SD card turns digital cameras into Instagram machines

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Smartphones are proving to be more popular than standalone cameras when it comes to photos but one company continues to buck the trend. On Wednesday, Eye-Fi released a memory card for digital cameras that directly uploads pictures over Wi-Fi or transfers them to a nearby smartphone or tablet. In theory, the $79 Eye-Fi Mobile X2 can be used to get images from a point-and-shoot or DLSR to Instagram, Facebook, TwitPic or any number of other photo sharing sites.

This can be handy for those that do carry a traditional digital camera but still have the desire to share great shots on photo sites. There are new cameras available with Wi-Fi on them, but the sharing functionality is limited to whatever sites the camera manufacturer enabled in the software. By sending images to a phone or tablet with Direct Mode, which the company debuted last year, pictures can be edited easier and shared with any site or social network through a mobile app.

The Mobile X2 is actually an extension of Eye-Fi’s new product line. It joins the $49 Connect X2 and $99 Pro X2. All three memory cards offer the Direct View functionality. With it, photos can be sent directly to an iPhone, iPad or Android device running Eye-Fi’s free mobile client. This eliminates the need to carry a USB cable or Apple Camera Connector Kit for image transfers.

The main difference between cards is in the storage capacity and file format support. The Connect X2 is limited to 4 GB of memory and doesn’t support RAW image files; the new Mobile X2 has the same file limitation but doubles the available memory. Eye-Fi’s Pro X2 has 8 GB of storage, but does support the larger RAW file format; essentially an unprocessed image directly from the camera sensor.

The storage for all three cards can be limiting, but the ability to wirelessly offload images with 802.11n Wi-Fi to a device with additional memory can offset that. And removing the need to carry cables for image transfer is a plus. Eye-Fi says the Direct Mode for the new Mobile X2 will be available in the coming weeks, although the actual SD card with integrated Wi-Fi is available now.

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