For the longest time, I've been using a 17" Macbook Pro for tethering. The big screen is great. Everything else, however, was a nightmare. I recently saw some colleagues of mine raving about a new product called the CamRanger, which allows you to tether to your Android device (April 2013), iPad or iPhone to your camera and had to try it out, as any solution that would resolve my near-daily tethering headaches would be fantastic.
As an architectural and interiors photographer, the technicality of my work requires that I shoot tethered. There are simply too many situations where not being able to see an entire frame on a big screen would prove incredibly frustrating. Angles are constantly adjusted to within inches, furniture is repositioned the tiniest bit, lights are constantly fiddled with, shiny surfaces are polished over and over, and so on and so forth. It could take an hour to get the scene set just right, and being sure everything is just perfect is far too hard on a tiny 3" LCD screen.
Which led me to purchasing a 17" MacbookPro so that I could provide clients with real-time results as we worked on their projects. If you've ever shot tethered to a laptop, you know that it's a double edged sword. The screen real estate is great, and having access to all of your programs and files is also a plus. But man, it can be a real pain in the neck sometimes. Laptops and the associated cords and cables are bulky and cumbersome, require their own Pelican cases and special stands, and people are a little bit intimidated by the whole thing. It's a solution, but not a very elegant one.
So when I was told about the CamRanger, I knew I had to try it. I contacted the guys at CamRanger who generously provided me a review copy to test out and then send back. I'll also disclaim that they paid me in no way at all (we can't even affiliate link this product), this was purely because I was curious and desperate to improve my tethering situation. Being that me and my iPad are basically an inseparable duo, I was excited to be able to bring it along on shoots and see what it could do when paired with the CamRanger.
Unboxing, Setup, and Installation
The CamRanger comes with some simple instructions, a few cables, a battery, a case, and the unit itself, a rather small, compact white boxy type of thing. Pretty minimal, which I appreciate, seeing as how these days I am lugging more and more gear than ever before.
Setup is an absolute breeze. Download the CamRanger app to your tethering tool of choice (Android, iPhone or iPad) and you'll be prompted to enter serial numbers and connect to the internet. You can quickly set up the CamRanger's WiFi network and connect your device to it, and from there, it's pretty much plug and play.
After the initial setup, all that's required is that you plug the CamRanger into your camera, turn the unit on so that it broadcasts its WiFi signal, and connect to the CamRanger network through your iDevice. Boom. You are shooting tethered. CamRanger will store image previews in a cache on your device, and the actual files will still be written to a CF or SD card as usual. You can limit the size of the cache and you can browse through your card to view previous images if necessary. It's nice that you don't have to worry about filling up your iPad with raw files.
But How Does It Work in The Real World?
I took the CamRanger on a few shoots to test it out and see how it would hold up in the real world. Since I do a lot of compositing and bracketing in my work, I would assume that the CamRanger would make shooting a hell of a lot easier.
And I was right. Not only does the CamRanger function as a remote trigger and enormous LCD for your camera, but it allows you to configure a number of in-camera settings from an off-camera location, if you will. Once you flip on the camera and CamRanger, the CamRanger dangles out of your USB port. It never fell out, but I ended up sticking some velcro to the back and onto my tripod leg to secure it in place. It comes with a pouch to protect it during use and travel which has a carabiner on it, but for some reason Manfrotto, the manufacturer of my (older-ish) tripod, doesn't have a place where I can clip it. I'd imagine that for most everyone with a decent tripod this wouldn't be an issue at all. I'd assume that you could securely clip the bag with the CamRanger in it to a loop on your tripod and you'd be good to go. After that, it's just a matter of opening the CamRanger app and getting to it. I've never had trouble with the app starting up and working immediately - it's bang on ready to go. Just make sure you follow the instructions (I know, hard for males) and connect to the CamRanger's wireless network before you open the app.
As I mentioned earlier, I do a lot of compositing and multiple exposure images. The CamRanger has cut down not only my time on location, but also my time in post for a couple of reasons. Don't underestimate how useful it is to be able to see the results you are creating without having to run back and forth to the LCD to check. This has got to be the most liberating thing ever for the type of work I do. Instead of having to set up one light, chimp to make sure it's right, walk back, set up another light, chimp, set up another light, etc, eight times in a row - I can just do all of this and chimp from where I'm standing instead of walking around back to the camera to check.
