Tag Archives: wireless

Tri-Flash Update

I just thought I’d post a quick update on my tri-flash setup, since I just took delivery of three high-voltage battery packs for the three 540EZ strobes I use in the setup. So, using a bit of duct-tape (or duck-tape, depending on where you’re from), I strapped ‘em onto the light stand and hooked ‘em up.

_MG_6879

Of course, that needs a lot of batteries, so I sourced some bulk 3000 mAh NiMh batteries from eBay for about €25:

_MG_6875

So, that now gives me about 400Ws of power when the three strobes are set to full power, and a recycle time of about 2.5 seconds. And when I drop the power to 1/8 on each strobe, they can keep up with continuous shooting mode of 3.9 frames/sec on my 5D MkII. Kewl, eh? ;)

 

—edit—

The eBay batteries turned out to be total garbage. Compared them to some Aldi 2300 mAh. Aldi batteries were able to drive a 1.2W bulb at 500mA for over 3 hours. The “3000″ mAh eBay batteries lasted just over an hour. So the 3000 mAh rating is a deception. They’re waaaaay down on that, closer to 800mAh! I’ll be in contact with the eBay seller as soon as I’ve got the graphs done of comparisons against a couple of brands of 2300 mAh batteries. Yes, I’m a nerd.

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Eye-Fi Wireless SD card

I recently got my hands on a very clever little device (and it IS very little) calle the Eye-Fi X2 Pro 8GB SD card. What this looks like is a standard SD memory card that slots into your digital camera. What’s clever about it is that it contains Wifi functionality that will wireless transmit your pictures from the camera as you take them. It’s amazing that they can pack that much functionality into a package that small.

The EyeFi X2 Pro cost $99 in Best Buy, and comes with it’s own SD to USB adapter, which is used to plug the card into your PC/Mac for initial configuration. This was all very straightforward, and the software installed easily. However, before I started configuring the card, it was prompting me to update the card’s firmware. After dozens of attempts (with “Firmware Update Failed” errors), I gave up and attempted to configure the card in “direct” mode, only to be told that this particular feature requires the latest firmware. So, I persisted with the firmware update, installed the Eye-Fi software onto another computer, and this time the firmware update worked flawlessly. I was then able to configure the Eye-Fi card in direct mode.

I guess I’d better explain what direct mode actually is. Normally, Wifi networks work around what’s called an “access point”. This access point is the centre of the wifi network, and all clients connect into this. So, if you’ve several laptops and desktops connecteded wirelessly, they all connect in to the central access point(s), and it’s this access point that allows the clients (laptops/desktops) to talk to each other.

It’s quite common that  Wifi hardware can only function in client mode, in that they need an access point  in order to connect to a network. Some wireless cards have extra functionality that allows them to BECOME the access point, allowing them to form their own wireless mini-network. This is the case with the new Eye-Fi cards (and the new iPhone 4, with it’s personal hotspot feature). The folks at Eye-Fi call this “Direct Mode”, so you can then have another device connect directly to it without the need for a separate access point. This is important when you’re out in the field (or even out in an actual field), and there’s no power, and no wifi network available, AND it cuts down on the hardware needed. All you need is your camera with it’s Eye-Fi, set the Eye-Fi into direct mode, and associate your client device to the network created by the Eye-Fi. I’ve used an iPad with an app called “Shuttersnitch” running on it.

So, Once I switch on my camera, a few seconds later the new wireless network appears. I then go into the settings on my iPad, and associate to the Eye-Fi wireless network. Then when I run Shuttersnitch, it will wait for incoming images from the camera.
I’ve only tested this so far with a 7megapixel compact camera, I forgot to order a SD-CF adapter for my Canon 5d MarkII which takes Compact Flash memory cards, and it needs this adapter before I can insert the Eye-Fi card. With the 2mb files from the compact camera, transfers only took a couple of seconds. It’ll be a bit longer for the 5-15mb files from the 5DmkII. I guess I can always set the jpeg size to small for faster transfers/previews.

A feature of the X2 Pro version of the Eye-Fi is that it can be configured to transmit RAW files as well as JPEGs. This is fine if you’ve got a minute between shots, but for typcial uses I’d see people sticking to the small or medium JPEG option. If you’re in the habit of shooting several shots continuously, then you’d probably be better sticking to the smallest JPEG option, and let the full size RAWs stay on the card.

I realise the effective range will be reduced when I insert the Eye-Fi into a SD-CF adapter, but I’ll comment on that when the adapter arrives (it’s in the post at the moment). More to follow when that arrives….

Update:

Well, It’s now about 3 months since I initially got the Eye-Fi. Three CF adapters later, and I’ve finally found one that works with the Pro X2. It’s a D-Lock. I initially had the one shown above, then I ordered a PhotoFast CR-7000 because it was marked as UDMA, but that did not work either. I finally order a D-Lock adapter, and it works. So, I should have researched it properly. At least now it works. Well, works partially. When I use it live on a shoot, I find it too hit-and-miss. Far too unreliable for me to use in a real environment. So I’m going to sell on eBay.  I’ll stick with cable for now.

