Pentax FluCard O-FC1 Review

Conclusion

Now that we have presented the O-FC1 FluCard's features and taken a look at its performance, let's take a step back and see how everything comes together.

Who Is It For?

If you are looking for a basic tethering solution for casual or studio use, the FluCard will undoubtedly serve you well.  It is the only officially-supported tethering alternative to PKTether, a (free) fan-developed wired tethering program for Pentax DSLRs, and the only way to properly wirelessly control a Pentax K-3.

The FluCard is a great solution for setting up and capturing self-portraits and family photos.  It's also a quick and easy way to get files onto your PC right after shooting them, i.e. to enlarge and show to a client or to process on-the-fly.  One nice thing about the FluCard is that files can be accessed wirelessly (via the Image Review mode) even when the on-camera controls are used for image capture, which means that while one person operates the camera, another could potentially be reviewing and processing the images, thus streamlining workflow. While the FluCard cannot be used for wirelessly transferring non-image files, it could technically be used to access just about any image file copied to it via a PC.

This card isn't quite as versatile for file transfers as other Wi-Fi-enabled SD cards, but it does get the job done for instant review and single file downloads, and images can be transferred wirelessly even when the card isn't inserted into a supported camera.  With that said, a big advantage of the FluCard over other cards such as Eye-Fi is that it is easier to set up and does not require a native app (though such apps have certain other advantages).  And even though it's not the fastest-performing SD card in terms of read and write speed, it is on par with other wireless cards in this respect.  

The FluCard isn't quite a replacement for professional tethering solutions, however, like those available for select other camera brands via dedicated (but also more costly) accessories.  The SD form factor places limitations on range and performance, and these limitations manifest themselves in the Pentax FluCard.

Pros

  • Very easy to set up and use
  • Does not require additional specialized equipment
  • Interface accessible via any web browser
  • Simple, straightforward interface
  • No need to download a dedicated app
  • Enables wireless tethering and wireless image browsing/downloading
  • Ability to wirelessly change all basic shooting settings
  • Possible to change shutter speed and aperture in P mode
  • Ability to wirelessly control the focus point
  • Ability to browse and download files wirelessly
  • Allows the user to pick which files to download using thumbnails
  • Low cost
  • Configurable network settings
  • Great for casual use or basic studio shooting
  • Generally stable
  • Support for future DSLRs, upgradable firmware
  • Image View (playback) works with any camera

Cons

  • Limited wireless range
  • Slow wireless transfer speed
  • Takes the place of your wireless internet connection
  • Only single-file transfers are supported
  • Card construction is not top-notch
  • Only supports single-frame shooting and no delayed/interval shooting
  • Slight latency in live view and after capturing an image
  • Hard to magnify live view image when subject is not stationary
  • Limited feature set; not possible to wirelessly:
    • turn the camera on and off
    • change most menu settings (i.e. file format)
    • control flash settings or white balance
    • switch to manual focus
    • create new folders on the card
    • delete files
    • access photos on SD1
  • Sub-par read/write speeds when used for traditional photo storage
  • Not a replacement for wired/professional wireless tethering options
  • Remote Capture feature not backwards-compatible

Rating

Build Quality 
 8
Performance 
 5
Features 
 7
Ease of Use 
 8
Value 
 10
Overall 
 7.6 (Good)

The Bottom Line

We are happy to finally see Wi-Fi functionality being added to a Pentax DSLR.  The FluCard approach is a very good start, and we are confident that many K-3 users (and owners of future Pentax DSLRs) will enjoy it and put it to good use.  One of the key advantages of the card is that it's easy to set up and use and universally-compatible with just about any client device with a web browser.  But because of the restrictions that the FluCard currently places on shooting modes, and its slightly-sluggish performance, it won't be the ideal tool for certain advanced users and working professionals.  We're still scratching our heads wondering why Pentax added wireless tethering functionality without first officially supporting a wired solution.

If you'd like to get a FluCard now, click here to order your card for $99 from B&H or click here to order it at Adorama. Other US stores (other than the Pentax web store) do not carry this card as of March, 2014.  B&H will ship the card internationally, while Adorama will not.

If you own the FluCard and would like to share your experience with it, please post a user review in our accessory database.

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