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Image download: Remote Capture

Would you like a 80GB media card for your EOS digital camera? Would you like to shoot wildlife with a macro lens? Or see what your pictures really look like within seconds of shooting?

All this and more is possible with EOS Capture (previously Remote Capture) and a laptop computer. The software comes free on a CD supplied with your camera.

What does it do?

EOS Capture switches control of your digital EOS from the camera to the computer. Features you would normally set on the camera can be adjusted via the computer keyboard.

These features include shutter speed, aperture, ISO speed, exposure compensation and image quality (RAW, Large/Fine, etc.). There is also a frame counter and a battery check.

About the only useful thing you can’t change from the keyboard is the shooting mode − this still has to be set on the camera.

The frame counter is mostly irrelevant. This is because EOS Capture can save images directly to your computer hard disk, rather than to the camera CompactFlash card. If you have 40GB of spare hard disk space on your computer, and are generating 8Mb files with each camera exposure, you can shoot around 5,000 images before your disk is full. Also, with some set-ups, the frame counter will read 999 for most of this time, because that’s its maximum value.

Computer connection

The camera is connected to the computer via a USB cable.

A camera-to-computer USB cable is supplied with the camera. This has a length of only about 1,200mm. When you move the camera, you usually have to move the computer at the same time.

For a practical set-up, you need a USB extension cable, ideally with a built-in USB repeater. This allows you to join two or more of the cables for extra length. This type of cable is available from retailers of electronic goods.

Remote Capture

Remote Capture is a standalone application. Launch it and follow the on-screen dialogues to connect to the camera. You will then be able to change camera settings from the computer keyboard, fire the camera and save images to a selected folder on your computer.

EOS Capture

EOS Capture is handled differently to Remote Capture. Although loaded as a separate application, EOS Capture runs from within recent versions of ZoomBrowser (ImageBrowser on Macintosh computers), Digital Photo Professional or EOS Viewer Utility.

Before you open the application, connect the camera to the computer using the USB lead supplied with the camera (and extension leads, if required). Now switch the camera on.

After launching the Browser, click the ‘Canon Camera’ icon shown in the left-hand column. This will bring up a dialogue box, which asks you to select a camera or memory card from a drop down menu. Select your camera name, which should be in the list.

This will take you to another dialogue box, where normally you would download images from the CompactFlash card in the camera. However, if you look at the top right of the box, you will see a tag for Remote Shooting. Click this, and then the icon that appears.

Next, you will be asked to create a folder on your computer where images can be saved. Finally (although the entire procedure only takes a few seconds), two windows will appear. The smaller window varies with the camera and gives you keyboard control of various settings. Click on any item to highlight it, and then use the left/right arrows to make changes. Keep in mind that some functions are set automatically in some shooting modes and this applies even with EOS Capture. For example, you cannot change the white balance mode or the ISO speed settings in the full auto (green square) mode or any of the PIC modes.

To take a picture, click the camera icon to the right of the frame counter. The camera will fire and within seconds a large display of the image will appear in the Browser window. At the same time, a thumbnail image will appear at the bottom of the window. The thumbnails remain as you shoot more pictures, giving a quick and easy way to return to a large view of a previous image.

There is a View icon at the bottom of the Browser screen, which gives an even larger image or allows multiple images in one window so that you can compare exposures. There is also a SlideShow icon, which will automatically run through all the images (or a selection of them) with user-set time intervals and transition effects.

The file name can be changed from within the Browser window and there is more shooting information (shutter speed, aperture, flash, custom functions) than you probably need. Note that not all features mentioned are available with Remote Capture.

Computer choice

Although EOS Capture will run perfectly well on a desktop computer, this rather limits the use of the software. If you have a variety of subjects to photograph within 10-15m of your computer − close-ups of small objects, perhaps, or simple portraits, a desktop computer might be adequate. But for anything more ambitious, you really need a laptop computer. This is portable, will run for several hours from a built-in battery and can be used in locations away from home.

This can mean two computers, which is not only expensive, but becomes confusing when you have different applications and files on both machines. One option is to use a laptop as both your desktop and portable computer. Many laptops have the power and capacity of a good desktop machine, so why do you need one of each?

Most laptop computers will connect to a separate flat screen monitor and to a separate, more comfortable keyboard. This combination offers all the advantages of a desktop computer with all the convenience of a laptop. And all your applications and files are on a single computer.

Practical uses

What are the practical uses for EOS Capture? One is for studio portraiture or still life. EOS Capture writes the image file to your computer hard disk and then displays it on-screen within seconds of taking the picture. This image is much larger than the one shown on the back of the camera, making it easier to judge the composition, lighting and overall quality. At the same time, you get a histogram display, which helps in assessing the required exposure values.

Professional photographers will find EOS Capture invaluable when shooting work for a client. An art director or marketing manager will often want to be present at the session to direct the photography. Displaying the images on a computer screen means that everyone can see and comment on the progress of the shoot.

These photographs were taken for a magazine cover. An EF 14mm lens was used to produce the distorted perspective, giving emphasis to the Speedlite. The flash gun was only inches away from the front of the lens. Remote Capture was invaluable during this photo session. Each image was viewed on the screen of the laptop computer within seconds of shooting, showing the effect of slight changes to the pose.

But EOS Capture is just as useful for photography outdoors. With wildlife photography, it is no longer essential to have a hide when shooting close to your subject. You can position the camera on a tripod, operating it from a distance and seeing the captured image almost immediately. This works best where you have studied the subject and know where it will perch or stand (many birds and animals are creatures of habit). Placing food as bait can also help to lure your subject into position.

EOS cameras do not give a preview image, so you need to be able to see your subject to know when to shoot. A pair of binoculars will enable you to keep your distance while still being able to judge the right moment for an exposure. With digital, unsuccessful shots cost little or nothing, so you can be extravagant with your exposures. Remember also that the images are being saved to your computer and can be erased immediately if they are not successful. You are limited only by the life of the battery in the camera or laptop.