Eye-fi Pro X2 Wireless SD card review

Eye-Fi Pro X2 8GBDuring the holidays, I came across a boxing day deal for the Eye-Fi Pro X2 8GB wireless SD card.

I’ve written about these Eye-Fi cards before but this is a much newer version with some key differences that address the previous model’s shortcomings.

These memory cards are unique in that in addition to being memory cards for storing your photos, they also contain tiny wifi antennas (in this case, with support for 802.11N) that allow you to upload your photos and video straight from the camera. This usually requires you to have already setup a wifi connection (at home, work, school, etc) in advance using a laptop.

The main reason I picked it up is that the Pro line supports ad-hoc wireless modes. This means that I can use my iPhone as a wireless hotspot and have this card connect to the internet directly via my iPhone and upload photos in near real time. It did require advance setup, via a computer, but once setup, you shouldn’t have to do anything for it to work going forward. This is huge for me when I’m shooting events and such and I really want to upload some photos right away, I’m now able to do it with nothing more than my camera and iPhone with me.

Eye-Fi enabled DSLR settings

My Nikon D7000 has dual SD card slots that are configurable. I’m able to choose what the second slot is used for. Normally, it’s just overflow storage. But when I use an Eye-Fi card in that slot, I set the camera to send a jpeg copy of the photos I’m taking to that card. While the Pro cards now support RAW files, it just seems faster/easier to store RAW on the main card slot and drop a much smaller JPG file onto the second slot for uploading.

You can set the upload options via the Eye-Fi card management software. It can upload everything or you can selectively choose what to upload by using the camera’s ‘protect’ option. This lets you pick and choose which files get uploaded. You also choose where the files are uploaded to via the software with support for a lot of common photo sharing sites, Facebook, etc. Mine all go to Flickr with custom tags, sets and other settings I can setup in advance.

An added feature is that many newer cameras have support for Eye-Fi cards in their menus.

Eye-Fi enabled DSLR settings

My relatively new Nikon D7000 (as did my older D90) has a menu function to turn off/on the wireless uploads which can save battery if you don’t need to be uploading on the go:

Eye-Fi enabled DSLR settings

The back LCD screen on the D7000 has an interesting icon that I didn’t immediately notice when an Eye-Fi card is inserted – a wifi icon! It’s static normally and then blinks when it’s actually uploading photos:
Eye-Fi enabled DSLR settings

I’m currently using this card with my jailbroken iPhone 4 running MyWi as a personal hotspot. Apple recently unveiled a newer firmware for iPhones that may potentially give you this function without having to jailbreak but it’s still to be determined if your carrier will allow that. Eye-Fi also recently announced at CES 2011 an update is coming called Direct Mode which also allow this:

Ziv, one of the Eye-Fi co-founders confirmed on Flickr to me that this will be a free update for X2 card owners which is awesome news.

So any downsides?
I can only see three issues with the card given my use case:

  • Speed: the cards are only class 6 which is very slow for some cameras…I usually use class 10 (or higher speed) cards but given that I’m only dumping jpegs and not RAWs to the Eye-Fi, it may not be that big of a deal. The upload speed from the card to the internet is pretty fast and a non-issue with it taking around 2 minutes from shot to appearing on Flickr in my tests.
  • Price: these cards aren’t cheap…my 8gb card is usually around $150. I got mine on sale for $100. In comparison, you can usually get 16gb pro speed SD cards for ~$100 from a name brand company
  • Post-Processing: while I don’t do much, if any post processing usually, obviously, your photos are going straight from the camera to the cloud…this may be a deal breaker for some photographers. I figure in some cases, it might be better to get the shot online and publish (or replace) that photo with a processed version later otherwise this card may not be that useful to you

I think this card will be a huge asset in my camera bag for event photography where I can truly be a photo ninja.

3 Comments

  1. Craig says:

    I’ve wondered often about these cards… Indeed the faults are important to note. Card performance speeds, file size, upload speeds and the relationships between each, all impact those who are my vision of the target market for these cards – professional staff or freelance photojournalists. They demand getting photos in first, before their competition. However, they also demand quality pictures that can be edited at the newsdesk, and they typically take hundreds of shots per shoot.

    On the flip side, the prospect of uploading unedited photos will turn off a number of people as you suggest – me included. I’d rather quality photos appear to my standards (post-processing helps improve my lack of on-the-spot skills with white balance, exposure, etc.) in due course than expedite unedited photos.

    What’s more, I wonder if these cards are soon to be obsolete? Pro bodies are sure to include high-speed wifi or bluetooth eventually, with on-body upload plug-ins (dream big!) which will satisfy the needs pro and photojournalist consumers and exceed what these cards offer, while the quality of cameras in smartphones will compel the Flickr and social media audience who don’t demand their best photos to be posted on the internet. Could these cards get squeezed out?

    Otherwise, and not unimportantly, these cards are a revelation.

  2. Berend says:

    Eye-Fi co-founder Berend here… Thank you for taking the time to review the Eye-Fi Card. I just wanted to comment about the comments that you and the first commenter made about uploading all unedited photos immediately to the cloud. Eye-Fi Cards support a mode called “selective share” whereby the per-photo write-protect feature of the camera (often a dedicated button on DSLR bodies) can be used to control which photos will get uploaded. With the larger LCD screens and more advanced in-camera editing features being incorporated into cameras, it is very possible to have a photo flow with Eye-Fi Cards where you can control exactly which specific photos, even edited ones, you’d like to upload. I take advantage of this often with my Nikon D7000 to do in-camera cropping, color balance and exposure adjustments, then marking the newly-saved edited file for uploading.

    Berend

  3. Sarah S says:

    This is my first visit and just wanted to stop by to say hello everyone!.

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