This is a three part blog series comparing the Canon WFT-E7, Eye-Fi Pro X2, and CamRanger wireless file transmitters. Click on the hyperlink to jump to the other reviews. The opening summary of these three products is repeated in each review.
In my search for a wireless file transmitter for my Canon 5D MK III, I tested the Canon WFT-E7, Eye-Fi Pro X2, and CamRanger. Based on my tests and experience, I feel the CamRanger offers the most reliability, ease of use, and value for the dollar.
Although I did finally settle on the CamRanger, I entitled this blog entry as “Land of the Walking Dead.” This is because none of these transmitters are ideal. Either they are not reliable, too expensive, or do not have a good way to attach directly to the camera without creating an external cord problem. My ideal solution? Canon needs to build in a wireless file transmitter into their camera bodies! Other than the profit motive of making a transmitter an add-on, I can’t think of a reason why this can’t be done. If Eye-fi can fit a transmitter into an SD card, there is no reason why Canon can’t fit one into a camera body. Anyway, here is my summary:
• Very fast transfer of images even when shooting quickly
• Seems to maintain wireless connection well
• Good for professionals or others who need reliable wireless transfers for immediate review
• About $600 less than the Canon WFT-E7
• Very easy set up with little technical expertise needed
• iPad and iPhone app easy to navigate
• Free guest app allows others to watch shoot
• Small and light
• Long battery life
• Electronically connects to camera with a USB to Mini-USB cord
• There is no physical way to connect the CamRanger directly to the camera
• Soft case is too large. Unit must be clipped to belt, tripod, etc.
• Case feels flimsy; back panel tabs may eventually wear or break due to changing battery
• Only comes in white
• Not compatible with Shuttersnitch
• Very fast transfer of jpegs even when shooting quickly
• Good for pros who need wireless transfers for immediate review
• Fully functional with Shuttersnitch
• Uses the same battery as the Canon 5D MK III body
• Good battery life
• Cost. Way too expensive for the features
• Less technical users (and even techies!) will get frustrated trying to set it up
• Uses a cord to connect between it and the camera body
• Dog ugly and does not blend into camera body
• Periodically drops wireless connection
Eye-Fi Pro X2
• Very affordable compared to other solutions
• Fits into the camera’s SD slot and also serves both functions as a transmitter and storage device; so no external device attached to the camera
• Good for pros who shoot at a slower pace or only periodically look at the iPad
• Good for pros who do not have clients who need to see every image immediately
• Amateur photographers may like this for casual use
• No battery
• Fast shooters who cannot wait for all the images to transmit will get impatient and frustrated
• System randomly drops wireless connection
• System sometimes locks up and will not transmit all the images even after restart
• Pros who would be embarrassed with clients when images are slow to transmit or never show up
Part I: Canon WFT-E7
When the Canon WFT-E7 for the Canon 5D MK III came out I was initially excited. I had used Canon’s WFT-E4 IIA with my Canon 5D MK II with good success so thought this would be a step up.
I was wrong.
Quite a number of reviews and blogs lambasted the WFT-E7 for several issues I agree with and can summarize as:
It is a rectangular block. Unlike the WFT-E4 IIA which blended into the same lines of the 5D MK II camera body, the WFT-E7 is a “one size doesn’t fit all” black brick that clumsily attaches to the bottom of the camera body with as much beauty and grace as a dumpster being hauled behind a sports car! As such, the camera with the transmitter attached does not fit well in the hand or “feel” right. If one wants to use a battery grip, adding the transmitter under the grip results in an ungainly mass of parts that is too bulky and no longer properly fits in the hand.
One of the most egregious offenses is the use of a cord…(yes, a cord!) that goes between the transmitter and the camera. The older WFT-E4 IIA had a built in male connector that fit into a female connector on the bottom of the 5D MK II camera body; thus no cords to deal with, get tangled, or accidentally pulled out. The mini-USB cord connector that goes into the side connector of the 5D MK III is straight (i.e. not a 90 degree connector). As a result, the wire sticks straight out the side of the camera and begs to be jerked out of the socket. Dumb.
