Eye Spy

I take the odd photograph or two and have an ongoing juggling act with digital memory cards. We don’t have to keep film in the fridge or rush it to the lab any more but we do have to handle the huge RAW image files our increasingly large capacity cameras generate.

“I am going to look at the Eye-Fi memory card,” Liz Arden said.

Whoa. This is really cool. And my first thought was, Can it be programmed to go to Dropbox or just to my home network?

Warning: This is going to be a techie column.

Eye-Fi gets media where you want it:

During the quick set-up, you customize where you want your memories sent. The Eye-Fi card will only send them to the computer and to the sharing site you choose. Pick from one of over 25 popular sites including Picasa, FB, and more, but not Dropbox.

“Picasa works for me,” Ms. Arden said. Me, too.

Before I start to sound like a press release, the downside is that Eye-Fi cards are Secure Digital (SD) based only. I settled on Compact Flash long ago. The latest (camera) body I lust for as well as my current cameras are not compatible with any Eye-Fi cards because Eye-Fi doesn’t work with that storage media.

The Mac Geek Gab guys who introduced them to Ms. Arden “didn’t quite grouse about CF cards, but didn’t like that some cameras use them when SD is so prevalent that the makers of these devices don’t feel a need to do the same for CF.”

And that was a mistake on the camera makers’ part.

Compact FlashI settled on CF because it was the fastest, highest capacity, least expensive media and the cameras I like best use it. And it came standard with the first digital camera I bought, a Kodak DC4800.

The data backs me up. The Compact Flash can support capacities up to 137GB although mass market cards rarely go above 64GB. UDMA 133 has a data transfer rate of 133 Mbyte/s. And current cards are rated for 1,000,000 writes per block before hard failure which will long outlive my camera shutter. Looks like Secure Digital cards max out at a capacity of 32GB and have write rates of 200 Mbit/s (bits, not bytes.)

Even the Wikipedia article admits that “SD cards … may also not present the best choice for applications where higher storage capacities or speeds are a requirement as provided by other flash card standards such as Compact Flash.”

The Canon 5D Mark II was the first DSLR to shoot full HD video. With a 21.1 million pixel sensor, each shutter click writes a 25.8 MB file on the Compact Flash card. The standard CF card originally packaged with the camera will hold 78 JPEG files or 13 RAW files. I don’t even want to think about an HD video on the same “little” 512 MB card I use in the Kodak today. A modern digital photographer might carry three times more memory cards today than film canisters of 20 years ago.

I’m always looking for a better way to move the files from the camera to the laptop.

CFMulti advertises that it “opens new possibilities for Compact Flash (CFII) equipped devices.” This gadget puts an Eye-Fi™ WiFi SD Cards into a CF-shaped which plugs into the Type II slot. “Since most current high end DSLR and late model midrange digital cameras feature CompactFlash slots, CFMulti’s ability to provide them with Eye-Fi™ wireless protects camera investments.”

Better but it still uses the slower, lower capacity SD cards.

We’re getting closer to the grail.

That would be a medium format digital camera that writes a 4MB RAW file over 4G or WiFi in a tenth of a second. Maybe next year.

Mr. Grove promised, you know.

6 thoughts on “Eye Spy

  1. A couple of interesting side notes. The dpreview.com reviews of the Kodak DC4800 quotes “Mark Schubin of Videography Magazine.” Mr. Schubin is also Engineer-in-Charge at the Metropolitan Opera and was a classmate of mine at Stevens. Small world.

    I still like the little Kodak. It has a rangefinder-based viewfinder. Its controls are straightforward. It is faster in both autofocus lag and shutter release than most cameras of its era and many modern ones. And it takes really good pictures, a number of which you’ll see in my gallery.

    Kodak digital cameras have had a great reputation for color reproduction from the first camera they introduced. The DC4800 “Saturated” mode which I use gives vibrant, accurate colors. It’s very much like shooting Kodachrome, long the gold standard film for color reproduction in the glossy magazines. And the optics are excellent for a consumer camera.

    I mentioned the Canon 5D Mark II’s 25.8 MB filesize. The typical editing program such as Corel PhotoPaint™ (my preference) or Adobe Photoshop™ will resave it as a 60 MB file which can grow to double that in the 16-bit per channel mode that saves the full bit-depth of the image. Woofdah.

    Canon professional DSLRs can save using standard Type I or II Compact Flash cards, UDMA-compliant CF cards, on external media such as a USB hard drive or thumb drive, or via their optional $949.99 WFT-E4A Wireless File Transmitter. The external devices are much slower than swapping out a card.

  2. Actually, this is not a new idea, and I think it started with Compact Flash. I bet I even have such a card (somewhere!) Problem is that they were not large capacity even 8-9 years ago, rated in MEGABYTES, not gigabytes.

    I used it in my PDA. Not sure how my Canon DRebel would deal with the WiFi part… but who cares? I could only put a few handfulls on that card before I had to download the images. (Doesn’t matter anyway… I pretty much only use the Pentax Kx and Kr these days. And that means I am stuck with SD.)

  3. I have a friend from Assyria who speaks in broken English. One day he collared me by WalMart and bent my ear about what his son was doing to his car when he drove it on the freeway. I listened to him for ten minutes and then I interrupted him.

    “Fassahd,” I said, “I have listened to you for ten f**king minutes, and I have not understood a f**king word you said.”

    In that vein, Herr Blogmeister, I read the entire spread and I did not understand a f**king word you wrote. Well, I did understand a few things in the first paragraph, like when you said *film* and *refrigerator*.

    And when you got to the part about Liz Arden my ears perked up. Mz Arden saved my life during my cross-dressing teen years before I outgrew size 8 and found my identity; and I appreciate the fact that you and she are close.

    So, I’m still a reader of this blog — even though the technical data leaves me in the starting blocks, and I will try to keep up. Your friend.

    — George

  4. When the photog at one of our events kept having to hand cards over to an assistant for extraction and storage, I asked him if perhaps a wireless memory card existed. He said yes but they cost too much. Perhaps by now they don’t. It will be good if he uses one because last year, a good picture of a good-looking couple was forever lost in all the card-handling.

  5. Suppose thass what you get when it’s designed in Tokyo and outsourced to little hands in Beijing.

    Read recent in comp mag ‘boot tossing harddisk putting in big flash drive: seemed way too much trouble. Wen Fay and Jeff helped me my stuff at Harvey Norman bought new computer for my pidgeon. Got the business in the back of the screen and looks retro cool. F. and I went for drive while J. negotiated. If you can imagine –forgive pargraphs=null, Mr Spock and any roided actor you choose joined you have J. We went drive he negged ppoor fellow bedding dept. nice harmless Kiwi -J. rang f a few minutes left I imagined the guy his shirt off sitting chair and j with blowtorch.
    How it is.
    Deliberately avoided anything built in cam tho virt standard these days.
    In case wet work my paddle pops icecream -O Im ready for Prim time, though

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