Choosing Tethered Shooting Software for Nikon DSLR Cameras

Most Nikon DSLR owners are unlikely to have experimented with tethered shooting for one simple reason: Nikon charges in the order of $153 (Amazon) for the required software, where as Canon ships tethered shooting software with their DSLRs at no additional charge.

There have been free alternatives available for some time now but they weren’t that easy to locate or use and had to rely on approaches (e.g. WIA) that couldn’t take full advantage of all of the camera’s capabilities.  Nikon’s public release of newer SDKs redresses that and has spurred developers to produce more sophisticated alternatives.  These may finally bring tethered shooting to the Nikon masses.

 

Why Shoot Tethered?

Photographers use tethering for two main reasons:

  1. Image Review and Workflow – Shooting while tethered provides immediate feedback about your work on a larger screen, making it easier to review and adjust your approach mid shoot and let the “keepers” enter your digital workflow more quickly.  (More detail)
  2. Remote Control – Previewing, configuring and triggering your camera remotely can be extremely helpful when doing product, macro, time lapse or self portraiture photography.

The feature set for free tethered shooting software has traditionally focused upon the needs of “Image Review and Workflow” users.  The new Nikon SDKs allow better support for “Remote Control” users, especially with the introduction of Live View.

 

Selecting Your Software

The most appropriate tethering software for you will be dependent upon a number of factors:

I had access to Windows XP and a Nikon D70S while preparing this post.  As such I was unable to test Mac and Linux specific software or perform in depth testing of programs utilising the Nikon SDKs.  Also some software has been released in German only and could not be reviewed. 

The material below focuses upon the free alternatives available, and has split the free choices into separate “with Extensive Camera Support” and “with Modern Camera Support” categories.  Commentary about my experiences is included when I’m able to test the software.  Where I can’t test software directly I’ve included links to relevant publicly available data.  This can be used as a starting point if you wish to conduct your own investigation into application suitability for your needs.

A list of commercial alternatives has been included for completeness.  Limited detail is provided and I suggest readers use the vendor websites to gain a better understanding of the vendor’s solution.

 

My Picks

Keeping in mind that I tether for “Image Review and Workflow” purposes and use a Nikon D70S and Windows XP, my top picks are:

  1. DIYPhotobits.com Camera Control – it works, and has the widest feature set of any non-Nikon SDK tethering software on Windows
  2. Loligo Tether – visually more appealing but had reliability issues during testing

If I upgraded my camera body to something a little more modern my list would become:

  1. DCamCapture – use of Nikon SDK should result in more robust and fully featured connectivity with the camera
  2. DIYPhotobits.com Camera Control – it works, and has the widest feature set of any non-Nikon SDK tethering software on Windows

Mac users should definitely look into Stefan Hafeneger’s Sofortbild application.  The feature set is impressive and I wish that DCamCapture’s feature set was as rich!  If you use both a Mac and Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2, or require support for older cameras, then StudioTether would be preferable.  While Sofortbild has more advanced features than StudioTether many of them would become redundant when added into a Lightroom-based workflow.

gPhoto2 was the only option I found for Linux users though I’m sure there are more available.  See this post for details.

Good luck with your adventures with tethered shooting, and please share your experiences with us in the comments section below.

 


Free Software with Extensive Camera Support

Tethering software in this section uses the underlying Picture Transfer Protocol, rather than Nikon’s published SDKs, to talk to your camera.  This provides wider compatibility at the expense of supporting more advanced camera features such as Live View. 

Two options were tested to confirm whether they could meet my needs, with the results outlined below.  An overview of all options (including those I couldn’t test) is included at the end of the section.


DIYPhotobits.com Camera Control

 DIYPhotobits.com Camera Control Main Screen 

Download Here

 

DIYPhotobits.com Camera Control is a hosted script using WIA over a PTP link to interact with your camera.  It provides features for both Image Review and Remote Control users.  It is designed to solely manage the link to the camera, with more advanced workflow tasks being left for the user’s preferred viewer/workflow tool.  Personally I prefer this approach because there are plenty of viewers and workflow tools to choose from and I’d rather the author focus on getting the tethering right.

The interface was a little slow on the initial connection – times of more than 2 minutes were common – but this seems to be a common complaint with WIA based applications.  So be patient and give the application time to connect.  The hosted script development approach means you may see the odd script error message pop up and be asked whether to continue running scripts on the page.  In practice the program seemed to recover and continue performing its duties if you selected “Yes” to continue running scripts. 

