Micro Four Thirds Meets Wireless Transfer to iOS Workflow

By Dan Burkholder Back to

dan burkholder, micro four thirds, wireless transfer, ios workflow Canoe on Frozen Lake; Captured with Olympus Micro Four Thirds Camera and Edited on iPhone 4S

“Connected,” that’s the word we’re hearing more and more in our digital lives. Connected via email, Facebook, Twitter, the Cloud…you know the drill. Most recently, Samsung has begun hinting that an explosion of cloud related storage and sharing options might accompany new cameras with built-in WiFi and 4G protocols. Yep, it’s not hard to envision the day when we can permanently retire sync cables and card readers from our photographic lives.

But why wait? We crave smaller−but full-featured− cameras now. And we want to move images from our cameras to our iPhones and iPads now, with currently available technology. The good news? It’s easy.

Why Micro Four Thirds?
There are many occasions when I go out the door with just an iPhone as my main camera. There’s a spontaneity and informality about shooting with the iPhone that’s fun and liberating. With inexpensive apps that tackle everything from HDR to image stitching, it’s tempting to feel we can do anything with an iPhone in our pockets. A recent Wall Street Journal article even asked the rhetorical question, “Is the iPhone the only camera you need?”

The iPhone isn’t ideal in all situations. Sometimes we want an ultra-wide lens (wider than the iPhone 4S’s 28mm equivalent); other times we need noise-free long exposure performance in low light. Forget about wildlife shooting with a long telephoto—honestly, anyone who hangs one of those absurd giant lenses off the corner of an iPhone is a glutton for punishment.

DSLRs are big. Yes, you’re right, I am getting old, and the older I get the less stuff I want to schlep around. But I’m fully convinced that today’s DSLRs are tomorrow’s Speed Graphics. In time you’ll see these monster Uzi cameras (capable of 10-12 frames per second with giant file sizes) relegated to sports photographers and professional photojournalists only. For the rest of us, a smaller camera will be a friendlier, easier companion that fits in a pocket or small case.

dan burkholder, micro four thirds, wireless transfer, ios workflow
Abandoned House above Finger Lake

What is Micro Four Thirds? Olympus and Panasonic jointly pioneered the Micro Four Thirds format in 2008. With a smaller sensor and no mirror or pentaprism, these cameras can be compact yet accept just about any lens with appropriate adaptors. In fact, one of the big plusses of Micro Four Thirds (M4/3) cameras is the vast array of lenses, both native lenses (30+ lenses and counting) and non-native optics that are used with adaptors. You can mix and match Olympus and Panasonic glass at will. And with Sigma and companies like Voigtlander producing specialized lenses, you’re unlikely to desire a prime or zoom you can’t find.

Finally, just as the cameras themselves are smaller, as you build a system with multiple lenses, your space and weight savings are leveraged accordingly. It’s easy to reduce the weight of your system by more than half. Let’s see how we can take advantage of shooting with a M4/3 camera combined with wireless transfer to iOS devices for editing and stylizing. You might call it, “shooting and editing with no wires, no computer, and no software that costs more than five dollars.”

How to Transfer Images Wirelessly
Our stated goal is to shoot with a M4/3 camera and wirelessly transfer the images to an iOS device where we can use a vast array of inexpensive apps to edit and enhance our images. The transfer is handled by Eye-Fi Cards, conventional SD memory cards that have WiFi transmitters built-in.

dan burkholder, mirco four thirds, wireless transfer, ios workflow
(Figure 1) Checking for Eye-Fi/Camera Compatibility

Will My Camera Work with the Eye-Fi Card?
The first gizmo in your workflow is the camera itself. Because Eye-Fi cards only come in the SD (Secure Digital) format, choose a camera that uses this type of card. All M4/3 cameras fall into this category.

If you remain skeptical of my enthusiasm for the M4/3 cameras, all is not lost. Although there are Compact Flash adaptors that let you insert an SD card into an otherwise CF Card-only slot, users report spotty success at best. If you’re going to use an Eye-Fi card, it’s wise to start with a camera that’s made to natively accept SD cards.

