Review: WiFi-enabled Eye-Fi Geo SD card tags Places for iPhoto

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
The $60 Eye-Fi Geo card packs a WiFi transmitter into a standard 2GB SD memory card, geotagging pictures as you take them and allowing wireless photo uploads from your camera.



The Eye-Fi Card family



Eye-Fi sells a variety of WiFi-enabled SD cards, but the Geo is a new package designed for exclusive sale within Apple's retail stores. There seems to be too many options in Eye-Fi's offerings, with too little reason for all the differentiation. Essentially, the Geo card bundles the features Mac users will probably find most valuable: wireless delivery of pics from your camera to your computer, and iPod touch-style geotagging; Eye-Fi's other subscription features can be purchased separately.



For example, the Geo card is a step above the Eye-Fi Home model ($50/2GB), which only supports wireless photo transfer to your PC from your camera (but not geotagging). Geo is also offered as an alternative to the similarly-priced Share versions ($60/2GB or $80/4GB), which include the Home's wireless camera downloads and add WebShare, a direct-to-web feature that uploads photos you take to your Flickr, Facebook or MobileMe account right from your camera (but again, Share models don't offer geotagging).



Unlike the Share cards or the pricier Explore models ($80/2GB or $100/4GB), the Geo card doesn't include WebShare, as Mac users are likely to want to publish their pictures from within iPhoto after editing them. You can still subscribe to WebShare for a $10/year fee that adds the direct sharing features to the Geo card. The Geo also lacks the Explorer card's bundled HotSpot Access plan, a year long subscription to WayPort's 10,000 WiFi hot spots that allow you to automatically join any of its available WiFi public access points to either send your photos back to your computer or upload them to the web via WebShare. This option can be purchased separately for $15/year.



Wireless SD photo delivery



The first Eye-Fi Geo card feature promises to save you the effort of having to pop the SD card out of your computer and plug it into your Mac (or alternatively connect a USB cable) every time you want to upload pics to iPhoto. This is both handy and quick once you set it up. It involves installing Eye-Fi Manager, an app that listens for your Geo card-equipped camera and downloads any photos you've taken. The app is included on your SD card, so you only need to plug it in (using the bundled USB-SD card reader, below, next to the Geo card and a generic SD memory card) and launch its installer.







During the installation, you configure a folder on your local computer to serve as a photo destination location for the card to send your photos. The card will subsequently deliver pictures to that folder wirelessly as you take them, as long as the card is within WiFi range. Of course, for the to login to your WiFi network, you also need to provide your network(s) login details during the installation. The card (just like an iPhone) only supports 802.11b/g networks, so if you are running a faster 802.11n-only network, it won't be able to see it.



You can add additional WiFi network logins for other locations you might be shooting pictures in, but you must set these up with the software and then sync them to the card when it is physically connected via the USB adapter. You can't upload new WiFi configurations directly to the card. If you've snapped some pics outside of WiFi coverage, the next time you take a photo from the camera it will push all your queued up photos to the local folder on your computer automatically.



In order for the card to successfully upload the photos taken by your camera, you may need to turn off its power saving feature, so it doesn't go to sleep and power down the Geo card before it has a chance to send out the selected photos. Eye-Fi also lists a variety of cameras that aren't compatible with the cards, although most SD card-equipped cameras are. The company says when using Eye-Fi cards, "battery life will not be noticeably shorter than when using a standard SD memory card." It seems remarkable that the card can pack a WiFi transmitter into a thin SD card (below).







Eye-Fi Manager software



The Eye-Fi Manager software is a combination of menu bar icon (drawn in an unnecessarily distracting Day-Glo orange) and a web-based online service launched from the menu bar icon. The software isn't impossible to figure out, but it feels clumsy compared to what could have been either an iPhoto plugin or a standard standalone Mac app.







The upside to being web-based is that you can login and access your camera's pictures and the card's configuration from the web. You have to create an account with Eye-Fi during the install process for this reason; subsequently, all the pictures your camera uploads are then sent to your Eye-Fi account on the company's servers. The downside to being an online app is that it doesn't work if you don't have Internet access.



Because the Eye-Fi cards actually upload your pictures to their server, Eye-Fi can then sell you the option to deliver them to your computer (an option bundled with the Geo card at no additional cost) or upload them to one of several web services (that $10/year extra WebSharing feature). The service also unlocks geotagging, which again is included with the Geo card out of the box. This system allows Eye-Fi to also offer other subscription options you can purchase later (including that $15/year HotSpot Access service).



