The Eye-Fi is an SD Card with Wi-Fi capability allows you to transfer photos wirelessly from a digital camera to your computer and to one of several online sharing sites.

Wireless uploading is a capability that has been slow to catch on with digital cameras, perhaps because the models that have offered it haven't been otherwise compelling, or because getting a wireless connection to work is often a hassle. But the Eye-Fi Card addresses both of those issues.

The Wi-Fi-enabled Eye-Fi SD card works with almost any camera that uses that memory-card format, makes the wireless setup very simple, and imposes fewer limitations than some of the cameras with built-in Wi-Fi that we've seen in the past.

The Eye-Fi Card has 2GB of capacity and comes with a small USB memory card reader. It's currently available in the US, for only $100 (about £50). To set up a wireless connection, you insert the card in the reader, wait for it to be recognised by your PC, and, in the auto-play dialog that pops up, click an option to install the software.

You then use a web interface to set up a wireless connection, choose a location on your PC to upload photos to, and select from a list of 17 online photo-sharing or photo-blogging sites to use. (You can have the Eye-Fi upload to your PC, a sharing site, or both.)

Those sites include most of the big-name ones - Shutterfly, Facebook, Flickr, and TypePad, among others. The only major omission we noted was that it doesn't yet work with Blogger (the company says it will be adding more services later). We chose Google's Picasa Web Albums; you can set uploaded photos to appear in folders based on the photos' creation date or by upload date.

Eye-Fi says that, if the PC you're using already has a wireless connection set up, its software can find your encryption key and enter it automatically, but that didn't happen on my system. We entered it manually, which wasn't that much harder. You can use the card with any wireless connection that does not require a splash screen (that means you can't use it at a T-Mobile HotSpot, for example).

One great thing about the Eye-Fi is that you can upload any size and resolution of image that you want to these services - unlike Kodak's EasyShare One camera, which locked you into uploading solely to its own photo-sharing service, where you could view only low-resolution versions.

The down side to being able to transfer big files is that they take a while to upload. We tried the Eye-Fi with a Canon Powershot G9, a 12Mp camera. Each 6MB file that the camera produced took about a minute to upload when we had placed the camera 3ft from our Linksys router, which is connected to a standard cable-internet service with a puny 384KB upload speed.

In this case, the broadband connection was probably most responsible for the slow uploads; but with the Eye-Fi Card, you're always at the mercy of your internet connection, not your LAN speed, because the card uploads your photos to your selected web-sharing site before it copies them to your PC's hard drive.

If it was the other way around, you could review the images more quickly. You can, however, continue shooting while the card is uploading, and of course, the wait seemed much more tolerable when I shot at a lower resolution.

NEXT PAGE: the Eye-Fi's wireless range > >

We found that the card's range is pretty limited, too (not surprising, given that its antenna has to fit inside the card). With the Powershot G9 and a Casio Exilim EX-S880, uploads would frequently be interrupted at distances of about 20ft, and the card didn't connect at all at distances beyond that - distances that posed no problem for our IBM Thinkpad X40 notebook and wireless adaptor.

We achieved a little better range with a Fujifilm FinePix F50fd, which we could use at distances of about 30ft. With all the cameras, the Eye-Fi automatically re-initiated uploads when we brought them within range. Eye-Fi says the range should be a bit better than we experienced - up to 45ft should be okay, according to the company.

Whenever you take a shot, the Eye-Fi card is supposed to start uploading it automatically. Most of the time, that was the case, but on occasion, a few minutes passed before they began. You cannot jump-start the process, other than by making sure your camera doesn't turn off - it must be on to provide power to the card.

Eye-Fi says the card requires only 5 percent more power than a typical non-wireless SD Card, and the code inside the card that controls the wireless components takes up only 14KB of space, so the card still has plenty of capacity for photos.

Eye-Fi Card: Specs

  • Wi-Fi Security: Static WEP 40/104/128, WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK
  • range: 90+ feet outdoors and 45+ feet indoors
  • storage capacity: 2.0GB
  • power: advanced power management optimizes use of camera power
  • card dimensions: SD standard 32x24x2.1mm
  • Wi-Fi Security: Static WEP 40/104/128, WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK
  • range: 90+ feet outdoors and 45+ feet indoors
  • storage capacity: 2.0GB
  • power: advanced power management optimizes use of camera power
  • card dimensions: SD standard 32x24x2.1mm

OUR VERDICT

That you must place your camera and the Eye-Fi card close to your router, and keep your camera on to allow time for transfers over a slow connection, somewhat limits the Eye-Fi Card's appeal to me. But its price - in the US at least - re-establishes our interest.

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