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Feature Articles

Tethered or remote: Which camera triggering option is most suitable?

By Marcus Wong - 2 Jan 2019

Exploring other methods of triggering the camera

Tethered or remote?

While we've recently focussed on photo and videography techniques/hacks using your smartphone, for those of us who really need the absolute best output, nothing beats using a mirrorless or DSLR camera. We have covered shooting techniques extensively in some of our older articles and we've even published entire volumes on this topic in our HWM Megaguide to digital photography, but in this mini-article, we focus on how you can trigger your cameras in different ways, namely tethered and remote options and what factors to keep in mind.

Essentially, both techniques allow you to send images from your camera to a computer or smart device, but there are some fundamental differences between the two.

Remote capture: Involves the use of a mobile app, and the images are sent over via a Wi-Fi connection. Because the images are sent over Wi-Fi, they are usually in JPEG format as the file sizes are more compact. 

Tethered capture: The camera is connected to your computer by a cable, and sends full resolution images over to software like Adobe Lightroom and Capture One Pro that handle the tethering process. Because you’ll be sending larger files, transfers over a physical cable is preferred as it’s faster and more reliable. You will also be able to change camera settings and trigger the camera from within the software (with a Live View window).

With tethered capture, you're generally dealing with images at the highest quality possible.

For absolute accuracy

Obviously, the first consideration is the final output file. If color and focus accuracy is a must; then tethered capture is the best way to go. The difference between looking at an image at full resolution on a laptop (or dedicated monitor) and trying to zoom in to view the image on the rear screen of any camera is huge. Monitors can also be calibrated for your environment to ensure color accuracy, which is something you can’t quite do on your camera, so that’s definitely the way to go if you absolutely need precision.

Tethered capture is also a better option when you’re working with a team of people and more than one person needs to check the captured image collectively. This definitely beats having different people peering at the back of a camera, so with a tethered workflow, everyone can see what’s going on at the same time.

Getting started with tethered capture

There isn’t much to do to get started in terms of tethered capture. You just need the software that supports your camera, and the appropriate tether cable for your camera. The cable has to be long enough to allow you a range of movement while shooting so we’d look at something 2m in length or more based on your shoot setup.

On the software front, we’d recommend Adobe Lightroom or Capture One Pro, as both are industry-standard programs for tethered capture, and more importantly RAW file processing, so you’ll get great support on both fronts. They also support the largest number of camera models overall, so compatibility is likely to be less of an issue.

In terms of set up, using either software, you connect the camera to your computer, fire up the application and then proceed to interface with your camera. You’ll then need to select a Capture folder as well as a Process folder to easen the workflow process. The Capture folder is where your RAW files will be saved to, while the Process/Export folder is where your images will go after you develop the RAW files.

We recommend you take extra care in terms of securing the cable to your camera though. As it’s not uncommon to find people tripping over cables during such sessions. Gaffer tape is your friend here!

 

With remote capture, you can place the camera practically anywhere as long as it remains in range.

When flexibility is key

On the flipside, remote capture via app is almost 100% about the flexibility of placing your camera in locations that you wouldn’t physically be able to reach while still remaining in control. For example, when we tested the weather-proofing of the Fujifilm X-T1, we placed the camera in the freezer and were still able to take stills and video to prove that the camera was still working by using Fujifilm’s Cam Remote app.

Because you’re transmitting the file wirelessly to the camera, it is best used when JPEG capture is sufficient, though you can still save a copy in RAW on your camera’s memory card. The other advantage to using remote capture via app on your smart device is that then the entire display of your smart device becomes the equivalent of your camera’s rear LCD – with touch – so you can now have much more accuracy in choosing AF points via touch AF.

The process of going remote

For remote shooting, you really just need to have the appropriate accompanying camera app installed on your smart device. The general procedure is to start the wireless function on your camera, then run the app on your smart device. You’ll be prompted to join the ad-hoc wireless network created by your camera, following which you should get a live view image of what the camera is seeing, as well as options to adjust the various camera settings.

The main thing to note here is that you’ll want to be in an area without too many wireless networks as that can interfere with the connectivity and transfers from the camera to your mobile device. While this may not be something within your control, it is something to take note if you're not getting the response you expect from your camera and mobile device.

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