How Many Ways Can You Use a Smartwatch for Photography?

How Many Ways Can You Use a Smartwatch for Photography?

Are you a fan of gadgets? When it comes to photography, there are plenty of fabulous extras that we can use to improve what we do, but how about a smartwatch? I experimented with the Kumi GW5 Pro to see how useful it would be.

Years ago, I had a huge cable running from my camera to a remote trigger. My camera was sat on a tripod close to a stick, on which garden birds would land before flying to the feeding station. Thankfully, things have moved on, and I could both see what the camera saw and trigger the camera from my phone using a Bluetooth connection.

Recently, I was sent a Kumi GW5 Pro smartwatch to review. Smartwatches are not camera equipment, so I started thinking about how I could use them for photography. Could I use this for remote shooting with a smartphone as a repeater, thus expanding my remote-control distance?

The watch fits tightly into the packaging, keeping it safe during transport. However, the mark inside the lid appears greatly exaggerated in this picture. It's barely visible otherwise.

An Introduction to the KimiGW5 Pro and Its Use for Photographers

This smartwatch is one of many affordable models on the market. It arrived well-presented in a strong cardboard case with a thin plastic wrapping. Inside was the watch, the charging cable, and the instruction booklet.

The watch has a plethora of functions, many of which, at first sight, are not really camera-related. However, there were functions that I would definitely find handy when out on a photoshoot, especially when alone on a dark, deserted beach late at night. One of which is being able to dial my phone without having to take the phone from my pocket, something that would be invaluable during an emergency. Similarly, being able to activate the phone’s voice assistant using the watch was useful for opening my camera’s phone app.

It also measures blood oxygen levels and pulse rate. If I were to fall ill during a photoshoot, then that feature would provide useful information to convey to the emergency services. Although I would not rely on that for a precise measurement, it can give a good idea of what is happening to the body. Saying that, I did compare the results with a medical pulse oximeter, and the readings were the same.

The blood pressure monitors on watches are known to be less accurate, with only the Omron blood pressure watch approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the USA. Still, this watch is useful for tracking trends and, again, for a photographer of what we euphemistically call “a certain age” - a bracket I fit firmly into - who is heading up a mountain.

The compass feature is not without its uses too, not only for navigating but for working out the bearing of the moon or sunrise so I know where to stand. Yes, there's one on my phone, but it's much easier looking at my watch.

The watch has other useful features for photographers such as a stopwatch, countdown timer, and a button to find one’s phone. If you’ve ever dropped your phone into the long grass at night when photographing star trails, as I have done just that, it’s a useful feature.

The large 1.4” AMOLED watch face itself is easy to read even without my glasses. Furthermore, the movement control that activates when you turn your wrist has just the correct amount of response. I’ve had other smartwatches where this didn’t work at all or were too sensitive. It’s comfortable to wear too, weighing just 1.55 oz (44g) and the strap is wide. The watch is also IP68 waterproof, so resistant to water for up to 1.5 meters for up to 30 minutes.

A Failed Experiment

One important feature of this Kumi Smartwatch is the ability to trigger the phone’s camera. This can be very useful in several circumstances, especially when I want to appear in group shots taken with my phone. However, I wanted to know if I could use the watch to fire an interchangeable lens camera (ILC).

I tried a whole host of different settings on my phone and found no way that I could change the default camera of the phone or of the Kumi app to my camera. If it were the case that I could, I would connect one of my phones to my camera in the usual way, and to my watch at the same time. I would then be able to use the phone as a repeater and trigger the app to fire the camera’s shutter from my watch with a much greater distance between me and the camera. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

I spoke to several people using many different combinations of smartphone and camera to ask whether it was possible to change their Android or iPhone’s default camera app to their main ILC camera, and it doesn’t appear to be possible. Therefore, it seems it is not possible to trigger any ILC from a smartwatch. I would guess that some clever reader will be able to hack their phone's software or the camera's app and make it possible. Please let me know in the comments.

Nevertheless, this is still a useful tool for a photographer to own. It works well, and it is a lot less expensive than some of the big brands with similar functionality.

Other Functions on the Watch

Although I primarily tested this for photography purposes, you will no doubt be interested in its other functions, which include the following.

Making and answering calls from your phone using the watch and reading text messages is possible, including messages on Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, etc. The phone remembers ten contacts and your last ten calls.

The Health Monitoring Fitness functions provide automatic monitoring in real-time of your health metrics, such as heart rate, blood oxygen, sleep, and stress level. It also tracks your sleep status and analyzes your sleep quality. This data can be followed on your watch, and more detailed data can be displayed in the Kumi app. Although primarily designed and promoted as a men’s watch, it also has a function for female health monitoring too.

The 1.43" AMOLED touch display is bright enough for easy visibility during the day. With more than 100 Sports Modes available, it also offers exercise monitoring, including heart rate, step count, distance, calories burned, and exercise duration.

