Concept: 3 out of 5
Execution: 1 out of 5
Yeah, but: I've finally found something that it's good for.
The Long Version: One side effect of having this little review blog is that it reminds me of how long I've owned different bits of equipment, especially if I'm thinking about writing a follow-up. I'll look back through the years and be amazed at just how much time has passed without me really noticing. Not so with my Eye-Fi X2 Pro card: it has been such an ongoing hassle that I was amazed to see that it has only been a year.
My first review of this card was mostly dealing with the experience of trying to set it up and make it work. I don't know if that process has improved any, but a lot has changed for the card and the software itself. It has gone through two major firmware versions, the client software that needs to run on the supporting computer has been updated, and I've routinely used the card in two more cameras.
One year ago the Eye-Fi card was a major nuisance to use. The connection was poor and I would frequently need to reboot my computer to force the software to reset, but the updates have improved the process to the point where I now only need to reboot every week or two. So right off the bat that's a real improvement, even if it's still not really good.
Using a camera that's 'Eye-Fi Connected' also makes a big difference to the experience. My unconnected Panasonic TS3 would happily time out and turn off during the data transfer. No pixels are harmed when that happens, but having to constantly tap the shutter button to keep the camera awake – or setting it to never turn off, which risks running down the battery in a moment of carelessness – goes a long way toward defeating the ease-of-use that the card promised.
Moving the card to my more-compatible Canon S100 was a big improvement. The camera won't turn off when there's a data link running, and it displays an icon on the playback image to show if that particular photo has been transmitted. Very handy. But sending 15-20MB raw files isn't a lot of fun, and the little battery in the S100 would quickly be depleted. My answer to that was to take the Eye-Fi card out of the camera and plug it into a USB card reader, which would then supply the power for long WiFi file transfer sessions. Something about that suggests that there's a fault in my problem-solving methods, but it was the best that I could do.
The Eye-Fi card has most recently come to rest in my Nikon D800. At last, it's just about perfect. Raw files go to my CF card, and small jpegs are sent to the SD card slot. The card has no problem with the 2.5MB files – "small" in D800-land is still a 9Mpx image – and the hefty battery is too big to be run down by the task. I just never bother turning the camera off, and the images are automatically downloaded onto my laptop and imported into Lightroom without me needing to do anything at all.
Except for rebooting the computer a few times a month, at least.
So it's with a certain joy that I can finally say that I've found something that the Eye-Fi card is good for. It took a year of work-arounds and making-do, but this $120 card finally lives up to its promise. Except that now it costs about $80. You win some, you lose some.
One other note is that the antenna in the Eye-Fi card is, by necessity, tiny. The closer it is to the WiFi router the happier it will be, but this is especially important for the direct card-to-camera transfer that the X2 Pro model allows. Essentially the camera needs to be no farther from the computer than it would be if it was connected by a cable, and closer is even better. But even this remains useful, since no actual cable is required, and was excellent when I wanted to work through the focus-tuning on my D800.
So that's it: an SLR, or other camera with big batteries, that has a secondary SD card slot to send jpeg files to, can be a good place to use an Eye-Fi card. Everything else that I've tried has involved unexpected inconvenience and occasionally considerable annoyance, and certainly not offered any great improvement over the standard plug-into-reader SD card experience that's available for much less expense. It's a very narrow recommendation, but I can finally say that if my Eye-Fi card stopped woking, I might actually consider replacing it with another one.
last updated 5 apr 2012