Instead of blindly shooting and guessing where my lights are pointed, I can make much more accurate adjustments now that I have the CamRanger in hand. By switching into Live View mode, I can see EXACTLY how I'm adjusting lights and props, and take the shot when I'm ready. You're also able to focus the camera wirelessly in Live View mode which is absolutely the most fascinating thing ever if you ask me. Technology is incredible. Anyway, more accurate lighting and staging means an easier time in post production, especially when I layer and composite my images together. I'd estimate that this has shaved at least 25% off of my post production time, because I'm weeding through less images and I have to do less finagling in Photoshop to get everything to match perfectly.
This would also be great in a studio setting, as well. Imagine shooting products with your camera on a tripod and a multiple light setup. You'd be able to walk around the product and adjust lights without having to circle back around to chimp at the back of the camera or worry about tripping over wires connected to computers as you work. While I'm mentioning studio shooting, I should also add that CamRanger has a focus stacking capability, though I didn't get to try it out because macro photography is as foreign to me as Keira Knightley's bedroom. From my quick research around the internet, however, it appears that people are happy with the feature. I would have loved to try it out, but hell I don't even own a macro lens, and I wouldn't know where to start when it comes to putting that all together. If anyone has experience with the focus stacking function, we would love to hear about it in the comments.
In addition, you're able to put the CamRanger into 'Client Mode' which allows you to control the shooting while you give the client the iPad. This will allow the client to see the images that are created in real time, but they won't be able to accidentally fire the camera or adjust settings because in Client Mode, the CamRanger hides all of those buttons to ensure that the client is just watching and unable to adjust anything. Pretty clever little trick, there.
Because the CamRanger operates over a WiFi signal in order to transmit data and remain cable-free, there are a few details worth noting. If you shoot raw, for example, it will take a couple seconds for the image to be displayed on the iPad screen. One quick and easy workaround is to shoot both raw and small jpeg at the same time (I'm a Canon shooter - not sure how this would work on Nikon). Because the CamRanger uses the file that is recorded to the card and then stores it in a cache, it will pick up the small jpeg file before the raw and display that. When shooting this way, the display of images is more or less instantaneous. I have Aperture set to import only raw files, so they get glossed over on import, and it's like nothing ever happened. The small jpeg files take up almost no space, so it's pretty much a non issue. If you are okay with waiting two seconds for the full raw to load on the CamRanger, this is worth ignoring.
In addition, there is also a range limitation imposed by the WiFi system. It is, more or less, the same range you can expect out of a decent-quality wireless router for your computers. Indoors, I never had a single problem with triggering, but outdoors things got a little dicey around the 100-150ft mark. Line of sight definitely helps, and it's best to not have any walls or trees in the way of the transmitter and your camera. For shooting tethered at these distances you should probably have an assistant anyway. I know I do, so again, it's kind of a non-issue unless you're in some very unique circumstances.
CamRanger also sports an intervalometer, which works quite well for short-term interval shooting. The issue is that if you lose your connection with the CamRanger, the interval shooting will stop, or if you accidentally quit the app, the same thing will happen. Like I said, very neat for short term interval shooting, but for long-term, hour+ situations, I'd rather get a dedicated intervalometer. It's certainly a nice perk, though!
You'll want to be aware of your camera's battery life when using LiveView thru the CamRanger. I wasn't sure if it was the LiveView or the CamRanger that sucked the batteries faster than usual - I'm willing to bet that it was mostly the live view, but don't forget to shut it off if you need to conserve battery life. Live view usually sucks batteries anyway, just something to make note of. I didn't really notice any excess use of battery from the CamRanger one way or another, as my camera's batteries (5d Mark III, 7d, 1d Mark III) all lasted plenty long.
The battery on the CamRanger itself lasts a good deal longer than I expected, too. I recharge it not because it's actually dead, but because I feel like I've gone an abnormally long time without recharging it. I never once ran the thing out of batteries, but I did top it off after a full-day shoot.
So after all that, what do I think?
After bringing the CamRanger along on four or five shoots, I can definitely say that this is something I won't be able to live without. It has made my shooting days less stressful, as I am not lugging around a Pelican with a Macbook in it, I don't have to bring my enormous tethering cart to a shoot anymore, and it is much easier to give to clients to have them follow along than an entire computer. I'm also able to walk around with it and chimp with a remote without having to walk back and double check the camera - like I said, a huge time saver for me.
