Going Totally Wireless with Canon 1D Mk4

I had planned to continue my post on the “suicide of the print“, but due to some change of circumstances I save that for a later day. I just have to add that thank God I made my presentation that day and not later: the photographers I was addressing just swept the table in our POY two days later. Seven out of possible ten to HS: my sincerest congratulations to each and everyone of them. Amazing work.

But instead I thought I continue on the theme I briefly touched in Vancouver: wireless transmission from my Canon 1D mk4’s directly to the server. A friend and a colleague Sami Kero showed me in Whistler “a box” he was using to transmit his images directly out of the camera to the server. I promised to come back to this and now I do.  See that post on details – and a big thanks to Mika Ranta of HS for commenting that post – and congrats to him on the best news image of the year.

I was not familiar with this “gadget” earlier, but I did some research once I got home. Also, I had constructed a workflow based on the same idea prior to the Vancouver games, but my client had shown no intrest so I had decided not to pursue it any further. But now I decided to finish it.

Novatel MiFi 2352 next to iPhone

The piece of hardware  is Novatel Wireless router MiFi 2352; basically  the same “box”  used in Vancouver, but physically a bit smaller (shown in the image next to my iPhone) and slightly lighter. Price c. 250€  in Finland.

What it does is that it creates a wifi hotspot which it then links thru 3G/HSPA/EDGE connection to the internet. Once you have it configured, it is basically a one button operation. A crucial difference to some other technologies available (such as JOIKU for symbian platform)  is that it creates an infrastructure network instead of an ad hoc one – as Canon wireless WFT2 transmitter cannot operate thru ad hoc’s to the net.

You configure it using any browser, insert a SIM-card which supports data package transmission and you are good to go. Not very difficult – and it comes with a link to a PDF-operating instructions, should you need them, but I found the configuration very straight forward. One problem I encountered was that as I wanted to create a hotspot instead of an ad hoc connection, I could not set the security parameters for a secure login.  But I decided to use approved MAC-addresses instead,  which works as a solid workaround. (MAC-address is a “physical” address of a piece of hardware and it does not change when you turn your devices on and off. Thus, my router now accepts connections only from my two laptops and my two WFT2-transmitters- and nothing else. You can connect up to five devices simultaneously.

iPhone?

I had thought that I could do the same set up using an iPhone and actually, it is totally possible. But it requires jailbreaking your iPhone and then inserting some thirdparty software. Jailbreaking is not illegal (well, Apple says it is…) nor it is not very hard (just google it if you are interested) and it seems pretty safe – but I decided against it for two reasons: first of all it voids the warranty but more importantly, I agree with what Mika said in his comment mentioned earlier: it is better have dedicated hardware if you really want them to use them as tools.

Just like my iPhone does have a camera, it does not render my DSLR’s useless… The same goes here: phone is one thing, professional use of  transmission hardware is another. Another example: yes, my phone has navigation, but I would not dream of navigating my sailboat relying on that… If for nothing else, you are bound to run out of batteries when you really need them….

Two workflows

Presently I use this router two ways: as a wireless modem to accessing the internet with a computer when nothing else is available and as a wireless hotspot connecting my cameras directly to a server, so I can transmit directly out of the camera to the client in situations where time is of the essence. Been testing it now for a week, and it has shown no hiccups. Switch it on and you are good to go.

You should be able to set it up also so that an editor sitting in a computer anywhere in the world could have access to the camera (maybe a remote?) and he’d be able to download the selected images without me even noticing – but I have not set this up for two reasons: one wrong push of a button (from his side) and my camera would jam (because you can also remotely fire the camera). And maybe even more importantly: I still want to be considered as a photographer and not a technician who just places the “photographic hardware” to appropriate positions…

Taking it further

Website straight from the camera

And just to show off some  innovative spirit,  I decided to take it a bit further: I set up a website which shows an embedded “live” slideshow as soon as I start transmitting the images from the camera.  In this workflow, the images start showing after the first image transmitted and the slideshow keeps looping ’til I stop it. There is no limit to the number of images.

They can be displayed with a “generic” caption – as I do not caption images with the camera – and you can stop the slideshow if you want to or choose an image from the thumbnails visible. Images are displayed with a watermark. Delay from the “send” command in the camera to the page is typically less than 30 sec.

I had this set up earlier to work with a computer in between, but now it works without the computer as well. The only things required are the router in my pocket and the WFT2 on the camera. Both of those can be preset, so it is basically an idiot-proof  solution.

And before you have time to say it: yes, I do know: each time somebody comes with an idiot-proof solution, somebody else comes with an updated version of an idiot… :-)

The website has to be set up (sort of “armed”: starting image, a small story to put the slideshow into perspective), but that can be done in advance. And it does not have to be a single website, but it can be a series of them, all armed and ready to go with just a click  of a button. Think about a sports event, it is almost like live coverage with stills – or a photographer working in Afganistan, Haiti…

Lots of possibilities there, don’t you think?

4 Comments

  1. Hans-Martin
    April 6, 2010

    That’s quite a smart development and thinking of you and opens some new opportunities for selfemployed photographers.
    To spin it further: would it be possible to configure the set-up that the remote camera tranfers the photos via MiFi to a laptop while at the same time this laptop can be accessed also remotly via the MiFi by an editor who can pick files for editing?

    Reply
    • kkuukka
      April 6, 2010

      Hi –

      thanks for commenting. Sure, that should not be a problem. Or have it so that the remote automatically transfers them to a laptop – which then runs whatever script/action one wants it to run – some autolevels, captioning, whatever – and transfer it further to the editor… Basically all you need is ftp-watchers in designated folders, live ingest and actions configured to your liking…
      But: I was more thinking about a situation where I am in the middle of a forest (say ski competition), pissing rain so I don’t want to take a laptop out and I want to give readers a new image every 5 min or so… So the key idea is to get rid of the laptop as much as possible. Ideally, I’d transmit directly to the editor who quickly captions, crops, edits and displays the images – but sometimes you cannot do that: lack of finances for one… or working in a totally different timezone (actually the same thing as finances would take care of that problem also) ;-)

      Nice to see somebody really reads my sometimes strange thoughts…

      K

      Reply
  2. anesh debiky
    August 6, 2010

    Greetings from sunny Durban in South Africa

    I am photographer as well but have always been lured to gadgets and wireless technologies.
    I am really impreSed with ur work and knowledge and it is inspirational

    I am trying to get my wireless setup up and running and have been struggling with the settings

    Is it possible to assist me with the settings;I have the novatel mifi unit ,mk iv and wft e2

    Would appreciate your assistance and once again I must say that your work is inspiratrional

    Regards

    Anesh

    Reply
    • kkuukka
      August 8, 2010

      Hi Anesh –

      please send me an email describing what you do (and what you want to do…) and let’s see if I can be of any assistance. Please give me ample time for responding thought as I am not reading my email too often now for a couple of weeks.

      k

      Reply

Leave a Reply