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.img_9795

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 Good
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.

The Bad
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
If you…

  • 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.

If 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.

::amazon(“B002C1B3OC”,”Eye-Fi PRO”)::
::amazon(“B001AD0TGQ”,”Eye-Fi Home”)::
::amazon(“B000YZGCIU”,”CF/SD Adapter”)::

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. The PDN review (link) also said it was very slow, and they weren’t using an SD>CF adapter.

    I had hoped that was just a fluke from their test method, but since your experiences matches theirs, apparently that’s not the case.

    I had hoped the EyeFi card would provide a reasonable-cost solution for SD cameras, but it looks now as if I’ll have to pass. My Nikon WT-4 transmits a 12-megapixel raw file in about 11 seconds under good conditions, so I guess this is one of those cases in which you get what you pay for (sigh.)

  2. Don’t jump the gun by returning it. I own two Eye-Fi Pro cards and 90 seconds to transfer a single RAW shot just doesn’t make sense.

    Yes, this card isn’t as fast as the fastest CF cards.Eye-Fi doesn’t claim they are. And if you’re shooting rapidly, you likely won’t be pleased with the speed.

    However, regular shots in a studio in RAW should transfer at a satisfactory speed for most users.

    A few suggestions:
    1) There are a couple of CF adapters on the market that claim to be optimized for Eye-Fi cards and users seem to agree. I’ve seen two but haven’t tried either. I suggest you try one. But, yes, you will take a hit in speed with an adapter. Not 90 seconds per RAW file, though.

    2) Check the strength of your router signal at the place you’re transferring. The closer to the router your card is, the better. The other option is to boost your router signal with third-party software. Either way, make sure the signal is at it’s strongest.

    3). Set up an Ad hoc network. You make no mention of this in your review, which makes me question the thoroughness of your review. Ad hoc networks are designed exactly for the purpose you describe, so please try this before telling others the card doesn’t work for your purpose. At minimum, you will cut out the middle man (eyefi servers) as the files transfer directly from your card to your computer.

    I’m guessing your biggest issue is the adapter, though.

    Eye-Fi is making serious headway and listens to its customers very closely. Ad hoc support, RAW files and selective transfers came directly from their customers comments on their forums.

    Try the above and report back. I think you will see an improvement.

  3. Guys,

    Steve, thank you very much for the review. I totally appreciate your time.
    Rory, you’re awesome for commenting so thoroughly. You rock.

    OK, here are some comments, and even some corrections to something that Rory said.

    So first of all — Eye-Fi does not support CF adapter. We say it very clearly on the site, and I’ve commented on several blogs, reviews, forums, that we don’t support CF adapters. We don’t, for several reasons:

    1) they reduce range
    2) they slow the write speeds, and as you’ve mentioned, our cards aren’t that fast to begin with
    3) they will cause file corruption, eventually, if you use them a lot.

    So please, trust me — don’t use CF adapters. I know that some people on the net use them, and have had luck, but they’ve just been lucky. They really shouldn’t be using them.

    On the transfer speeds:
    We upload at about 6mbps. That’s less than 1MB per second. Further, that’s if your range is great, and your signal strength is very good. So that means that roughly, a 10MB raw file should take 10 seconds, 20MB raw file should take 20 seconds, etc… Unless your raw files were 90MB’s, it shouldn’t have taken 90 seconds. The reason that it probably did is that your signal strength was weak, due to the CF adapter.

    Another thing — while the camera is writing these huge RAW files, we’re not uploading. When there is a pause, between RAW or JPG or MOV writes, we upload or resume the upload. So if you’re shooting continously, you may not give the Eye-Fi card time to send files.

    A correction to what Rory said — even if you’re not using ad-hoc, if the card is in local-mode only, it’s not going through our servers. So either way, if you’re using ad-hoc or a router, if your signal strength is good, you should be seeing good speeds. A possibility for the slowness is if the card isn’t finding your computer on the local network, due to a firewall, and then it IS going through our server first, and then back down from the cloud to your machine. I don’t think that you ran into that issue, but it’s possible.

    Please let me preempt a common question — when will we have CF? No comment 🙂 Please sign up for our mailing list, and we’ll keep you posted. We don’t pre-announce our product plans.

    Ping me if you have any further questions.

    Thanks —

    Ziv.

  4. Also, please keep in mind that the time to transfer the first photo may be different than the time to transfer subsequent photos, provided no longer than one minute elapses between taking the photos. Starting from “idle” (nothing to upload), the Eye-Fi Card has to first associate with the wireless router, get an IP address via DHCP, etc., before it can commence uploading.

    As long as there are more photos to upload, though, the photo to photo rate should be be less than 30 seconds, unless there are wireless range issues due to the CF adapter (to eliminate that as a possibility, try taking a number of photos, pulling the card out of the adapter and insert it into the Eye-Fi-provided card reader – the photos will still upload wirelessly, but unhindered by the metal in the adapter).

  5. Rory,

    Thanks for the tips. I actually did try setting up an Ad-hoc network but found it didn’t consistently help the transfer speeds. I think Eye-Fi is a good concept and the execution is getting better with each subsequent release. I hope to see them continue to improve.

  6. Thanks to all for the responses, I also agree that the CF-SD adapter is the most likely culprit but that’s my only option until a native CF is released 😉 I also should commend Eye-Fi for their support and documentation, they do clearly state that adapters are a bad idea. But hey, every problem is an opportunity in disguise!

    SB

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