In other words, the Geo card doesn't talk directly to your Mac via WiFi; it uploads photos from your camera to the company's website and then back down to your local computer. Once delivered, the photos don't stick around on Eye-Fi's website, but do remain in a history catalog of thumbnails you can reference (or delete). Delivered photos are not automatically deleted from the SD card itself, so there's no worry that you might lose any pictures due to a failed wireless upload.



You can set the card to either deliver all photos to your desired location (the default setting), or set it to only upload pictures you mark using your camera's "select" option. The desired location can be either a given folder on your system or iPhoto directly. You can also enable a "relayed uploads" feature, which as the software says "your camera and your computer don't have to be on at the same time for your media to transfer. If your computer is off (or inaccessible), the media will be whisked to the Eye-Fi servers. Next time you turn your computer on, the media will be delivered right away."



Once you've run through the installation's configuration setup, you don't really have to deal with the software again. Photos you take using an Eye-Fi-equipped camera almost instantly appear as thumbnails that drop down from the upper right corner of your menu bar in a nonstandard mini-window that then disappears as the upload process finishes. This thumbnail preview can be disabled if you choose.



You can then manually import your photos into iPhoto (or whatever other app you want to use) from the destination folder you selected, or enjoy automatic photo imports into your iPhoto library directly. After changing the configured destination from a folder to iPhoto, the software acted like it wasn't working for a bit and reported a problem, then started working again. The software later crashed unexpectedly in the background while doing nothing, but again worked after restarting it.



The primary downside to the provided software (apart from the occasional glitch) is that it always has to be listening in the background, which requires the bright orange icon in your menu bar at all times. This really needs to be toned down, particularly because the standard convention for all menu bar items is to use an unobtrusive grey scale icon. Eye-Fi isn't the first third party developer to scream for attention from the menu bar, but it shouldn't nonetheless.



On page 2 of 2: Geotagging for iPhoto 09; Eye-Fi Geo Card Product Review Rundown; and Rating.



Geotagging for iPhoto 09



In addition to the wireless upload feature, the Geo card adds WiFi-based geotagging, which uses the card's WiFi to triangulate its position just like the iPhone and iPod touch do (and as Snow Leopard now does), using the same data from Skyhook Wireless that Apple uses. WiFi location finding isn't nearly as accurate as GPS, but it's a lot more affordable.



Only a few high-end cameras offer built-in GPS tagging. The iPhone 3G and 3GS have GPS onboard, so they can offer more accurate geotagging on the pictures they take. GPS can map your location within several feet, while WiFi triangulation only places you within a few blocks of your actual location. Still, the Geo card's WiFi geotagging is much better than nothing. Using the Geo card in your standalone camera, you can have fairly accurate location data automatically attached on your photos, allowing iPhoto 8 (of iLife 09) to include the pictures in its Places database, just like the pictures you take with your iPhone or other GPS-enabled smartphone.



Skyhook's WiFi location service doesn't require to you login to any WiFi base stations to get a location fix; it simply looks for nearby base stations it knows the location of, and estimates where you are. This means it works pretty well in urban areas but is of no use anywhere there are no known WiFi base stations. Skyhook says it has data for about 70% of the population in the US, Canada, UK, France and Germany, and covers most of the larger metro areas in Europe, with service expanding into urban areas of Asia.



If the Geo card can't determine your location, Eye-Fi says it will either leave the photo untagged or will add the last known location to it. The accuracy of tagged photos will be very similar to the location information offered by the iPhone Maps app (without GPS). However, rather than providing a general circle depicting your location based on how accurate the estimate is calculated to be, the Geo card tags a precise location on your photos that may be off by several blocks, without any indication of how accurate the estimated location is.



You can also add any base stations you know the location of to Skyhook's database, which will improve the accuracy of WiFi locations for your Geo card, iPhone, and everyone else who uses the service.



Correcting the accuracy of a photo's location in iPhoto 8 isn't entirely intuitive; you can't just drag the photo's pin on its Places map. Instead, you have to select the photo or photos you want to correct, pull up the information map panel for the selected pictures, and either type in a known location by name (such as "Union Square" San Francisco), or select the "Find on Map" option, which allow you to "Drop Pin," name the new location, and assign it to your selected photos. This might initially require referencing help.



Eye-Fi Geo Card Product Review Rundown



For users who want to take full advantage of iPhoto 09's Places feature, the Eye-Fi Geo card offers a cheap alternative to replacing your camera with one that offers built-in GPS or WiFi location features. At 2GB, it's not a huge capacity card, and comparable storage-only SD cards can be found for as little as $10. However, with the capacity to automatically upload photos from any known WiFi hotspot, the 2GB storage capacity acts like a ladle rather than a bucket; conceptually, you could shoot, upload, delete, and keep shooting.