“You can learn from my mistakes!” :)

 

 

References:
Eye-Fi website –  http://uk.eye.fi
Shuttersnitch website - http://www.shuttersnitch.com


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Real-Time Photo Reviewing (Tethered Shooting)

I recently did a shoot where I was shooting macro shots of precious gems. Each shot needed to be reviewed for focus, clarity, dust spots, etc before moving on to the next gem. The preview screen at the  back of my Canon EOS 5D Mark II is normally a great screen, but just didnt cut it in this situation, when more than one person needs to look at an image to approve it or bin it. I needed to be able to get the images onto a full screen device quickly for preview. So, I looked into various forms of previewing images on a full screen device (PC, laptop) as they are being taken, from card swapping to usb tethering, to wireless tethering. Here’s the list, followed by a description of each method with the pros and cons of each.

  1. Card Swapping – The manual method of taking the card out of the camera, etc.
  2. USB (as external drive) – plugging in a usb cable to download images
  3. USB (using EOS Utility) – Automatic download and preview of images as they are taken
  4. Eye-Fi – (Not currently supported for Compact Flash based cameras, but worth mentioning)
  5. Canon WFT-E4 Wireless Grip – Full wireless tethering with WiFi

1. Card Swapping This option is not really tethering at all, and simply involves taking the Compact Flash card out of the camera, inserting it into a Card reader on the PC, uploading the images, and reviewing them that way. Pros: No cost. (apart from when you wear out your CF slot in your camera) :) Cons: Slow and work intensive. Lots of interruptions to workflow.

2. USB (as external drive). This option is not much better than option 1. It involves plugging a usb cable into the camera, and downloading the images onto a PC, where they can then be previewed. Also not a good option when you consider option 3 is enabled by installing some free software that comes with the camera.

Pros: Cheap, only USB cable needed. Only camera drivers needed on the PC

Cons: Repeated insertions of the usb cable into the camera. Camera cannot be used while it’s mounted as an external drive on the PC.

3. USB (using EOS Utility)
Now we’re getting into the useful area of genuine tethering. This method uses the EOS Utility that comes with the camera, and allows the camera to be used while taking images, and each image is sent to the PC as it is taken, allowing full-screen viewing of the image as they arrive at the PC. The EOS utility can be configured to open each image as it is received. I’ve set up my PC to open up Adone Bridge CS5 upon receipt of a new image, and we quickly zoom into 100% and scroll around the image to see if it’s ok or not. A full RAW file transfers and opens in Bridge in about 3 seconds. To be honest, I don’t see why anyone would use any of the previous options, when this software comes free with the Camera.

Pros: Cheap, fast.

Cons: Cable permanently attached from camera to PC.

4. Eye-Fi

This is a cheap method of wireless tethering. The Eye-Fi is a SD card that has embedded Wifi functionality, and can be configured to send all files written to the card to an external PC. By inserting this SD card into a SD to Compact Flash adapter, some success has been had in using one of these devices in some cameras. The pro’s and con’s are based on the assumption that it does actually work, but currently, these cards are not supported on Compact Flash based cameras, according to the eye.fi website.

Pros: Full wireless tethering, no bulky cables.  Cheaper than a WFT-E4 (covered in next section)

Cons: Limited range due to SD-CF adapter, Slow (30-60 seconds for each raw file to get to the PC). Not supported on CF based cameras.

5. Canon WFT-E4 Wireless Grip
The Pros choice. Full wireless tethering with a range of extra options.  Full raws transferred in about 15 seconds. There are two versions, with the mark II version having extra features. Both are compatible with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. It can also be configured to transfer only the JPEG files, so if you set the camera to capure small JPEGS, they should transfer in about a second, or a medium JPEG in a few seconds. It’s about 1.5MB/sec transfer rate over an optimal WiFi connection.

Pros: Full wireless tethering, allows JPEG only option, files stored on card as well as PC. Also functions as a grip, with shutter button, etc. USB connection for external drive.

Cons: Price, about €500 -€900 depending on model.

Conclusions USB tethered using the EOS Utility is my current preferred option, as I can’t justify spending €500 on a WFT-E4, and certainly not €900 on a WFT-E4 II. And in the situations where I need to do real-time previewing of images, I can usually get away with a long USB cable attached to my camera. Where I can’t use a cable, I’m stuck with the swapping of the cards, until I splash out and get me a WFT-E4. :) Oh, and I’ve an iPad on order, which I’ll have in a few weeks, so I’ll be looking into a reasonably cheap way to preview images on that once I get it.

References:

Review of WFT-E4 - http://adventure-photographer.blogspot.com/2009/02/wft-e4-wireless-transmitter.html

Eye-Fi website - http://uk.eye.fi/


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