If you were instructed to visit an electronics store and purchase a smartphone that didn’t have the ability to shoot HD video, you would have a tough time. This feature was only found on select high-end phones a few years ago, but now it’s nearly universal. The same rule now applies to digital cameras and built-in Wi-Fi. If you’re a manufacturer and you’re releasing a new camera in 2014 that doesn’t have built-in Wi-Fi, you’re taking a big risk.
As you can imagine, the recent popularity of built-in Wi-Fi has left a great number of relatively young digital cameras in the lurch. If your camera was born before 2013, there’s a good chance that it doesn’t have built-in Wi-Fi, and is now considered woefully out of date.
Sure, there’s a sizable portion of the population that couldn’t care less if their camera had built-in Wi-Fi or not. They’ve never had it, and they don’t think they’ll ever need it. Fair enough, but I certainly don’t fall into this camp, and my ancient Panasonic GH2 was born way back in 2011.
Cameras with built-in Wi-Fi can usually do all kinds of nifty things, such as allow your smartphone (a required accessory) to act as a remote viewfinder and shutter release. While cool technological tricks are neat to think about, the only Wi-Fi feature I really wanted was the ability to send images from my camera to my phone, so I could email and share them, without having to dump any files into a computer.
This seemingly simple ability is a pretty big deal. If you’re shooting out in the field, away from your computer, you can send high-quality photographs from your camera, to your phone, to where ever the photographs need to be. If content production is a part of your professional life, this is an amazing advantage. There’s more to it than relieving the “chore” of taking a memory card out of a camera, walking five feet and inserting it into a computer.
As built-in Wi-Fi became the norm over the past few years, I watched in quiet envy, but was never swayed enough to purchase a new camera because of it. Then the Eye-Fi Mobi was announced: an SD card that you insert into your camera and use as you normally would, with the added benefit that it provides a Wi-Fi capability. Suddenly, for $40, I could breathe new life into my prehistoric mirrorless camera.
Like most things in life, an app is required to use the Eye-Fi Mobi card. There are flavors of this free software for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS. Seeing as there’s a Nexus 5 within three feet of my body at all times, I opted for the Android version. Now, before I get into explaining what it’s like to use this app, keep in mind that the Eye-Fi Mobi is the only product of its kind. It’s McDonalds without Burger King. There is no other option.
The workflow of the Eye-Fi Mobi card goes like this: you shoot some photos or videos with your camera, and when you want to transfer files, you turn both the camera and the phone on, you turn on the Wi-Fi on your phone, launch the app, and wait. The process can take a little while. It’s not an extraordinarily long wait, but it does seem a bit slow by today’s standards. Remember, this is the only game in town.
Where the app really falls short is that you can’t tell it what files you want to send to your phone. It will simply transfer everything on the card into your phone, with no picking or choosing on your part. That means that all of your throw away, badly framed, out-of-focus, and poorly exposed shots will be dumped through the air and onto your phone.
The good thing is that this forces you to only shoot good images. Another plus is that since you will be limiting yourself to only shooting keepers, you probably won’t need to purchase any of the larger variants of the Eye-Fi Mobi card. The smallest and cheapest Mobi is 8GB ($40). It goes up to $60 for 16GB, and $85 for 32GB. While it isn’t hard to imagine legitimate needs for cards of this size, I find that 8GB is more than adequate for my needs.
The major story for the Eye-Fi Mobi, for me, is that it makes my three year old camera seem like it’s totally up-to-date in a very legitimate way. The one major feature that all of the new cameras have that my camera lacked is now in place. The Mobi card doesn’t let you do crazy things like let you use your smartphone as a remote viewfinder. Bells and whistles won’t be found here, but it does get your files from point A to point B, and that means a lot.
The Eye-Fi Mobi is far from perfect, but for me, purchasing one was a great decision. I use it all the time, and it’s saved the day a surprising number of times. A winner.