Wireless Photo Transfer

By | 2016/07/16

I’ve got cameras, and I’ve got computers, and sometimes I’d like the camera I’m using to talk to a computer. Newer cameras are often equipped with Wifi capabilities of various sorts. I’m going to discuss some of what I’ve done and a new gizmo I’m trying out.

Like many photographers, I’ve used the Eye-Fi SD card Wifi products. This class of device enables a camera without Wifi to host some form of wireless photo file transfer because the card itself serves as a Wifi transmitter and image storage device. I have two of the Eye-Fi Connect X2 cards. These offered several modes of file transfers from camera to computer or cloud. Unfortunately, Eye-Fi has set an end-of-life date for these cards, and that will happen on September 16, 2016. Eye-Fi encourages users to get new Eye-Fi products. They offer some slim hope of utility for the Connect X2 cards: if you configure your card for “Direct Mode” prior to September 16th, it might continue working in that mode alone thereafter, though they won’t guarantee it, and say that it might stop working at any time. There is an old project for Eye-Fi Connect X2 card configuration and serving on Linux, though I have no idea if that might extend the useful life of the cards or not.

The abruptness with which those cards become junk doesn’t make me feel inclined to trust Eye-Fi for new hardware, though they still have very good feature sets. I had a look at what was on offer in the SD card with Wifi space, and got an EZ Share Wi-Fi SD adapter from Amazon for $20. This adapts a Micro SD SDHC card (so no greater than 32GB) and provides a Wifi interface. In terms of features, it is less flexible than the Eye-Fi products. For Windows machines, Android, and IOS devices, you set the computer, phone, or tablet to use the EZ Share Wifi hotspot, and then use a web application (on Windows) or an app (on mobile devices) to view thumbnails of pictures on the card, select photos, and download photos. I haven’t found any automatic download capability yet. On the other hand, it seems to have fewer camera incompatibilities than the Eye-Fi Connect X2 did. I’ve tried it in a Nikon D600, an Olympus E-PL1, and a Fuji J20, and other than having to change the standby delay in the Nikon, it just worked in all of those. I’ve seen a result come up in Google about someone returning one because it didn’t work with an Olympus E-M5, which I’ll be able to test for myself next week.

There’s a very informative post of an EZ Share hack to create a standalone file server. It turns out you don’t need a camera to make the EZ Share work, just a source of power. With a small battery and charging circuit plus the card, one can have a Wifi hotspot to serve up files for up to five simultaneous connections. It also discusses how to change the EZ Share hotspot configuration to something other than the defaults. I don’t know how much further hacking of the device could go, but I can see a number of uses for a flexible standalone web server at this size and price point.

Another option I looked at but haven’t tried is the Toshiba Flash Air III Wireless SD Memory Card 16GB (PFW016U-1CCW), currently also about $20 at Amazon. I’ve seen an intriguing post about hacking the Toshiba FlashAir for uploads, which opens up a whole range of possibilities beyond simply getting files off a camera.

I see a place for these SD Wifi devices despite the coming camera connectedness. I have the Nikon Wifi dongle for the D600, and while it does provide Wifi camera control, I’ve found it to be flaky. The Nikon app for camera control is underpowered, and I’ve had maybe a 33% success rate in getting the DSLR Dashboard app to work. The Olympus Air, of course, makes wireless function integral to using it, but the app is also less than completely reliable, and fails to be the open interface that would free creativity in how the camera operates. Having an alternative, reliable, low interference way to move images from camera to computer without a lot of hassle makes sense to me.


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