Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Add Wireless To Your Camera

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If your camera doesn’t have wireless capability, or the camera you want to buy lacks that, fret not. It’s possible to add wireless capability to a camera that lacked that feature built-in. Just use a wireless SD card. The Eye-Fi memory card is about the most well-known in this area, but there are other alternatives like Toshiba’s FlashAir card and Trek’s Flucard Pro.

The working principle of the Eye-Fi card (and its alternatives) are quite simple. They look like and function like a standard SD memory card. It goes into the same SD slot of your camera where you normally insert a regular SD memory card. Your camera writes and reads images and videos to/from the Eye-Fi card just like regular memory cards.

That’s where the similarities end. The Eye-Fi card adds built-in Wi-Fi capabilities, and can thus wirelessly transmit your photos and videos to a remote device over Wi-Fi network. That remote device could be your notebook, desktop, or mobile phone.

So basically, when you shoot your photos and videos, your camera simultaneously writes the photos to the Eye-Fi card and wirelessly transmits them to another device. In fact, you can also configure the Eye-Fi card to automatically share your photos online with Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, and many other popular online photo and video services.

This year, many people are going to expect Wi-Fi built-in when they shop for new cameras. This is particularly true in the highly competitive compact point-and-shoot market as each model tries to outdo others with more features. If you’re eyeing a new camera because your older one lacks Wi-Fi, well, the Eye-Fi card is a cheap alternative. Or, if you’re eyeing a nifty new camera that’s mostly great in all areas but just lacking Wi-Fi capabilities, well, you can simply add the Eye-Fi card and get the best of everything.

Not all the wireless SD cards work the same way, so you probably need to do some research to find out which one will work the way that suits you. Eye-Fi seems to be the most feature-rich, compared with FlashAir and Flucard.

Toshiba’s FlashAir, for example, is a very basic no-frills gadget. It doesn’t have an app on the desktop/notebook or mobile phone to automatically receives photos. Instead, the FlashAir card acts as a wireless web server, which you access through a web browser on your desktop/notebook or mobile phone to download photos. It’s not how I expect to use the card (I want automatic sync), but some people might prefer the simple web browser-based access to the FlashAir contents.

Trek’s Flucard is also quite basic in features, but they do support automatic photo uploads, albeit only to their portal, a FTP site, or a Gallery3 web app.

DSC03865One of the things I miss, when I take photos with my RX100 instead of my mobile phone, is the inability to immediately upload or share my photos online. Now, with the Eye-Fi card, I can have photos taken on my RX100 transmitted to my mobile phone immediately, and then from there, do what I want to do with the photos just like I had always done when I took photos with the phone’s camera. Eye-Fi supports both Android and iOS platforms, so both the most popular smartphone platforms are covered.

There are a few features I would have loved added to the Eye-Fi card. One is the ability to sync to both my smartphone and my computer. I want to sync to smartphone when I’m out, then sync to computer when I’m back home (or wherever my computer is). Right now, I’ve got to choose one or the other. The workaround is to sync to phone, then configure the Eye-Fi app on the phone to sync to computer. The Eye-Fi app on the smartphone apparently appears like another Eye-Fi device to the computer.

Another nice feature to have is to choose what photos get synced. It’s actually an extension of the above scenario. While on the move, I want to choose specific photos to transmit to my smartphone. I don’t want to transmit all photos, since that would take time (and suck precious battery power out of both the smartphone and the camera). Then, when back home, I’d like to sync all photos to the computer.

I’m definitely not the only one wanting the above features as I can see numerous posts in Eye-Fi’s support forums asking for the same. Either Eye-Fi isn’t listening to their customers very well, or perhaps there are just too many ways people want to use their Eye-Fi card.

The bottom-line, though, is that this is a great way to add Wi-Fi features to a camera that lacks one built-in.

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