I never really liked the idea of tethered shooting before. I had done it a few times in the past and found it slow and cumbersome to have my camera connected to a computer. Even with a small laptop it felt inconvenient to me. But recently I discovered the ability to shoot tethered to a portable computer tablet and my perspective on the whole tethered shooting concept changed in a big way.
NOTE: If you are shooting with either a Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 6D, Canon 80D, Canon 70D, Canon 1DX Mark II with the Canon WFT-E8 Wi-Fi adapter, the Canon Rebel T6, or the Canon 7D Mark II with the W-E1 Wi-Fi Adapter, then this article will not be as useful for you and better you read my new article here entitled Wireless Tethered Shooting With Your Canon DSLR Via Wi-Fi.
Now, when I want to shoot tethered on-location, I no longer have to bring a laptop computer along, just my Android tablet, which is a lot smaller and weighs a lot less. I also discovered that, because I already owned an Android based tablet, the additional cost of setting myself up for tethered shooting would be minimal.
So in this article I am going to explain what is needed in terms of equipment to set yourself up for tethered shooting with your Canon DSLR camera and your Android based device, plus some of the benefits of shooting tethered with a tablet. Note also that the setup I am going to discuss here is the only one I’ve found which allows you to perform all 4 important tethered shooting functions via a tablet. Those 4 functions are controlling your camera settings via tablet, remote shutter release via tablet, image preview on the tablet screen, and options for both JPEG and RAW file capturing to your tablet.
First of all, you will need a Canon DSLR camera together with a USB cable that has a standard male USB connector on one end and a mini USB connector on the other end. This USB cable comes with most DSLR camera bodies when you purchase it.
Unfortunately though the Android app I am going to focus on here does not support Nikon or any other brand of DSLR camera at this time. There is however another Android app option I will offer below which will work with Nikon DSLR cameras too.
Next, you will need an Android based tablet or smartphone. I am using a Samsung Tab 2 7.0″ tablet at present, but I will be upgrading to the new Samsung Galaxy 8.4″ Tablet very soon. You will then need to purchase a copy of a small Android app called DSLR Controller which is available for US$8 from the Google Play store. Another app which will work with Canon, as well as Nikon cameras, is called DslrDashboard, which is a free Android app, and offers very similar functionality to DSLR Controller. I tested DslrDasboard out briefly though and I didn’t find the usability or the controls of this app nearly as user friendly or as well laid out as DSLR Controller. But DslrDashboard is a free app and DSLR Controller is a paid app, so you can decide.
That covers the basic hardware and software you will need. One small, final item you will need is what is called an OTG cable (“On The Go” Cable) for your Android device. What this small cable does is connect to your tablet at one end and then offers a female USB connector on the other end in order to connect to the USB cable leading out from your DSLR camera. Pictured below is an example of an OTG cable for 30 pin slot connectors on certain older Samsung Galaxy devices like my Samsung Tab 2 7.0″ tablet. You can purchase an inexpensive aftermarket OTG cable for under US$5 on Amazon or eBay or from most shops selling smartphone and/or tablet accessories. You can also purchase an original OTG cable from the dealer of your brand of Android based smartphone or tablet if you prefer a branded cable.
Note though that these OTG cables have different connectors depending on the make and model of the Android device you will be using it with. Many newer Android devices require an OTG cable with a USB micro connector instead of the 30 pin connector. So make sure when you buy your OTG cable that you get the right cable designed to work with your specific Android device.
You may also want to buy a longer USB cable at some point to connect with your Canon camera. The standard cable which comes with Canon DSLR camera bodies is only approximately 1 meter long. So if you would like to be able to move your tablet further than 3 feet away from your camera when shooting tethered then you can buy a longer USB cable of up 3 meters (10 feet). If though you plan to use a USB cable longer than 3 meters then you may have issues with power falloff and it could also require use of a USB power hub. I bought an aftermarket 10? USB cable on Amazon for $5 and it works great.
