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Technique

Le présent article n'est pas disponible en Français
January 2009

WiFi units are not just about wireless file transfer from camera to computer. The range of Canon models offer some very good reasons to take a serious look at them for more than wireless working. While the Canon WiFi units may seem expensive they have several functions that make them far more useful than for simply being used as a wireless file transmission solution.

The WiFi transmitters in the current Canon range are: the WFT-E1 for use with the EOS-1D Mark II, EOS-1Ds Mark II and EOS 5D; the WFT-E2 for use with the EOS-1D Mark III and EOS-1Ds Mark III; the WFT-E3 for use with the EOS 40D and EOS 50D; and the WFT-E4 for use with the EOS 5D Mark II. In this article we will concentrate on the WFT-E2, WFT-E3, and WFT-E4 units. In the case of the WFT-E3 and WFT-E4, these units both double up as vertical shooting grips providing a well-integrated unit with a shutter release button and the control buttons for AE Lock, AF-ON and AF Point selection on the rear. If you need to use a vertical shooting grip and WiFi transmitter these give a viable solution to achieve both in one unit.

Advantages of Canon WiFi units

There are several features of the Canon WiFi units that make them especially suitable to the working life of a professional photographer. They are well built and hardy. Secondly, there are no cables to go from the camera to the WiFi unit. This may seem a small point but all the units are tightly integrated to the camera giving stronger connections and, importantly, preserving the weather sealing of the camera. They also provide a full-size USB port and this is what we’re going to look at now.

Using HDD and GPS units with WiFi devices
 

Click here to watch a movie about how to connect and use HDD and GPS units with Canon WiFi devices.

While a WiFi unit is very useful for a wide variety of photographic disciplines, from studio to event shooting and even photojournalism, the Canon units provide a full-size USB connection that adds some extra features for photographers.

Hard Disk Drives

The first benefit of this USB socket is the ability to plug in an external hard disk drive. This allows you to shoot images to both a memory card and an external hard drive simultaneously. While the EOS-1D Mark III and EOS-1Ds Mark III feature dual memory card slots so you can back up while shooting, the EOS 40D, 50D and 5D Mark II only feature a single CF card slot. For those working in one-off situations the ability to back up on the go could prove very useful.

With a WiFi unit and external hard drive, you can save images to both the memory card and external hard drive simultaneously so that, should the worst happen and you lose a memory card, you won’t lose all your images. In a wedding photography situation this could prove the difference between a big insurance claim and successfully producing a wedding album.

 

The full-size USB connection on the WFT units allows connection of peripherals such as external storage devices or GPS units.

The best types of hard disk drives to use in this situation are the new generation of 1.8inch portable bus-powered units. The 1.8inch drive is the same size as the one used in the standard Apple iPod units and are therefore very small and discrete. Being bus-powered, they take power from the WiFi unit and therefore you don’t need to carry a big battery pack around with you. If you plan on looking at this as a solution it’s worth trying out a couple of different hard disk drives because some of them use a different USB protocol that will not work.

If you want to stay with the Canon solution, then you could also use one of the media storage viewers – either the M30 or M80. These are the Canon produced portable hard disk drives with an LCD screen to allow you to see your images and either a 30GB or 80GB hard disk. These units have their own BP-511 battery so they don’t take battery power from the camera or the WiFi unit. Simply plug one in using a USB cable and you’ll be able to save images directly to it from the camera. This external hard disk drive solution has another advantage – back at the studio you don’t need to download each memory card in turn. Simply plug in the hard drive and transfer everything at once.

Once you’ve got the hard drive plugged in, there are some settings you need to make. Go to the WFT settings menu in the yellow tab; choose the USB device connection option; ensure storage is selected at the top and then choose ‘connect’. Once the device is connected and functioning, you can then choose how to save images to it.

In the recording function and media selection menu ‘Record Separately’ will allow you to save different files to the memory card and the hard drive. For example, you could save the RAW files to the CompactFlash card and your JPEG files to the hard drive. Or, for the sake of back up, you could save one file to both storage devices. Once you’ve finished using the hard drive, go back to the WFT settings menu and choose 'disconnect' in the USB device menu.

GPS locating

 

A 1.8inch portable external hard drive connected to the WFT-E4 unit on an EOS 5D Mark II.

Saving images directly to a hard disk may be a neat trick, but it seems these days that nothing is complete unless you know where you are. GPS locating is taking off in a big way and the USB plug on the WiFi units allows you to make use of many of the most popular recreational GPS units currently available to locate and provide GPS data of your exact position. But it does more than that. With a compatible unit, this GPS data is automatically transferred to the camera and saved in the EXIF data for each and every image you take while it is connected.

For many photographers this information could prove very useful – military photographers can locate exactly where images where taken, photojournalists can prove where their images were taken to picture desks, and from a consumer point of view, you can create track logs of your travels with images tagged for each location you visited.

 

A GPS device attached to the WFT-E4 on an EOS 5D Mark II camera.

The GPS tagging is visible in the EXIF data of all images and is shown as GPS co-ordinates (see image below). If a GPS unit is attached, but the unit does not have a valid GPS fix on the satellites, the EXIF data will also reflect this.

Attaching the GPS unit is as easy as the external hard disk drive. You need to plug the GPS unit into the USB port on the WiFi unit, go to the WFT menu setting, choose the USB device option and select 'GPS'. Then choose 'connect' and your images will then be tagged with the GPS data and the data will be shown in playback mode on the histogram display screen.

 

Canon’s Digital Photo Professional software shows the GPS data in the information view.

Compatible GPS units

The Garmin GPS Map 60Cx, Garmin eTrex Venture HC, Garmin eTrex Legend HCx, Garmin eTrex Vista HCx, and Garmin eTrex Summit HC units have been tested by Canon and are compatible with the current range of Canon WiFi transmitters. If you have a different GPS unit you want to use, it is worth testing it as Canon has not tested all of the available options. Canon has, however, tested the Garmin Oregon and Colorado range of units and these have been found to be incompatible. It is likely that if you have a different variation of the Venture, Legend, Vista or Summit units that it will work, but you should check it yourself first to make absolutely sure.