For those of you who don’t know what an Eye-Fi card is, it’s a brilliant invention that allows whatever you can write to an SD card to be sent wirelessly to the destination of your choice using a wireless network. You can automatically send your photos your computer, iPad, Facebook, Flickr, and more. This means your point and shoot, DSLR (ones with SD card slots), and more can all transfer their photos to a larger display with no wires. It’s brilliant and works very well in the studio environment for giving you real-time feedback of your images on a much larger display.
About a month ago I started testing a Eye-Fi Mobile X2 SD card and love it! I have my images sent to my iPad 3, MacbookPro, or my NEC PA Series display on my desktop computer so I can quickly see if I’ve got the shot or if I need to keep shooting. Sure, I can do the same on my camera’s LCD, but seeing it on the big screen helps you to detect out of focus areas so much easier.
If I were recommending one to a friend I’d go for the Eye-Fi Pro X2 8GB because the extra cost gives you some important extra features at a drastically cheaper rate than if you add them after the fact with the Mobile X2.
Testing with the Canon 5D Mark III and Nikon D800
If you are like me, when you see the specs for these cards you think – man, those are kinda slow cards – and they are. I wondered if they could keep up with the huge files of the D800 and 5D Mark III so I did a little testing.
For starters, the important thing to keep in mind about both camera bodies is that they both have first class Eye-Fi support so you’ll actually see a Eye-Fi icon that flashes when the images are being transferred. The second thing is that files are copied to the card itself and then separately they are transferred, so you can fire away without your camera or card bogging down while the files transfer.
Since I consider this a studio photography aid, I didn’t do any burst mode testing. I mainly focused on how it could keep up if I were just doing a normal shoot – and it worked great – no issues or slowdowns to my workflow with either camera.
Eye-Fi Mobile X2 SD card I used only supports JPEG files so I wasn’t able to test RAW transfer. You need the Eye-Fi Pro X2 8GB to do that. However, the JPEG files of these cameras are huge so it still was a good stress test. Here’s what I found:
- D800 – It took 8 to 20 seconds before the thumbnail preview showed up to begin the download, and 12 to 20 seconds for it to actually download. Total: 20 to 40 seconds from the time the photo was taken. First shots were always the slowest, but subsequent ones taken without the network connection getting dropped were much faster. File size: 15.9 MB
- 5D Mark III – It took 2 to 10 seconds before the first thumbnail preview showed up to begin the download, and 10 – 12 seconds to download. File size: 7.5MB
Naturally your router, computer network card, hard drive performance, etc… will impact your actual results. However, my take from this is that the Eye-Fi is a great solution that seems to have a little overhead getting started, but once it gets going it doesn’t matter much if your file is 7.5MB or 16MB, it’s going to get it transferred pretty quickly (just over 10 seconds on my machine).
Auto Import into Lightroom
You can auto import to Lightroom which using my SSD drive seemed to have zero impact on performance. Once EyeFi said it was done Lightroom showed the file, so importing took milliseconds.
Lightroom 4’s Auto Import Settings Dialog
My strategy here was to put the files in a EyeFi folder on the fast SSD drive and then have Lightroom monitor that folder so it could quickly Auto Import files after the Eye-Fi transferred them. This allowed me to see my files in Lightroom as opposed to the less desirable Eye-Fi app.
This gadget rocks and really improves my workflow. It had no problems keeping up with the big files because the delay occurred while I was typically working, so by the time I looked at the images on the iPad or computer – they were coming in at a good speed.
If you shoot one shot and stare at the screen then this will drive you crazy. Transferring RAW files to a iPad is also going to fill up the memory quickly, so I’d avoid that for all but simple short shoots.
Where to Buy
As of this article, the best overall deal (when you consider taxes and shipping) for the Eye-Fi was at Adorama. Amazon had the lowest price, but taxes their hurt. B&H had a higher price, but they change their prices often so I’d expect to see it match Adorama soon.
Please use these links when shopping for your Eye-Fi card:
During the course of this article I found ShutterSnitch for iPad (iPhone) to be useful to monitor the incoming files on my iPad. I also loved the book iPad for Photographers which I’ll be reviewing soon as it helped me to find the tools I needed to make the most out of my Eye-Fi.
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