Of course, that requires that you pre-program the card to associate itself with your WiFi hotspots. If you're out and about shooting pictures, you'll need a $15/year HotSpot Access subscription to take full advantage of this "upload, empty, and reuse" capacity. Those 10,000 hotspots only work in the vicinity of places like McDonald's and various airport lobbies (but not Starbucks).



Note that you can't simply plugin your laptop's ad hoc WiFi login details for remote shooting and direct wireless sync, as the card won't connect and sync without actual Internet access; it uploads its pictures through Eye-Fi's service, not directly to your computer. That means the card won't deliver your photos to your computer until both your computer and the camera happen upon Internet access (with "relayed uploads" turned on, the camera can upload photos at its first opportunity for later delivery to your computer). The Eye-Fi software also requires Internet access in order to present your latest upload history as recorded on Eye-Fi's servers (of course).



All things considered, the Geo model Eye-Fi is now selling through Apple offers a great bundle of the company's impossibly small WiFi technology, an SD card sufficiently-sided to accommodate plenty of photos (but probably not too many videos), and Eye-Fi's more useful service features: wireless upload and geotagging. Other options are available on an annual subscription basis. Compared to the excessive and somewhat confusing array of product options Eye-Fi offers, the Geo version seems like the best package for most Mac users.



The Geo card itself seems like a reasonably priced upgrade for your existing camera, but the software Eye-Fi provides needs some refinement. The overall software experience seems a bit thrown together, and the garish orange icon is an irritating fixture in the menu bar. While you can turn it off when you're not using it, the point of having a background listener waiting to grab pics as they're available on your camera is a key feature of the Eye-Fi product, so it should be able to do the job unobtrusively.



Rating: 3 of 5





Pros



Wireless photo transfer is quick and handy

Geotagging features work great with iPhoto

Broadly compatible with almost all SD cameras

Hardware works well, no real downsides (such as battery life)



Cons



Somewhat limited card capacity (particularly for video)

Web-based software glitchy and a little confusing

Day-Glo Orange menu bar icon needs to go
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Comments

  • successsuccess Posts: 1,039member
    Hardware cool. Software and implementation bad.
  • quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,550member
    I love SD cards. I have around 100gb worth of them and they take up hardly any space at all in my drawer.
  • nli10nli10 Posts: 32member
    My phone does this and it seems to work better than the stand alone cards. Guess it's just a matter of time until the Camera manufacturers build this into fun cameras as standard.
  • gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post


    The $60 Eye-Fi Geo card ... allowing wireless photo uploads from your camera...



    Sounds great to me, but it just makes me wonder yet again ... when is it going to be possible to simply save a photo attachment or web image into iPhoto?



    iPhoto is supposedly the primo, manufacturer created and suggested, system-wide image managing tool for all Macintosh computers. Yet it has no watch folders, no automatic import of images from any source other than a digital camera (that has been locally connected and expressly designated as a source), and no easy way to simply "save" a picture into the library. Kinda ridiculous when you think about it.



  • alohatigeralohatiger Posts: 2member
    ...For the hot chick in the apartment right above you.



    "A camera? For me? Thanks!"



    Of course, you can helpfully show her how to upload pictures into her computer via USB. "And never, ever take the SD card out!"
  • dravendraven Posts: 3member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post




    iPhoto is supposedly the primo, manufacturer created and suggested, system-wide image managing tool for all Macintosh computers. Yet it has no watch folders, no automatic import of images from any source other than a digital camera (that has been locally connected and expressly designated as a source), and no easy way to simply "save" a picture into the library. Kinda ridiculous when you think about it.



    How hard is it to just drop a picture or a folder in iphoto's window? That seems like a pretty easy way to save a picture into the library if you ask me.... How are you doing it???
  • solrydrsolrydr Posts: 1member
    I have been using the eyefi explore card 2gb for about a year and have to admit it a wonderfully convience. As I'm sure you can read above, litterally you snap a photo with your digital camera and the card geotags(if a wifi network is nearby), then when at home I just turn the camera on it instantly sends the photos to my mac via wifi and puts it into it's own event in eyephoto. I don t have to even be in the same room

