For the past few months, I have had the opportunity to play around with an EyeFi Connect X2 in order to prepare this review. My hardware comprises a Pentax X70 and a current generation iMac running the latest version of iPhoto on Snow Leopard. So what is EyeFi? Here is the vendor’s description from their website:
The Eye-Fi card is the 1st wireless memory card. It looks, stores media, and fits into cameras just like a regular SDHC card. On top of that, the Eye-Fi card has built-in Wi-Fi that uses your wireless network to effortlessly transfer photos and videos.
In short, it is an SD memory card that you use in your camera in place of your regular card, and based upon the settings you make in the EyeFi Control Center (discussed below), it will wirelessly transfer photographs to your home computer and social media sites. If you want, it can be the “set it and forget it” of photograph transfer.
The card I reviewed is the least expensive of the product line at a retail price of $49.99. Their most expensive card retails at $149.99. You can view the entire product line here. It appears that the differences include lifetime subscriptions to the geotagging service all the way up to support for RAW uploads. The cards are available at multiple retail locations including the EyeFi site, Amazon, and Best Buy stores.
A camera with an full-size SD card slot is required. Here is a list detailing camera compatibility. I had originally wanted to use this on a less expensive (and more portable) camera, but it only used a micro-SD card, so I could not. Here are the precise hardware requirements:
The product came in clamshell packaging containing a small instruction booklet, the EyeFi card, a USB card reader (see set-up for explanation), and a nifty Eye-Fi sticker which I promptly put on my lens cap so that it no longer disappears into my black granite countertops. Woo hoo. The card is a distinctive orange so that it could never get lost in a jumble with other SD cards in a drawer if you should happen to remove it and need to go hunting for it. There was a note in the package sent to reviewers to not photograph the USB card reader as it could be confusing, and I completely understand that. When I first had opened an EyeFi package, I was a bit surprised that a reader was present since the system is supposed to be wireless. Again, it is, the reader is for set-up and updates only.
There is a piece of software (EyeFi Center) that needs to be installed and kept running for transfer to a home computer. Once the software is installed, the card needs to be initialized with the settings from that program to know how to behave both when it is within your home wifi and out in public hotspots (if that option is purchased).The software opens on start-up by default and runs in the menu bar with an icon similar to a bright orange wifi transmitter. During installation, the EyeFi card has to be inserted into the included USB card reader for initialization with the various preferences which will be detailed in the sections below dealing with the various features. At first, the presence of the USB card reader may be confusing as it seems to run counter to the idea that the photographs and videos will be transferred wirelessly. However, the reader is for purposes of initializing the card (and later when changing any settings or performing any needed firmware upgrades) only. It has been noted pretty consistently in other reviews and comments that the EyeFi Center seems a bit clunky. Meh, it gets the job done and is not required to be viewed in everyday use of the card. You could pretty easily avoid that Center altogether until you needed to make preference changes or firmware upgrades. The image to the left is the main page of the Center showing one uploaded photograph. While one can do some limited photograph management through the center, that is not the way you will be interacting with your photos on a regular basis; at least I didn’t. One use I did find for it was to perform a bulk upload to a different photo sharing site than the default that was already automatically set.
I did have to perform one firmware upgrade during the testing period. Outdated firmware is indicated by a warning symbol next to the EyeFi card in the left pane of the EyeFi Center.
Up to 32 networks (private and public combined—public wifi requires the purchase of a hotspot access subscription) can be configured in the EyeFi Center. Although it is not necessary to configure open networks that do not require a password, even if your home is (not a good idea) unprotected, this needs to be set up so that EyeFi knows to deliver photographs to your home computer. See the next section for more discussion on public networks used when out and about. Set-up really was a snap. Photos can be directed to be sent to any folder on your Mac or straight into iPhoto. There are sufficient customization options available for naming upload folders. In iPhoto, they are uploaded as an untitled event. While your camera is on, any photos which have not been uploaded are transferred really quickly. My experience was a transfer in under a minute. Since I am slightly paranoid, I turned on the preference that shows little thumbnails of the photos flying into my computer in the upper right corner (akin to a Growl notification) and also have the EyeFi Center notify me by SMS that the upload has started. Email, Facebook, and Twitter notifications are also available, but I personally had no luck with those.
For this particular product, this feature requires the purchase of a hotspot access subscription for $29.99/year. Other EyeFi products have this included automatically. The hotspot access is through AT&T’s wifi network and includes, but is not limited to, Starbucks, McDonald’s, and Barnes & Nobles. If you have an account with another hotspot access provider, through the “Easy Wifi” option you can enter your credentials one time and receive the same automatic service. I was able to test the subscription service, but not the “Easy Wifi” service as I did not have an account with another provider.
