I am sure that those of you with even a passing interest in photography know, that it is possible to connect your camera to a computer, using a USB cable and download your pictures. What you may not know, is that most cameras offer you the ability to transfer each picture you take, to your computer, using the same USB cable. So you shoot a picture and you can immediately view it on your computer monitor.
Now when I say "most cameras" I mean most DSLR cameras, but it is quite possible that even lesser ones have that functionality.
Those of you who have tried this, it is obvious that the USB cable is a major headache, since they usually come in short lengths, and even if you find a longer one, 5 meters is usually the max. And of course, having a cable hanging from your camera and your computer is always a recipe for an accident waiting to happen.
Most major camera manufacturers like Nikon or Canon, offer wireless solutions, but usually the required hardware costs a lot of money. I know that Nikon's WT-4 WiFi transmitter, which allows you to do the same thing as your trusty USB cable, only without a cable, costs more than $700. Not exactly cheap, right? You can buy a second Nikon camera for that amount of money.
So, when I saw some articles in a certain web site (reference below), about a very cheap solution to the above scenario (which is called "tethered shooting"), I decided that it was something I need to investigate. And I am happy to report, that my initial experiments have proven to be quite successful.
Please keep in mind, that I've played with what is described below, for only a few hours and those were mostly spend downloading files from the Internet and trying some things out.
OK, here goes:
I think I have found a wireless tethering solution, which does away with the expensive WT-4 wireless transmitter.
I got inspired for this, but some articles found in this web site: http://petetek.blogspot.com/, especially from those links in the right-hand column, about tethered shooting.
After doing some research, I found the following kit:
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The dongles are made by "Cables to Go" and you can read all the technical specs here: http://www.cablestogo.com/product.as...1542&sku=29571
Now, these two little boxes, do not create a WiFi network between your camera and your router, or your computer, like the WT-4 does. They instead replace your typical USB cable you use to connect the camera to your computer, with a wireless USB connection. The front one goes into any USB port on your computer, while the rear one gets connected with a supplied cable to your camera. They are supposed to allow you to create a wireless USB link, so you can connect the camera to your computer, from a distance of up to 30'. So, I ordered one of these kits (price at Amazon $87) and today the mail man delivered it to my door. Here is what is included in the kit.
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The two dongles, a power supply, a CD-ROM with the software, two antennas and a very handy USB extender cable, with a base, in which you can install the computer dongle vertically.
OK, and the $1,000,000 question is : Do they work?
First of all, they do not work in Mac OS-X, no driver for them in the Mac environment. However, since I have Parallel's Desktop installed in my Mac, I installed the software in the Windows virtual machine.
The first test showed that the dongles work. I connected the remote dongle to my printer and it was immediately recognized by Windoze. So far so good.
Then I got my D300 and connected it to the dongle. At first, Windoze refused to recognize the camera. I removed the power from the dongle and reconnected it, and immediately the camera was recognized by the computer. Now the difficult part was to see if I could shoot pictures and see them on my monitor. I tried some free tethering programs I found on the Internet (DCamCapture was one of them), which immediately recognized the D300. As soon as I pressed the shutter release button, an image was found inside the folder I had specified in the computer! Hurray! So basically tethering worked. But I still couldn't see the picture, as it was transmitted from the camera to the computer.
Well, time for some more downloads. I visited Nikon's web site and downloaded Nikon Camera Control 2.7.1 (the latest version, which Amazon sells for about $145) hoping that the trial would allow me to see the pictures as they were transferred. Wrong! The download was just an upgrade, not the complete software. Why Nikon doesn't allow you to download the complete software is beyond my comprehension, but that's how it is.
Anyway, I found somewhere on the Internet version 2.0 of Camera Control, which I downloaded and installed. Then I applied the upgrade to 2.7.1. I fired up the program, changed some settings (the folder where I wanted the pictures to be transferred to, declared that I wanted to see the picture in the Viewer etc) and took a picture.
Zappp! The picture immediately showed up in the viewer window. OK, that was fast, but I was shooting jpg in the lowest possible quality. Time to check raw. I changed the settings in the camera and took another shot. Immediately, the picture showed up in the viewer, with almost no more delay than when I was shooting jpg. However, the status bar indicated that while I was already viewing the picture, the real transfer was still taking place. So, if you shoot raw, it will take a couple of seconds for each picture to be transferred to the computer.
So, basically the tethering part of the test worked. Here is a picture, with Nikon Camera Control 2 and its viewer on the screen.
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What remains now?
1. Try to see how I can power the remote dongle (the one connected to the camera) with batteries. It's quite pointless to have a wireless tethering solution, if you have to power the dongle from a power adapter. I have some ideas on how to do it. The dongle requires 5V DC to operate, so I need to check if four AAA rechargeable batteries (4.8V) will be enough. If the dongle works with 4.8V, then I plan to install it inside an old SB-E flash, from which I have removed all its internals, except the batteries chamber. If the four AAAs are not enough, then I'll have to reconsider my project's packaging.
2. I need to find a way to see the shot picture, without using Nikon's Camera Control software. The idea behind this project is to have the same functionality as the pros have, using Camera Control and WT-4, with the smallest possible cost. So I am not paying Nikon $145 for the program alone. There is a lovely program for Mac OS-X called Soforbilt, I sure hope I can find something similar for Windows.
3. I need to find a short "male-mini-USB-to-male-USB" cable. The one supplied with the kit is relatively long. Basically, I need a cable which is about 15 cm long, while the one supplied is about 50cm.
I am rather optimistic that I'll soon have a solution to all the above issues, so I'll have a wireless tethered solution for less than $100.
Stay tuned for more developments.