Monday, September 26, 2016

Eye-Fi Explore 2 GB Wireless SD Card

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

When I signed up for Flickr, I thought it was great I could put my stuff on a map. Then, I realized that I had to know where the picture was taken. In most cases, I know roughly where the picture is. I can at least get it to within a block or two. I wanted more, though.

I began looking at the Nikon D200 because it has the ability to place GPS coordinates in the file’s data, assuming you had the appropriate accessories. The thing was that I didn’t want to shell out $999.99 (plus tax) for the camera and then have to shell out a few more hundred dollars for the accessories. When I heard that Eye-Fi was coming out with a GPS-enabled card, I bought it instantly. I should have done my homework first.

First off, it’s not really GPS. The card uses waypoints to triangulate its position. This is basically any accessible network that the camera can pick up. (It’s supposed to have a range of 90 feet.) The card then saves the data to the file. When you get home, Eye-Fi’s server is supposed to be able to take the data and place the picture to within 20 meters of the exact location. This is important for several reasons.

First, if there are no waypoints, there’s no geotagging. From what I understand, some cities are better than others. If you’re going through an area where you’re never short of waypoints, then all of your pictures will be accurately tagged. If you’re in the middle of the Everglades and there’s no civilization for several miles, your out of luck.

Even in Miami, I’ve had mixed results. When I take a picture at my house, the pictures are put right in front of my house. (This may be because I have a wireless network.) If I leave my house and walk around my neighborhood, the results are less accurate. I’ve taken pictures of street signs (yes, the kind that show what street your on) and had them marked several streets off.

Another thing (and this is an advantage for all Eye-Fi cards) is that you can automatically upload to several file-sharing sites like and Flickr. When you set up the card, you are given the choice of which site you want to upload to. You have to select one and only one. You can upload to or Flickr, but not both at the same time. All selections are made though Eye-Fi’s Web site, including entering your username and password for the site you want to upload to.

I initially chose because I wanted to be more selective about which ones I uploaded to Flickr. When I selected the ones I wanted to upload to Flickr and actually tried to upload them, I realized that there was no geotagging at all. I tried several different things and even asked around to see if anyone else had had this problem. I eventually thought that you have to upload to Flickr through Eye-Fi’s site. I found this odd, considering that the information was already in the metadata. (I have a program to check.) I’ve tried a picture or two since, only to find that it works. (Maybe it’s a software update. I don’t know.)

Of the ones that I do have posted, I’ve noticed that a lot of the locations aren’t that accurate. When I take pictures around where I work, there’s no geotagging at all. I’ve also taken pictures elsewhere and either found it not to work or start working around the fifteenth or twentieth picture. Even then, I’ve had pictures that were way off. Also, if you're taking stuff at a large location, like a park or a university, you may find the geotagging at one central location rather than the actual individual locations.

Other reviews I’ve seen online share similar results. This hasn’t been an issue so far because I usually know where the pictures are taken. However, I got the card for those times when I’m not so sure. I wanted the card to be able to place the picture for me. If I’m in a city I don’t know, I can’t place them as easily.

As I mentioned, you have to install some software. This is so that the camera knows that the card is yours and that it should download stuff to your computer should you have a wireless network and/or high-speed Internet. (Once again, this means entering a password and name, this time for the wireless network that you may or may not have.) It will also tell you how to adjust your power settings to better allow your camera to transmit pictures if it does find a wireless waypoint.

You can only transmit back to your house through public access points such as ones found at McDonalds. I’ve never had this actually work yet, probably because my D50 is too old. (There weren’t even any instructions on how to adjust my power settings. I had to figure this out later.) I also made the mistake of reformatting my card, then realizing that the software was on the card. This isn’t a big deal since you only need the software to set up the card. I can download the software from Eye-Fi’s site for free if I ever reformat or replace my computer.

Does it work? At first, I had to actually put the memory card into my computer’s internal USB reader to get them to automatically upload. (Yes, I can just copy them at this point, but then they wouldn’t be retagged on Flickr.) I eventually figured out how to get it to work. I’ve also had cases where I’ve been taking pictures around the house and part of one picture will load onto my computer. Again, this has to do with power settings. You have to be able to get the camera to supply enough constant power to the card for it to transmit everything.

You have the option of not uploading to your computer via waypoints at all, which may or may not be a good idea. You get free access to the waypoints for only one year. It‘s probably better to break the habit early, though. You also have the option of not uploading to any file-sharing site at all, but you have to make these decisions over the Web. This means that if you don’t want to transmit certain pictures, you either have to stop what your doing and log on to the Web or switch to another SD card that isn’t an Eye-Fi card. This can be difficult for people that travel a lot or are on vacation.

Sometimes, I forget that I have the Eye-Fi card in there. What I’ve been doing if there’s one or two pictures I don’t want to upload is to simply upload all the pictures and remove the ones I don’t want. If you upload all of your pictures before you can get home, though, you may have a lot of removing to do at once and it is possible that people will have seen them already.

So far as I know, the card only comes in the 2GB size. This is fine, considering that the D50 can’t take SDHC cards. Yes, this is a firmware problem, but I’m not expecting any updates any time soon. It also only comes in SD. If you use compact flash, you can use an adapter. If you use a Memory Stick or xD, you’re just out of luck.

Overall, it’s kind of easy for me to feel like I got taken for $130. After all, I wanted accurate GPS coordinates all of the time and I got something that promised 70% coverage in populated areas to within 20 meters. (And it didn’t even deliver on that.) I’m going to hold on to it because it does work most of the time and when it does work, it makes it a little easier to actually place a picture on a map.

The thing that drives me nuts is that I started out not knowing how to do a lot of things or thinking that I couldn’t do only to find out that I could. There are also a lot of things that I know I can do (like launch the software) but keep forgetting how to do or not being able to do occasionally. It’s enough to drive me crazy.

Knowing what I know now, I think I would have been better off putting the $130 towards a D200 or D300. At least I can warn others about it and put the money from this review towards a new body. If you know that you live in an area with accurate and reliable coverage, the money is worth it, especially if you’re already considering an Eye-Fi card. (I seem to recall the basic model being $99.)

On a side note, I’ve heard that the new Nikon D90 is supposed to work well with this card, even going so far as to have special menus. I can’t give any specifics since I haven’t actually seen any. You’d have to check the Nikon and Eye-Fi Web sites if you want to know more.

(Note: I just found out, after doing a search, that this card is apparently no longer supported.)

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