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Their camera compatibility list was outdated, making this a bit of a shot in the dark.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.


Woo-hoo!

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.

13 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this, Bill! I've been trying to find a solution this exact problem and will look into Eye-Fi tonight.

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    1. Hope it works out for you. Make sure you check out the EyeFi web site, and read up on direct mode. http://www.eye.fi/how-it-works/features/direct-mode. Only certain cards will do direct mode, and only the Pro X2 cards will transfer RAW.http://www.eye.fi/products/compare-cards

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    2. Thanks for the links! Now that my gear list is pretty much done, I think I am going to go against advice and not bring a camera (gasp!) and just use my smartphone. Maybe I'll carry it in the summer months when I have less weight, but I just don't feel like adding another gadget, cords, battery, etc. I still think this Eye-Fi is pretty slick though!

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    3. I shhot an awful lot with my droid. Those cameras keep getting better and will satisfy most requirements just fine. And you don't need no steenkin' eye-fi to upload your images to socail media/blog/cloud storage. Good luck!

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  2. What about bouncing a laptop? That way you come into town say every week, pick up you laptop upload your media, write some emails and a blog, check your facebook and then mail it off and hit the trail. I've been bouncing that one around in my head.

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    1. I've heard of people doing this ... My concern is that it would be really expensive to bounce that much weight up the trail, and I'd be afraid that the laptop would be trashed in the process. It'd sure be nice to have photoshop and full access to blogger, but part of this exercise is just how much can I do with the droid.

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    2. I did just that in 2009 on the PCT. I bought a $260 10" netbook + USB Harddrive and bounced it north every 1 to 2 weeks. Due to the small size of the netbook, it wasn't hard to pad some town clothes and spare food around it to protect it. Never had any damage. As I was carrying a HD camcorder which takes up a lot of memory, I had to have something to dump the video footage off on a regular basis. Being able to easily add Photos for my journal wihtout borrowing a computer in town was just a added bonus.

      I also resorted to taking some photos some with my smartphone just so I could upload a few to my journal with an entry while on the trail. Being able to transfer from a camera to the phone directly sounds like a better way since the phone can be left off for longer periods to save battery life.

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  3. Yeah I was thinking the same thing. I'm planning a thru hike in 2013 and my biggest conundrum is how to update my blog and upload media. Of course, I'm not planning on bringing a phone so the Eye-fi wouldn't work for me. Cool gadget though.

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    1. You might look into a small USB card reader. Some are really small and light. You could use it to xfer files from a public computer at a hostel or library.

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  4. One thing you might want to be wary of is the battery drain from the Eye-Fi. Having a wireless signal on all the time that your camera is on is a real drag on the battery (unless you're lugging a couple extras).

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    1. Good point. I'm thinking I'm going to keep regular SD cards in the camera, and just put the EyeFi card in to transfer and upload a couple of files.

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  5. Thanks Bill. This has been on my “Hopefully Science will Fix before I Need to Figure it Out” list, which is the only list that gets anything marked off these days.

    That’s a cool feature of the Fuji to let you move images around (STILL waiting for my Nex-7!).

    Are you carrying a solar battery charger and have you discussed it here? (DAMN I’m freakin lazy. No wonder Science does more than I do).

    Bill

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    1. Welcome your Mildness!

      I'm thinking most cameras let you move files between internal memory and an SD card. You might find it buried in your system menu.

      I'm packing a New Trent ACD66 external battery. I have discussed it at http://www.laughingdog.com/2011/08/keeping-electronics-alive-when-theres.html. A guy I'm hiking with is bringing Goal Zero's Nomad 7 which uses newer generation panels that work better in indirect sun. It'll be interesting to see how it works for him. May be easier than finding an outlet to plug in a bunch of devices in town...

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