I came across an interesting looking app in the app store called Photosmith. It’s described as “the iPad mobile companion for Adobe Lightroom®”. At €14.49, it was quite an expensive app, but since I’m interested in all types of tethering, especially those that go with my camera and software I’ve already purchased, such as Lightroom 3. The only piece of hardware that I was missing was the iPad Camera Connection kit, so I went into my local Apple store and picked one up for €29.
The iPad Camera Connection kit gives you two dongles, one with a slot for an SD card, and the other with a USB connector, for direct connection to your camera via USB cable.
The initial thing I discovered (I have a habit of reading the manual after I’ve tried things out), was that this is not really a tethering solution. It’s more of a backup of the images on your camera, which you can then go through, categories, apply ratings, keywords, etc, then later import into lightroom. There is no option to send direct to the iPad as your shooting. I was kinda disappointed at that.
Also, the other similar application I have on the iPad, called Shuttersnitch, only works wirelessly, not over the USB cable, so does not work with the Camera Connection Kit. Now there’s something for either team of developers to look at, proper tethering via USB cable. There’s several reasons why this would be a good idea.
- A WFT-E4 wireless grip for my Canon EOS5DII is phenomenally expensive.
- Eye-Fi with any Compact Flash based camera is notoriously difficult to get working, I’m still trying to find a suitable CF-SD adapter so my Eye-Fi X2 Pro will work in my 5DII.
- Large RAW files transfer MUCH more quickly over USB cable, so if your in the habit of shooting your subjects in burst mode, that kinds rules out Wifi tethering.
Anyway, the general mode of operation is as follows:
- Take bunch of pictures.
- Connect your camera to the iPad via the USB cable and the Camera Connection Kit.
- The iPad photo app will kick off and ask you which images you want to import. Import your selected images.
- THEN, you start up Photosmith. You can browse through your imported images, tagging, rating, assigning colour codes, etc. just like Lightroom.
- Once you get back to your PC you can then import the images using the Import wizard in lightroom to get the images from your iPad to your PC/Mac.
- All the ratings are imported along with the imported images.
One thing I found is that the default connection method is wifi. This takes absolutely AGES when working with RAW files that are up to 30Mb each. So slow in fact, that I almost gave up at that stage. But I persisted, and found an “advanced import” method where you connect your iPad via USB, import the images into lightroom with the normal method, then use the Photosmith sync to get the ratings metadata. 3 seconds per image as opposed to 30. And the metadata was applied to the correct files even though they were imported via an alternative method to the Photosmith sync.
So while it’s not a tethering solution, it’s a great way of having a backup of your images in the field. Even if you were only to sync your camera to your iPad every few dozen images or so, you’ll have a backup on the iPad in case of flash card disaster. And, if you’ve got your images on the iPad, you can categorise them and tag them as you shoot in the field, or on the trip home, which will save you some time when you get back to your main post-processing computer.
Now that I have it, and have sorted out the “advanced import” option, it’s certainly a usable and useful addition to my list of iPad photography apps, and makes the iPad more useful in the field. If only there was an option to display images as you shoot them!