It will also activate the phone’s voice assistant, great for hands-free use when on a photoshoot.

The Kumi smartwatch comes with 100+ in-app theme dials. Or, you can set up your photos as watch faces.

It also provides weather information, music playback control, phone camera control, alarm clock, stopwatch, timer, alarm clock, sedentary reminder, and a Find My Phone feature with a reciprocal Find My Watch built into the app.

Its NFC function supports QQ, WeChat, PayPal, and Alipay, although Alipay is only available in Chinese, which is likely to suit those who use that payment app. The NFC can be programmed so the watch works as a key to open electronic door locks. It also works as a business card that links to most of the popular social media platforms.

IP68 Waterproof rating, suitable for washing hands, showering, or taking photos in the rain.

The watch claims 5-7 days of battery with normal use. I was getting 10+ days when testing this quite extensively.

What I Liked and What Can Be Improved Next Time

What I Liked

  • Many different functions as shown above.
  • All those functions mentioned above seem to work well.
  • It’s comfortable to wear.
  • Battery life is good.
  • The display is bright and clear with plenty of faces to choose between.
  • You can take pictures with your phone camera using the watch.
  • Affordable.

What Could Be Improved Next Time

  • Its limited camera functionality in the app could be expanded; it takes a photo after a short countdown, and that’s all.
  • The addition of other payment services like Google Pay would be useful.
  • There’s no built-in GPS; I would pay more for that function.
  • A more scratch-resistant face; I’ve already scratched this one, as I invariably do with all watches.
  • Although there was a lot less plastic packaging than many other devices I’ve seen, there could be less still.
  • Being able to activate the phone's speaker mode and the voice recorder would be useful additional functions.

In Conclusion

Having been using this watch for the last few weeks, I can see that it is a good idea for photographers who venture into the great outdoors to own one. I can imagine situations where it will be useful, especially for personal safety.

Being able to operate the phone’s camera with the watch is useful. Although there is a wide range of useful functions, paying a little more for more functionality would be something I would be interested in.

There are a vast number of budget smartwatches on the market, and it is also a concern when spending well under $100 that you are going to get something worthwhile. But this watch works well and has many more features than others listed at a far higher price point. If you are not bothered about owning one of the big brand names and getting a lot of functionality for your money, then this watch is a good one to own.

It’s available on Amazon by clicking or tapping here.

Ivor Rackham's picture

A professional photographer, website developer, and writer, Ivor lives in the North East of England. His main work is training others in photography. He has a special interest in supporting people with their mental well-being. In 2023 he accepted becoming a brand ambassador for the OM System.

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Honestly, who uses a Kumi watch...

I do!

There's a 5% discount code available on the watch to Fstoppers readers: A78MPCP4

As far as triggering an ILC shutter from your watch, this lies firmly with the camera manufacturer's app developers—nothing to do with Apple or Android themselves. I only have experience with Canon Camera Connect and Pansonic's Image App. If other manufacturer's apps are anything like this, they are all rather lacklustre and hardly receive any attention or updates.

I do wish these manufacturers would pay more attention to their smartphone apps!

Otherwise, check out Cascable for the Apple Watch.

Thanks Greg. I agree!

I think the whole remote operating of an ILC camera is complex. Android phones only allow the inbuilt camera to be the default. I think the watch apps will only connect to the default camera. Yes, a way around it would be for the camera app developers and the watch developers to work together so the watch can fire the ILC through the ILC's own app. Whether either would invest the time and money in developing that is another matter. It's a fairly niche request. I would find it handy, though.

Thank you for the comment.

OK, I can't believe how cheap those things are. How can $40 even cover the material costs? These things must be harvesting all your personal data and recording your personal conversations for the chinese government. Seriously, how can these have any other explainable financial model.

Ha ha ha. Nice conspiracy theory. Do you have any empirical evidence to back it up? Mass-produced electronics cost pennies. Perhaps you are being duped by the big brands into paying too much. Furthermore, I'm not entirely sure what data of mine any government would find interesting, like most people, my life is pretty insignificant. If they want to know my resting heart rate, it's about 60 bpm. I get up at 5.15 am most mornings, and I work out. Yesterday I didn't manage my 10,000 steps. I answered two phone calls, one was a spam and the other was from my brother who is a CIA operative. Oops!

Making up conspiracies is easy. For example, looking at all the negative comments you post on articles, and given that you are hiding behind a fake persona, perhaps you are a Russian troll deliberately undermining this website as part of a conspiracy against businesses operating in Western democracies. If not, you are certainly helping them to do so.

It is not a secret. Moreover most of devices, operating systems and applications honestly declare in their user agreements (who reads that?) that they send somewhere or share with somebody your information (not necessary to the intelligence services directly, but you never know).

As an example, a several years ago the location of an overseas American military base was revealed because soldiers wore fitness bracelets running -- their fitness information appeared on publicly available maps on a very unusual for fitness location.