The past year or so there has been a proliferation of devices to offer us remote control of our cameras. First they were wired, then wireless. Canon's top offering is the LC-5 Wireless Controller at over $400. It features an operating distance of up to 300 feet. I can't think of any situation in which I would want to be 300 feet from my camera, especially in any big city, but I am sure wildlife photographers would find it helpful. The unit has 4 control modes: Single exposure, continuous, test, and a 3 1/5 second delay. It also has control of metering and shutter release. OK, useful, but compared to the new kids on the block this is a very expensive antique, or at least the concept is.
A short time ago I read about the Sanho iUSBportCamera . This is one of those devices that sits in the accessory shoe, plugs into the mini-usb port and controls your camera through a smartphone or tablet. It has a plethora of features including remote control of a digital SLR with the ability to view and share images through your smartphone or tablet. It has an intervalometer, HDR bracketing and self-timer. Control of shutter speed, aperture, white balance, and ISO. Exposure data with a histogram is displayed and you can see live view images from the camera's LCD--all on a smartphone or tablet. The devices uses wi-fi and has a range of about 50 feet. Not bad at all, especially for the current promotional price of $199.00. All this would be fantastic if it was easy to use and worked without a hitch. It doesn't.
As I have said several times in this blog, I am a photographer without interest in how stuff works, how it is built, or knowledge of geek-speak. I want to buy whatever it is I need, or think I need. Plug it in or turn it on and watch it work. The manual that comes with this device is not clearly written and the font is too small for eyes over 25 years old. When I could not understand something in the manual I tried to reach Sanho customer service. There is no phone support and a reply to my email took two days. Then, the advice I was given was to download the new manual. I did, it helped, a bit.
To set up the Wi-Fi communication between the device and the camera you have to find the ISP address for your phone or tablet, no where in the manual where there clear directions on how to do that but I eventually figured it out. Remembering a string of numbers with dots between them I finally made the link to the iUSBportCAMERA at which point a message appeared that I had to wait as it updated the software.
When the interface showed up on my iPad I was excited. I thought "how cool is this? I won't have to squat on the ground to get a neat low angle perspective." Picking the focal point by touching the image was a grand idea as well. I am not a fan of HDR so I probably wouldn't use that feature, but I would definitely have use for the timers and other controls. I did a couple of test shots and turned the thing off. The second time I went to use it I had issues. It took several attempts to get it to link to the camera. I had to enter the ISP address yet again. The live-view came up as a grey screen and I could not get anything to work. I thought about contacting Sanho customer service again, but I wouldn't wait two days for a reply - I guess I am spoiled by Canon's CPS service. I could have experimented with it, looking to solve the problem, but I was not in the mood to be a beta tester, I just wanted the damn thing to work and it wouldn't. Ten minutes later I sent off an RMA request to B&H. I then went back to B&H listing to read the reviews once more. Out of 7 reviews, too small a sample to start with, 2 were extremely negative and one marginal. I should have followed my own advice - read the negative reviews first. One buyer said he spent a week trying to get the thing to work, at least I didn't do that. I won't spend more than 15 minutes in line to get into a popular restaurant, so there was no way I was going to spend more than the couple of hours I did screwing around with this thing.