Many moons ago when digital cameras were first introduced, one of the biggest changes from shooting film was the advent of the LCD screen. No longer did we have to pace up and down outside photo labs to see our shots, we could now see them instantly displayed on the back of our new cameras. This was not only great for us photographers to quickly check our lighting but for everybody else in the team too. The stylist could check for any creases in the clothes, the makeup artist could check uneven eyeliner, the hair stylist could check for stray hairs and the client can check they're happy too. That's fantastic, everybody can check that everything is looking perfect right there on the back of the camera without the anxious waiting for those tardy chemicals to do their job. Well in theory this was great but the novelty of a small crowd of rubberneckers jostling for front row seats behind me, all peering over my shoulder waiting for each image to appear soon wore off.
Finally came the long awaited introduction of useable tethering, I shoot over here in peace and quiet doing my job with a cable connected to a laptop, you all stand over there gawking at the screen, perfect. Well nearly perfect anyway, I no longer had to worry about people squawking in my ear but now I had to teach everybody how to go forward and back through the images, zoom in and out, rotating and so on. The software just wasn't intuitive enough for everybody yet. On top of that the biggest bane of my life was that damn cable that connected the camera to the laptop. Tripping over it, falling out of the camera, knocking things over, clotheslining clients with it, you name it I did it.
So now finally with the introduction of the wireless transfer cards such as the Eye-Fi cards I have the best of both worlds. No crowds breathing down my neck and no tether to break my neck.
The way this works is that you can now purchase SD cards that wirelessly send your images to a laptop, phone or tablet. At present this technology only works in SD cards and although I know that there are SD to compact flash converters out there they are unfortunately known to be very unreliable when coupled with a wifi SD card. A lot of the modern compact digital cameras now will only accept SD cards and even most modern DSLR cameras now have at least one SD slot which is perfect as these little wifi cards are fantastic and I absolutely love them.
So in reality how does it work when actually shooting? Personally I use the Eye-Fi X2 4GB card (they now only do the pro version) and I shoot with a Nikon D600 which has dual SD slots. The first slot I set up to take the Raws and the second slot I set up to take the 'Basic JPEG's'. As I shoot, the camera saves the full resolution Raws to slot 1 and simultaneously saves small jpegs to slot 2 (the Eye-Fi card). Whilst the files are saving to the Eye-fi card its actually uploading them to my 'paired' device. This could be a laptop or even a smart phone but due to the issues with clumsy software not being very intuitive for the rest of the team I actually send my files to an iPad. The simplicity of this means that all but the most vehement tree-killer of the touch screen generation will be able to zoom, rotate and navigate through the images without any instruction from myself. On top of this I don't even need to be connected to a wifi network, the card itself generates its own and the free Eye-fi app on the iPad acts as a server which downloads the images seamlessly as they are taken. So to clarify, this works in the desert, you don't need to find a wifi hot-spot. The reason I mention that is because I didn't believe it would work without one but it does. Bear in mind though, it will download faster with a wifi network selected but I am only transferring small jpegs for review not the Raws so its still very fast without one.
Just so this doesn't sound like a Eye-Fi advert I know that Toshiba makes a FlashAir card that is actually supposed to be easier to set up than the X2 version but Eye-Fi has just now released the Eye-fi Mobi which is said to be even simpler and faster to set up than that.
They range dramatically in price as far as I can tell so its my advice to spend a bit of time shopping around. Also the memory size of the card has a dramatic influence on cost, I use the 4GB one because I only use it to transfer small jpegs. If you feel that you want more flexibility and will likely only be shooting where there is a wifi hotspot available and you'd like to transfer Raws for example, then you may want to buy a bigger card. I think I picked up my Eye-Fi X2 4GB card 18 months ago for £30 on eBay.
It's not a massive investment by any means so I would definitely recommend trying them out especially now that Eye-Fi have now just released the new and improved Mobi version. Being tethered looks great but the ease of shooting without the cable is a no-brainer. For me though more importantly the client loves to be able to view whats being shot and get involved, this ensures that things get spotted on the bigger screen before I have to spend ages fixing them in post.