There was one repeatable (and long standing) issue that will impact Remote Control type users.  When you use the “Shutter Release” and “Download Immediately” features together the image capture format is swapped.  e.g. select JPG and “Download Immediately”, click the “Shutter Release” button, and an NEF format file will be transferred to your computer.  Strange, but once you know the issue is there you can easily work around it.

Despite my concerns with the hosted scripting development approach, this was the only program I could get to consistently work with my Nikon D70S for tethered shooting.  I’d recommend trying this program first if you have a camera not supported by the Nikon SDKs.


Loligo Tether

 

Loligo Tether Main Screen

Download Here 

 

Loligo Tether is a .Net framework application using WIA over a PTP link to interact with your camera.  

It is designed for Image Review type users.  It includes some basic image viewing capabilities but for best results should be combined with a dedicated viewing or workflow application.

I had high hopes for this application and was planning to use it in preference to DIYPhotoBits.com Camera Control.  Unfortunately there was one minor issue that got in the way: I couldn’t get it to consistently work with my camera when using either my camera or the program to trigger the shutter.  To be fair to the author they did describe this as an alpha release so my expectations were unrealistic.  This problem may be specific to my environment so you might want to test it yourself.  I will keep an eye on the application’s progress but until reliability improves it is hard to recommend this for general use. 

All Options Considered in Free Software with Extensive Camera Support Category

 

Name Compatibility Suitable For Features Comments
DIYPhotobits.com Camera Control

$0

Current Version: v4.0

Camera(s): All
OS: Win XP, Vista
Language(s): English
Image Review, Remote Control Image Review: Auto Sync, View Exposure Settings, External Viewer, File naming prefix
Remote Control: Remote Trigger, Time Lapse, Set Exposure Settings, Set File Format, Bracketing
Basic Image Review and Remote Control features. No Live View. Would need to be used with an external viewer/workflow application. Written as hosted script, so can be more error prone than a true application. One of the more mature free tethering programs.
gPhoto2

$0

Current Version:
2.4.5

Camera(s): D40, D40x, D50, D60, D70, D70s, D80, D90, D100, D200, D300, D700

OS: Linux
Language(s): English, and others

Image Review, Remote Control Image Review: “All”
Remote Control: “All”, including Remote Trigger, Time Lapse, Set Exposure Settings, Live View
See gPhoto2 documentation for tethered capabilities.  See this post for a tutorial around its usage.
Icarus Camera Control

$0

Current Version: Snapshot 20090425

Camera(s): D80
OS: Mac OS X
Language(s): English
Remote Control Remote Control: Remote Trigger, Time Lapse, Set Exposure Settings Basic Remote Control features. Minimal information available about the program. PTP based so assume it will be able to provide extensive camera support. Relatively young application.
Loligo Tether

$0

Current Version: January 2, 2009

Camera(s): All
OS: Win XP, Vista
Language(s): English
Image Review Image Review: Auto Sync,
Internal Viewer, Multi Photo View
Remote Control: Remote Trigger, Time Lapse
Basic Image Review features. Limited to no remote control features. Relatively young application.
PhotoRemote

$0

Current Version: v1.0.3.0

Camera(s): All
OS: Win XP, Vista
Language(s): German
Image Review Image Review: Auto Sync, External Viewer, Web and FTP Server publish, Event Scripting Engine
Remote Control: Remote Trigger, Time Lapse
Basic Image Review features. Limited to no remote control features. Notable features are automatic publishing to web/FTP server, and internal scripting support.
StudioTether

$0 (Donation Requested)

Current Version: v3.6

Camera(s): D1, D1H, D1X, D2Hs, D2X, D2Xs, D3, D100, D200, D300, D700, D70, D70s, D80, D90, D40, D40x, D50, D60
OS: Mac OS 10.5
Language(s): English
Image Review, Remote Control Image Review: Auto Sync, View Exposure Settings, Lightroom Integration
Remote Control: Remote Trigger, Set Exposure Settings, Liveview
Basic Image Review and Remote Control features. Designed to integrate with Lightroom.
* Remote control of your camera & onscreen display of camera settings

 


Free Software with Modern Camera Support

Tethering software in this section uses Nikon’s published SDKs, rather than the underlying Picture Transfer Protocol, to talk to your camera.  This provides simpler access to more advanced camera features (e.g. Live View) at the expense of camera support.  At the time of writing Nikon’s SDKs support the D3, D3x , D40, D60, D80, D90, D200, D300, and D700 only.

An option was tested to confirm whether it could be used for cameras that weren’t officially supported, with the result outlined below.  An overview of all options (including those I couldn’t test) is included at the end of the section.


