Now the first reaction I had when suggesting this article to a friend was, ‘they do!’

Hard to disagree, because the camera that comes attached to the recent iPhones is pretty impressive.  Considering everything else the palm-sized device is capable of, the bundled optics and functionality are as good as you can get on any similarly sized device, and the other huge advantage is the ubiquity.  The best camera is always the one you have with you at the time. A mobile phone in your pocket is hard to beat for sheer ease and speed of use.  In fact on a recent holiday I packed only my iPhone as a camera, effectively replacing my recently-deceased (oh, those unbouncy Spanish tiled floors…) Canon compact.

The phone camera was great except when it wasn’t.  Low light situations, interiors, scenes where I needed a flash range greater than the length of my arm, and particularly any of the above involving fast moving children.  There were times I really missed the flexibility and responsiveness of a proper digital camera.  I knew I needed to replace the busted Canon, but for a while I wasn’t sure what with.

And the one thing I really liked about the phone camera was photostreaming – as soon as I got back into wi-fi range, the whole lot synched seamlessly to my iPad, where I could see them properly rather than on a phone. I coul play around with photo apps, upload to social media, and generally enjoy my holiday snaps on the fly instead of waiting till I got somewhere I could upload them.

Why oh why-fi.. Eye-Fi

Why oh why-fi.. Eye-Fi

That’s the main reason I delayed buying a proper camera again, but then as my research continued I came across the Eye Fi wireless SD card.  And so I decided, that as I had now invested in a nice little Sony superzoom, I would get the wireless card to go with it.

It was easy enough to get delivered from Amazon (free a few weeks ago too!) and pop it in the camera. The promise of the Eye Fi card is that it does exactly what photostream does – uses wi-fi to instantly upload your photos directly to the cloud, from where they will synchronise with whatever device you choose for instant review, social networking or general enjoyment.

So, the verdict?  Well, it sort of works.  Sometimes.

In fact, it’s absolutely maddening.  A horrible dashboard with dreadful user experience and unclear instructions.  Apps that seem to work in completely different ways on different devices.  Promises of brilliant functions, such as the ability to delete as you go and have effectively endless memory on your camera… but promises you daren’t trust when it really isn’t at all clear where if anywhere your photos are being backed up or transmitted to in the first place…

Now, I am the first to admit I am spoiled as a Mac user. I pretty much expect stuff to just work, and applications and devices to work happily together, as though they were designed as part of some kind of integrated closed ecosystem.  But I use Windows professionally too, and I do stuff like this for a living, I would go so far as to say I am a pretty advanced user of new tools and gadgets and applications, and quite quick to learn new tools.  And I am finding this product intensely frustraing, as the potential is so evident, and the actual user experience such a crashing disappointment!

Saturday night, and we’re just home from a party, I want to upload photos so we can all see them and enjoy them.  It goes something like this:

Switch on camera, open iPad app.  Nothing happens. Switch camera off, then on again. Place it nearer router as troubleshooter advises.  Open and close app.  App tells me to turn the camera on and take some photos with it.  Randomly switch app and camera on and off,  even restart router (to annoyance of rest of household).  By this time I could have connected several dozen cables and done it the old fashioned way but no, at last, it’s uploading! My photos are appearing on the iPad like I wanted them to half an hour ago! Oh – well, seventeen of them have, and now it’s stopped…  Give up, go to bed.  Next morning after reinjection of caffeine I try again, and  -oh look the camera battery has drained completely, presumably sending those seventeen photos.  And for some reason the camera doesn’t want to charge, not with the Eye Fi card in it – so, take it out, plug in camera, place overpriced annoying yellow card somewhere I hope I won’t lose it and go back to bed.

So, are you listening in Cupertino?  A prayer to the ghost of Steve Jobs: Please simply make me an iCamera.  Something with decent optics and zoom, that will doubtless cost about 50% more than an equivalent one made of black plastic instead of white, but that will simply WORK. Work with my wifi, work with photostream, integrate with apps designed around them, and make life easier instead of more difficult.

Meantime still struggling to make the Eye-Fi card behave the way I know it should do.

Costa Connected, for Costa Blanca News, July 5th 2013

©Maya Middlemiss,

Casslar Consulting SL

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