Over the last couple of years I have been investigating different options for remotely triggering cameras for wildlife photography (mostly for my project with the Arctic Fox). One of the solutions I settled on after much research was the Camptraptions camera trap system which I reviewed here (Read the REVIEW) some months ago now (and have subsequently used to photograph Arctic Fox). More recently I came across an alternate (but different) solution from a company called CamFi that utilises a smart phone for remote camera control. Now, I know that smart phone control of a DSLR is nothing new. There are a number of different products on the market that offer varying levels of camera control from smart devices. Just being totally upfront, I have historically not really been a fan of camera control from smart phones. Mostly because I find it cumbersome to use a smart phone in the sort of cold weather environments I am often shooting (plus iPhone battery life in the cold is really appalling). However, the CamFi system is so feature rich and the control is so slick that I believe the system could work reasonably well even in quite hostile conditions. Of course, much depends on your smart phone device in these sort of environments. So with the Caveat that I have not as yet had a chance to test this in either the Arctic or Antarctica you can read on…CamFi is at its most basic, a way for photographers to control their Nikon or Canon DSLR wirelessly. The list of cameras supported by CamFi is steadily growing and a complete list of currently supported cameras can be found on CamFi’s website HERE). The device mounts on the hot shoe of compatible DSLRs and creates a Wi-Fi network that you can connect to using a PC or Mac as well as Android and iOS mobile devices. The wifi network created by the CamFi trigger is by default unsecured and open (it needs to be so you can connect to it). Once you have connected to the device from your phone you can access the settings in the application and quickly and easily secure the network. Anyone using the device in dense urban areas should probably keep this in mind and secure the network as a first order of business. Wireless range is more than reasonable and will I imagine be more than sufficient for the majority of applications.With dedicated apps CamFi will allow for Live View on a mobile device, as well as capturing images and controlling camera settings such as AF points, metering mode, exposure compensation, aperture, shutter speed and ISO (so it can do a lot more than a pair of pocket wizards for example). You can also configure CamFi to automatically display images as they are taken and connect to an Amazon Fire Stick for viewing on TV sets (a bit gimmicky, but might be of use in a studio environment). Additionally you can browse, delete and view images, including EXIF data on your camera from your mobile device or computer, and a robust built-in time-lapse feature is included. I wont go into detail on every feature of the CamFi as that would require a lot of explanation. Suffice to say, there are some explanatory videos on the CamFi website that outline the many features of the product and these are worth investing some time in if you have an interest in remote control of your DSLR Camera.According to the manufacturer, CamFi has a six hour battery life. In my own initial testing I found battery life to be +/- an hour or so from manufactures specified time. I suspect battery life in cold environments to be radically reduced (although I have not as yet had time or the opportunity to test this). I suspect battery life is also going to be heavily dependant on how much you are using the device; but I have not really had time to do extensive testing to date. Given the size of the device and the requirement for it to create and communicate via a wireless network I find the battery life to be more than acceptable.
In my testing with the Canon EOS 1DX MKII and EOS 5DSR to date I have found the CamFi to be simple, responsive and intuitive to use. One might gripe that the unit that mounts on the hot shoe is bigger than it needs to be; but it would be a quibble and given the unit weighs almost nothing I don’t find the size objectionable (its not much larger than a Pocket Wizard). The unit is charged via a micro usb port and so can be plugged into any computer to charge. The CamFi is supplied with a cable appropriate to your camera at time of order and the unit itself also includes a LAN Port (LAN cable not included).
The application to control CamFi is also available for the Mac / PC. So you can control the camera from a computer as well as from a smart phone. The Camfi software is compatible with devices and computers running at least iOS 7.0, Android 4.0, Windows XP or Mac OS X 10.10. CamFi is currently listed at $130 USD on Amazon and at this price is well below manufacturer-provided options for high-end DSLRs. I find it cheap for the features and functionality it offers.
Conclusion: I have to admit that when I first received the CamFi I thought it was a bit of a gimmick and not really a serious tool for photography. However, the application offers just about every level of control you could possibly want from your camera (even live view!) and is simple and easy to operate. In real world use the software is slick, robust and quick to use. There really isn’t much to dislike about the product and I expect it will prove useful in a number of different circumstances. I can envisage a situation where I might use it to photograph Aurora Borealis at night from the comfort and warmth of my vehicle. Simply set up the camera, retreat to the warmth of the vehicle and do the rest from inside the truck!
There are a few things I would like to see in a future generation of the product. First and foremost it would be beneficial to have a battery indicator to show how much charge is remaining in the CamFi. I would also like to see the product incorporate some robust weather sealing for use in hostile environments and inclement weather. As it currently stands, the LAN port and USB ports are fully exposed, so I am not sure I would be comfortable using this device in pouring rain.
I would also very much like the ability to see a live histogram on the controlling device before I take a photograph (this feature is currently missing). You can see a full RGB histogram after you take a photograph (along with all other relevant metadata) so the lack of live histogram isn’t exactly a deal breaker; it would just be nice to have.
Summing up, CamFi is a pretty cool hardware and software system that enables remote WiFi control of many Canon and Nikon DSLR models. The CamFi iPhone App has a better interface and is more feature rich than the Canon and Nikon equivalent software. Critically, it allows you to change exposure settings as well as other key camera settings like ISO and metering. For the many DSLRs that do not have WiFi capability, it could be an important tool for remote shooting and quickly sharing photos to social media. In my own photography it will no doubt find various uses as I continue to experiment with the device.