My one complaint with the unit is that I could not figure out how to use my iPhone (or whatever device) to trigger the camera and then give an iPad to a client. Or trigger it with an iPad and give another iPad to my client, etc etc. It would be so amazing to be able to do both, and I would love to see this included in a future app update. But honestly, other than that one shortcoming, this may well be the best $300 you will spend on a photography product.
It's quite simply a no brainer. CamRanger:
-Makes my shooting more accurate as a result of the instant feedback
-Lets clients see what is going on without the bulk and stress of a computer on set
-Reduces time in post
-Has really cool built in features such as the bracketing, focus stacking function, and intervalometer
-Eliminates stupidly long USB cables from the equation of tethered shooting
-Is easy to use
-Doesn't break down every minute like my computer software (EOS Utility, I'm looking at you)
-It's compatible with basically every DSLR you're likely to use
-The price. Oh my god, the price. $300 for this is such a steal.
If you are looking to get into shooting tethered, this is one hell of a way to do it for cheap. If you already shoot tethered, save yourself a headache and pick up one of these. It will greatly simplify the process for both you and your clients. If you have an assistant, this might replace him or her (and save you some money in the process) plus it won't talk back.
For more information, check out CamRanger's website at www.camranger.com, where you can find more information about supported cameras, supported devices (iPhone and iPad are currently available, with Android support slated for release in Spring 2013) and answers to common questions. To see a few more testimonials and reviews of this product, you can check out their testimonials page, which also goes over a few more ways in which you can use the CamRanger.
Update: Dave, manager at CamRanger, has told us that Android firmware will be available in April 2013.
Actually it's quite pricey because the hardware it a cheap $30 TP-Link router TL-MR11U, with a free custom OpenWrt firmware http://wiki.openwrt.org/toh/tp-link/tl-mr11u and opensource gphoto library for camera connection, so all what's left is a simple webpage hosted on the router for user interface. So If you have some development skills you can make one for yourself for a fraction of the price. In fact this is a good idea for an opensource project :)
I agree! I shared the same thoughts… Two thumbs up! xoxo
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I think I know some of those words
How would you compare this with Capture One?
I was contemplating buying either of them. What i liked about this was "no wires" which is quite awesome and the way you can move around and use it.
What i liked about Capture one was the ability to not just transfer and tether but also process certain part of them. The way you see Joey l using Capture one is quite nice and in that regard i find Capture one better. What do you think?
Mainly in Capture one the biggest advantage being is live processing where you can check exposures there on the laptop immediately instead of testing lights out + apply a certain processing to it so that the moment it is transferred you can see the processed image real time.
Please make one yourself and share it with us
This is really cool. Nice review. Buying this. It looks like Tether Tools adds a free Mighty Mount the CamRanger if you can't clip to a tripod - http://www.shop.tethertools.com/CamRanger-Wireless-Tethering-System-CR10...
my 6D does all of this already
You can tether wirelessly to your ipad?
I still like the super-cheap eye-fi; works great in my 5D Mark III because I can record RAW to the CF and smaller & faster JPGs to the eye-fi. For my work (commercial/stock) I'm always at the camera, anyway, and all I really need is the bigger LCD of a laptop or tablet to check sharpness and allow an art director to review the pics and provide instant feedback.
Check out the Wi-Fi in the 6D when you get the chance. It has a ton of potential, and there's nothing extra to charge/carry/connect, but right now, the EOS apps are awful.
My dream is to have a tethering system that combines monitoring and camera control with lighting control, so you could easily dial up or down power on lights right from a laptop, and take another test shot to preview the results. Would just make everything quicker.
I think Elinchrome has something like that actually. It might just be flashes though. But with dual screens you could easily just tether the camera like you normally would.
Alien Bees Commander unit is the bees knees for lighting set up , control up to 16 heads for output and also is a great little exposure meter too. I use the Commander and absolutely going to get a Camranger unit. I will use it with a 10 inch Galaxy Android as a dual purpose portfolio and Canon capture controller.
Profoto has it as well, control from a laptop.
The eye-fi solution doesn't allow you to use live view. You can only view the results of photos you have taken. The author of the article points out that the advantage of viewing adjustments live is what is saving him time.
Glad you found something so helpful to you, Mike, and that your real estate clients don't mind you taking up to an hour per shot onset. It's disappointing the CamRanger won't support an operator and client display concurrently. But the Pocket Wizard Mini/Flex system, the Canon 600EX-RT flash, or even using a master/slave setup in the Canon system, more primitively, all permit chimping of at least 3 individual flash power zones from the back of the camera without walking to the flash or having an assistant. And you can tether quite reliably from Aperture. And a lot of the feature set you describe is an overlap with the Promote controller, although better.
