Canon has a range of Wireless File Transmitter (WFT) units that can be fitted to many of its professional and semi-professional EOS DSLR cameras. These WFT units provide standard network wired or WiFi connections that allow a camera and remote computer to communicate and transfer images. Brian Worley gives an overview of the Canon wireless system, network compatibility, and the best use of the communication modes within the Canon system.
Each Canon WFT unit features three types of connection modes – WFT server mode, FTP transfer mode and EOS Utility – to suit different requirements for image transfer and remote camera control. Selecting the appropriate mode enables images to be sent continuously from the camera to a remote computer as the photographer shoots, or images can be selected for transfer by the photographer or a remote editor viewing images that are already stored on the camera’s memory cards.
In some modes it is possible to remotely control the camera to change shutter speeds, apertures and other settings, including releasing the shutter over the network. Due to the wide variety of network structures and network equipment the set-up of a WiFi transmitter requires knowledge of both the network environment and the EOS DSLR camera system.
Wireless File Transmitters also have a 100Mbit wired network port that can be used instead of the WiFi connection. Wired networks deliver significantly faster data transfer speeds than WiFi networks and are sometimes used for arena sports photography where a set position is assigned. Wired connections are simpler to set-up than wireless ones, but the networking and software set-up processes are very similar.
Wireless network terminology
There are several key wireless-related terms that are worth knowing:
- An Access Point is a hardware unit that provides a WiFi connection to a network system. It is sometimes referred to as a router.
- An Internet Protocol (IP) address is a unique sequence of numbers that is used to identify a device on a network. IP addresses are written as a set of four numbers with a period between each. Examples of IP addresses are 192.168.1.2 or 10.10.10.200
- The Service Set Identifier (SSID) is often called ‘the network name’ and is used to identify the WiFi network that’s being used for communication.
- Domain Name Server (DNS): in networks connected to the internet the DNS enables the use of names to identify ftp servers, for example ftp.canon-europe.com instead of 192.168.1.2. The Domain Name Server maintains a cross reference of names and IP addresses.
- Gateway – the network gateway is the unit that provides a connection route to networks outside of the directly connected devices. A Gateway is often used to provide access to the internet.
WiFi network types
There are two types of WiFi network that Canon’s WFT units can use:
1. Ad Hoc: to connect a camera directly to a computer. The term Ad Hoc is used to describe a simple network comprising of only two devices communicating with each other over a wired or wireless connection.
2. Infrastructure: to connect to a larger network through an access point.
Although Ad Hoc networks are easier to set up, and simpler to implement, Infrastructure networks offer faster data transfer speeds and greater connection stability. Ad Hoc networks are used when there are no access points to connect, such as when shooting in remote locations, while an Infrastructure network is the best choice for studio work and can be set up through an access point.
WFT communication modes
Before the WFT unit is connected to a wireless network it's important to note that Canon’s range of Wireless File Transmitters provides several communication modes, each of which is suited to meet the needs of differing requirements. The modes, and their uses, are as follows:
File Transfer Protocol (FTP) mode
FTP is often used for transfer of binary and text files between different computer systems. In FTP mode an EOS camera connects to an FTP server and initiates the transfer of captured images to the FTP server. When using FTP mode the camera can be configured to automatically transfer all of the images as they are taken, or to allow the photographer to select specific images for transfer.
For situations such as event photography, where multiple photographers are using WFT-equipped cameras, FTP is the ideal mode to transfer images from several cameras to one host computer. FTP mode is high-speed and has the lowest drain on battery power, since it only activates the network when it is sending the image files.
Wireless File Transfer (WFT) server mode
WFT server mode allows you to control your camera wirelessly from a web browser on a computer, smart phone or other WIFi-enabled device. A standard web browser is needed on the computer that is viewing the images from the camera. It is also possible to see what the camera sees and control settings and shooting functions through the web browser.
In WFT server mode the camera becomes a simple web server that displays the images stored on memory card(s) in the camera. Up to three authenticated users can view the images on the camera memory card(s) and download them to their own computers. In this way a remote picture editor can review the images that have been taken and choose to download the required pictures without the photographer’s intervention.
EOS Utility mode
In this mode the camera works with Canon’s EOS Utility software to provide remote control operation of a camera, without a cable, over a network connection as if the camera was connected directly to the computer with a USB cable. With EOS Utility software this mode allows two-way communication between your camera and computer so you can download images directly to a computer. Remote control of camera settings, configuration, and use of the camera’s Live View function are all also possible in this mode.
