In these days the of connected devices and camera phones an SD card which has a wifi connection built-in might seem anachronistic but the Eyefi Mobi is less about the hardware and more about the service which comes with it.
Plugged into your DSLR or compact point and shoot camera it gives it connectivity and the ability to automatically backup your photographs. Snap a picture and it goes to the cloud and can be viewed on connected devices.
So what is the hardware? A high-capacity SD card with a built-in wifi hotspot. The card is bright orange and once you’ve got it plugged inside your camera the chances are that unless you upgrade your camera you’ll never see it again. The unit I’ve been using is an 8gb version but there are 16GB and 32GB also available if you need more capacity.
So how does this work? Once it is set up the whole process is supposed to be seamless. Take a picture on your DSLR camera and it is automatically uploaded to the cloud and available on all your devices, including your phones, tablets and computers. If there is no connectivity it stores on the card until there is. In reality it is that simple. I was surprised to find out that the card actually generates its own adhoc wifi network which pairs with the PC or smartphone rather than connecting with your wifi router. After taking photos they start popping up on the PC or phone within about 30 seconds.
The storage on the Mobi is class 10 speed. SD cards come in different speeds at different price points which allow better recording and faster photography. Class 10 is the fastest commonly available speed and allows for “Full HD video recording” and “SD still consecutive recording”. There are faster available cards and a professional photographer might have problems with the speeds the Mobi can achieve but this will fulfill most peoples needs.
So what are the downsides? Well there are a few. The first is that the photos uploading does impact on your camera’s battery life. How much is hard to quantify as it depends on how many pictures or videos you take and the distance of your camera from the system it pairs to but there is a noticeable impact. This only affects uploading – if you are taking picture when you are not near a device to upload with then there is no impact. The second downside is that the Mobi only works with JPG images. Most users will be taking JPGs but if your camera can take other formats such as RAW then this solution will not work for you. Eyefi do have a more expensive cards available with more options that can handle RAW images so if that is what you are after there is a solution.
The next issue is a more minor one – my camera kept switching off before it had finished uploading images and if it switched off when uploading a video it sometimes (not always) had to start again from the beginning. Camera auto switch off is designed to save battery life but in my case was more trouble than it was worth. I was able to disable it in my camera’s settings but if you cannot on your camera it could turn into a major headache.
Finally there is the issue of cost. On first look it seems as if you need to subscribe to the yearly Eyefi Premium service to be able to sync your photos but this happily turns out not to be quite right. The basic free account lets you sync photos between all your devices and keeps a copy in the cloud for 7 days. The premium service lets you keep the cloud copy for as long as you are a subscriber, offering unlimited space and better organisational and tagging options. There is unfortunately no way to avoid your photos going to the cloud so if you are extra concerned about privacy this may not be for you.
Size: SD Card – 32mm x 24mm x 2.1mm
Capacity: 8, 16 or 32GB
Weight: 0.1 oz or 3 grams
File storage system: FAT 16
Image formats: Transfers JPG, stores RAW
Video formats: MPG, MOV, FLV, MWV, AVI, MP4, MTS, M4V or 3GP. Maximum size 2GB
The Eyefi Mobi works in most point and click or DSLR cameras but not all. Eyefi have an online checker that covers most brands and it is worth checking to see if your device will work before purchasing. The list is not exhaustive and not always correct. I found one camera that was listed as not working but when I tried it worked perfectly.
To transfer the images from your camera you need a companion app on either your smartphone or on a Mac or PC. These need to be either: an iOS device running 7.0 or later, an Android device running 4.0.3 or later (Amazon’s FireOS branch also works), a PC with Windows 7 or later and .NET Framework installed or a Mac with OSX 10.8 or later.
There are no visual aspects concerned with the card itself – you literally never see it once it is inside your camera.
The PC and Mac software conforms to OS standard norms with grey backgrounds and black text. The Android and iOS apps have dark themes with white text throughout. This is not ideal visually but is not that bad either. There are no instances of bright flashes or any times where color is used as an indicator. I tested both the Android an iOS apps with the OS accessibility features like magnifier and screen readers and they functioned normally.
The Eyefi Mobi has no audible component either in the hardware or any of the apps and is completely accessible to anyone with any hearing issues.
Input and Touch
There is no physical input required to use the Eyefi Mobi apart from the initial fitting it into the camera. Taking photographs is done normally on your camera and once your photographs have been taken they will automatically sync to your devices when it comes in range of one of them.
The apps are all relatively simple and well designed although there are several areas which are somewhat lacking. An ability to sync to commonly used photo services such as Flickr or to social services like Facebook would have been a big improvement.
Ease of Use
The Mobi is surprisingly easy to set up not even needing the usual hassle of signing in to wifi networks. It creates an ad hoc wifi network directly to your phone or PC. Load the PC client or the smartphone app and put in the a code and it can create a secure connection automatically between the two and start uploading the photos.
There is a slight drawback to this – the code is not synced with your account and hence needs to be re-entered on every device you want to allow syncing with. This is not a problem on initial setup but later on when you want to add new devices it can cause an issue as you’ll need to re-enter it and it is printed on the case that comes with the Mobi rather than on the card itself.
Once setup the Mobi and Eyefi system is very easy to use and runs transparently in the background to the degree that you can forget that it is there and working.
Included In The Box
- Eyefi Mobi card
- Activation code printed on case
If your camera does not already have wifi built-in then the Eyefi Mobi is a very serious contender for your money. Its ability to be setup and then fade seamlessly into the background is very impressive and the cloud service (even using the basic free account) works well and gives you another short-term backup. A professional photographer would probably want to look at the Mobi’s big brother Pro X2 but for most of us the Mobi’s features will be more than sufficient. Recommended if you use a compact camera that does not have wifi built in.
The Eyefi Mobi was released in September 2014 and is compatible with PC, iOS, Android, Mac and a range of cameras. The review is based on a unit kindly supplied by Eyefi.