wifi

Using the Canon W-E1 wifi adapter

When Canon announced the W-E1 wifi adapter for the EOS7D MkII and the EOS5S and 5SR I was decidedly underwhelmed for two reasons;

  • The first was that it was not backwards compatible with the two EOS5D MkIII bodies that I had at the time.
  • The second was that it took away the ability to record to two cards when it was in use.

At the time I couldn’t see any advantage over any of the SD based transmitters from Eye-Fi or Toshiba amongst others. I didn’t buy one and I couldn’t see myself buying one either.

Fast forward ten months and my need to use remote cameras controlled by an iOS devices has grown and I only had one – the wonderfully simple Canon EOS6D. I didn’t want to use either of the EOS5D MkIV bodies as a remote and so I bought the W-E1 adapter to use in my EOS7D MkII.

I know that having used all sorts of wireless devices with all sorts of Canons probably made this dead easy for me but from taking the SD card out of the packaging I was up and running in under five minutes. Put simply, this device is really easy to use. It doesn’t do very much – it just allows you to browse the images on the camera’s Compact Flash (CF) card or to control the camera from your phone, tablet or computer. I got it working, clamped the camera in place, walked away and started taking pictures. Easy. I don’t think that it will be in the camera every time I use it – my love of having the files written to both memory cards easily trumps the need to be able to use the W-E1’s wireless functions most of the time but it will live in the bag with the 7D MkII at all times.

Shot using Canon EOS7D MkII camera remotely controlled via a smartphone app and then downloaded to the phone before being edited using the FSN Pro app and uploaded to Dropbox direct from the phone. © Neil Turner, May 2017

The thing about owning and using all of the various wireless options is that I find myself doing more and more work where getting images away quickly as well as shooting remotely. Versatility has gone from being a useful day-to-day option to being an absolute necessity. Spending yet another £40.00 inc VAT to give me more options hurts but, less than two hours after buying the accessory, it has pretty much paid for itself.

EOS5D Mark IV Update

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A few weeks ago I wrote on this blog about the wifi potential of the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and I have been using three of its functions pretty heavily on jobs over the intervening period. It wasn’t hard to learn all about the system having used a number of different wireless systems over the last three or four years and my first impressions were very favourable. There are definitely one or two changes that I’d like to see Canon make (preferably in a firmware update) but the system has been remarkably stable and reliable. It’s wireless which means that there will be glitches but I’d stick my neck out here and say that this is the best wifi that I’ve used given that 1) it is built-in and 2) doesn’t require any extra gadgets or adapters.

Today is Armistice Day – the anniversary of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month when the guns finally fell silent at the end of the Great War in 1918. I had no jobs on and so I took myself down to the War Memorial in the centre of the town where I was born to pay my respects and to give the wireless on the Mark IV a real world test that I could actually share with you. I have a server set up at my house ready to receive images transmitted via FTP (File Transfer Protocol) – which is the preferred image transmission system of most newspapers and agencies. For the purposes of this test I was sending to myself but it could equally have been to any third party with an FTP set up. I decided to use my Apple iPhone 7 with the Personal Hotspot function enabled as my network and I timed how long it took to set up each camera to transmit using the phone back to my server. The first camera (thanks largely to the Mark IV touchscreen) took just under two minutes and the second camera about ten seconds less.

This is where I would like Canon to make a firmware change: on the EOS1DX and EOS1DX Mark II you can set up one camera, save the settings to a memory card and load them into other cameras. There is no facility (yet?) on the 5D series cameras to do this. I’m sure that it is to help distinguish between the top-of-the-range 1 series and the much cheaper 5 series but I’m pretty sure that nobody will make a purchasing decision based on this. And whilst we are at it, only being able to store three sets of settings is a bit mean. The original 1DX had five, as do the 5D Mark III, 5DR, 5DRS and 7D Mark II when used with the WFT-E7 transmitter whilst the 1DX Mark II has twenty – as do various Nikon cameras.

