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An increasing number of cameras these days have wifi built-in, allowing instant viewing of photos on your iPhone or iPad, and from there instant sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and so on. Which can leave those of us with less sociable cameras feeling a little left out in the cold.

Eye-Fi has offered solutions to this for some time, in the form of wifi-equipped cards that you can insert into your older or pro camera and transmit the images to a PC or Mac. This approach worked, after a fashion, but had two big problems. First, setup was far from easy, and second, transmission was via a wireless router. Fine at home, where you probably didn’t need it, not so fine when out & about, where you probably did.

This was the problem the Eye-Fi Mobi set out to solve: a $50 (8GB) or $80 (16GB) SD card that transmits photos direct to an iOS device running the free Eye-Fi app, with no router required. I decided to give it a try … 

Out of the box

The Eye-Fi Mobi is pretty much indistinguishable from any other SD card, aside from looking rather more orange than usual. It’s of course exactly the same dimensions as a standard card, and the card itself is a decent-speed Class 10.

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I was pleased to see that it was supplied in what Eye-Fi calls ‘frustration-free packaging’. Instead of having to attack the packaging with the knife, scissors or tactical nuclear weapons most of today’s packs seem to need, you can open it unassisted with your fingers. You don’t even need fingernails. Other manufacturers, please note.

On the back of the card case is a 10-character activation code needed to pair it with the free app. And that’s it. You download the app from iTunes.

Setup

This was the part where previous incarnations of Eye-Fi cards had you pulling out your hair in frustration. This wasn’t anything to do with Eye-Fi, it was the nature of setting up ad-hoc wifi networks with a router acting as an intermediary. The very expensive Nikon wifi transmitter had exactly the same problem. Compared to that, the Mobi is a breeze.

First, simply insert the card in your camera like any other SD card. This was when I hit my first reliability issue: the first card I received was dead on arrival. A replacement was sent, which worked.

When you install the app, it will ask permission to install a wifi profile. Grant this by entering your iOS passcode, and it will ask you for the activation code for your specific card. Type in the code from the case and hit OK. The app will open and you’ll get a message telling you it’s not connected, and giving instructions on what to do next:

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Note that you do need to take a photo to wake up the card and create the wireless network. I decided to be a little meta and took a photo of the app asking me to take a photo …

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As soon as you’ve done this, you can open your standard iPhone or iPad Settings app and will see a new wireless network entitled Eye-Fi Card followed by a hex identifier. Select this:

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As soon as your phone connects to the app, the photo you just took is copied across:

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In theory, all subsequent photos are then automatically copied across.

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I say ‘in theory’ because you’ll note that the green connection status box in the screengrab with the first photo has turned to a red ‘lost connection’ box in the photo above. I checked the wifi status, to find that the card had disappeared from the list of networks:

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I tried taking another photo to see if it had simply gone to sleep – nothing. I tried switching the camera off and on again – no luck. Tried removing the card and re-inserting, when it reappeared. That worked. I took exactly one photo and then the same thing happened again: red status box, wifi network gone.

This time, however, no subsequent amount of messing around brought it back: not removing and reinserting the card, nor doing the same with the camera battery, nor reinstalling the app. Four photos and it was dead.

Had this been a one-off, I’d have written it off as one of those things. But with two separate cards, one DOA and the other failing on day one, I have to conclude that the reliability of these things is suspect.

Which is a great shame, as I do very much like the idea. At the moment, I use my DSLR most of the time, but it does lack the ability to instantly share photos online, and a small LCD panel also isn’t the ideal way to share photos with others present at the time. The Eye-Fi Mobi plus my iPad (which pretty much goes with me everywhere anyway) would have been an excellent solution to both problems.

I have no doubt that Eye-Fi stand by their products, and that either they or the retailer would arrange another painless swap, but two failures is generally my limit for something I want rather than need. If you do fall into the need category, don’t let my experience put you off – I may simply have got two cards from the same bad batch – but I would suggest buying it from a retailer with a no-hassle returns policy.

The Eye-Fi Mobi is available from Amazon. The 8GB model offers a tiny discount but free shipping at $48.94, while the 16GB model offers a more worthwhile 15 percent discount, also with free shipping, at $71.99.

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