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 3: CamRanger
Compared to the other two transmitters, the CamRanger is incredibly easy and fast set up. The CamRanger uses its own proprietary iPad and phone app so there is no complex process to make it and third party software (like Shuttersnitch) talk to each other. I was up and running within five minutes!
It is small and light; about the size of an external hard drive. The white plastic body feels a bit flimsy and definitely does not match with most black professional cameras. As other reviews mention, installing the battery requires one to remove the back panel; this is done by careful prying. If one has to change the battery out on a regular basis, my concern is that the plastic tabs that hold the back to the body will eventually weaken or break.
Like the Canon WFT-E7, the CamRanger also uses a cord to connect to the camera body. At least in this case, CamRanger designers had the presence of mind to make a 90 degree mini USB plug that goes into the side of the camera. This makes the cord go down along the side of the camera and prevents it from sticking straight out where it could get accidentally pulled out. The other end of the cord uses a standard USB connector that plugs into the end of the CamRanger. The good news is that unlike the Canon, if one breaks the cord one can simply replace it with another standard USB to mini-USB cable.
After one turns on the CamRanger, its wifi signal is found by the iPad or iPhone. It is simply a matter of connecting to it, registering the CamRanger, and one is ready to shoot.
The software is straight forward. If one needs help, the manual is located right in the software. The options available are much more robust than Shuttersnitch and one can view the images as thumbnails, within a viewing pane, or expand them to the size of the iPad screen. Unlike Shuttersnitch, CamRanger does not automatically download the images to the iPad for later viewing; rather, it accesses the images on the camera’s card. So if one wants to review the images when the camera is off, one must download them. I found this to be very inconvenient. Often the client wants to review images on the iPad; however, I may not have the time to wait for all the images to be downloaded.
Transmission speed is much faster than the Eye-fi card but, in my opinion (no scientific test was conducted!), slower than the Canon. That said, it is fast enough for my purposes. When shooting a rapid series (one image per second) of about five images, all five images were available on the iPad in about five to ten seconds; quick enough for me to use it to evaluate my set up and make any changes.
The connection to the iPad seemed more reliable than the Canon and definitely better than the Eye-fi. It did not mysteriously drop and restoring the connection was easy.
As a bonus, CamRanger has a free app for guests who want to watch the shoot on their own iPad or iPhones. The only penalty is about one second per additional user added on. The photographer can control which guests can have access and how the images may be presented (for instance with a watermark, etc.). Shuttersnitch does not have this option.
The other feature the CamRanger has which will appeal to some photographers is the ability to control one’s camera from the iPad. It is not just a remote trigger; rather, it allows one to make most adjustments one would want to make during a shoot. For instance one can change the ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and even manually focus. I have found this to be handy when I want an overhead shot. I attach the camera to a boom and can stay on the ground and control the camera via the Cam Ranger. Using the iPad, one can look at the view pane as if one was looking through the viewfinder. The only small thing is that there is a delay between when one presses the “capture” button on the iPad and when the shutter actually actuates. For still-life’s, architecture, etc. this is not an issue. For photos of people, as long as the model knows this and can stay still for a few seconds this is not a problem.
My pick ended up being the CamRanger. Its transmission speed, light weight, ease of use, and robust features made it a great value for the money. One can buy three CamRangers for the price of one Canon WFT-E7. All those saved dollars can be used for other equipment for one’s kit! Due to the Eye-fi’s transmission reliability problems, I cannot recommend it for professional use for those who need consistent performance and rapid image transfer.