As for the DSLR Controller app itself, it is, in my opinion, everything that one could ask for in a tethered capture and controller program. It allows you to shoot in live view mode so that you can use your tablet as a large live view screen when shooting. You can also change all your camera settings and release the shutter all right from your tablet so that you don’t need to touch the camera at all when shooting if you don’t want to. This makes the app a fully functional camera controller and remote shutter trigger all in one. On all Android devices, the volume rocker button can control either the shutter speed, aperture, or ISO setting on the camera very quickly, depending on how you set it. This is extremely handy to change key camera settings quickly when you need to. Below is an image of what the app looks like using live view mode when it is running on my tablet:
After you shoot an image it then shows you a large sized screen preview of each of your images on the tablet screen, which you can also zoom in on at any time by just pinching with two fingers in order to check the sharpness, focus point, and detail of your photos. And you can set the app to save the RAW image files to your tablet, camera, or both, which is great as it allows the tablet to be a tool to capture an instant backup of all your images as you shoot them. The app supports and reads all Canon RAW file formats it seems. The amount of features offered by the DSLR Controller app are plentiful and you can see a full list of the features and functions here. I often just use the app with my tablet for a quick image preview and shutter release without capturing the images to the tablet. I save images to the camera only most of the time and this way I can shoot continuously and much faster since I don’t have to wait for the RAW files to be transferred from the camera to the tablet. This screen capture below shows you what the screen preview looks like after you take a shot:
One thing I really like about shooting tethered with a tablet is that you can quickly rotate the screen in your hand for the best preview position of either a vertical or horizontal photo. Tethered shooting with either a desktop or laptop computer will always be less convenient for vertical images because of the fixed horizontal screen position. You also don’t have the quick zoom by pinching feature on laptops or desktops that you do with tablets. With the DSLR Controller app you can also load any shots that may already be saved on your camera’s memory card to quickly view them on your tablet, even if they were not shot using the DSLR Controller app. So after a shoot you can connect the tablet to your camera at anytime and do an image review of the day’s shots on your tablet.
Thus, if you already have a Canon DSLR and an Android based smart phone or tablet, it is a very handy and useful tool you can add to your photo equipment arsenal. Before you purchase the DSLR Controller app though be sure to check the list of compatible devices here to make sure the app supports your camera and tablet models since some of the older Canon DSLR models and older Android devices may not work with this app because of limitations in technology on older equipment.
Sadly, I should mention that at present there are no inexpensive and fully functional tethered photo capture apps available for Apple iOS devices for either an iPhone or iPad, but you can buy a CamRanger, which is an aftermarket dongle designed to work with Apple iOS devices for tethered shooting. You can see the CamRanger specs here on Amazon where it is sold for $300 with free shipping. There are some iPhone apps which can act simply as a shutter release trigger using an iPhone, but they all seem to require use of an additional Wi-Fi dongle as well. There is also a paid capture app for iOS devices which can work running any Wi-Fi capable SD card within your DSLR camera to simply display low-res captures on an iPad or iPhone called ShutterSnitch, but this app wont allow you to capture and save your RAW file photos onto an iOS device or change camera settings, etc. Also, Apple does not allow you to connect any external devices directly to an iPad or iPhone using USB technology with a 3rd party app unless it involves use of a dongle. So this also prevents tethered shooting between a DSLR camera and Apple devices directly (without use of a dongle) unless one day Apple decides to design their own tethered shooting app or removes some of the present USB restrictions on their iOS devices.
One other option though is you can simply buy an Eye-Fi Pro X2 SDHC Class 10 Wi-Fi card and then shoot wirelessly tethered with any Apple iOS or Android based smartphone or tablet using the free wireless capture app provided by Eye-Fi for Apple and Android. Since the SD card has Wi-Fi built into it it is not necessary for the camera to have Wi-Fi or make us of a dongle, but this is a wireless tethered setup that provides only a JPG file capture and screen preview on your tablet or smartphone. It does not allow you to capture RAW files to an iOS device. You also can’t change the camera settings from your smartphone or tablet using this Eye-Fi app or trigger the camera’s shutter release. So it is purely a wireless tethered image preview setup for your tablet or smartphone. But, if you are using an Android tablet or smartphone, you might at least be able to capture RAW files onto your Android device using the Eye-Fi Wi-Fi SD card and Eye-Fi app for Android. The good thing is that the Eye-Fi card in a relatively inexpensive solution that you can buy for around $75. You can order an Eye-Fi card online here with free shipping.