    as the camera and just let it do it's magic. It's great for eBay sellers especially, take 3 steps out of the process in selling an item. I wish to buy the video version due to a new underwater camera I purchased. But I'll hold off till prices are lower. This card I awesome also as to when I'm traveling and I just find a local free wifi spot and the card remotly uploads the photos to my mac at home wether it is on or not. A great feeling knowing if something does happen to my camera on my travels I've already backed up the info without doing literally anything nor going out of my way to make a cd/DVD when my card is full. Upon that last statement, the cost of a card is much greater than a standard sd card but using that world wide remote send to my mac at home allows anyone to delete what's on there And keep on snapping away. I used the iPhone app as well and it's seems to work just as simple but had a little confusion when intially setting up the preferences. So overall this is a great gadget to travel with and relieves alot of extra accesories/hArdwRe. I now don't have to carry an sd card reader a USB cable nor a seperate gps logging Device(even though I keep that iPhone 3gs with me at all times.
  • rco3rco3 Posts: 76member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Draven View Post


    How hard is it to just drop a picture or a folder in iphoto's window? That seems like a pretty easy way to save a picture into the library if you ask me.... How are you doing it???



    How about "Folder Actions" ? You can make it run an Applescript, and there you are.
  • rokkenrokken Posts: 236member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Gazoobee View Post


    Sounds great to me, but it just makes me wonder yet again ... when is it going to be possible to simply save a photo attachment or web image into iPhoto?



    iPhoto is supposedly the primo, manufacturer created and suggested, system-wide image managing tool for all Macintosh computers. Yet it has no watch folders, no automatic import of images from any source other than a digital camera (that has been locally connected and expressly designated as a source), and no easy way to simply "save" a picture into the library. Kinda ridiculous when you think about it.







    As a previous poster already stated, you can simply drag and drop the photos to iPhoto and you can also simply add web image to iPhoto by just right click and choose Add image to iPhoto library.
  • gregalexandergregalexander Posts: 1,341member
    I'd like to buy something like this for my wife and for my mother.

    But uploading it all to the servers first seems a waste of both my upload and download quota, especially with 12megapixel cameras and the way she takes 30 shots in a row of the niece and nephew and then chooses 2 of them.



    Are there any similar products that just sync locally?
  • jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,927member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Quadra 610 View Post


    I love SD cards. I have around 100gb worth of them and they take up hardly any space at all in my drawer.



    SD is pretty nice. It's becoming the defacto consumer memory card standard.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Draven View Post


    How hard is it to just drop a picture or a folder in iphoto's window? That seems like a pretty easy way to save a picture into the library if you ask me.... How are you doing it???



    It's a little awkward to do remotely, such as on a network, using VNC/Remote Desktop to do that is more awkward than just having the computer automatically insert it into a library without user intervention.
  • jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,927member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by GregAlexander View Post


    I'd like to buy something like this for my wife and for my mother.

    But uploading it all to the servers first seems a waste of both my upload and download quota, especially with 12megapixel cameras and the way she takes 30 shots in a row of the niece and nephew and then chooses 2 of them.



    Are there any similar products that just sync locally?



    I thought the regular EyeFi offers a way to save directly to a folder in a local computer, but I don't know for sure. I don't think it would be appropriate for this version to require uploading to a site only to download it again down the same pipe, WiFi is slow enough, why throttle it yet again? I should get a regular EyeFi, I don't need nationwide hotspot access anyway, I just need to have convenient and automatic uploading to my computer in my workspace. I usually only need to take a very few shots at a time, I'm hoping a regular EyeFi would be able to finish uploading them to my computer when I sit down at said computer.
  • quadra 610quadra 610 Posts: 6,550member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    SD is pretty nice. It's becoming the defacto consumer memory card standard.







    It's a little awkward to do remotely, such as on a network, using VNC/Remote Desktop to do that is more awkward than just having the computer automatically insert it into a library without user intervention.



    I believe you can upload them to your MobileMe gallery and they'll show up in iPhoto.
  • dreamrajdreamraj Posts: 83member
    sweet ;-)





    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Alohatiger View Post


    ...For the hot chick in the apartment right above you.



    "A camera? For me? Thanks!"



    Of course, you can helpfully show her how to upload pictures into her computer via USB. "And never, ever take the SD card out!"



  • cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,143member
    iPhoto is a horrendous app. I have tinkered with various iterations of it a couple times and have always given up in disgust. I can't stand how it insists on 'importing' everything and then hiding it away internally rather than you just keeping photos in normal folders. If you wisely chose to retain the original files out of it's grasp, it gobbles up disk space by unnecessarily duplicating them.