DCamCapture

 

DCamCapture Main Screen

Download Here

 

DCamCapture is an application developed using the SDKs Nikon began releasing last year.  This allows access to more sophisticated functionality than the previously mentioned applications (e.g. Live View) at the expense of supporting older cameras.  Nikon’s D80 is the oldest camera model for which an SDK is publicly available.  For me personally this means I’m unable to test this application as I own a Nikon D70S and the software refuses to connect to that model.

DCamCapture provides features for both Image Review and Remote Control users.  While it does support Live View and provides an IPTC editor I’d still suggest teaming the application with a dedicated image viewer/workflow tool for best results.  From the current documentation it is difficult to know exactly how many of the exposure setting controls are available when trying to remotely control a camera.

DCamCapture File Menu

DCamCapture Camera Menu

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t comment on the application usability as I don’t have access to a newer camera to test with.  Digital Photography Tips and Techniques has reported some usability issues but it is unclear whether these issues are model specific, so its worth conducting your own testing in case it is model specific or they have released another update since then.   To be fair to the author they did describe this as an alpha release so we should set our expectations accordingly.

All Options Considered in Free Software with Modern Camera Support Category

 

Name Compatibility Suitable For Features Comments
DCamCapture

$0

Current Version: v0.5.0

Camera(s): SDK Supported Only
OS: Win XP, Vista
Language(s): English, German
Image Review, Remote Control Image Review: Auto Sync, File naming prefix, IPTC editor
Remote Control: Remote Trigger, Time Lapse, Live View (inc recording)
Basic Image Review and Remote Control features. No visibility or control of camera settings. Able to record Live View to avi file. Would need to be used with an external workflow application.
Sofortbild

$0

Current Version: v1.0

Camera(s): SDK Supported Only
OS: Mac OS X 10.5.0 or later
Language(s): English
Image Review, Remote Control Image Review: Auto Sync, View Exposure and Focus Settings, Automatic HDRI Creation, Internal Viewer,
Histogram Viewing, Configurable Filename
Remote Control: Remote Trigger, Time Lapse, Set Exposure Settings, Bracketing
Has both Image Review and Remote Control features. Feature set is the most advanced of any free tethering software considered during this review.

 


Commercial Software

All options listed in this section are commercial software.  Please refer to the software websites to confirm whether the feature sets are compatible with your requirements.  Most provide trial versions so you can properly test the product before having to part with any money..

 

Name Compatibility Suitable For Comments
TetherPro

$49.95

Current Version: Unknown

Camera(s): All
OS: W2K, XP, Vista
Image Review, Remote Control * Remote Camera Control – Adjust Camera Settings via your PC
* Intelligent rules giving Complete Control over your image files
* Automatic Image Backup for Safety
* Adobe Compatible Image Tagging (Rating and Colour coding)
* Automatic Printing of images and Proof Sheets
NKRemote

$95

Current Version: v1.0.3

Camera(s): D90, D300, D700, D3 or D200
OS: Win XP, Vista
Image Review, Remote Control * Display live images on the PC screen*
* Auto focus and manually control focus from a PC*
* Run a Photobooth: automatically take a sequence of photos and print them out
* Sophisticated control for time lapse photography
* Preview images in black and white or color
Camera Control 2

$153

Current Version: v2.5

Camera(s): D3X, D3, D2X, D2Hs, D2H, D2Xs, D700, D300, D200, D100, D90, D80, D70s, D70, D60, D50, D40X, D40, D5000
OS: W2K, XP, Vista, Mac OS X 10.3.9/ 10.4.11/ 10.5.1
Image Review, Remote Control * Picture Control Utility: In certain Nikon digital SLRs such as the D3, D700, D300 and D90 customized image adjustment, including tone compensation curve data, can be saved to tailor the camera’s behavior to the photographer’s vision, improving efficiency when using multiple cameras at the same time.
* LiveView support: Live previews direct from the camera are supported on the D3, D700, D300 and D90 when this feature is enabled. See what you are about to shoot!
* Compatible with WiFi operation: In addition to supporting USB cable connections, Camera Control Pro offers compatibility with the optional wireless transmitter models WT-2a, WT-3a and WT-4a. When attached to a digital SLR, the WT-2a, WT-3a and WT-4a enable remote shooting and setting via a wireless LAN over WiFi.
* Compatible with Nikon’s Image Authentication Function: Image data can be transferred and stored without affecting the authentication function.

 

(via DIYPhotoBits, NikonRumors and Digital Photography Tips and Techniques)

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Posted on May 15, 2009 at 12:55 am by Matt · Permalink
In: Howto, Review, Software · Tagged with: , , , ,