Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Phone control steps up in cameras

Illustration: Mick Connolly.

Illustration: Mick Connolly.

The Canon EOS 70D reviewed today is the latest camera to come into the Imaging Shed sporting Wi-Fi and the ability to pair with a smartphone.

Every new camera these days comes with varying degrees of control via a phone. Not so long ago, we marvelled at the ability to transfer images wirelessly from the camera to the phone or computer. Now, we are astonished at the way in which several functions on the camera can be controlled remotely from a phone, with the phone being the viewfinder.

Almost all camera makers now provide a free smartphone app for their latest cameras, through the Apple Store or Google Play. They install themselves on the phone and then need to be coupled with the camera. This is the hard part.

First, the Wi-Fi must be enabled on the camera. Then the Wi-Fi locator on the phone needs to look for the camera, which has a unique identifying number or password. Getting all the information right on both devices so they speak nicely to each other can take some time but, once up and running, you don't need to do it again, apart from remembering that if the phone is in the vicinity of more than one strong Wi-Fi signal, you will need to manually choose the camera in settings/Wi-Fi.

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The Canon EOS Remote app gives control over the shutter release, which includes the focusing function. When the remote connection is activated, the camera automatically switches into live view. We found that this was a good way to test the promise of improved focus in the 70D, with its revolutionary dual pixel sensor. Canon has not lied! It is very fast indeed.

Along with the basic control of shutter release/focus, the ISO speed and exposure adjustment can be set remotely. And captured images can be reviewed on the phone screen. Most phone screens are bigger and of higher resolution than camera LCDs, so this is a good way to review images.

Some camera/phone combinations give even more control to the phone, making the setup much like ''tethered'' shooting, where an application running on a computer can take over most of the camera's functions. There are also remote control apps for tablets, but as far as we can see there is no EOS Remote app for the iPad, only the iPhone. The iPhone app does work on the iPad, but with an image area reduced to match the phone screen. It can be enlarged to full screen with a small loss of sharpness.

Smartphone remote control is a real advance in photographic technology, not just a gimmick.


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