Kuuvik Capture 2.2 Released with Wi-Fi Support

The latest update to my Kuuvik Capture camera remote control app went online earlier today. Although it looks like a small update on the surface, there’s a huge change under the hood. This version contains the 3rd generation of my digital camera library – with full Wi-Fi and Ethernet connection support.

You may remember that we had dropped the network camera option during the beta, because Apple’s PTP-IP (the protocol used to talk to the camera over Wi-Fi and Ethernet) implementation turned out to be unreliable under heavy load. Not to mention the side effect that Image Capture started every time we connected a camera.

So I took the challenge and developed a completely new PTP-IP transport component, debuting in Kuuvik Capture 2.2. If you think that it’ll appear in other apps in the future, then you’re on the right track… But let’s concentrate on Kuuvik Capture now.

Connecting your camera via Wi-Fi (or Ethernet)

First of all, you’ll need either a Wi-Fi equipped camera (6D, 70D), a built-in Ethernet socket (1D X, 1D C) or a separate Wireless File Transmitter (5D Mark III, 5DS, 5DS R, 7D Mark II, 1D X, 1D C) for this to work. Only Canon’s transmitters are supported, third party Wi-Fi remote control boxes will not work. Please check the tech specs for the full list of compatible equipment.

Canon cameras provide connectivity in several ways. The most complete is the EOS Utility connection mode. For this mode a camera needs to be paired to a given app on a given computer. Using two apps on the same computer? You need to pair the camera to them separately, and only one can be active at a time.

The computer side of this pairing process is dramatically simplified in Kuuvik Capture 2 compared to both version 1 and Canon’s EOS Utility.

Kuuvik Capture now needs to be “pairing mode” to accept a pairing request coming from the camera. This mode is accessible through a new menu item (or by pressing F2).

networkPairing

Pairing can be initiated from the menu.

Kuuvik Capture displays the pairing window (shown below) while in pairing mode. This window also shows your computer’s name, which will appear on the camera’s LCD during the last pairing step, so you can double-check that you are pairing to the computer you were intended to.

networkPairingWindow

The pairing window. Kuuvik Capture is ready to accept pairing request only when this window is displayed.

And that’s all you need to do on the Mac.

Once in discoverable state, you can start the configuration process on your camera. The process consists of three large steps:

  1. Choose a connection mode.
  2. Configure your network.
  3. Do the actual pairing.

They are documented in your camera’s or wireless transmitter’s user manual, but there are a few important points to consider.

First, please don’t start any Canon app that may be mentioned in the manual. You are now pairing to Kuuvik Capture, and not to Canon’s apps.

For step 1, you must use the Connection Wizard on cameras where it’s available (e.g. 5-series, 7-series with the external brick), otherwise you won’t be able to complete step 3. On the 6D and 70D choose the Remote Control (EOS Utility) mode. On other cameras choose EOS Utility mode in the Connection Wizard.

In step 2, the camera will ask for network specific parameters (whether it’s wired or wireless, plus various options and a password specific to your network). This is the most complicated part of the entire process, but Wi-Fi setup is such a thing… I’d recommend to study the camera/transmitter manual beforehand.

Out in the field with no network to connect to? My previous post shows you how to create a fast and secure Wi-Fi network on your Mac!

The last step is the actual pairing. As the LCD indicates, this is your last chance to put Kuuvik Capture into pairing mode. It may take up to 1.5 minutes for the camera and your Mac to find each other.

camerapairing1

This is how the camera’s LCD will look like as soon as they found each other:

camerapairing2

Pairing should be done once (unless in the meantime you paired your camera to another app, another computer, or used another network). To deal with these different scenarios, the very last screen in the process (after clicking that OK button) lets you save up to 5 (3 for 6D/70D) setups into your camera’s memory. But if nothing has changed, Kuuvik Capture will find your camera automatically the next time you turn it on and connect to the network, so the pairing is not necessary every time you want to use a Wi-Fi or Ethernet connection.

When pairing has successfully completed, the camera’s LCD will turn black, the pairing window will disappear, and the camera’s name will show up in Kuuvik Capture’s camera selector.

Notes on Wi-Fi speed

It seems that Canon implements one of the lowest speed classes for each of their Wi-Fi implementations. This is 150mbps for the external 802.11n bricks (using only one spatial stream), and a shockingly low 60mbps for the 6D and 70D (despite they advertise it as 150). So don’t expect miracles and be prepared for 12-15 second downloads on these slower cameras. On the other hand, the external bricks are fast enough to be perfectly usable when the network signal is good.

Well, speaking of bad, flaky networks. While I absolutely hate to add new configuration options (one more thing for you to deal with), this time it was a must.

Wi-Fi networks can become unbeliveably slow (think longer distances and/or interference), causing the camera to disappear from Kuuvik Capture. A longer network timeout (a longer time allowance for intermittent network errors to clear) may solve this, but at the expense of delaying the detection of actual issues (such as when the battery dies). So the Preferences window now has an option to control this.

ntoPreference

The default is 10 seconds, which we found to be suitable for most Wi-Fi networks. You can go as low as 5 seconds or as high as 30 seconds. My personal preference is to go with the lowest number, and raise it in the presence of connectivity issues.

Other new features

There are two of them. Customers have asked for more, longer time options for mirror lock-up auto-release. So we’ve added 8s, 10s and 15s to the palette. Also the new white priority white balance mode introduced with the 5DS/R is now available on the white balance control.

