc, makers of the Eye-Fi SD cards have created a very useful iPhone application that they call, you guessed it, Eye-Fi.
With the Eye-Fi application, you can automatically have your photos on the iPhone uploaded to your computer from anywhere in the world by using the Internet on your phone. Likewise, you can have your photos uploaded to your favorite online photo gallery as well.
When you first install the Eye-Fi iPhone app, you will have to log in to your Eye-Fi account, the same account you registered your SD card with. After doing so, your Eye-Fi Manager on your computer will be populated with your iPhone as you can see in the photo below. Like the SD card, you can rename the “iPhone” to anything you want.
To begin using the iPhone app you will need to first select the iPhone in the Eye-Fi Manager and then click on settings to configure the Photo destinations. Like with the SD card, you can choose to upload to Web Sharing sites or the Computer.
I selected the local computer option and I configured it to use the same upload folder as my SD card, but for the folder creation I added an iPhone tag so that I will know that the photos came from my iPhone instead of my big digital camera.
On the iPhone, you launch the application by selecting the Eye-Fi Icon.
Once opened, you have a few settings to choose from. You can change your login credentials as well as Configure Web Sharing and see what Local Computers your photos are being sent to as well.
To begin uploading photos to your online web album or computer, you will need to click on the Uploader tab at the bottom of the app. From here, you can select which photos you want to upload.
After selecting the images you want to be uploaded, click on the upload button at the top and the app goes to work! Within seconds the photos will appear on the Eye-Fi Manager and a few more seconds later they will be on your computer or online web album!
It’s actually a fairly simple application but it works very well and it is FREE for Eye-Fi Card users.
Benchmarking Eye-Fi Pro 4GB
I am not going into deep detail on benchmarking the Eye-Fi Pro over the wireless network. There are WAY too many possible scenarios that could result in better or worse performance.
It’s really going to depend a lot on how far away your camera is from the access point or Ad-hoc network, the speed of the WiFi, nearby interferences, and many other things. While my simple test was nowhere near scientific, it actually only involved a stopwatch, it might give you somewhat of an idea as to what speed you might expect.
When transferring ten images that average 2.5Mb in size with my camera 10 feet from the wireless 802.11G access point it took a total of 3.6 seconds to transfer one photo to the computer fully. So if you have over 100 photos, it’s going to take over 5 minutes for the upload to complete with my current setup. Again, your speeds may be faster or slightly slower than this.
Where we can actually test real performance and easily measure it is with the memory card physically connected to the computer. While this is not the primary purpose of this device, I still thought it might be interesting to see where it stands when up against other SD cards that I have on my desk.
The SanDisk SD card was one that I’ve had for many years now, probably over 5 or 6 years and I think the performance of it shows that. With a read speed of only 10X, it’s the slowest one of the three. Next, we have the Kodak SDHC 2GB card which does very well with both the read and the write test.
Finally, we have the Eye-Fi SDHC Pro 4GB SD card which does good with the read test but the write test, it lacked quite a bit, trailing behind the Kodak card by a lot.
We used SiSoftware Sandra memory test and the above benchmarks were with 2MB files, since most camera’s will be using 2MB or greater in size for photos.
Great features aside, there are a couple of things to note that you may want to consider before purchasing one. One is the slower write speed on the card when utilizing the physical connection via a USB SD card reader.
The slower write speed worries me slightly but digital cameras nowadays usually can buffer many photos at one time before they even begin writing them to the SD card, so the slow write speed doesn’t bother me quite as much as a slow read speed. The read speed was right on par with our other SDHC card, so no problems there.
The wireless network feature was a tad slower than I would have liked, I hope future generations of the Eye-Fi cards can build on the wireless capabilities to provide faster transfer speeds.
The 3.6 seconds on average it took to upload one photo really isn’t too bad when you consider having to find a memory card reader and going through the hassle to transfer the photos to your computer, and then having to upload to a photo-sharing site – that 3.6 seconds will suddenly begin to look a lot nicer!
Lastly, the Wayport HotSpot feature that gives you free access to over 10,000 hotspots is only free for the first year. Thereafter if you wish to continue the service, you must pay $14.99 a year.
However, the Geotagging service is free and will always be free for the lifetime of the Eye-Fi card. Eye-Fi Inc. has a partnership with Skyhook Wireless to provide this free service and Skyhook provides wireless geotagging coverage for more than 70% of the population.
Overall, I am very pleased with the Eye-Fi Pro 4GB memory card, and all of the new improvements such as the ability to select which photos to upload and having the RAW transfer capabilities really make this card geared towards both professionals and consumers while previous generation Eye-Fi cards may have been geared more towards consumers only.
The Eye-Fi card worked perfectly and as I expected when utilizing the wireless upload features. The Eye-Fi iPhone application was a nice free addition to being an Eye-Fi card owner and I’m really looking forward to putting that app to use, especially while on the go without my digital camera.
While it may not be the first choice for professional photographers, I can definitely see a huge market for consumers of families, teenagers, and the occasional photographer who don’t rely on the fastest SD cards around for a living.
The Eye-Fi Pro 4GB SDHC Wireless card costs $149.99 (EYE-FI-4PC) and is available now through www.Eye.fi.
Image credit: Yu Morita, CC-BY