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Review: Eye-Fi Pro X2 Wireless Camera Card

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Short version: transfer the photos you take from your camera to your computer without hassles, and without wires, using the X2 Pro card from Eye-Fi. Add in the ability to automatically post photos to a growing number of online sites, geotagging, and “Endless Memory” and the Pro X2 card is a great buy at $149.

Features:

  • 8 GB class 6 SDHC card
  • 802.11 b/g/n wireless network support
  • supports transfer of JPEG, RAW and video files
  • automatically post to Flickr, Facebook, and many other photo and video sharing sites
  • MSRP $149

Pros:

  • Super simple configuration
  • SMS and email notification of file transfers
  • “Endless Memory” automatically deletes images from the card after they’re uploaded to your computer

Cons:

  • Inconsistent transfer speeds
  • Unreliable geotagging due to public hotspot IP configurations
  • Potential battery drain on older cameras

Review
It boggles my mind that something the size of a dime can not only hold thousands of digital photos or hours of digital video, but can also pack in a WiFi transmitter capable of sending those photos and videos to my computer. The X2 Pro card is super simple to use, and works perfectly.


Tip o’ the hat to Rick for filming, and letting me play with his Nikon D5000

The 8GB SDHC card is only one third of the equation, though. The other parts of the equation are the Eye-Fi Center which runs on your PC and the Eye-Fi servers. Before you can use the wireless functions of the EyeFi card, you need to tell it about the wireless networks to which the card will connect. Unfortunately, the card cannot connect to wireless networks unless it knows about them in advance, even if those networks are open networks. The exception is public AT&T hot spots, like those found at Starbuck’s and Barnes and Nobles, to which the Eye-Fi cards can connect automatically, but you need to enable that option in the Eye-Fi Center first. It’s important to remember that you need to pre-program the wireless networks: this means you can’t take your camera over to your buddy’s birthday party and expect to upload photos right away — you need to add your buddy’s wireless network to your Eye-Fi card configuration, first.

The Eye-Fi Center allows you to set different options for JPEG, RAW and video files. You select the destination on your computer — whether a specific directory, or a directory created by the Eye-Fi Center based on date, or your computer’s iPhoto library — and optionally configure one or more online services. You can mix and match options based on your needs, so that you upload photos to Flickr and Facebook, but upload videos to Facebook and YouTube. Or maybe you don’t want to share any videos online automatically. Whatever!

You can enable notifications from Eye-Fi, so that you know what’s happening with your photos. Notifications can be sent via email, SMS, Twitter or Facebook. SMS notifications are particularly helpful if you’re sitting in a coffee shop waiting for uploads from the card to finish.

The Eye-Fi cards also support geotagging photos. The Eye-Fi card does not include a GPS receiver, so the geotagging is done through some fancy trickery to identify the local WiFi network you’re using, and maybe the SSID of nearby WiFi networks. Photos get geotagged with the location from which they are uploaded, not necessarily the location from which the photo was taken. If you take a photo downtown, and then go back home to upload the photos, the photos will be geotagged with your home network’s location. When using my own network, the geotagging was way off, because I moved recently: my wireless network was last indexed at my previous address, so photos I geotagged showed that they were taken across town at my old address. Geotagging in the local Starbuck’s was way off, too: it reported that I was in a different state altogether!

The final option in the Eye-Fi Center is how to transfer photos and videos. The default setting is “Automatic”, which means that all photos and videos will be sent to both your computer and any online sharing sites you’ve defined. “Selective Share” mode will still send all photos and videos to your computer, but will not send them to sharing sites unless you specifically select to do so. To mark a photo or video for sharing online, simply use your camera’s protect function. By marking the photo as protected (or locked, or whatever term your camera uses), you’re telling the Eye-Fi card “Go ahead and post this online!” The final transfer option is “Selective Transfer”, which doesn’t transfer anything anywhere unless you tell it to do so. In “Selective Transfer” mode, all images and videos stay in the camera, and only those you mark as protected will be sent to your computer and any designated sharing sites.

One of the really nifty things about the Eye-Fi is support for “Endless Memory”. 8GB may seem like a lot, but if you’re shooting HD video you might run out of space sooner than you’d like. “Endless Memory” mode will delete from the card any items that have already been successfully uploaded. As long as you’re in range of a wireless network you’ve defined — or stop for a breather at the local Starbuck’s — you never need to worry about running out of space. The card will automatically purge items for you, giving your card effectively an infinite capacity!

So, once you’ve set all your card’s options and added the wireless networks on which you’ll use it, it’s time to start taking pictures! The card is plenty fast, and works just like any other SDHC card you might buy. If you’re shooting within range of a wireless network you’ve defined and you want the pictures to be transferred automatically you may need to disable your camera’s auto-off feature. Obviously, photos can’t be transferred if your camera shuts off. Some newer cameras have varying levels of support for Eye-Fi built into the camera firmware. If you have such a camera, the camera will delay shutoff until it knows the transfers have been completed. That’s handy.

The actual operation of the Eye-Fi card is interesting. When you turn on your camera, the card first scans the available WiFi networks to find any that you’ve programmed. If it finds one, it hooks onto it and starts looking for the Eye-Fi Center software running on your computer. If it finds that, then the card communicates directly to your PC, making transfers as fast as your local network. Images and videos go from your card to your computer. If you’ve enabled online sharing, then the images and videos go from your computer to the Eye-Fi servers, where they’re then posted to the sharing sites you’ve defined.

If the Eye-Fi Center software is not located on the network, or if you’re using a public hotspot, then the card communicates with the Eye-Fi servers. Once the images are uploaded to the server, they’ll eventually make their way down to your computer. If you have sharing enabled, the images will be sent directly from the Eye-Fi servers to the sharing sites you have configured. This means that you can leave your computer off while you take a weekend getaway trip to the coast, and upload and share all your photos and videos using a Starbuck’s hotspot.

The Pro X2 offers a unique feature in the Eye-Fi lineup: support for ad-hoc wireless networks. These still need to be defined manually in the Eye-Fi Center before they can be used, but it means you can transfer photos and videos to your laptop wherever you might be. Stick your laptop in your backpack and go on that safari! No need to worry about transferring photos from your camera. And whenever you get back into civilization, the Eye-Fi Center software will automatically send photos to your designated online sharing sites.

There are all sorts of creative uses for the Eye-Fi card. Whether it’s a studio photographer looking to “shoot tethered”, or quick and easy photo and video uploads to Facebook during your kid’s birthday party, or simply the ability to leave your laptop at home while you take pictures on your vacation, the Eye-Fi Pro X2 is a great addition to your camera bag.

Product Page: Eye-Fi Pro X2

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