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Eye-Fi: Wireless Digital Photography

Digital cameras and memory cards are fantastic - no more worrying about the cost of film, the cost of developing and printing . . . you can shoot to your heart's content. But then you have to "upload" all those photos to your computer. What if you didn't even have to do that - they just appeared on your PC all by themselves?

By Ross Tester

Touch wood, the Nikon digital cameras we use for all photography at SILICON CHIP haven’t given us a moment’s trouble.

But the memory cards have. We’ve gone through a few over the past few years, giving errors mainly due to physical damage.

Click for larger image
All it takes is a compatible digital camera (and there are lots of those), an Eye-Fi card and a Wi-Fi network – and you're away!

That damage has occurred primarily when the card has been ejected from the camera and placed in the computer card reader (or vice versa). And taking lots of pictures means doing that quite a few times for each “shoot”, checking the pics are what we want and so on.

I don’t think I’ve been any more ham-fisted than the next person but a couple of cards have separated down their edges, another has simply ceased working (the computer knows it’s there but it sits there like blancmange). OK, one was my fault – I dropped it and trod on it!

Fortunately, SD cards (and their variants, SDHC and MMC) are now much cheaper than they were even a couple of years ago. And they are much higher capacity as well.

But being able to store a couple of thousand shots on the card is relatively immaterial when all I want to do is dash off a couple of couple of dozen pics and transfer them to our server, so they can be processed.

I still have to take the card out of the camera, take it to my PC and insert it in the reader, wait for the computer to realise there is a “disk” there, find the appropriate folder and identify the photos I want, download the files, wait until it’s all finished until I can remove the card . . . and then remember to replace it in the Nikon ready for next time.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve walked around to our studio, set up lighting and so on, gone to take a picture and . . . the dratted memory card is still in the computer!

At least, that’s what I used to do. . .

Now I simply take the photos. A short time later, the files automatically appear in a folder on the server, untouched by any human hands (or even animal hands).

Enter the World of Wi-Fi Eye-Fi

For a couple of years now, I’ve been trying to think of a simple way to avoid the problem of physically transferring cards. You might say that in the overall scheme of things, it’s not one of the most world-shattering problems.

But it has been annoying enough to make me want to do something!

I’d thought about another (networked) PC in the studio and use a USB cable to the camera – but certainly couldn’t justify that to the bean-counter-what-must-be-obeyed.

I’d thought about sourcing (or making?) an SD card reader with its own IP address which could simply hang off the network. Nah, still too expensive and/or too much like hard work.

I’d thought about a USB-to-Ethernet converter which could plug into the network. Ditto!

I’d thought about much more but in the end decided that I was destined to keep doing what I had been doing – sort of like the “sneakernet” we all used before networks were the vogue. (Haven’t heard of a sneakernet? Where you took a floppy disk from one machine and walked around to another machine to share files etc? Oh, what’s a floppy disk?)

Enough frivolity! Back to the subject at hand . . .

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