In this video, I’ve provided a solution for photographers who want the ability to walk around their set, wirelessly trigger their Sony a7R II and still retain the capability to shoot tethered (with a USB cable) to Capture One or Lightroom.
Workflow is crucial when you are making a living as a professional photographer. While most of us love trying out new camera bodies, software, and other tools, there’s something to be said about having your own workflow that just works. When you introduce new tools and technology into your professional life, sometimes you may be forced into finding new ways of doing things. This is something that I experienced when I went from using a Canon 70D as my main camera body to a Sony a7R II.
The Transition From Canon to Sony
In mid 2016, I went from shooting crop-sensor Canon cameras (like the 70D) to a full-frame Sony a7R II. Why? For the same reasons a lot of people did. I wanted a full-frame camera, with really high resolution, better ISO performance, 4K video capabilities, focus peaking technology, in-camera apps, and the ability to use my Canon lenses (both my crop and full-frame lenses) on the same Sony camera body via Metabones adapter. Something I couldn’t do even on a full-frame Canon. It was the obvious choice for an upgrade.
Using the Sony a7R II over time, I started to realize that many of the things I loved about my Canon cameras were actually related to workflow. It just worked. It’s no surprise that Canon cameras are widely supported by many third-party companies and developers. Sony on the other hand, not so much.
I work full time as a commercial photographer. I mostly work by myself without an assistant, so it’s crucial that I work comfortably and efficiently. When I’m on set in my studio or on location I want two things: the ability to shoot tethered and the ability to wirelessly trigger my camera. Before shooting with Sony, I used to use an app called DSLR Controller by a developer called Chainfire. It allowed me to easily tether my Canon 70D to my Android tablet via USB cable. It is the best tethering app I've ever used on a mobile device. It took full control of my camera without taking away functionality from the camera body itself. It also provided a Live View mode and the ability to preview my high-resolution images right off the SD card without having to copy them onto the tablet first.
DSLR Controller was the perfect solution for tethering in the studio or on location without having to rely on a computer, Lightroom, or Capture One. And because my Canon 70D has an input for a remote completely separate from the USB required for tethering, I was able to use wireless triggers (Yongnuo RF 603C) to fire my camera. So it was sort of like a CamRanger set up, without the Wi-Fi aspect (though DSLR Controller does have a system for that too). In my opinion, It was the ultimate way to work. Unfortunately DSLR Controller only works on Canon cameras, so my workflow had to change if I wanted to use the Sony a7R II as my dedicated full time camera.
Wireless Tethering Options For Sony
Case Air by Tether Tools
Fashion/Celebrity photographer Frank Doorhof made a video recently talking about CamFi for Sony and upon checking out the CamFi website, I can confirm that on their homepage they have a scrolling banner that reads “The world’s first wireless camera controller for Sony.” I haven’t personally used this yet. But there may be hope. See Doorhof's video on CamFi below.
Sony Smart Remote App
Sony makes an app called Smart Remote Control available through Sony Play Memories. Overall, it works pretty well. It creates a direct Wi-Fi connection from your camera to your mobile device and works much like a CamRanger. It gives you control of your camera and a good working distance. But there are some caveats.
The biggest drawback for me is that if you want to preview your images after shooting, the preview resolution is terrible, even after adjusting the settings in the app. So if you want to check focus and make sure everything is crisp, forget about it. The only way to see better previews is to copy the files to the hard drive of your mobile device. And we all know how precious hard drive space is on a mobile device. The other issue is that when you are connected to the app, it limits the functionality on the actual camera body, including loss of the electronic viewfinder. In my opinion, this app is just not there yet. Maybe future updates will fix this.
Wired Tethering Options
Like many photographers, my entire postproduction workflow revolves around a Lightroom workflow. I’ve been a Lightroom user for a long time. I love the workflow and really dig what they are doing with LR Mobile. It does a lot of things including tethered capture, unless you’re using a Sony a7R II. Currently, Adobe Lightroom doesn’t support tethered capture with Sony cameras. So in order to use Lightroom for tethering with a Sony you can create a workaround. It can be done by downloading Sony’s Remote Camera Control app and setting up a “watch folder" in Adobe Lightroom, but it’s not my preferred way to work. Adobe, if you’re reading this, please add Sony tethering to Lightroom.
If you’ve purchased a Sony camera, then you’re probably aware that you can get Capture One Pro for Sony at a discounted rate of $50. Just an FYI, Capture One Pro for Sony is simply limited to reading Sony raw and TIFF files only. It is, however, a great solution and it’s pretty much your only option if you want to shoot tethered with a Sony and do it the right way. Though I don’t currently use Capture One for processing my raw files, as I prefer Lightroom for that, I’ve since learned how to adapt Capture One tethering into my workflow and actually enjoy it. It’s simple and intuitive. Though I’d prefer to use DSLR Controller or Adobe Lightroom, I will stick to this workflow for now.
The Sony a7R II does not have an independent input for a remote triggering system like the Canon 70D did. So if you want to remotely trigger your Sony a7R II camera with wireless transceivers such as the Yongnuo RF603C with the Vello shutter release cable for Sony, it relies on the USB input (or Multi Terminal as Sony calls it). The problem is that if you want to shoot tethered to a computer, it also requires the use of the USB input. This means you can either tether to a computer and not fire your camera wirelessly or fire your camera wirelessly and not tether to a computer. Not both.
If you plan on tethering with Capture One (requiring the use of the USB) and you still want to wirelessly trigger your camera there is a solution: the Neewer 2.4 GHz Wireless Remote Control Pro Battery Grip. This battery grip has a built-in receiver and comes with a wireless remote control allowing you to wirelessly trigger your Sony a7R II without having to rely on the USB Multi Terminal on the camera. It has a really nice build quality, and performs like a battery grip should. But the absolute best feature is the wireless remote transmitter. Pressing the shutter release on the remote is exactly like pressing it on the camera. So if you’re using off-camera lighting, it will still fire your flash as long as you have your flash transmitter on the hot shoe of the camera, e.g., Cyber Commander from Paul C. Buff.
Not only was building a wireless system into a battery grip a great idea, it really helped solve one of my biggest problems with the Sony a7R II, and at a very reasonable price point too ($79.99 at the time of writing this). Currently, Sony’s official battery grip costs $348 on B&H and does not offer any wireless solution for triggering your camera. In my mind, this is something that Sony should have integrated into their product.
So there you have it. If you’re the proud or sad owner of a Sony a7R II, here is the solution to wirelessly trigger the camera while still retaining the capability to shoot tethered with a USB cable to Capture One or Lightroom.
Have you switched from Canon to Sony? How has your workflow changed? If you have any ideas, hacks, or products that would help other Sony a7R II users, please leave them in the comments below.