The one thing that mobile phones have over their digital camera counterparts is that they can share the pictures instantly. None of this "I've got to wait 'till I get back to my laptop" or "I'll send you the pictures later" just the option to share straight away.
While a mobile phone's ability to share pictures beats digital cameras hands down, moving to a system that lets you share so quickly also means a system whereby the image quality has to take a hit.
However, through a combination of two devices and your digital camera you can now share your images with services like Facebook and Flickr at the press of the button.
Here's what you'll need:
A digital camera that can take an SD card (we used a Canon 550D but you can use compact models as well).
- A 3 Mi-Fi modem
- An Eye-Fi card
- A computer
- About 20 minutes of your life
- Mobile phone coverage
Step one - getting your kit together
To turn your camera into a Wi-Fi digital imaging sending machine you need to invest in an Eye-Fi card, a 3 Mi-Fi wireless modem, and a PC or Mac.
There are a range of Eye-Fi cards available and depending on what you want to do with the pictures - ie capture and send them in RAW, geotag them or just take small pictures - will depend on which one to get.
For this test we used the latest model, the Eye-Fi pro X2 an SDHC card that has an 8GB capacity and an 802.11n wireless transmitter built-in.
We also used a 3 Mi-Fi dongle that allows you to create a mini Wi-Fi hotspot and then connect any device that can utilise said hotspot to the Internet. The 3 Mi-Fi card currently costs £7.50 a month, for 1GB of data over an 18-month contract, or £69.99 up front with 3GB of data to get you started, which has to be used up in the first 3 months.
Step two - setting up the kit
Once you've got the Mi-Fi card and Eye-Fi card you need to get them set up to use in the field. Stage one of this step is to install the Eye-Fi software, which is very easy, while stage two is to setup up the Mi-Fi connection. To set the Eye-Fi card up with the Mi-Fi you will need the Mi-Fi connected to the Internet and therefore within coverage.
Once the Mi-Fi is up and running and sending out a signal, open up the Eye-Fi software and opt to setup the Eye-Fi with the Mi-Fi (yes there are a lot of Fi's to take in).
Once the network has been recognised and the handover finalised you'll need to set up your sharing options.
In the UK you'll get the ability to share with Facebook, Flickr, MobileMe, Picasa, SmugMug, Evernote, Gallery, Kodak Gallery, Snapfish and an FTP as well.
Setting up the sharing details is incredibly easy and you can set the transfer mode to be automatic or based on a button you press on the camera - handy if you know you won't want to share everything you snap.
Beyond setting up which site you want to share with, most sites also give you advanced options like how big the file is and where you want it stored. Don't forget that you are limited by your data usage based on your contract. An 18-megapixel camera like the 550D produces images around 4.7MB. If you plan to upload these in a poor connection area they will take time. Likewise the large file size will eat into your monthly allowance. If you're only shooting to share on Facebook you'll want to reduce the file size you send. Luckily this can be done without reducing the file size of the photo you are saving to the camera.
Once that's done, and the details have been transferred to the card, you are set to go.
Step three - taking pictures in the field
You're now at a picnic or somewhere else lacking a Wi-Fi hotspot (like a church wedding for example).
Turn on and connect the Mi-Fi, plug in the Eye-Fi card into your camera and if need be turn it on. Start snapping.
Step four - enjoy your pictures
Seconds after you've taken the photo, and depending on how good the 3 coverage is, your images will start to appear on the photo sharing service you've selected.
And so you don't have to ruin the "cool" illusion you've just created for all your friends you can double check on your smartphone to see that the images have uploaded.
Congrats, without having to get out a laptop at the event you've photographed, you've managed to share decent, not mobile phone quality, pictures with the world.