This was the area in which I had the most disappointment. Yes, in theory, you can transfer your photos via the EyeFi card from any public wifi spot. In practice, not so much. Why? Well, if the Wifi network requires any kind of authentication, such as the common “check here to agree to terms and conditions” on a splash page, it will not connect since the card itself cannot do that. If, however, the network does not require that preemptory (and useless since no one reads those things) check-off, it does upload seamlessly. Of course, there are a lot of AT&T locations, and in those locations, the process was indeed beautifully seamless. My testing location of choice was Starbucks due to its ubiquity. EyeFi recommends having SMS alerts enabled so that you know when a public upload has started. I did this, and did find that very helpful. But then again, as previously mentioned, I am paranoid, and would probably have signed up for electric jolt notifications and telepathic transmissions if those were available.
EyeFi can also upload to one of multiple online photo-sharing sites. This feature worked perfectly, and they were numerous sites to choose from. My one complaint is that the default was limited to one. I would have liked to have simultaneously shared to both Flickr and Facebook. Depending upon the service selected, there were some limited pre-customization options. For example, with Flickr you could have a standard description and tags appended as well as upload to a particular set. There is an option to allow upload notifications not only to be sent to SMS and email, but also to Facebook and Twitter. I was unable to get the upload notifications to Facebook or Twitter to work properly. Note, that is the notifications option, not the actual photograph uploads which did work as expected.
Geotagging, like the hotspot access, requires a separate subscription. This is available for $14.99 a year. This worked PERFECTLY for me, and I couldn’t be more pleased. Here is a sample set on my Flickr account of geotagged images taken during the testing period. I had travelled from South Florida to the West Coast of Florida and brought the card with me to test. I had never seen so many billboards for attorneys on one highway in my entire life.
The uploading function has several privacy options from none at all to some control with the social sharing sites such as limiting access to friends and/or family. But, face it, there are some photos that we don’t want anyone to ever see. Perhaps one was taken in jest or (ahem) in a compromising situation, you forgot you were in a wifi area, and bam! It is uploaded. Not good. If you want to ensure this does not happen, there is an option called selective share which pre-empts the other privacy options embedded on your card. With this feature, you use the camera’s “protect” function to release the photographs to be then processed by the settings on your card. This feature at first though is somewhat counter-intuitive, and because of this, I am pretty convinced that the majority of reviewers I read never tested this because they would have been compelled to note this initial confusion in their review. At first, one might think that if a photo is set as protected, that photograph would then remain private. However, if you think this through, it is actually the opposite. Unless changed by the user (and I didn’t test changing this to see if the process would be reversed), most cameras’ protect feature—which is intended to protect photographs from deletion—is set to off, allowing photographs to be deleted. In order to differentiate photographs from the default so that EyeFi knows that you have actively and selectively made a decision on each and every item, you must change the photograph to the non-default toggle, which is protect. So, once a photograph (or video of course) is set as protected, then it is released.
If endless memory is selected, then the EyeFi card will begin to delete older safely transferred items in order to make room at user-defined thresholds, such as at 50% of card capacity. I was able to test this feature successfully. At least for me, it wan’t a matter of worrying about running out of space on the card, but rather the convenience of not having to worry about deleting older pictures to make room.
A custom RSS feed can be created for your uploads to share with friends. This worked as expected. I could not figure out where to put in my name so that the RSS feed would be more clearly identified. I don’t know if this was an issue with Bloglines or would have occurred across all readers. Bloglines is a popular reader, and my reader of choice.
The related iPhone application will also wirelessly transfer photographs to the computer and one social media site. This was tested successfully. This is not something I will be using as I sync my iPhone to my computer daily, but I know there are some people who rarely sync, and this would be a helpful way to get photographs across. As far as transferring iPhone photographs to Flickr, I prefer a dedicated Flickr app for greater control.
I really enjoyed this product. It was a pleasure not having to hunt for cables to transfer photographs and having the geotag information was the cherry on top. It is definitely something I would purchase, but for me, I would not choose the least expensive card as I would have to add the geotag and hotspot access subscriptions making it more logical to buy one of the others.
After I was done with the field testing, and in the process of writing the review, I noted an opportunity on the EyeFi site to be part of a volunteer promotional team. I applied to be part of that team, but my acceptance or rejection had no bearing on this review (in fact, they are not notifying people until later in July). I did not receive a free sample product in conducting this review. The card I reviewed was provided to me as a loaner and returned to EyeFi.
In addition to her position as Assistant Editor at World of Apple, dizzle runs idrankthekoolaid, an Apple fangrl satire blog, and is an Administrator and Hostess at MyAppleSpace and their vidcast MASTv.