Pentax O-FC1 FluCard 16GB
$99/£130 | www.us.ricoh-imaging.com

Among the many new features announced with the Pentax K-3 was a curiously named accessory, the 'FluCard for Pentax,' which promised to add Wi-Fi image access and remote control to this new DSLR. Pentax has not offered a tethered camera control solution for their DSLRs since the K20D days (645D excepted), and integrated Wi-Fi has appeared in only a few of their point-and-shoot cameras. On top of that, none of the 3rd party wireless control solutions (CamRanger, Promote) support Pentax. To say the O-FC1 has been eagerly awaited by some Pentax shooters is an understatement.

So, why is this called a FluCard? The developer of the card, Trek, believes the adoption of Wi-Fi-enabled SD cards could spread like a contagious flu, eventually displacing standard SD cards. Trek is the company that invented the first USB thumbdrive in 2000, so perhaps it is expecting lightning to strike a second time. Trek partnered with Toshiba in the production of these cards, and Ricoh, for its part, has added special firmware and hardware in the Pentax K-3 that enables far more than the standard FluCard wireless image browsing and transfer.

Key features

  • 16GB Class 10 SDHC card
  • 802.11n Wi-Fi transmitter
  • WEP & WPA security
  • 11 possible channels
  • Up to 5 concurrent connections
  • 7.5m / 24 ft (7.3m) recommended range
  • Connection via web browser (Safari or Chrome); no software or app to install
  • Remote live view with 10x zoom to the AF point
  • Tap-to-select and activate AF point (in live view with CDAF)
  • Remote shutter release (single frame)
  • Adjust shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and exp. comp (based on shooting mode)
  • Pentax 'green button' hyper program
  • Full-size JPEG transfers to connected devices
  • Live updates to image catalog as shots are taken
  • Save in Raw & JPEG to one or two SD cards
  • Image browsing & download of any JPEG on the card
The FluCard for Pentax O-FC1 is currently only compatible with the Pentax K-3. The card offers wireless LAN connection to a smartphone or table via a web-based interface. The user can remote-control the camera, or transfer images.

The short FAQ

Since the announcement of this card, information on its capabilities has been very thin and vague. This has prompted all sorts of speculation and wish-lists based on other Wi-Fi cards and camera remotes. Here are some quick answers to some of the most pressing questions:

Real-time, streaming live view to a Wi-Fi connected
device (phone, tablet, computer)? 

Yes 
Basic camera control (Shutter, Av, Tv, ISO,
Exp. Comp)?
Yes
Advanced camera control (AEB, HDR, time-lapse, video)?  No 
Browse and transfer full-size JPEGs to connected device?  Yes 
Browse and transfer Raw images or video files?  No 
Browse and transfer images from another SD card in Slot #1?  No 
Wireless camera control of Pentax cameras earlier than K-3?  No 

Getting connected

With everything condensed into an SD card, the O-FC1 is a fairly straightforward accessory to install; however, it must be in the K-3's SD Slot #2 to be recognized by the camera. Putting the Wi-Fi transmitter and remote control software behind the card slot door both preserves the weather-sealing of the camera and adds 16GB of space to record images. Most gratifying of all, it's entirely optional for K-3 owners.

Once the card is installed and the camera turned on, the FluCard emits a quiet beeping sound that indicates it's starting up. It then takes about 15 seconds for the Wi-Fi server to boot up from a cold start, assuming that the K-3 settings menu item Wireless Memory Card is set to FLU ON.

When the FluCard is on, a small Wi-Fi icon will appear on the rear LCD of the camera, which blinks white as the server is being started, then turns solid grey when the Wi-Fi is fully on. This same icon turns solid white when a connection is established with another device.

At this point, the FluCard is transmitting a Wi-Fi signal that nearby (within 30 feet/9.2 meters) devices can connect to. By default, the network is called "FLUCARD_for_PENTAX," and a generic WEP password is provided in the O-FC1 instructions to initially connect to the card.

Connecting to the FluCard is the same as choosing any new Wi-Fi network from your tablet, phone or laptop. Once connected, opening a supported web browser (either Safari or Chrome) and typing 'http://pentax/' (or the IP address 192.168.1.1) into the address bar will connect the browser to the tiny webserver inside the FluCard, and show the main menu.

Note that the first connection to the FluCard, using the default SSID and WEP password, will prompt the card to ask if you would like to change these settings. Then it will direct you past the main menu screen, and directly into the Communication Settings dialog.

While changing the defaults for any Wi-Fi device is highly recommended for security, doing this requires disconnecting and reconnecting to the FluCard with these new settings. If only the password has been changed, many portable devices (iOS in particular) will remember the previous password for that network SSID. In these cases, the FluCard network needs to be deleted from memory to allow a prompt for the new password.

Wireless camera control

The greatest function of the Pentax O-FC1 is the bi-directional communication with the camera itself. With a dedicated SD card slot and custom firmware in both the camera and the FluCard, some pretty impressive control can be achieved.

Aspect ratio and interface

What appears on the screen when first entering Remote Capture depends on how you are holding your handheld device, or what aspect ratio your browser window is set to. The interface for the live view in Remote Capture changes to a fullscreen minimal view when the display area is wider than tall. This orientation only shows the shutter release and AF selection and activation controls.

 The landscape orientation interface for Remote Capture in a simulated iPhone browser window.

When the window is resized to be taller than wide, or when a handheld device is rotated to portrait orientation, the display includes the full range of information icons, as well as buttons to control the exposure settings and switch to other menu items.

 The portrait orientation interface for Remote Capture.

The change in the interface between these aspect ratios is dramatic, and it's obvious that the designers imagined that the majority of work would be done in portrait orientation, with landscape orientation reserved for fine adjustments to focus. This is not ideal on some tablets or in browser windows on widescreen computers, but it works well for the smaller screens on phones.

On the next page we put the Pentax K-3 and FluCard into the oven. Literally. Use the arrows or table of contents below.