Concept: 3 out of 5
Execution: 1 out of 5
Yeah, but: Incidentally, the card does work.
The Long Version: The Eye-Fi card seems so promising – photos wirelessly zipping from the camera to the computer, no cables, and no hassels. Ah, if only it was that simple.
The card can't be used without being registered, so the first step is to install the software and connect to the web server. This is 2011, and something as simple as creating a login ID shouldn't be a huge challenge. Supply an email address, type in the chosen password twice, and Robert's your mother's brother. Again: if only.
Following the supplied start-up instructions, I installed the included Eye-Fi Center software, upgraded to the latest version over the internet, and then I was greeted by the New Account screen. When I chose a password I was told that it couldn't be used, but no reason why. I'd try a different one, and then I'd be told that the card couldn't be initialized and would need to be ejected and reinserted. And again. And again. Different email addresses, different passwords, or any combination of information just failed over and over again with cutsey little error messages that remind me why I hate Flickr. On a lark I tried the "Forgot your Password?" option, and it accepted one of my email addresses and sent me a reset link. Okay, now we're in business – don't know how, don't know why, but it's progress.
(I need to interrupt myself with an aside about the handy supplied SD card reader, and note that the software needed is embedded in the card. This is great for my laptop, since it doesn't have an SD reader built in, and worked just fine. Plugging the Eye-Fi card directly into the combined USB hub and card reader that I use for my desktop produced no results at all. Plugging the card into one of the USB ports on that same hub, using the supplied card reader, worked just fine. So even if you don't think you'll need it, you need it: I'm not sure why, but it's magic.)
I used the supplied link to change my password (to one that I was trying to use all along) and got into the manager program and registered the card. It wanted to update the firmware on my card, and as Garfield once said, if the rope's around your neck you might as well jump off the horse. I start the firmware update, am told not to remove the card, and then my computer tells me that the card was improperly ejected.
Extremely worried that "I" might have just turned my expensive Pro X2 (now with twice the Pro!) Eye-Fi card into an ineffective paperweight, I logged back into the software service. Or at least I tried to: it wanted to do the bad password / reinsert card dance again, as it insisted that the card was unregistered and there was no possible way I could already have an account. After a couple more attempts to log in I gave the old "Forgot your Password?" trick another try. This time it swore it had never heard of me and refused to accept that I had ever existed.
I honestly don't remember what eventually worked. I spent a lot of time reading through the support forums, where pretty much every problem – and a lot of them sounded familiar – was met with a request to contact customer service. I formatted the card a couple of times and did a little dance, but essentially it eventually just worked when it wouldn't work before. It's not like I had that many options, or found some secret passcode: I wasn't really doing anything wrong, so there was nothing for me to fix. It just wouldn't work.
I bought the "Pro X2" model for two reasons: it transfers raw files as well as movies and jpegs, and it can link directly to a computer without needing to join a larger wireless network.
The second feature is a no-brainer. The point of a wireless connection is convenience and spontaneity; if I have to return to (or establish) a trusted network with a router then connecting while away from home becomes anything from difficult to impossible. I took and edited the photos for this review on my lunch break, which wouldn't have been possible without the direct-connection Ad Hoc feature that's only available with the most expensive Eye-Fi card. This is such a fundamental ability that the less expensive cards are just as hard to endorse as the most expensive one – there's no 'sweet spot' on the price/performance curve.
The other feature that's unique to the "Pro X2" model is the ability to transfer raw files. But here's my problem: the Eye-Fi Center software configures the card, and can't be set differently for different computers. I don't want raw files going to my laptop, which is slow with a small hard drive and itty-bitty screen, but having my GH1 automatically transfer its files to my Command Centre desktop while I'm still taking photos is really useful. My options are to either format the card before and after each use, and only have one computer running at a time to stop the card from transferring the same files to each one, or to accept that I will have to hunt down and delete the photos that I don't want to have littering each different machine.
This wireless thing is far less handy than I thought it would be.
last updated 30 march 2011