Wireless Ipad tethering is here! CamRanger Review

For some time now I have longed to have a simple light weight tethering solution for Nikon cameras, more portable and light weight than a laptop. When the ipad and camera connection kit came along I thought this might be the solution, unfortunately it was not that simple. There is now a fantastic product available called CamRanger that allows wireless tethering to mobile devices and laptops via wifi. Created by Dave Pawlowski and his wife Melissa, who both have a love of the outdoors. They needed a wireless device to control the focus and framing while taking distance shots with both Dave and Melissa in a kayak.

Its a small device about the size of an iphone which plugs into the USB port of your camera and then transmits via an ad-hoc wifi network to your mobile device phone/tablet or computer. It has a range of 50m and is straight forward to setup and quick to use.

I love this device for location shooting and an aid to composition especially as it has the ability to operate the Camera’s LiveView function. Enabling me to leave the camera position and work in front of the camera, positioning objects or directing models while viewing a live image of the frame on an ipad/iphone. It also makes reviewing the frame or image by the client/art director very straight forward especially as the ipad is cable free. The transmitter will fit in a pocket or clip to a belt/tripod in the provided pouch and so its very easy to shoot with the USB cable attached and walk around with camera in hand. Dave and Melissa’s blog provide some other creative ways of attaching the transmitter to a camera

I have not tested the range of the signal yet, but as I do not have a need to be more than a few metres from the camera I am not to concerned with any range limitations.

The camera is controlled via the free software available for mac OS/iOS, Android and Windows OS. Setup takes about 2mins and the interface is well designed and thought out. Once connected to the camera its possibleto view images alreday captured to the camera memory card or to import directly to the tablet/laptop. Obviously its a lot faster to view jpgs rather than raw files and I tend to capture Raw+jpg for this reason.

My drawbacks to the CamRanger iOS application:

  • If the camera is offline and not connected, its not possible to see images which have been saved to the device already from within the CamRanger app. You need to open the camera roll in Photos to see the images. This is fine and makes sense, however I would prefer to remain within one application and be able to view images offline if the ‘Auto Save’ option is on. CamRanger has a very simple but great ratings matrix and the ability to use this is lost once offline.
  • CamRanger app will display captured image thumbnails within the main interface screen during each connection session. So if you disconnect and reconnect a new strip of thumbnails will be created for the new captures. This can be frustrating if you lose the connection. You will then need to reload the entire memory card by tapping the memory card icon to view previous shots. This can be counter intuitive for some clients who expect to jump to a previous shot but also see the latest capture. There is also no option to view jpg only and so if your shooting both Raw+Jpg the scroll through to previous shots can take a while.

I’m very pleased that this device has come to the market place, I think it fits well the photographer who needs a portable lightweight tethering solution for location shooting. It would not be well suited for those shooting very large files or who need the reliability of wired tethering. I have yet to go kayaking with it but its inspiring some great possibilities for self portraiture. I will update this post as I use CamRanger more in the future for commercial work and hopefully provide more insight into how effective its use can be in the field.

CamRanger wifi transmitter

CamRanger wifi transmitter

 

Nikon D4 Shutter burst in Slow Motion

This video shows in slow motion what happens inside the mirror housing of a Nikon D4 as the shutter is released at 10 Frames per second at 1/200th of a second shutter speed. The vibration created during this short burst is not surprising. Despite the amazing mechanics its surprising how antiquated it all appears, it seems likely that the next generation of Nikon  DSLR will be mirror less.

Tea in the forest

Creating natural lighting on location with speed lights.

During the recent snowy spell in Cambridge I went out with a warm flask of tea and some small Nikon speed lights to try and capture a natural looking environmental portrait.

The sun was low and behind my subject and was casting sun beams through the pine foliage, I wanted to shoot my subject as though some of this sun light penetrating through the forest was providing the illumination on my subject. I also wanted to keep the background low key so that the dark depth of the forest was retained while keeping detail in the areas light by the ambient light.

Two Nikon SB800’s were used off camera and synced with pocket wizards. I used a white umbrella and soft box umbrella both placed camera right about 45 degrees in front and behind the subject. My working aperture of f/11 determined the final camera settings:  iso 400 1/80s @ f/11  I wanted to have a reasonable depth of field to retain depth and clarity of the sun beams in the background. In hindsight a third light placed high up and without a modifier to create the effect of sunlight falling on the surrounding forest floor would have have added more realism perhaps or possibly placing my subject nearer to where light was hitting the forest floor could have added something. However at the time I wanted a muted, low contrast image with a broody tone and the focus to be on the subject and background. The whole effect is aided by the snowy conditions acting like a giant fill reflector. In the end this was achieved. Lighting diagram below.

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Light Weight Wired Tethered Shooting with ipad

I have been searching for a  light weight but portable tethered set up for shooting schedules were a lot of ground needs to be covered. I have a laptop which I can tether and now with the new breed of light weight laptops from Apple this is becoming easier. However as a recent ipad owner I wondered if shooting connected to the ipad would a good solution. Using an ipad3, the apple dock camera connector and USB cable connected to a D3s and shooting Raw Nefs. I have found the system to be adequate but not as streamlined as shooting to a laptop. I don’t know about other manufactures tablet devices and how these differ when it comes to connecting a camera but this is my findings with the ipad3.

If you do not own an ipad or have not yet used the dock camera connector or Camera Connection Kit, I should explain how these work together and you will get an understanding of why this is not quite as good as shooting tethered to a laptop. First of all when you connect a camera the ipad will automatically open up the import dialog. As you shoot, images will appear in the import folder. You then have to select the images you wish to import. I believe you can select all as well as individually. Once files are imported you can view the in the normal way using the ipad photos app.

The disappointment with this  workflow is as follows.

– Having to import image files manually rather than have them auto import is inconveiniant and adds more time to reviewing images. I would hope that in the future images will be auto imported or saved in the same way that happens when shooting tethered to a computer or laptop. Images appear on screen and are saved to memory immediately without any input from the user.

– After images are imported they are stored in 2 folders. The recent import folder and the Photos folder. It would make more sense to select the folder to which files are imported especially as its not possible to quickly batch select images to place in a new folder. This opens another downside to using the ipad as its not possible to flag or organise images into folders especially when viewing the larger single image view. It is possible to select images from the thumbnail view but this screen is not practical for assessing image quality etc.

– After each import from the camera the ipad asks if you want to delete or keep the images on the camera. I would prefer if this could be a choice set in preference rather than after each import as it is time consuming and more importantly could result unnecessary deletion of image files.

– One last point is the choice of file format to import. Shuttersnitch the app which provides wireless import of images to the ipad has the option to import jpg only rather than raw or tiff. This makes a lot of sense as it would speed up transfer time and image review etc.

On the plus side its very easy to mount an ipad to a tripod using a superclamp and compatible tablet holder. This makes the system very portable and quick to set up. I tend to use the system in the same way that polaroids are used for assessing composition/ lighting ect with medium and large format film cameras. This is a huge benefit over the small screen screen when shooting subjects which require accurate composition and positioning of props.

I had hoped that a third party developer may have come up with an app which addresses the above. Unfortunately Apple has not made public the API’s for the Camera Connection Kit. So it looks like that won’t happen until the API is made public or Apple provides an update to streamline image import from the Camera Connection Kit. I’d be grateful if anyone reading this knows of any new developments or apps which could facilitate this.