A problem though with these Eye-Fi Wi-Fi cards is that they are only available in SD card format and not CF card format. Some DSLR body types, like the Canon EOS 5D Mark II for example, can only use CF cards. So Eye-Fi wont work with certain DSLR camera models. There are SD card to CF card adapters that one can use in a case like this if you like, but I am not sure how well they will work. According to Eye-Fi there are some possible issues using an SD to CF card adapter with a DSLR camera. So one would have to take their chances using an adapter with an Eye-Fi card.
As for tethered wireless shooting in general, there are a few consumer grade DSLR camera bodies that already have built in Wi-Fi which can utilize DSLR Controller to tether to Android devices wirelessly. Cameras like the Canon EOS 70D will work wirelessly tethered with DSLR Controller. So if you are shooting with a DSLR Canon body that has built in Wi-Fi then you can skip using the cable connections I mentioned earlier like the OTG cable, etc. But at the moment there are no professional level Canon DSLR camera bodies which have Wi-Fi built into them yet.
Lastly, there is the option of buying a portable, battery powered, wireless router (like the TP-LINK TL-MR3040) and connecting that to your DSLR camera to create a wireless tethered connection to your Android smartphone or tablet. But that kind of a setup still requires that the router be hardwired into the USB port of your DSLR camera body and hangs from your camera as a dongle. So it is not really a true wireless solution. But the TP-LINK TL-MR3040 router works with the DSLR Controller app and you can buy the router here on Amazon for $35.
In the not so distant future though I expect all full frame DSLR cameras to come standard with built-in Wi-Fi. This should help alleviate the challenges of shooting wirelessly tethered which exist at the moment as mentioned above. So, Wi-Fi being built into full frame DSLR cameras is something we can look forward to on the next generation of full frame DSLR cameras and will make shooting wirelessly tethered truly wireless for photographers. The only downside is that Wi-Fi speeds aren’t super fast. So there will be some file transfer lag with a wireless tethered setup. If speed is more important to you then you are better off sticking with shooting tethered using the USB cable setup.
Note that I add a new blog article every week covering another aspect of photography. So check back often if you would like to see my latest blog posts. You can also receive email notifications on future blog posts as and when they are published by simply clicking here to subscribe.
*UPDATE #1 / 13-Jan-14* – You can also go here to read my other blog article about the new Samsung Tablet Pro 8.4″ for tethered shooting which I mentioned I will be upgrading to soon. If you want to buy the latest version of the tablet I bought at a great price from Amazon Click Here.
*UPDATE #2 / 17-March-14* – I recently got my Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.4 Pro so you can go here to read my new review of shooting tethered with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 Tablet together with DSLR Controller. This tablet has now been replaced though by the Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4-Inch Tablet. Amazon has a great price on it. You can See It Here.
*UPDATE #3 / 7-August-14* – I just posted a new article about How To Tether Your Canon DSLR Camera Wirelessly To Your Android Tablet using a portable wireless Wi-Fi router. You can go here to read the post.
*UPDATE #4 / 18-March-15* – I just discovered a new wireless dongle (similar to the CamRanger), which is good for Apple users of smartphones and tablets and can be purchased for less than half the price of the CamRanger. It is called CASE Remote and can be seen online here.
*UPDATE #5 / 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.
*UPDATE #6 / 10-Jan-16* – Canon has a free app for both Android and Apple iOS devices called “Canon Camera Connect” which can be used to wirelessly tether to a Canon camera that has built-in Wi-Fi. I have not tested the app yet though as I don’t shoot with a camera that has built-in Wi-Fi. You can read more about and download it for Android here and for Apple iOS devices here. At present, it has been rated 3.5 stars by users for Android and only 2 stars for iOS.
*UPDATE #7 / 30-Oct-16* – I just posted and extensive new article about Wireless Tethered Shooting With Your Canon DSLR Via Wi-Fi. You can go here to read the article.