When you shoot in the studio as much as I do you learn to hate cords. Power cords, sync cords, extension cords, data cables, all get in the way regularly. It’s not unusual for me to have a sync cord, AC adapter, cable release, USB cable and camera strap all attached to my camera at the same time. I use radio triggers for my strobes regularly, but sometimes a wired sync is necessary. If I’m tethered to the computer, I really need to use an AC adapter to power the camera as it doesn’t shut off automatically. If I use the tethering software I can remotely trigger the camera from the computer but sometimes the cable release is just more efficient. So anytime I’ve got the ability to cut a cord I’m willing to give it a try.
I shoot primarily Canon in the studio, and Canon makes a wireless system for their pro level cameras. They’re geared towards the pro and have a pro level price (around $900.) To be honest I’ve not tried any of the Canon branded wireless solutions so I can’t comment on those. But, the idea of dropping $900 on a necessary piece of gear is one thing. The idea of dropping $900 on a convenience is another.
Enter the Eye-Fi series of wi-fi enabled SD cards. Eye-Fi makes a series of cards geared primarily towards the home user that shoots jpegs. However, their recently released Eye-Fi Pro supports raw files as well. All of their cards contain onboard storage as well as wireless transport of images. The Eye-Fi PRO has a 4GB onboard storage capacity. The PRO will store and wirelessly transfer jpegs, raw files, and according to the company, videos. The PRO, as well as the Explore support geo-tagging. The PRO, Explore and Share series support online sharing to sites like Flickr and Facebook.
Eye-Fi has been making cards for a couple of years now and when they first hit the market I gave them a try. My biggest complaint with them initially was they only supported jpg files. Since I shoot exclusively RAW files my first card immediately got returned to the store. With the release of the pro version, which supports RAW transfers, I figured it was time for another try.
The card has a 4GB onboard capacity which is great for me since RAW files are big. Second, it comes with a USB card reader. Granted I already have one, but one can never have too many card readers. Third, it works, albeit slowly, more on that soon.
It’s an SD card. My Canon DSLRs only use CF card, which means I need to use a SD/CF adapter, not a big deal but that may be one reason for the slow transfer speeds. Second–this thing is SLOW. I really didn’t expect a wireless transfer to be as fast as a wired transfer but this is slow to the point of being unusable for my purposes. When I’m tethered to my MacBook, running Canon’s remote capture and saving the files directly to my internal hard drive, a raw file from a 5d takes about 10 seconds to pop up in Lightroom from the time I trip the shutter. When an art director is looking over your shoulder 10 seconds is an eternity.
With the Eye-Fi that same transfer took 90 seconds. Realistic USB 2 speeds are around 20-30MB/sec so most of that 10 seconds of wired transfer is just processing time in camera and with Lightroom. Realistic 802.11G speeds(in my office anyway) are about 2.5MB/sec. So even with an extra 10 seconds added on for processing in camera and with Lightroom, I should still get transfer times in the 15 to 20 second range. I’m not so obviously there’s something else going on. I ran through the usual suspects of range and interference and came up empty. So I’m left with the conclusion that either, a) the SD/CF adapter is hampering transfer speed, b) the interface software with the Eye-Fi card is hampering transfer speed, or both.
The bottom line
- shoot with a point and shoot camera (SD card format)
- primarily shoot jpg (but occasionally shoot raw)
- are more concerned with being easy rather than fast
Then this is for you.
- use a camera that’s CF only
- shoot primarily raw
- need speed
Not so much…
Sorry, but this one’s going back too. I really want these to work better, but I keep getting disappointed. Maybe next time.