This was never going to be a full-on coverage of this low-key event. I wasn’t on commission and I didn’t want to be intrusive and so I just took a few pictures with two cameras and two lenses and uploaded eight as I shot and selected them from the back of the camera. I have the 5D Mark IVs set up to write RAW files to the CF card in slot one and medium sized JPEG files to the SD card in slot two. I selected from the SD card and transmitted the pictures as I went and each picture went in about ten seconds. I had Photo Mechanic running on the server and it added a basic pre-prepared caption to the files before saving them to another folder which in turn synched them to Dropbox. I could have set the system up to do any one of a thousand tasks – ranging from renaming files to distribution which are amongst the options that I use a lot of the time on paid jobs.

I used the Transmit app on the phone to check that the images had arrived and could then have shared them with anyone via FTP or via a Dropbox link generated in the iPhone’s Dropbox app but this was just a trial. Having the images on Dropbox also means that I can grab them onto the phone to use for social media but on this occasion I swapped the wifi function to send one picture to my phone from the camera. It takes less than a minute to swap to this function and, having rated the picture I wanted as a one star, I quickly added the selected image to the phone using Canon’s own Camera Connect app. A lot of people use Shuttersnitch to do this and I am trying my best to learn how to best use that app but for now I use the Canon app to transfer the file and Photogene 4 to edit and caption it. All done in under two minutes and uploaded to Twitter in another thirty seconds. Easy.

The annoying part of this process using the iPhone (or iPad) is Apple’s insistance on renaming files with an “img_” prefix when the cameras are set up to use a personalised prefix. Please Apple, if you see this, give us the option to NOT rename files.

One of these days I am going to make a short video about how to set up one of these cameras quickly and another about how the iPhone workflow works for me. For now I am very happy with this  improved set-up and would love Canon to make the firmware changes that I suggested above.

Just a couple of other points that I’d like to add:

  • The Mark IV appears to require less sharpening than the Mark III. No idea why yet but I seem to be on about 60% of the amount and getting great results.
  • The Anti-flicker on the Mark IV is superb. I will blog about this one day soon when I have some samples that I’m allowed to share on here. It made me look again at the anti-flicker on my 7D Mark II which is also pretty good.
  • The new button on the back of the camera which I’ve customised to allow me to adjust metering patterns on the fly is a really welcome addition. They have used a different switch to the one on the 7D Mark II which does much the same job and I marginally prefer the one on the 5D Mark IV.
  • The touchscreen is so much better than I had expected and I have become so accustomed to it that using a Mark III the other day felt old-fashioned.
  • It’s a shame that there’s still no lock on the diopter correction wheel though.

So all-in-all I am delighted with the Mark IVs. I’d be grateful if Canon could just make those small tweaks that I have mentioned above and I’d be really grateful if they could make the latest version of their EOS Utility software compatible with Mac OSX Sierra too.

 

Getting pictures away quickly

Getting photographs to the client has always been one of the less glamorous aspects of being a professional photographer. From sticking a pile of prints into an envelope and handing them to a courier to scanning negatives before using clunky slow modems to deliver them right up until today’s relatively painless methods nobody in their right mind would list this part of the process as either satisfying or easy.

The arrival of social media and the realisation amongst better clients that using our work rather than their own smartphone snaps has meant that we have had to speed things up a lot. I’ve always liked Eye-Fi cards but more recently I have been working with clients and with projects where something even more reliable and configurable is required. The worst part of it is that there isn’t actually one simple solution or workflow that will satisfy all of them in all circumstances. For a lot of jobs transferring the pictures from the camera to a smartphone or tablet before captioning and shifting them to the client is quick enough and I’ve written about that workflow before. New software appears all of the time and I am always looking at ways to make things smarter and quicker by introducing some automation and cutting steps out.

Live Ingest window from Photo Mechanic 5.

Live Ingest window from Photo Mechanic 5.

I have other ways to get pictures to my clients. For example, I was shooting a whole bunch of corporate head-shots at a conference recently and the client wanted them straight away for various social media and powerpoint uses. We needed to work out the best method for both of us and their AV people mentioned that a shared Dropbox folder would suit their needs best. Working backwards from there I decided to use my Canon EOS6D camera which has some built in wireless networking and set it up to send medium resolution Jpegs to one of my laptops sitting in the conference centre. That’s easy enough to do using Canon’s own EOS Utility software. I had Photo Mechanic running on the laptop with a “Live Ingest” watching the folder where the Jpegs were arriving. The ingest added a basic caption and my details as well as the accurate time before copying the files to pre-shared Dropbox folders where the client, their social media team and the audio visual technicians could do what they needed to do with them. Somebody else was then re-naming the files with the subject’s name and everyone was very happy.