I don't really shoot real estate anymore, all of the above shoots were either for architects, interior designers, or contractors. 8-10 pics a day is pretty standard there.
While I love and use the AC3/Flex system on a regular basis, no client is going to want to chimp on the back of your camera's 3inch LCD. The iPad/CamRanger is intuitive, simple, and not intimidating for clients in any way, which is the real reason I got this. The rest is just icing on the cake.
And lastly, Aperture doesn't let you adjust camera settings from the computer. Touching the camera in any way is a death sentence when compositing, so that's a non-starter unfortunately.
And of course with the PromoteController you can't really see what you're doing on an iPad, the coolest part!
I still hold that if you're already shooting tethered and looking to improve the situation and remove headaches from it, this is the easiest way to do that.
Mike's totally right here, I also use the AC3/Flex system whether I'm shooting real estate or for architects/designers. But the ability to view the images large screen to evaluate the lighting, show to clients for staging, and to set up those top-of-ladder or against the wall shots, is immeasurable for only $300. I too hate lugging my super expensive lap top around for client previews.
And yes, compositing is hell if you have to somehow reach up and try and gently change a control on the camera.
So I'm curious how reliability compares to something like the Eye-Fi... which I've had terrible experiences with in conjunction with an iPad and ShutterSnitch.
I have also used an Eye-Fi card and found the CamRanger to be much more reliable. I have little to no tolerance for things not working on a shoot...eye-fi sorta let me down there.
It is pricey. $200 would be more reasonable. It is surprising that no one has done this as a package before. It offers a wireless solution that Eye-FI could never seem to. I found Eye-Fi very unreliable to the point that it was unusable. Glad to hear it actually works and seems to work well. Maybe $300 isn't too much, because I can see myself buying it. Although if I am patient I bet competition will make the price go down in the next few months.
I have bought the CamRanger and come to the opposite conclusion that regular USB tethering with good SW such as Breeze Systems DSLR Remote or Capture One is far superior for any stationary work. The only time the CamRanger becomes a better option is when the camera has to be 10'+ away from the tablet or laptop. The speed, immediate full display of every image, real backup to the laptop, and full camera control of regular USB tethering is much better. I can shoot and display 3-4 images on my laptop in the time it takes the CR to display the thumbnail, select, and download the full image.
The cool factor of wireless and tablets is great, but there is so much more functionality with other existing options.
Other options such as Capture Pilot. Have you tried it with C1?
Do you have auto-display of images enabled? I did not have the same experience. I never have to browse or select an image to display, they pop up automatically.
It turns out I did not have auto display enabled and it does work, but it takes 5.5 to 6 seconds per image to appear on the screen. I'm surprised its not enabled by default.
Hey..I got the tplink. Is it the same with camranger??
Wireless transmition of images has been around for quite sometime now. There's a reason why it's not used in a commercial environment. Is this CamRanger also processing your RAW files? I would only trust Phase One's Capture1 for such a thing. I also shoot architectural and never had a problem shooting tethered, If I need extra length on my cable I simply get a repeater, transfer of files to your HD is far more fast and secure.
No. It does not process raw files, just stores a preview in a cache. Files are still written to your camera's card.
doesn't this also disable the rear LCD display? Most tethering modes do in cameras...this looks like mostly a usb-wifi transceiver w/ software at the other end...
No it does not affect the LCD display.
For certain cameras it does, at least according to the mfr's website. The D800, for example, is footnoted as having the LCD Display go off when using this product.
Mike, I'll text you some iPhone photos I took of Keira Knightley's bedroom recently, not bad ;)
Great review! I was just searching for remote camera apps for my android S3 earlier today. Already ordered a $3 USB dongle for an $8 app that will do full remote of canon cameras, but it's tethered. Also came across a similar "free" app that works over bluetooth, but you need to buy ($120) or build your own bluetooth camera connector. I'll keep the CamRanger in mind for the future.
Just a fair warning here - the rant below is directed toward the professionals commenting above. A hobby shooter should never feel any pressure to perform at or above any particular standard, and I would never rail on about how they select gear. Shooting for pure pleasure should have no rules, no standards, and no crackpots like me weighing in. This is going to be a pro-only rant.