Availability

The update is free for existing Kuuvik Capture 2 customers. New users can download Kuuvik Capture 2 from the Mac App Store.

For more information about the app, please visit it’s microsite, or check out my posts.

Canon WFT-E7 First Impressions

There are situations when you need remote camera control. No, I’m not speaking about the “let’s control the camera from an iPad two meters away” kind of pointless exercises, I’m talking about real needs. Think about cameras mounted on the roof of the stadium, situations where you would scare wildlife away with your presence, or downright dangerous places where you don’t want to spend more time than absolutely necessary.

I bought Canon’s Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E7(B) to assist in implementing some of my photographic ideas, and also to develop network (both wired and wireless) tethering support for Kuuvik Capture. While it’s clear that Canon’s transmitters are not standing in the forefront of today’s technology, if you could live with their quirks and limitations, then they could do the job well.

The Pricing Issue

Well, I paid 520 EUR (roughly $675, excluding taxes) for the WFT. Although this is some $175 less than the list price, it is pretty expensive. The bill of materials for this device is hardly more than $50, so this asking price is a bit irritating. As a comparison: an Apple Airport Extreme base station that packs comparable amount of software costs $179. Considering the functionality of the WFT, my opinion is that Canon could sell huge amounts of these at $199 or even at $299. But the $849 list price is simply unrealistic.

The bad news is if you need full, 100% USB-equivalent remote control functionality, then you have to swallow the price, and buy the device. There are some products, such as Camranger, that offer partial solutions, but you need a WFT for the whole thing.

Integrated Wi-Fi (and WFT software) on the 6D certainly points to a good direction, and I hope more cameras with integrated WFTs will follow. This is how it should be done in 2013.

The Hardware

When the first wireless transmitters had appeared for Canons, they were ugly bricks that connected to the camera with a cable, but in exchange they supported multiple cameras. Then Canon made their mind, and started to sell dedicated transmitters for each camera model (think 5D2 and 7D). With the WFT-E7, the ugly brick returns. In theory it will support future cameras, but I found no sign on the Net whether it works with anything except the 5D3. I plan to investigate this in the near future.

Its exterior finish acts like a dust magnet, and also files off small skin particles of your hand, so it’s a challenge to keep it clean.

Mounting the WFT is another challenge. I’m using Arca-Swiss compatible tripod heads/plates, so screwing the WFT under my camera is not an option. As a short term solution I simply attached a keyring to the supplied neoprene case, and hung the device on my tripod hook. In the long term the keyring will be replaced with a carabiner that will attach to that hole on the tripod base. Canon packages two cables with the device: one is too short and the other one is too long for me. This is why I reel up and velcro the longer cable to the case.

The good news is that the WFT is powered by the same LP-E6 battery that powers the 5D3.

Operating Modes

You can choose from the following operating modes (which are mutually exclusive):

  • Remote camera control (EOS Utility).
  • WFT Server, which is a web-based remote control facility.
  • You can upload your shots to an FTP server.
  • Show your images on a DLNA compatible TV set.
  • Can sync time between cameras.

The only mode that gives you full remote control is the EOS Utility mode. This is what I’m using, so will skip the others.

Network Configuration

This is the first quirk. For some unknown reason, the device can’t operate as an access point. So you either connect it to an existing network; bring your own access point (another box, batteries, etc); or create and use an ad-hoc Wi-Fi network (which can work only in “g” speed, and its WEP encryption isn’t something considered secure). This is a major oversight on a $675 device.

I won’t talk about basic network configuration, because you can find pretty good and detailed guides at Canon’s Digital Learning Center. I will, however, talk about another quirk: pairing.

Pairing

To control a WFT-equipped camera, you have to pair it to the computer and application you plan to use it from (I’ll call this computer/application pair an endpoint).

You must configure your networks settings on the 5D3 using the Connection wizard. No matter how experienced you are in IP network configuration, this is the only way you can get your WFT to do the pairing at the end.

Below is a screenshot of the network camera manager in the private beta version of Kuuvik Capture 1.1 showing my paired (and connected) 5D Mark III.

Network camera manger in Kuuvik Capture 1.1 beta

Network camera manager in Kuuvik Capture 1.1 beta

Working with the WFT

This is the best part: once paired and connected, you can forget about the WFT. Everything looks and works as if your camera was connected via USB. Yes, Wi-Fi can be slow (especially ad-hoc “g” speed networks), so large RAW file downloads can take a while. But otherwise the functionality is completely identical.

You only have to pair your WFT to Kuuvik Capture once, but you must watch for the connection sequence later on. WFTs advertise themselves on the network using Bonjour. When you turn on a paired WFT, it will advertise itself for a minute. During this time Kuuvik Capture (or another software) must connect to it. If the camera does not receive a connection request within a minute, it will shut down the WFT! From this point on things become pretty stochastic. Sometimes after a while the camera turn the WFT on again, sometimes you have to disable and re-enable EOS Utility mode on the camera to retry the connection.

The recommended sequence is:

  • Start Kuuvik Capture.
  • Turn on the paired camera. It might need half a minute or so to start advertising itself. When it appears in Bonjour, Kuuvik Capture will automatically connect to it.

Conclusion

During the last few weeks of testing the WFT-E7 worked as expected – offering stable, completely USB-equivalent connection. I don’t have a reason no to be satisfied with it. I just try not to think about its price.

Oh, I’m sure 6D owners will break into a smile seeing the ugly brick hanging under my tripod…