This is a three part blog series comparing the Canon WFT-E7, Eye-Fi Pro X2, and CamRanger wireless file transmitters. Click on the hyperlink to jump to the other reviews. The opening summary of these three products is repeated in each review.

In my search for a wireless file transmitter for my Canon 5D MK III, I tested the Canon WFT-E7, Eye-Fi Pro X2, and CamRanger. Based on my tests and experience, I feel the CamRanger offers the most reliability, ease of use, and value for the dollar.

Although I did finally settle on the CamRanger, I entitled this blog entry as “Land of the Walking Dead.” This is because none of these transmitters are ideal. Either they are not reliable, too expensive, or do not have a good way to attach directly to the camera without creating an external cord problem. My ideal solution? Canon needs to build in a wireless file transmitter into their camera bodies! Other than the profit motive of making a transmitter an add-on, I can’t think of a reason why this can’t be done. If Eye-fi can fit a transmitter into an SD card, there is no reason why Canon can’t fit one into a camera body. Anyway, here is my summary:

CamRanger

Pros:

• Very fast transfer of images even when shooting quickly
• Seems to maintain wireless connection well
• Good for professionals or others who need reliable wireless transfers for immediate review
• About $600 less than the Canon WFT-E7
• Very easy set up with little technical expertise needed
• iPad and iPhone app easy to navigate
• Free guest app allows others to watch shoot
• Small and light
• Long battery life

Cons:

• Electronically connects to camera with a USB to Mini-USB cord
• There is no physical way to connect the CamRanger directly to the camera
• Soft case is too large. Unit must be clipped to belt, tripod, etc.
• Case feels flimsy; back panel tabs may eventually wear or break due to changing battery
• Only comes in white
• Not compatible with Shuttersnitch

Canon WFT-E7

Pros:

• Very fast transfer of jpegs even when shooting quickly
• Good for pros who need wireless transfers for immediate review
• Fully functional with Shuttersnitch
• Uses the same battery as the Canon 5D MK III body
• Good battery life

Cons:

• Cost. Way too expensive for the features
• Less technical users (and even techies!) will get frustrated trying to set it up
• Uses a cord to connect between it and the camera body
• Dog ugly and does not blend into camera body
• Periodically drops wireless connection

Eye-Fi Pro X2

Pros:

• Very affordable compared to other solutions
• Fits into the camera’s SD slot and also serves both functions as a transmitter and storage device; so no external device attached to the camera
• Good for pros who shoot at a slower pace or only periodically look at the iPad
• Good for pros who do not have clients who need to see every image immediately
• Amateur photographers may like this for casual use
• No battery

Cons:

• Fast shooters who cannot wait for all the images to transmit will get impatient and frustrated
• System randomly drops wireless connection
• System sometimes locks up and will not transmit all the images even after restart
• Pros who would be embarrassed with clients when images are slow to transmit or never show up

Part 2: Eye-Fi Pro X2

Eye-fi Pro X2

I have used the Eye-Fi Pro X2 for over a year. To me it should be the ideal transmitter solution because it disappears into the camera’s SD slot and provides image storage. It is also generic so can be used in many different compatible cameras. In addition, at under $100, it is the least expensive transmitter solution available.

Set up with Shuttersnitch is much easier than with the Canon WFT-E7 although it still takes some thought.

Once connected, the Eye-Fi transmits the images as they are written to the SD card. In general it works well; however, here are some major concerns:

Initial images transmit fairly quickly; not as fast as the Canon WFT-E7 but within a few seconds. The problems begin if one shoots at a steady pace (for arguments sake let’s say one image every five or ten seconds). The Eye-Fi card transmission rate starts to slow down. One has to actually sit there and wait for the image to pop up…and then things sometimes get a lot worse.

Often, the transmission rate is so slow that one has to wait for five minutes or more for an image to finally arrive. What is odd (and this is covered in forums), is that sometimes Shuttersnitch will report that it is receiving and analyzing and image but it appears to get stuck there. Then, after a long time waiting, all of the sudden a batch of images will rapidly appear.

When things get really bad, transmissions simply lock up and nothing comes through. Sometimes turning the camera and/or iPad on and off resets things and the images finally appear. I have also simply shut down Shuttersnitch and restarted it and that sometimes works. It is very random which is frustrating. I have also had situations where even that doesn’t work and I just have to accept the images will never get transmitted.

If all this isn’t bad enough, the card will randomly drop the wireless connection even when the iPad is only three feet from the camera and in the middle of nowhere, far from any interfering wireless networks.

For an amateur or a pro who is using the Eye-Fi card mainly for casual viewing or reference, this may not be a problem. But this becomes a major problem for someone like a pro who is using it for immediate feedback to adjust lighting/composition, etc., or so the client can see how the shoot is going.

I use a transmitter so I can easily check the images, zoom in to make sure the focus looks right. I use the iPad to show a model how she or he may need to adjust his/her look. It also is something I hand to a client to ensure I am getting what the client wants.

Things with the Eye-Fi have gotten so bad that I now refer to it having “constipation” when is slows down or stops completely. I found myself apologizing to clients and having to refer them to my camera LCD for reviews. Using the LCD for my own checks is cumbersome, as I have to select then zoom in and move around the image to check things. This breaks the pace of the shoot.

I tried several workarounds. The most commonly suggested is to only write small JPEGS to the Eye-Fi card and write RAW to the CF card. In theory, this speeds up the write time to the SD card and therefore reduces transmission time. I tried that, timed it, and found very little time savings. It did not solve the constipation problem or complete stoppage of transmissions altogether.

This workaround also presents another hazard. I am a very careful and conservative photographer who likes redundancy. So I write RAW and small JPEG to both the CF card and SD card. That way if something happens to the CF card I know I still have the RAW files on the SD card. My fear is that by only writing small JPEGS to the Eye-Fi SD card, I lose this redundancy if something goes wrong…and indeed something did go wrong when I accidentally forgot to insert a CF card and missed the warnings that appear on the LCD. All I was left with were small JPEGS.

I exchanged several emails with Eye-Fi tech support. After trying all of their suggestions and, even after they were really kind and sent me a new card for free to test (with the same results), I got a note that basically said they did all they could and are excited about their new products coming out in 2014.

My continued resistance to attaching an external transmitter with a cable (like the Canon WFT-E7) kept me using the Eye-Fi X2 card for a few more months and shoots. But during another critical shoot I found myself once again apologizing to the client for the system not working and abandoning the iPad for my camera’s LCD. At that point I had enough…which then led me to try the Canon WFT-E7 and then the CamRanger.

As such, the Eye-Fi card is the perfect concept that needs to be refined. If they can get the problems sorted out, I would still champion this as the ideal solution aside from a built-in transmitter.