For the past week I've been working on a series of "cheatsheets" for Canon's Digital Learning Center website. I've written several of these before and will probably write several more--if I survive this session. This experience is showing me that although it sounds like fun to get to use a boatload of fancy new photo equipment all at once, the reality is it's a headeache.
Let's start with the fact that today's digital cameras and flash units have far more setup options than similar equipment of the film era. That's why I'm writing the cheatsheets: To provide a detailed explanation of features that were only summarily explained in the instructional manual. In some cases the explanation is clear enough but the implication isn't. For example, it's one thing to tell someone how to do something and another thing to explain why they would want to do it. In one particular case, the why was obvious enough, it was the how that caused me to throw in the towel.
In theory (I say "in theory" because I haven't been able to prove it) it's possible to attach a Canon Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E4 to a Canon EOS 5D Mark II, configure the WFT-E4 as a wireless FTP server, and configure an Apple iPad as an FTP client. The reason you would do this is so that every photo you take with the EOS 5D would automatically be transmitted and displayed on the beautiful 9.7"-diagonal screen of the iPad. This is a boon for photographers who want or need to have their images monitored by clients or models during the shoot--that is, if you can get it to work, which I could not.
Attaching the WFT-E4 to the camera was simple enough. Things went swiftly downhill from there. The screen below offers visual insight into why. I had to wade through at least a dozen screens similar to this one, each requiring me to select some arcane option (such as ad hoc vs. infrastructure mode) or enter an exact sequence of numbers that will have to be mirrored on the iPad setup.
That's right: You have to set up the iPad too. But before you do that you have to download and install an app called Shuttersnitch, after which you have to open the wireless network that shows up on the iPad (assuming you've configured the WFT-E4 correctly) with a static IP address.
Are your palms beginning to sweat yet? But that's not the worst of it. What's worse it that after four solid hours of effort and many different permutations I couldn't get it to work. Some photographers could, as evidenced by their testimonials on various web forums, and others couldn't. I happen to be one of those who couldn't. The kicker is that even if I had been able to get it to work it would have taken roughly five seconds for each file to transfer from the camera to the iPad. That's no problem for a catalog shoot or a portrait session. It's a tad slow for a modeling session.
I'm sure there are some of you who are reading this and saying to yourselves, "What? You couldn't configure a simple ad hoc wireless FTP connection? Child's play. I did the same thing but in infrastructure mode with a battery-powered wireless router. You get greater range and reliability to boot." You're probably the type who configures your smartphone to receives photos from spy satellites. You're a freak.
In anticipation of those who will feel obliged to inform me that Shuttersnitch is primarily designed for easy link-ups with DSLRs equipped with EyeFi cards (SD cards that have a built-in wireless transmitter), I know this. The point of this exercise was to do it with the Canon WFT-E4, not a third-party solution.
I sent the EOS 5D Mark II and WFT-E4 back to Canon. I continue to use the iPad, but only for simple things like browsing the Internet and keeping track of e-mails. As for taking photographs, I'm feeling the urge to use my EOS 1n film camera for a while. It will be a relief to use a camera that doesn't do anything more than take pictures.