That’s one solution but it wouldn’t necessarily work for other clients. Another recent case needed a different idea. I needed to supply very rapid pictures to the client’s FTP address from the camera. This made captioning much harder and between us we agreed that for social media use they only needed relatively small files and that speed was more important than anything else. Later in the day I would have time to process and properly caption the RAW files and so I set up the 5D MkIII to shoot RAW to the CF card and medium compressed Jpegs to the SD card.

Whilst the Eye-Fi ProX2 can send pictures over FTP I went with Canon’s own wifi transmitter the WFT-E7 for several reasons, not the least of which is that it gives you proper feedback when the file has been transferred. I also made sure that the playback on the camera screen was set to card 2 (the SD card) which makes selection and sending from the camera a lot easier. On this occasion I used my own 4G Mifi unit to do all of the transfers as I was in an area with brilliant 4G signals and there wasn’t much network congestion as everyone else in the place seemed to be using the free wifi. It takes about five minutes using the built-in wizard in the camera to set up a new connection and we tested the system ahead of the event. The idea was simple – every time there was a lull in the event, I would quickly scroll back through the recent pictures and use the ‘set’ button on the camera to transmit the chosen Jpegs to the client’s server and into a pre-designated folder on the server. If it became too busy to make selections I could simply switch to sending every single file. The system worked pretty much flawlessly all day and the battery on the WFT-E7 was still at 66% after five hours use. I did not have to resort to sending everything – much to everyone’s great relief!

Other professional cameras have their own dedicated wifi transmitters but some of them kill the camera’s own batteries. That is definitely the case with the EOS6D – battery drain is huge and you need to make sure that you have plenty of spares with you. Over the last couple of years I have worked with half a dozen different cameras and their accompanying transmitters – from Nikon, Canon and Fujifilm – as well as trying most of the aftermarket options from SD cards to the rather impressive Camranger. I really like the Canon WFT-E7 even if it is a bit cumbersome when attached to the bottom of the camera and so I tend to use it on a longish cable with the unit on my belt or in a pocket.

There’s one other technique that I use from time to time and it is probably the most reliable of all and that is to connect the camera to the laptop and share the pictures that way. When there is a choice between a bit of cable or a wireless connection I will always use the bit of cable because it is less prone to interference. It means that it becomes harder to move around but a cable from the camera into a laptop running with the lid closed inside a small rucksack is sometimes the way to go. Getting an Apple laptop to keep working with the lid closed requires some third party software and I’ve found InsomniaX to be very good for this specific job. The laptop battery takes a bit of a hit but it is otherwise a reliable way to go. This isn’t a particularly elegant solution but it is one of the many solutions that I have at my disposal.

Having many ways to achieve similar goals means that I can satisfy a range of clients by tailoring my service to their needs. Some days I don’t need to supply pictures quickly but those days appear to be getting fewer and further between. There’s so much more to this whole topic than I have space for here such as being able to verify which files have arrived safely and having the ability to back up remotely as you work. The worst part is that I am starting to find this whole topic interesting or even satisfying which, according to the opening paragraph makes me someone not in their right mind!

Reliance on the internet

As photographers we have got used to using a range of web-based technologies to deliver our work to our clients. Most of the time it works and nobody notices how amazing these technologies are. Over the years we have come to expect more and more in terms of bandwidth and speed and we have come to rely on getting good connections to easily accomplish what would have been regarded as time-sensitive alchemy only a few years ago.

On an overseas job last week the client wanted a lot of high resolution Jpegs delivered to them very quickly and their chosen method was WeTransfer. It’s a very good and reliable system in itself but it depends on a half decent internet connection. Sadly we didn’t get that connection and out of sheer frustration I did these screen grabs:

wetransfer

Yes that’s right: one million, two hundred and one thousand, seven hundred and thirty hours to complete a transfer that should have taken about half an hour on a half decent network. In case you are interested that is fifty thousand and seventy-two days or one hundred and thirty-seven years and sixty-five days. A bit slow. The second screen grab says less than a minute but that was also wildly inaccurate as no further data moved.

