As a photographer, I’ve been thrilled to see iPhones become compelling replacements for standalone point-and-shoot cameras. Our world has improved in both measurable and immeasurable ways from widespread, immediate access to quality photography; the images documenting our lives are more compelling and numerous than ever before.
But professional photographers toting DSLRs now struggle to stand out from amateurs with iPhones. The Chicago Sun-Times infamously fired its entire photography department in favor of using images from iPhones and wire services, a move mocked by other newspapers but embraced by some broadcast journalists. Fixed-lens, small-sensor iPhones can’t match standalone cameras in image quality, particularly in dark settings, but they’re hard to beat in speed and convenience.
The question is how to combine the immediacy of iPhone photography with the quality offered by superior cameras. For me, the answer has been Eyefi‘s SD cards, which wirelessly transfer a standalone camera’s photos to an iPhone or iPad for rapid editing and sharing. (See my How-To on transferring, editing, and sharing DSLR/point-and-shoot photos with an iPhone or iPad for more details.)
Eyefi’s first $100 card contained 2GB of flash memory and a Wi-Fi chip; since then, every Eyefi card has improved on the same concept, so the brand-new 32GB Mobi Pro ($100) isn’t so much a surprise as the culmination of everything the company has done before. It has the highest storage capacity, broadest file support, and easiest workflow of any Eyefi card I’ve tested. Most importantly, it brings a more durable enclosure that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to any potential reader, originally introduced in Eyefi’s more affordable non-Pro Mobi cards. Read on for all the details…
If you haven’t previously followed Eyefi’s products, here’s a simple summary: the company started out with the aforementioned 2GB card, and evolved the product line to include numerous cards with various capacities, cloud-augmented features, and price points. Today, there are effectively three versions left: the consumer-grade Eyefi Mobi, the old (and likely to be discontinued) professional model Pro X2, and the brand-new Mobi Pro. All three are class 10 cards, promising up to 23 MB/second write speeds. Bundled with a plastic card containing an activation code, Mobi was designed to be particularly easy to pair with mobile devices, quickly enabling the “shoot JPEGs on DSLR/pocket camera, share to Internet” scenario I described above. The older Pro X2 did work with mobile devices, but it was originally designed to sync JPEGs and pro-quality RAW images to computers and the cloud.
Mobi Pro combines Mobi’s easy mobile setup with all of Pro X2’s professional-grade features. It ships with the same activation code as a regular Mobi, and assumes that you’ll pair it first to your mobile device, but also includes a USB card reader so you can connect it to any computer via a home/office wireless network for tethering. Unlike a regular Mobi card, Mobi Pro will transfer both JPEG and RAW images from your camera to your device, and — if you want to do this — selectively transfer photos rather than syncing everything you’ve shot in sequential order. This requires write-locking of individual photos on the camera, a tedious process. While I’m tempted to say that a better way to support selective transfer can’t come fast enough to existing cameras, I’ve become so accustomed to using prior Eyefi cards without it that the feature will feel like a bonus when it arrives.
Although Wi-Fi pairing isn’t as easy as with recent Bluetooth accessories, Eyefi has refined the process to make Mobi Pro setup a breeze. You download the company’s newer Eyefi Mobi app, enter the activation code on the included plastic card, and watch as the app installs a provisioning profile so your iPhone or iPad trusts the card for future automatic transfers. That’s it: you’re ready to shoot on your camera and transfer to your iOS device. If you’re shooting while away from your home/office Wi-Fi network, your iPhone or iPad will quickly pair directly with Mobi Pro and start receiving photos when you open the app. (But if your iOS device is connected to another Wi-Fi network, you’ll need to tap on the card’s Wi-Fi network in your device’s Settings menu to start the transfer process.) Photo transfers are super-quick — JPEGs take two or three seconds, RAW files a little longer — and despite a 90-foot outdoor/45-foot indoor Wi-Fi broadcasting range, battery drain is surprisingly modest. The only limit is your device’s storage capacity.
While it’s not significantly different or more powerful than Eyefi’s original iOS app, the Eyefi Mobi app is more polished. Used without tweaking any settings, it serves solely as an automated conduit for transferring files from your camera into your iOS device’s Photos app. If you want to see EXIF data, crop your images, tag them, or organize them into folders, the Mobi app lets you do that. You can also choose to prevent your device from sleeping — handy if you’re doing large photo dumps — and play with settings for transferring videos, photo optimization, and uploading over a cellular connection. Most of the features and their locations within the app are intuitive.
There are only two things about the Mobi Pro experience that may qualify as minor inconveniences for some users. First, Mobi Pro’s support for RAW file transfers sort of depends on the company’s Eyefi Cloud service. I say “sort of” because the Mobi Pro card won’t transfer RAW files to a mobile device until you sign up for Eyefi Cloud — a one-year membership with free unlimited uploading is included with the card — and the synchronization process is actually a workaround for iOS file format and memory limitations. The iOS app grabs the RAW image, sends it to Eyefi Cloud, and locally converts it into a high-quality JPEG, deleting the RAW file from your device. Most users will find this to be a seamless way to shoot RAW while working within iOS memory and file type limitations to edit and share JPEGs, but after one year has elapsed, Eyefi wants $50 per year for Eyefi Cloud access. This isn’t a problem for my personal use, since my Canon 5D Mark III saves JPEGs to the Mobi Pro and RAW files to a CompactFlash card for archival purposes, but serious RAW users might not like it.
The other minor issue is durability. I’ve owned quite a few Eyefi cards over the years, and the prior-generation plastic casing had some serious problems — one or two of the plastic pin separators on the back unfortunately tended to snap off after a year or so of active use, and one of my cards’ housings actually split in two. This is now a “minor” issue rather than a serious concern because Eyefi has redesigned the housing, using a more durable plastic that feels tangibly sturdier in both the regular Mobi and the Mobi Pro than it did in the older Pro X2. Additionally, Eyefi Customer Service consistently offered hassle-free replacements when earlier cards developed issues; they neither feigned surprise nor forced me to jump through hoops before swapping broken cards for new ones. This isn’t always true with SD cards, and despite the prior issues, I’d call myself a satisfied customer.
I put it that way because Eyefi’s cards have been so incredibly useful — and used every day for my photography — that I literally would not purchase another camera without Eyefi support, unless it offered integrated wireless functionality that was markedly better. If you’re a professional user and looking for all the bells and whistles Mobi Pro offers, it’s easy to recommend even at a $100 price. But if you don’t need RAW support, your camera doesn’t assist with selective image transfers, and you’re not planning to sync from your camera to computers on your home network, the standard Mobi will do the trick, and is offered in 4GB ($30), 8GB ($40), 16GB ($60) and 32GB ($80) capacities. From my perspective, it’s hard to go wrong with either version of Mobi. Their seamless transfer functionality, improved durability, and higher capacities make them highly compelling alternatives for serious photographers.
|Manufacturer: Eyefi||Price: $100||Compatibility: All iPads, iPhones, iPod touches|