    It's an out and out control freak of an App. Having squirreled your photos away in it's secret hidey hole, it will chuck a wobbly and have a database corruption and insist that you are mistaken about ever having entrusted it with your precious photos. 'No photos in here Sir.'



    I shudder to think of less computer literate people who may have 'lost' all their photos to this monster, not ever knowing they could dig them out via 'show package contents.'



    Many of the newer camera equipped phones can do all this Eye-Fi stuff, like the SE C905. You can choose to transfer your pics via Blutooth, WiFi, USB, or pull the card and pop it in a USB adapter.
  • jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,927member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post


    iPhoto is a horrendous app. I have tinkered with various iterations of it a couple times and have always given up in disgust. I can't stand how it insists on 'importing' everything and then hiding it away internally rather than you just keeping photos in normal folders. If you wisely chose to retain the original files out of it's grasp, it gobbles up disk space by unnecessarily duplicating them.



    I'm not totally sure of the circumstances you talk about, but files are duplicated on the first edit, so you can revert to the original if you made a mistake and want to try again from the beginning rather than just live with a ruined picture. It's not as smart as the Aperture / Lightroom system of a small version file that gives instructions on how to recreate the versions, but it's a consumer app, they're probably assuming that consumers don't generally make many versions of the same shot.



    I think the idea of "hiding" them is to keep people from moving photos, having a library with events, albums, organization and add-on tags doesn't work if someone just moves files. If you really need to know where a file is, you can right click and say "show file", and it will open Finder to that folder and highlight the file in question. But if you move a file, there's also the original, unchanged version of it too.



    Quote:

    It's an out and out control freak of an App. Having squirreled your photos away in it's secret hidey hole, it will chuck a wobbly and have a database corruption and insist that you are mistaken about ever having entrusted it with your precious photos. 'No photos in here Sir.'



    I shudder to think of less computer literate people who may have 'lost' all their photos to this monster, not ever knowing they could dig them out via 'show package contents.'



    Doesn't iPhoto have a way to rescan its library if it sees the database is corrupted?
  • jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,927member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Quadra 610 View Post


    I believe you can upload them to your MobileMe gallery and they'll show up in iPhoto.



    That still leaves the issue of having it uploaded and downloaded over an even slower pipe than regular WiFi.



    I hope I'm just misunderstanding it.
  • gigigigi Posts: 65member
    What???? That card doesn't have a gps chip in it? Only skyhook?



    This is a big problem, generaly when I take photos there is no wifi. When your fishing, skiing, visit some cool tourist area there is no wifi all around.



    When I see first that card can do geo tag I was excited because I said to me wow, I can now choose the camera I want and put this eyef. Card in the camera and I have all my photo geotag wherever I am (deep in the forest or on the top of a mountain)



    without a real gps in it this card is not relevant for geo tag for sure
  • gregalexandergregalexander Posts: 1,341member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    I thought the regular EyeFi offers a way to save directly to a folder in a local computer, but I don't know for sure.



    I thought the EyeFi just did the transfer (which I'm not actually interested in), not the Geolocation.



    So looking that up... there is an EyeFi Geo which does the geolocation. Thanks



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post


    I think the idea of "hiding" [the files] is to keep people from moving photos, having a library with events, albums, organization and add-on tags doesn't work if someone just moves files. If you really need to know where a file is, you can right click and say "show file", and it will open Finder to that folder and highlight the file in question. But if you move a file, there's also the original, unchanged version of it too.



    The trouble (I think) is that Apple now has 2 ways of 'managing our files'. There's the iPhoto library which presents our photos (files) to us in a way that is useful for managing photos... but there is also the underlying file system that this is mapped to.



    Same with iTunes - we have iTunes managing and presenting our files to us, layering on top of our file system. In some ways email is also another way of accessing 'files'.



    Besides those ways of accessing our underlying files, we have Spotlight to find things.



    I'd like to see the file system more integrated with iTunes/iPhoto management. I'm not sure how best that would be handled. Even emails could be integrated - I'd find it useful to look through my folders "eg: open the work folder, open the project folder, see all my files AND emails on the project.
  • gregalexandergregalexander Posts: 1,341member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by gigi View Post


    without a real gps in it this card is not relevant for geo tag for sure



    For my wife and my mother, this would geotag 80% of their photos. The last 20% could be manually done. For now, doing 100% of photos is just too difficult so this option has appeal.



    I'm also looking at iPhone apps which record your GPS location when you open the app, and later sync that to any photos you took at that time. It's a pity Apple doesn't make such an app for iPhone & iPhoto so that it's totally seamless! (they're all a bit complicated).
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