In the end I had to abandon the ethernet and wifi networks that the client had arranged for us to use and head outside where I could pick up a great 4G mobile signal by tethering to my iPhone and use my roaming package to send the pictures – which took about 44 minutes (by then I had 1.2Gb of pictures). The point here is that now we have come to reply on the internet for almost all of our image delivery it has become crucial that we have multiple ways of connecting to the internet.

Eye-Fi card workflow

eye-fi_cards When I was rounding up 2013 I mentioned that I had a lot of success using an Eye-Fi card to wirelessly transmit pictures from my cameras (Canon EOS5D MkIII and Fujifilm X20) to either my iPhone, iPad or laptop where I can do a quick edit and caption before sending them to clients. Inevitably I got a couple of emails using the “ask me anything” feature of this blog asking me to describe my workflow. It is similar between an EOS5D MkIII and the Fujifilm X20 except that the former has twin card slots (one CF compact flash and one SD secure digital) whereas the latter only has the SD slot. I like to shoot RAW which means that in the X20 I have to do an in-camera RAW conversion to create a Jpeg to send out. I have two cards (shown left) – an Eye-Fi branded 8Gb Pro X2 and a Sandisk branded 4Gb one. In practice, they both do much the same job but the orange Eye-Fi one has more options should you want to work differently. Without further ado, here is how it all works on the Canon…

Getting the the settings on the card, your camera and your phone/tablet/computer right is the key to getting everything working well:

  1. Setting up the Eye-Fi card. When you get the card it should come with an SD card reader and by far the best way to set things up is to use that reader to load the card into a computer. There are lots of options that will appear once you have loaded the supplied “Eye-Fi Centre” application. This workflow is all about working in what the manufacturer calls “direct mode”. I choose to only transfer the files I want to my iPhone and so on the card I have selected “Selective Transfer” via the Eye-Fi Centre application. This means that only images that I have protected in the camera menu get transferred. On the Canon I have assigned the “rate” button to protect images for speed. It is also useful to add a couple of wifi networks and to define which file formats to transfer using the application whilst the card is in the computer because it isn’t possible to alter some settings once the card is in the camera. This whole process takes a few minutes and if you get it right, the whole thing test a lot easier from here on in.eye-fi_screenshot
  2. Setting up the camera. In the EOS5D MkIII menu there are three things that I’d recommend you do. The first is to assign the “rate” button to protect selected images. The second is to get the camera to write RAW files to the CF card and medium size Jpegs to the SD (Eye-Fi) card. Finally, you need to enable Eye-Fi transfer from the camera menu. This way you can use the review function with card 2 (the SD slot) and then every time you protect an image written to the Eye-Fi card it will automatically look to transfer that file to the device you have nominated.
    eos_screens
  3. The receiving device. I use an iPhone and an iPad and the whole process is eventually controlled by the free app that Eye-Fi make available through the Apple App Store. There are equally useful apps available for Android powered devices and the functionality is pretty much identical. Apart from loading the app the only other thing you have to do is to download and authorise a small change to your wifi settings on your phone which simply installs the settings for the direct mode to work. Once you launch the app you get an opening window which then gives way to the gallery window which in turn tells you what is happening about transfers. Below you can see the card paring screen and the gallery screen.eye_fi_phone
  4. Editing your pictures. Once you have the image on your phone or tablet you can then use the apps of your choice to edit and caption your image before shifting them on. My personal favourite is Photogene4 which has some good image options such as clarity, contrast, saturation, straighten, crop, sharpen and the ability to add IPTC captions – including defaults such as the EXIF time day and date as well as any pre-loaded captions and copyright information. I find that it’s a good idea to write some generic captions using Apple’s Notes app and then copy and paste them into Photogene4. The app also has the option to upload to a wide range of sharing sites as well as to email and ransomer images to FTP servers – making it really useful for work.photogene
    From shooting a frame to having it uploaded to my own FTP server normally takes twenty to thirty seconds if there is a good phone signal and the various uses that I’ve found for this rapid upload range from offering images to people I’ve photographed to providing almost instant pictures for corporate clients to use for their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds at events. This is a very versatile piece of kit and I haven’t even come close to describing everything that it can do. I like the way that this workflow actually does flow and I love the effect that it has had on a couple of clients who really appreciate what it offers them. My first Eye-Fi card was £24.99 including VAT – possibly the best investment that I’ve ever made!