There is no tripod thread on the bottom of the transmitter body. So if you ever want to mount any other accessory the needs it, you are out of luck. For instance, I use a Black Rapid camera strap that screws into the tripod socket. That created a problem for me…more on that later.
For anyone who has not tried to set the transmitter up to communicate with an Ipad, Shuttersnitch, or laptop, it is not an easy process. Someone with little or no technical expertise may simply give up. I was fortunate since I went through the learning curve with the WFT-EF IIA a few years ago and had written down my own instructions. But even following those instructions, referring to You Tube videos and blog entries, still resulted in a two-hour exercise in frustration. In the end I got it to work. It would have been quicker except I simply overlooked using a lower case “s” for “snitch” when naming the target server. I used a capital “S” which nixed the connection.
However, when I finally did get the transmitter working with Shuttersnitch, I was quite pleased. With each click of the shutter the small JPEG would appear on my iPad within a few seconds; more than fast enough for my needs. I shoot a lot of fashion and other kinds of events where I shoot fairly fast (I average 100 images per hour). The transmitter kept up with me even when shooting short bursts. It was quick enough that I could reference the iPad image to make exposure or compositional tweaks.
When I set the camera down for a while and then started shooting again the connection was still there. On an actual shoot a few days later (about 4 hours), the transmitter did drop the connection twice and stopped transmitting. Usually turning the camera and transmitter off and on and ensuring the wireless connection was correct on the iPad cleared up that problem. In addition, I could simply resend any “failed transfer” images by making a few menu choices on my Canon 5D MK III.
So functionally, in terms of its core purpose of transmitting images to my iPad, the WFT-E7 did very well. I was pleased. My clients were pleased.
But the problems of the transmitter’s design forced me to make some choices that I still do not like:
The lack of the tripod mount at the bottom of the transmitter means I cannot use my Black Rapid Sport strap. Now I LOVE that strap. I have used numerous straps in my career and the Black Rapid set up is as close to perfect for my style of shooting as I can get. Because the strap attaches to the tripod mount, when I am not using the camera it hangs upside-down at my side. In this position the lens naturally faces behind me where it is better protected if I accidentally walk into an object (yes, it does happen. Lol!). It also positions the camera’s grip in a way that I can instinctively and naturally grab it.
The Black Rapid strap allows one to raise and lower the camera without the strap itself moving up and down; the “strap mount” slides up and down the strap. So that is one less problem created by a strap that gets on one’s way.
I originally wanted the transmitter mounted to the bottom of the camera. It allows me to use the shorter connection cord and keeps everything in one neat package. So I tried to modify the strap so it connected to the strap “mount” located on the right side of the camera body. The idea was good but it didn’t work well. In this position, when one raises the camera in portrait mode, the Black Rapid’s hardware that attaches to the camera end up swinging right in front of the face and LCD screen. Do this enough and it is bound to scratch the screen. I also meant that I had to physically move it away from my face to shoot. (When correctly mounted, the hardware is at the bottom of the camera and cannot touch the LCD screen which is a good thing.)
As such I had to decide if using the Black Rapid strap was more critical than having the transmitter attached to the bottom of the camera. My decision was “yes” because I also like using the battery grip on my camera. Stacking the camera body, battery grip and transmitter creates an ungainly (and ugly!) pile of technology. In addition, the transmitter gets in the way of using the battery grip’s shutter release and other buttons and dials that are convenient to use when one is shooting. I just do not know what Canon’s designers were thinking! This solution has some function but definitely no form.
So my workaround was to Velcro the soft case that comes with the transmitter to the shoulder pad of the Black Rapids strap. I then used the longer cord that comes with the transmitter. To minimize the chance of jerking out the mini USB connector from the camera, I also used a ???. It works fairly well though I did have one accidental disconnect.
Battery life is good. I completed a four hour shoot and did not have to change the battery.
In summary, I would suggest to Canon:
• Create a transmitter that has both form and function; form meaning it blends into the camera body.
• Get rid of the cord: Most people, and particularly pros don’t like cords hanging out of the camera waiting to be jerked out or broken.
• Build in a tripod socket.
• Make the set up process more intuitive.
• Better yet: Build the transmitter into the camera body and make it a standard feature!