If you have already read some of my earlier posts like Tethered Shooting With Your Canon DSLR And Android Tablet or The Best New Android Tablet For Tethered DSLR Photography, and Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 Tablet & DSLR Controller Tethered Shooting Review then you know that I am a big fan of tethered shooting with an Android tablet computer.
But so far, I have been shooting tethered by using a USB cable running between my Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR camera and my new Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4. In my case, I need to use the USB cable connection since my DSLR camera body doesn’t have built in Wi-Fi like some of the other Canon models do such as the Canon 70D and the Canon 6D.
The Android app I use for tethered shooting, DSLR Controller, is great, costs less than $10 from the Google Play Store, and works with most of the latest Android smartphones and tablets. But so far I have avoided the wireless connectivity option because the USB cable I have is about 10′ long and I haven’t had the real need to go through the trouble to replace my cable connection with a dongle that would be an added piece of hardware hanging off my camera. Previously, I had felt that if I still have to attach something to the camera to make the tablet tether wirelessly to the camera, like a Wi-Fi router in this case, then it isn’t really any more wireless than connecting a cable between the camera and the tablet itself as I have already been doing.
But recently I have started doing some shooting where I need to be further away from the camera than just 10′ when I release the shutter. So I decided to buy the TP-LINK TL-MR3040 portable wireless Wi-Fi router which sells here on Amazon for only $35, and adds full Wi-Fi capability to any of the higher end Canon bodies which were released without built-in Wi-Fi like the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 5D Mark III, the 1DS Mark III or the 1DX.
This little router, which is 4″ long and (including the battery) weighs only 8 ounces, connects via a short USB mini cable to the USB port on the camera body. Then via this router connection one can use a tablet wirelessly to fully control the camera settings, release the shutter, capture RAW & JPG files directly to the tablet, and review the images on the tablet screen all at a distance of up to about 150 feet away from the camera. Wow!
The great thing about this router is that it contains a 2000mAh rechargeable battery, which is good for 3-4 hours of continuous wireless shooting (battery life will depend a bit though on the distance between the tablet and the router). You can also connect a power bank to the router via USB and continuously charge the router’s battery as you shoot so that you aren’t limited on shooting time.
I have an Anker Astro E4, which is a 13,000mAh power bank, and is about the same size of the router itself. This Anker works great and can easily charge the battery of the router via USB at the same time while I am using the router to shoot. Anker power banks are really top notch in terms of quality and dependability.
I believe though that they aren’t making the original Anker Astro E4 anymore, but they now have a newer, slimmer and improved Anker E4 2nd generation model which you can buy here for only $30 with free shipping from Amazon.
To use this wireless router setup though with your Android tablet or Smartphone and the DSLR Controller app you will need to install a custom firmware onto the router first which was developed by the creator of the DSLR Controller app. You can download that firmware free from the DSLR Controller web site here and it takes only a few minutes to install the custom firmware onto the router.
Once you get it setup it is wonderful. Having the tablet running wireless adds a lot of advantages I realize now. Especially if you want to hand the tablet off to a client so they can sit comfortably to the side or even in the other room and watch what you are shooting in the studio in real time. I have also found it great for times when you need to place a camera on a tripod above your head, say on a platform. Now you no longer need to stand on a ladder next to the camera. Instead, you can remain down below the camera and still control everything.
There is a slight lag before the pictures appear on the tablet screen after they have been shot by the camera though because Wi-Fi speeds are slower than USB cable transfer speeds. But the extra second or two it takes via wireless for the file to transfer from the camera to the tablet isn’t an issue.
The best way to deal with having the router connected to your camera in a convenient way is to put it in a small bag and hang it from somewhere on your tripod. I found some small, inexpensive velvet jewelry bags with drawstrings for a few dollars that fit the router perfectly and work very well for this. You can also buy a BlackRapid Bryce bag for about $20 here which will hold the TP-LINK TL-MR3040 router and comes with a Velcro strap to allow you to wrap the bag around the leg of your tripod. Either solution will work fine.
Ever since I started using the wireless tethered setup I also discovered other useful ways to add it to my workflow. For example, when I shoot head shot portraits now the subject can have the tablet on his or her lap and they can see the shots I’m taking of them in real time. Very handy. It also allows you to step far away from the camera if you are shooting in a situation where you would be seen as a reflection in some part of the photo if you were standing next to the camera. Frankly, when shooting on tripod, you will find many situations where you can benefit from being able to control your camera from a distance. Not to mention all the fun you can have taking selphies now without a mirror!
In the future I am assuming all new Canon DSLR camera bodies will be released with Wi-Fi built-in and it won’t just be the consumer level DSLR bodies like the 70D and 6D that have it. So eventually I will probably upgrade my Canon camera body when they offer a new 5D model or higher with Wi-Fi. Then I won’t need to use the router setup for wireless tethered shooting anymore and it will be one less piece of hardware needed in my workflow. But for the time being the router is a great stopgap way to add Wi-Fi and wireless connectivity via an Android tablet to existing, high-end Canon DSLR bodies, and at a very low cost.
*UPDATE #1 / 16-July-15* – I just posted a new article about How To Shoot Tethered Video With Your Canon DSLR And Android Tablet. You can go here to read the article.