July 2 2014: When so many devices went wireless, the humble digicam got left behind. Now with WiFi-enabled memory cards, you can send your picture winging away from camera to phone, tablet -- or cloud store.
Not all of us have abandoned our trusted digital cameras , for a megapixel camera-ready smartphone. Professionals still swear by their digital SLR cameras and unless they have the very latest model, it will be "unconnected". They have to transfer or download photos the old fashioned way -- with a cable that links to a PC, a laptop or a USB flash drive. Even the amateurs amongst us, who use one of those point-and-shoot digicams are not all ready to ditch our cameras for the one on the phone. And only a couple of pricey digital cameras come with built-in wireless connectivity.
But help is at hand -- from the unlikeliest quarters -- the SDHC memory card which stores the photos on the camera. At least three makers of what are also known as compact flash cards, have put a tiny transmitter into the memory and turned them into WiFi hotspots!
Each maker provides a small app that you need to download and install on your phone or tablet. When the camera is switched on the memory card creates an instant WiFi network that connects to the app on your mobile device, anywhere you go.
All you have to do is shoot and send your pictures wirelessly to phone or tablet or upload to your facebook or Flickr page -- or to any of the dozen free cloud storage services.
The three WiFi SD cards most easily available in India are: Toshiba's 'FlashAir' , Transcend's WiFi SD card and EyeFi's EyeFi Mobi or EyeFi ProX2 cards. All three offer the cards in 8Gb, 16GB and 32GB sizes and if you do comparison shopping on Indian online retail sites, you will be able to get an 8B card for around Rs 2000, a 16 GB for Rs 4000 - 6000 and the 32 GB for Rs 6000 - Rs 8000.
There are small functional differences so check the specs carefully and decide what modes you require : they may not all come with the lowest priced card for a given capacity. Transcend tends to be cheapest, but you have to log on through a browser to get your pictures in some situations. Some brands work only with a mobile OS and not with a desktop PC for transfer. Some will allow the wireless transfer to go on even as you are shooting the next picture, others won't. In addition to creating a WiFi hotspot of its own, FlashAir also allows you to use your existing home or office WiFi network should you so choose.
All of them transfer files in all the popular still and movie formats, but not all handle the RAW format used for uncompressed photo storage that professionals prefer. The ProX2 is much costlier than what I have suggested and is targeted at professional shooters who demand fast transfers of photos in RAW format which could each be several hundred megapixels in size.
The nitty gritty of differences may not matter to most of us. What matters is that unconnected cameras are suddenly wireless wizards, sending our still and moving images to friends and family almost as fast as we click. It gives a whole new meaning to shoot-n-share! -- Anand Parthasarathy