Friday, February 3, 2012

Getting Pictures from the Camera to the Droid

I started investigating how I was going to upload imagery from my new camera to illustrate this blog, and to post to social media sites while hiking the Appalachian Trail. The weight of a laptop makes packing one out of the question. So I figured I'd just plug a an SD card reader into my Droid's USB port, transfer the files, tweak them with the Photoshop app, and then upload photos when I had a signal

I figured wrong.

I understand the technical reason is that the current version of the Android operating system doesn't have USB hosting services. Apple doesn't allow one to upload pics to their iPhone either, though they do to the iPad. But I'm not going to hump an iPad over the mountains either.

I could conceivably plug a Micro SD card into an SD-sized adapter,and use that in my camera to capture images. But then I would have to pull the battery out of my phone to get to the card slot, swap out cards ... A bit of a kludge ... Of course, the droid has blue tooth, and there are cameras with blue tooth. Just not any I've looked at.

During all of this Google announces the new version of their Android OS, code-named "Ice Cream Sandwich," would include USB hosting services. But no one could tell me if my phone would get that update, or whether USB hosting would be enabled for phones, or just for tablets ... Bah!

I was resigning my self the idea that anything I shot with the X100 would have to stay on SD cards till I got home, and I'd use the camera in the droid to illustrate the blog. Could be worst.

Then a friend on Google+ suggested I look at Eye-Fi. They make SDHC cards with a built-in wireless radio that will talk with either iPhones or Droids. Pick the right card, and one can do this directly between the camera and phone without any other connectivity - Direct Mode.

Their camera compatibility list was outdated, making this a bit of a shot in the dark. But I ordered one. It comes pre-loaded into a USB card reader. I plugged it into my computer, and it led me to download EyeFi Center - a control panel for configuring your card. It immediately updated the cards firmware, then had me create an account, choose whether I wanted to xfer files to my computer or to a mobile device, choose what formats I wanted to upload (RAW, JPEG, video) told me to download the EyeFi app to my droid, log on with it, plug the card into my camera, take a few pictures and watch what happens. I did so, and several seconds later, images started to automajically upload into my droid.


Considering the cost of these little jewels, I was not going to carry enough to store every image I captured in six months. I needed a workflow. I configured the card to only transfer JPEGS, and I set up my camera to capture in both RAW and a small JPEG. I put a standard SDHC card in my camera, shot a few frames, selected a few images to transfer to my droid, and copied those JPEGs from the SD card to the camera's internal memory. I then replaced the regular SD card with the Eye-Fi card, copied the files from internal memory to the Eye-Fi, and they uploaded to the droid!

I'm in bidness!  Still a kludge, but better'n nothin!

If you're thinking this sounds like a plan, make sure you go to the EyeFi web site, and read up on direct mode. Only certain cards will do direct mode, and only the Pro X2 cards will transfer RAW files.

I'm guessing that in the next year, Google and Apple will figure this out. It'll "just work," and all this will seem like a quaint old exercise in man kludging technology technology together to solve a requirement.

One would hope.