The Linked Shot mode provides the possibility to create a set of linked EOS DSLR cameras – releasing the shutter on the master camera will release the shutters of up to 10 slave cameras. Each camera involved in such a set-up will need to have a Wireless File Transmitter attached, but no additional third party network hardware is required.
Wireless for studio and commercial shoots
When working in a studio environment, and on location, it is desirable to be able to have a preview of images on a large screen as the shoot progresses. The Canon range of Wireless File Transmitters makes such previewing a reality in a simple and practical way by providing a method to transfer image files from the camera to a computer over a WiFi connection.
The FTP transfer and the EOS Utility communication modes deliver the solution to studio and commercial photographers. The simplest and fastest solution for transfer of images from the camera to the computer is the FTP transfer mode, though it may require an extra few steps in the initial set-up. If the shoot requires complete remote control of the camera from the computer then the EOS Utility communication mode is the solution.
Wireless network environments
There are some common elements to setting up a wireless network environment, regardless of the communication mode that’s being used.
1. Select the network environment
If you are shooting straight to a WiFi-enabled laptop, or a computer with a built-in WiFi card, use the Ad Hoc network configuration and create a network with only the camera and the computer. If the shoot requires more than one WFT-equipped camera an Infrastructure network with a WiFi access point must be prepared – an ADSL router that is used for internet access may provide an access point function.
2. Determine and configure the appropriate network settings
Ad Hoc networks are simple but the photographer needs to determine the settings manually. To be specific, the IP address for the camera and computer are recommended to be fixed, whilst the network SSID and any network security must be pre-determined.
Infrastructure networks have more elements, but often make the set-up simpler, since the network name, security and IP addresses can be automatically assigned by the access point.
3. Install and configure the computer software
If FTP transfer is used then an ftp server needs to be on the network. There are several FTP server programmes available and some are included with Windows and Macintosh operating systems. If EOS Utility mode is to be used it’s necessary to run the software and make sure that the Canon WiFi pairing software is activated in EOS Utility and running when the computer starts up (after activating the pairing software in EOS Utility, you will need to restart your computer for the software to run).
4. Configure the camera settings
Follow the steps in the Connection wizard on the camera’s LCD panel to set-up the camera for operation. Once the set-up is completed it may be stored, for later recall, by backing it up to a camera’s memory card.
Using EOS Utility to configure WiFi settings
Canon’s EOS Utility software provides a feature to allow the configuration of a WFT unit for FTP mode operation. Settings created can be saved and loaded on a camera memory card, or loaded to a camera that is connected to the computer via USB.
Using Wireless File Transmitters with existing WiFi networks
WiFi networks are already installed at many sports and event venues for photographers to use. At such locations it’s necessary for a photographer to find out the information that’s required to allow access to the network since such networks are often secured to stop spectators from accessing them. A WiFi network that requires a username and password to be entered on a web page to gain access cannot be used with the camera’s WFT connection.
It is necessary to find out the following information:
1. The network name or SSID. In some configurations this is hidden, so it will not be found when setting up the camera – in such cases it is necessary to enter the name into the camera manually.
2. The security key to use the network – typically WEP or WPA2 security is used. The keys are often long strings (codes) and need to be entered carefully for connection to be possible.
3. Such networks are often configured to assign IP addresses to the camera automatically. If not, it is necessary to get the allocated IP address from the event organiser.
4. If the network is only connected within the sports facility, and not to the internet, then it will be necessary to determine an IP address for the computer. If the network connects to the internet, it will be possible to upload images to your company’s ftp server directly from the camera.
In such cases the most likely used connections will be FTP mode to transfer from the camera to an ftp server, or WFT server mode so that a remote editor can review images on the camera and download the image files as needed.
For WFT server mode, it is necessary to configure an account with the username and password for up to three remote editors to access the camera.
Additional features of Wireless File Transmitters
WiFi transmitters also enable GPS devices to be connected to cameras and insert standard geo-tagging information directly in the images as they are captured. Furthermore USB-connected additional external storage can be added to the camera, providing an additional backup of data. To find out more about adding USB and enabling GPS devices just click here.
Selected Canon WFT units are Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) compatible and can be connected to media players, such as some games consoles, as well as televisions and digital photo frames. This allows JPEG images to be displayed on a TV set directly from the camera, without first needing to download the images to your computer.