The majority of today’s SD-equipped cameras will work with Eye-Fi cards and there’s an easy way to find out if the camera you have now−or the one you’re about to purchase−will work properly with Eye-Fi. Figure 1 shows the Eye-Fi website’s Camera Compatibility page. In this example, I searched for Olympus cameras in general and the Pen E-P3 in particular. Any of the three flavors of Eye-Fi cards will work in this Olympus M4/3 camera.

dan burkholder, mirco four thirds, wireless transfer, ios workflow
Figure 2: Eye-Fi Card Comparison Chart (courtesy Eye-Fi)

Three Models of Eye-Fi Cards
See Figure 2. There are three models of Eye-Fi cards− let me save you some time by recommending the Pro X2 card. Not only does this model support Direct Mode and Automatic Geotagging, it also supports RAW file transfers. For more information about the card dif- ferences, scrutinize the chart in Figure 2 or investigate the information provided on the Eye-Fi website.

Direct Mode
Our main concern in this article is Direct Mode. This cleverly-named feature let’s us send images from camera to iOS even when a WiFi network is not present. Figure 3 shows a final print using my workflow. You could be in the most remote forest of Alaska and still transfer your M4/3 images to your iPad where you could start editing and enhancing. No wires, no card readers…it’s sounding good, isn’t it?

dan burkholder, mirco four thirds, wireless transfer, ios workflow
Figure 3: Cormorant, shot with Olympus 75-300 lens at 150mm, stylized on iPad

The Setup Steps
To get your Eye-Fi card ready for image transfers, you must go through a few setup steps, much like any wireless data system. There is nothing difficult in the following steps but the order in which we do them can make a big difference in successful transfer of images.

You Need a WiFi Network for Your Initial Setup
A first step is to register your new card with Eye-Fi. Your computer and Eye-Fi-equipped camera must have access to a working WiFi network. Easy step-by-step instructions accompany your Eye-Fi card. Heck, they even include a compact card reader for the steps that involve mounting the Eye-Fi card on your computer. Once the card setup procedure is complete, you won’t need a WiFi network again to work in Direct Mode.

dan burkholder, micro four thirds, wireless transfer, ios workflow
Figure 4: iOS WiFi Settings for Card Setup and Transfer

Pairing your Eye-Fi Card with your iPhone or iPad
Figure 4’s first panel shows my iPad connected to our studio WiFi network. In panel #2, I’ve turned on the Eye-Fi equipped Olympus camera and the iPad sees that signal.

When selecting your Eye-Fi network, don’t be alarmed if the little spinning gear indication never goes away (circled in red in panel #2). Though you might hope for a standard check mark to indicate a successful connection (circled in panel #1), my experience is that a spinning gear is just fine.

dan burkholder, micro four thirds, wireless transfer, ios workflow
Figure 5: Dan’s Photo Sharing Folder and Eye-Fi App

The Eye-Fi App
Keep the Eye-Fi app handy for rapid access. In Figure 5 you’ll see that I created a folder of sharing-related apps; this folder method helps eliminate clutter. The iPad3 (shown here) lets you put 20 apps into a folder; on the iPhone you’re limited to just 12 because of the reduced screen size.

Settings on Your Camera
Unless you’re using an Olympus E-P3 too, your camera settings will look different than what I’m about to describe. The numbered panels in Figure 6 should give you an idea of how you’ll make camera-setting changes to ensure a smooth Eye-Fi transfer experience.

1. On the E-P3, the Settings menu (circled in red) is where the Eye-Fi action is buried. Once in Settings, scroll to the Utility submenu and press OK.
2. and 3. A straightforward toggle turns on Eye-Fi. Why not leave Eye-Fi on all the time? Because you’re basically powering a WiFi transmitter, your battery life can take a hit if you leave it running constantly.
4. Now Eye-Fi is up and running.

With these steps complete, your Direct Mode image transfers should be automatic assuming the following:
• You have setup your Eye-Fi card properly.
• You have turned on Eye-Fi on your M4/3 camera and your camera is turned on.
• You have selected the Eye-Fi network on your iPhone or iPad.

dan burkholder, micro four thirds, wireless transfer, ios workflow
Figure 6: Activating WiFi on the Olympus E-P3
dan burkholder, micro four thirds, wireless transfer, ios workflow
Figure 7: Eye-Fi App shows Transfer Progress

Transferring from M4/3 to iPad
Once you initiate the transfer, your iOS device indicates the progress in the Eye-Fi app and lets you know when all your images are transferred.