I'm baffled by comments suggesting that the eye-fi cards or a hard-wire tether is anywhere near the level of the CamRanger. Working on different locations from day to day, and earning a living by meeting extreme client demands and beating out the low-budget shooters requires not only a polished appearance, but quick work, and near-superhuman adaptability in production.For about $700, you can use a Nikon WT-4A (or newer) along with a notebook and the crappy Nikon software that doesn't allow you to save images to the CF cards.Want to just SEE the images? Same hardware, but take out the notebook and drop in an iPad with Shuttersnitch loaded.Of course, if your goal is to annoy your high-end clients, and look like a fool every time your low-budget solution fails, try a nice eye-fi card, or any of the current Nikon or Canon transmitters and apps. There's nothing that screams "Rookie" like a piece of garbage techno-toy that crashes, or loses the connection every few shots.Want to really get the job done? Cough up $300 bucks for the CamRanger. Sure, it's a cheap wireless router with a little creative firmware. Yes, the app is good, but nothing special (in terms of programming), but if you don't have to create it, then suck it up and PAY FOR IT.Let's see... I can trigger the shutter. (Saved on a couple of PW's there). I can adjust most of the camera settings from a few hundred feet. I can manually adjust my strobes while getting a preview image AND taking the next shot, without ever moving an inch. Ooh, now we're taking time savings. Heck, I can send a PA to one strobe, plant myself at another, and adjust two lights and the camera without walking around! What's that? I can get a histogram too? Bonus!Ok, maybe the reliability, ease of use, quick setup, long battery life, professional feel, broad utility, and fairly low price aren't good enough for you. I'm ok with that. In fact, if you are in my local market, and using a DIY solution, or anything released by Canon or Nikon for remote operation, PLEASE accept my thanks. you are just making me look good. Thank you in advance for making it easier for me to relieve you of your clients.
Yes-it does clearly work better much more reliably than any other wireless product. But the full functionality of a tethered laptop is a better solution for my clients. The laptop provides faster speed, larger screen, full editing tools, a backup of all files, and immediate delivery to the client in any format.
iPads are fun and trendy, but if I have to pull out my laptop anyways to complete the job, then it is not the best tool.
Why bother commenting if this article doesn't relate to you? You obviously have very specific needs, so there's no need in bashing this solution which would, and is, a god-send to some photographers out there.
This plus my Paul C Buff Cybersyncs would be epic. I could stage a set, adjust my lights and tweak furniture and whatever else is required all by myself in 1/3rd the time, especially when racing against the sun.
Imagine if CamRanger made a win/mac program too and you could use this with wifi from your laptop - wouldn't that change the game for you substantially also?
The article does relate to me, I purchased the CamRanger and used it on a few shoots before realizing it was not the right tool for me. Participating in this forum is about sharing experiences, right? Of is it just blindly supporting blog posts?
Great review, just ordered it!
Yep ..... mine is on the desk just waiting for a Tether Tools Rail for it and a PW. Tried it out briefly worked flawlessly. If you earn a living shooting interiors this is going to be invaluable. If you spend most of your time here making snarky un-informed comments then you Program Mode is all you will ever need.
The Price is just where it needs to be. I even guessed what it was going to cost before it was announced. People need to stop complaining about the price for a device that cuts down any hard work, or difficult work. It's a tremendous help to all.
Can someone please explain why the same functionality can not be achieved with a simple cable and app?
This thing looks great and I'd love to tether to my iPad but I don't really need it to be wireless.
(BTW.. I'm shooting a D800)
It can be achieved, wireless is just an option which can make your life much easier. If you are on android then you can use DSLRController app with just usb cable (and converter).
I can see where this device will not only save time but energy, both of which equate to the bottom line. $400 device its a no brainer for a full time professional. I can also see some great options for cinema projects when on the move on locations.
Rob Spence -- a cable tether can only be so long before it gets impractical. Mike is often working with lights that are as much as a hundred feet away from the camera, and among furniture and complex architecture. He can use Cam Ranger to operate the camera and preview the images without trekking back and forth. For a photographer working solo, this is really useful.
What i think is, they use the same hardware from TP link portable router then develop the software.
So what i now thinking is that, can we use their software and TP link hardware?anyone tried?
I think this is a funny question!
It would be the same as somebody would use your photos, selling them and not asking for your permission or license.
Please respect the creative work of a programmer like you probably wanna your creaitve work being respected as a photographer!!
Sorry for my poor english, but I think you can get the point!?
For Canon cameras, try this Android app: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=eu.chainfire.dslrcontroller
I use this and it works very well for me in my studio.