Updated: Nov 30, 2019
Sometimes, working in the studio or on location can frustrate the heck out of you when all you have to review images is the little screen on the back of the camera. Whilst I don’t advocate the excessive use of ‘chimping’ during a shoot, there are times when it’s useful to check, review and apply some quality control with your workflow at the time you take images.
In the past, we have always had tethered shooting with a mile of cable to trip over in conjunction with specialist capture software (that we had to pay for), and latterly manufacturers devices (relatively bulky and not cheap) for sending images wirelessly to the computer. Having used both methods and never been totally satisfied, there had to be a better way of doing it in this age of ever increasing technological advancement. On a recent visit to Scotland, I visited a good friend Barrie Spence from Pavillion Studios, who I was amazed to find had been using a new transfer system for some time. Enter Eye-Fi.
Before we start, it’s important to state that the Eye-Fi system is not a replacement for the tethered or manufacturers wireless systems because it’s not as efficient, however, it does provide a cost effective, compact and versatile method to transfer images to the computer or internet, complete with GPS data all in one go for less than £60.
The small innocuous package arrived in the post and I was immediately struck at the size (or lack of it) and marvelled at how much could be packed into so little. The pack includes an SD memory card which incorporates the setup and wireless software, and a USB card reader. Although there are several card types I chose the 8GB Pro X2 card which has the ability to transfer Raw files as well as Jpeg. Reports have come back from some users that it’s difficult to set up (even our own Mike McNamee). A visit to the Eye-Fi website shows a list of cameras that the card has been tested against, but the card will work with most modern cameras even if not listed.
Start by placing the SD card in the USB reader and plug into a suitable port on the computer that you want to view images on. Open the files included on the card and install the Eye-Fi Centre setup dialogue in order to make system changes to suit your camera and workflow preference. The setup is fairly intuitive but might lead you astray if you don’t read all your options. (this is where I think that most people are having problems).
Depending on the type of photography you are doing (studio or event) you may want to set up the system in different ways. The method described below is the one I use for my studio work.
The first tab is the Network Settings tab. – choose you studio network and put your password in to connect. There are other options to add several networks or even add a roaming network or 3G account. Don’t forget to click ‘Save’ or your settings will be lost.
The next tab is for how you store the Photos on the computer you are setting up. Choose the ‘upload photos to this computer’ option and select or create a file for the images to be stored in. When selected, choose the ‘Do not create date based folders’ option. This helps if you intend to create a ‘watched’ folder for use in event photography and Lightroom. You can move the images to another folder for storage later. There is an option to upload your photos directly to the internet but I’ve not tested this personally.
The next option is the RAW tag. I leave this option unchecked as enabling this feature will slow your transfer rates considerably. Only enable if you do not have a second slot in your camera. My camera has two CF slots and is set to capture Raw files in slot 1 and Jpeg in slot 2. This gives you the best of both worlds – high quality files for working on at leisure at a later date and smaller Jpeg files that will upload directly to the computer for previewing or even outputting through Lightroom at an Event shoot.
Having only CF card slots in the camera is no drawback as there are several SD to CF adapters on the market that work very well, however a word of caution....these items are not expensive so don’t be tempted to get a cheap one. A good adapter will only cost £20 at the most and this can make all the difference to the success and speed of transfer.
The remaining setup tags can be left alone as their default setting and we can get on with capturing images. At this stage you can close the Eye-Fi Centre interface and start shooting.
When shooting with the above setup your Raw files are kept in camera and only the Jpegs are transferred to the computer. If you have set up a ‘watched’ folder with Lightroom’s Auto Import option then you will see the images at large size in the Library module of the program. It’s a simple matter to preview or even Develop and output if working in an Event situation. Alternatively you can just watch them into Adobe Bridge and select which images to enlarge for closer scrutiny.
There are several factors that will affect your transfer rate and successful installation of the program:
The quality of your network connection and distance from the hub may slow down transfer of files as well as how many machines are connected to it at any one time.
The larger the file size (Raw, Large or Small Jpeg) will slow down the transfer rate. On my system, Raw files took about 30 seconds to appear, whilst medium Jpegs only took about 15 seconds.
The first image in a sequence was the slowest to transfer but oddly enough, several shots (5 in a row) actually got faster to load as the shoot went on. This meant I could keep shooting without having to wait for the transfer to catch up. 5 shots in sequence took about 35 seconds in total.
It may be necessary for you to extend the power saving options of your camera to at least 30 seconds to prevent loss of data during transfer.
Last piece of advice – keep your camera batteries fresh!
If you do have a failed transfer, don’t fret......even though the Jpeg files are loaded to the computer, they area also written to the SD card providing you with a backup. The 8GB card is the same size as my normal CF card so there will be plenty of scope for shooting over extended periods.
As I don’t usually shoot many events, I will not have to change any of the settings on the computer or Eye-Fi card, however those of you that like to move between home base and different events will need to reset the computer or laptop you are using to you specific location:
Reset the folder that you want to save your files to.
If using Lightroom watched folder technique, make sure that both locations match.
Reset the network password as you will probably be using a third party WiFi.
The method of capture probably won’t need changing as this will be your normal workflow.
To do any of the above you will need to plug your SD Eye-Fi card into the USB adapter and reset the computer from scratch!
The greatest fear of any photographer is the damage that can be caused by others tripping over loose wires and cables either in a studio or on location. This method of capture and transfer may be a bit of a faf to some, but the ability to review files at a decent size in the studio or work on event photos at a reasonable speed is a real boon for me.
At a fraction of the cost of manufacturers’ wireless systems and any additional software, I can have a real time accurate assessment of shots without having additional download time to the computer, or screwing my eyes to see detail on the back of the camera.
Chimping just got a whole lot easier!