Off-camera image review

Whether you need to check critical focus, mount the camera in an awkward viewing position, or would simply like some breathing room between you and the art director peering over your shoulder, using the iPad's 9.7-inch display as a replacement for the tiny screen on the back of your camera has obvious benefits.

What you'll need:

  • Eye-Fi X2  SD card $39.99-$99.99 (or camera with integrated wi-fi)
  • ShutterSnitch app $15.99
  • Internet access (for initial configuration only)
  • SD-to-CF adapter if your camera only has a CF slot

Eye-Fi

Fortunately, you can transfer images wirelessly from your camera to your iPad, even without Internet access or even a standalone router. And you don't need a camera with built-in wi-fi to do it. What you do need is an Eye-Fi X2-series wireless SD card.

Eye-Fi makes three X2 SD cards, each of which can transmit JPEGs wirelessly. The top-end Pro X2 includes geo-tagging capability, an optional add-on for the other cards, and can transfer Raw files.

An Eye-Fi card works just like a regular SD card except that it transmits each image you shoot using the FTP protocol via wi-fi to your iPad (or any iOS or Android device of your choosing).

With an Eye-Fi wireless SD card you can review images during a shoot using your iPad instead of the tiny screen on your camera.

These SD cards can transmit files over any known network but can also perform the very useful trick of creating their own private network for your iPad to join, allowing you to work just as easily in the field as you can in the studio.

You can transmit photos from your camera to your iPad even when no Internet access is available. That's because you can set the Eye-Fi card to Direct Mode (requires firmware 4.5021 or later) where it can generate a private Wi-Fi network (highlighted in red). You then simply go to the wi-fi settings on your iPad (shown here) to connect to it.

To make all this magic happen you initially need to pair the Eye-Fi card with your iPad and this does require both an Internet connection and a Mac or Windows computer. You'll create an account on Eye-Fi's web site, register the SD card and receive a unique password. You only need to do this once per Eye-Fi card, however, and you can swap the card between as many cameras as you like.

ShutterSnitch

Eye-Fi provides a free app to receive the files on the iPad, but a much more robust set of features can be found in the popular ShutterSnitch app. With ShutterSnitch you can organize shoots into collections, and setup custom actions to perform for images that meet specific metadata criteria. You can delete, rate, watermark, email and print images as well as set audible warnings if specific exposure settings are detected. Best of all, most of these features are password-protected so you can hand off your iPad to a client without fear that they'll accidentally delete your images.

ShutterSnitch displays your selected image above a filmstrip of all  photos in the current collection. Exposure information is shown for each image.
You can email an image at a choice of reduced size presets. You can also create a custom size or send the original file.

Once the Eye-Fi card and iPad begin communicating, the transfer process works seamlessly. The first shot of any new session may take up to a minute to appear in ShutterSnitch, but after that, I've typically be able to view 16MP JPEG files at highest quality in just under 10 seconds from the time the shutter button is pressed. Your mileage may vary, and of course larger images will take longer. It's also worth noting that transferring image files takes up a lot of system memory. The third-generation iPad comes with 1GB of RAM, compared to 512MB on the iPad 2 and a meager 256MB on the original version. Having that additional RAM allows ShutterSnitch to process large images more quickly.

Keep in mind that ShutterSnitch only lets you review images you've already taken. If you want a live view feed on your iPad, the apps on the market that allow this - along with remote camera control - are currently compatible only with select DSLR and medium format cameras and the cameras must also be tethered via USB to a computer.