Boy, are my Instagram friends going to be jealous. Now, when I share a photo using my favorite Lomo-Twitter mobile app, my photos are going to look sharper, crisper and better than everyone else’s.
Why? Because I’m not using the crappy camera on my phone. I’m using a nice prosumer camera with an Eye-Fi Mobile X2 card in it. Every time I press the shutter, my photo transfers wirelessly and directly to the phone in my pocket. From there, I can add whatever fancy, appy goodness I want, and share it on the internet.
Eye-Fi has been making waves for a while by producing SD memory cards that can transfer pictures from your camera to your PC wirelessly. We’re big fans — we gave the Eye-Fi Pro a great review in 2009.
This new product, the Eye-Fi Mobile X2, builds on Eye-Fi platform but eliminates the PC part of the equation and sends photos directly to an iPhone, iPad or Android device over the air.
Slap this card into your prosumer shooter, download an app to your mobile device, and every picture you take with your camera will appear in your phone or tablet’s photo library about 10 seconds later. If you have neither smartphone nor tablet (really?), you can just send the photos to your PC, as with the older Eye-Fi cards. It also has 8 GB of regular SDHC storage, too.
The new functionality is something Eye-Fi calls “Direct Mode” — it transfers your photos wirelessly even if there’s no Wi-Fi connection available. So if you’re out birdwatching at your cabin on the Lake Isle of Innisfree, the card itself becomes a hot spot and transfers the photo using the Wi-Fi radio in your phone.
There are Eye-Fi mobile apps for both iOS and Android devices. I tested it on a Nexus S running Android. (The iPhone/iPad app was developed concurrently, but it won’t be available for download in the App Store until around April 16 or 17.) We were only able to test the Android version, but the company says the experience will be the same on both Android and iOS.
The apps are free, but the card costs $80. A regular Class 6 8-GB card is about $15, which means the extra $65 adds nothing but convenience.
Eye-Fi is launching the Mobile X2 card on April 17, when it will be exclusive to Best Buy for a short time before showing up at all the other retail outlets. As a bonus, anyone with a last-gen X2 Eye-Fi card — Explore X2, Connect X2 or Pro X2 — will get Direct Mode enabled on their existing cards via a firmware update.
You start by plugging the card into a Mac or Windows PC using the supplied USB card reader. The card mounts on your machine, then you browse it and install a simple desktop app. Here inside the app, you configure the card to transfer to and from your various devices.
You can also set it up with login information for any wireless networks you may use. You can add login info to the card with one click if your computer can see a network, or you can add networks manually.
I didn’t do any of this when I tested it. I just downloaded the Android app and gave permission for the card to talk to the phone, then popped the Eye-Fi into a Canon G11 and started shooting. The Eye-Fi defaulted to Direct Mode and transferred each picture to the Nexus S about 10 seconds after I took it.
So, the Wi-Fi login information isn’t necessary if you’re using Eye-Fi’s Direct Mode, but it’s nice to have that stuff stored on your card so you can utilize Wi-Fi when its available. The transfers in Direct mode take about five seconds each. But once I added the Wi-Fi information to the card and connected to the same network as the phone, I was able to shave a second or two off of each of the file transfers.
I was shooting in the highest quality JPEG setting on the Canon. The Eye-Fi transfers the whole file, whether video or still photo, without employing any additional compression. If you prefer to shoot RAW, the phone probably won’t be able to understand the file type, but it can store the files.
But the killer feature of the Eye-Fi Mobile X2 is that it turns any camera into an always-on device. You’re out walking around and you see something you want to Tweet or Tumbl or what-have-you. You’re no longer limited by the crappy camera in your phone. You can shoot through real glass using a quality sensor, then whip out the phone and upload the picture.
Sure, you could argue that for super-processed Instagram photos or for Facebook party shots, the phone in your pocket is good enough. And you’d be mostly right. But the Eye-Fi lets you use whatever camera you want and post the results without having to go home and dump the card.
That’s enough of a convenience factor to get enthusiasts excited. It should also raise a few eyebrows among users of iPad photo-editing apps like Photogene and PixelMagic.
In addition to the hardware, Eye-Fi also offers a cloud-based storage service called Eye-Fi View. You can upload web-accessible versions of your photos there and store them for seven days. If you need more time, you can pony up $5 per month for an Eye-Fi View account with no limits on time or storage space. Using Eye-Fi’s web service, you can also auto-publish to any of the two dozen or so supported photo sharing sites, including all the biggies.
This isn’t a notable feature for most of us, though, because we already have that end of the equation figured out. But for your Pep Pep who just started a Tumblr, it might be the best thing he’s ever used.
- Eye-Fi ‘Direct Mode’ Send Photos Direct to iPad
- The Eye-Fi Pro and the iPad? Forget About it
- Eye-Fi: How One Little Chip Will Change the Way You Share Pictures