Eye-Fi connects to iPhone, gets more useful

The Eye-Fi app receives images directly from my camera.
I’ve been using the Eye-Fi series of Wi-Fi-enabled memory cards for a couple of years now. But I have to admit, they’ve always been cooler on paper than in practice. Yes, they let your camera connect to a Wi-Fi network and upload photos to photo-sharing services and even back to your Mac, and there’s some Wi-Fi-based geotagging capability. But camera interfaces just aren’t rich enough to give users control over the Eye-Fi’s features out in the field, and most of the places I take pictures don’t have Wi-Fi. Without a Wi-Fi connection, there’s no way to send back the pictures and the geotagging feature won’t work, either.

But recently two developments have made me reassess the value of an Eye-Fi card. First was the arrival of the iPhone’s personal hotspot feature, which eliminated the problem of the Eye-Fi card not being able to find a Wi-Fi network when I’m out taking a hike. With the Eye-Fi set to connect to my iPhone 4’s personal hotspot, it can share my iPhone’s cellular-data connection.

But even better was the introduction of “Direct Mode”, a feature rolled out in April for the X2 series of cards that turns the Eye-Fi card inside a camera into a portable hotspot. Here’s how it works: you connect your iPad or iPhone to the Eye-Fi card once so that your iOS device remembers the name and password of your Eye-Fi card’s hotspot. Then, when you’re out shooting, you launch the free Eye-Fi app and the pictures you’ve taken will be transmitted wirelessly from your camera to the app and saved at full resolution in the Camera Roll on your iOS device.

I tested this feature out last weekend at one of my daughter’s softball games. I turned on my Canon T2i DSLR camera, launched the Eye-Fi app, and then stuck my iPhone in my pocket and started to take pictures with my camera. When I was done, a full-resolution copy of all those photos from my T2i were on my iPhone, ready to be e-mailed, posted to Facebook and Flickr, and even run through Instagram.

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