Note that Eye-Fi tags transferred images, so if you finish a transfer in the morning and then shoot more during the after noon, when you launch a second Eye- Fi transfer session, only the newer images will download to your iPhone or iPad.

iOS Screen Feedback
Your iPhone or iPad will also keep you informed on the status of the image transfer as in Figure 7. If you see the same image appear to download twice, it means you have set both JPEG and RAW files to transfer.

dan burkholder, micro four thirds, wireless transfer, ios workflow
Figure 8

Remember, one of the benefits of using a Pro X2 version of the Eye-Fi card is the ability to transfer RAW files as well as JPEGs and videos. This sounds good… but should you really do it if your goal is to edit images on the iPhone or iPad? The answer is, no. Currently, our iOS devices are JPEG shooters and JPEG editing platforms. Look at Figure 8. Here I transferred both a RAW file and the JPEG (of a common Catskills Sas- quatch) to the iPad. The RAW file is actually smaller than the JPEG! How could this be? The RAW file is smaller because the iPad is really only using the embedded JPEG within the RAW file; you’re not seeing the real RAW file at all. By the way, to check the file sizes in Figure 8, I used the most-excellent−and free−Photo Size app by Danny Goodman.

dan burkholder, micro four thirds, wireless transfer, ios workflow
Figure 9: Managing File Types for Transfer to iPhone or iPad

Shouldn’t there be a way to dictate which file types are transferred from your M4/3 camera to your iOS platform? Certainly, and there is. Let’s examine Figure 9 to see how we use the Eye-Fi app to choose which file types to transfer.

1. Launch the Eye-Fi app on your iPad or iPhone. Make sure Receive Media is turned On, as it is here. Clicking Advanced Settings takes you to the Eye- Fi website (again, this will work if you’ve properly registered your card).
2. Here I’ve selected RAW and have selected None for transfer. That prevents smaller, redundant embedded JPEGs from cluttering up my iPad Photo Library.
3. Photos are set to transfer to the iPad. Personally, I don’t shoot videos with the Olympus (though it does a fine job) so the only transfer option I want is for JPEG.

Endless Memory?
There are lots of additional tasks you can perform with an Eye-Fi card. One Eye-Fi feature that you might appreciate for your M4/3 to iOS lifestyle is called Endless Memory. It intelligently creates extras space on the card as your card fills. By tagging images that you have transferred to your iOS device, Endless Memory (if activated; it’s optional in setup steps) deletes those already-transferred images to make room for new photos. Any images you have not transferred will not be deleted.

And over the Horizon
When I began using the iPhone as a serious creative tool in 2008, the first jolting awareness was that there was no longer a special “place” where I edited digital photos. Instead of skulking back to a desktop or laptop computer, I could start editing images right in the field using an amazing array of apps.

Well guess what? Now with a Micro Four Thirds camera, Eye-Fi card and iPhone or iPad, you can extend that power and ease exponentially. It’s the best of all worlds. Yes, it’s a magical time to be a photographer!

Resources: Websites: apple.com, dannyg.com, eyefi.com, olympus.com, panasonic.com, sigmaphoto.com, voigtlander.com

dan burkholder, micro four thirds, wireless transfer, ios workflow
The author and Jill with 1960 NSU; shot with Olympus E-P3 and 25mm f/.95 Voigtlander Lens and edited on iPad3

About the Author

Dan Burkholder
Dan Burkholder has been teaching digital imaging workshops for 15 years at venues including The School of the Art Institute, Chicago; The Royal Photographic Society, Madrid, Spain; The International Center of Photography, New York; Mesilla Digital Imaging Workshops, Mesilla, NM and many others. Dan’s latest book, The Color of Loss (University of Texas Press, 2008), documents the flooded interiors of post-Katrina New Orleans and is the first coffee table book done entirely using HDR methods. His award-winning book, Making Digital Negatives for Contact Printing, has become a standard resource in the fineart photography community. Dan’s iPhone images can be seen at: www.iPhoneArtistry.com/.