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Moving The Cord

September 10th, 2012

For once I don’t want to cut the cord, I just want to change the devices attached to each end. Specifically I’m referring to my photographic workflow. Since I’ve started taking photography more seriously, I’ve noticed few flaws here and there.

One of the biggest for me is related to one of the small element of a DSLR: the built-in LCD display.

I own a Canon 500D and the built-in display is something like 3.5” wide which is to say that it’s quite small. On that kind of display every picture seems great except that once you see them on a bigger display, many of them looks like crap. Sometimes is the light, sometimes the exposure or the specific view and angle chosen for the shot.

The easy way to solve this problem is to tether the camera to my MacBook and use its entire screen as an external liveview device. Unfortunately I’m rarely in a “studio-like” environment so it’s not a very good solution to carry around my laptop. I wish there could be a lightweight device, with a big and gorgeous screen that I could easily always carry with me to be tethered to my camera when needed.

Oh wait…a device like this already exist and is called iPad. So why don’t I use it with my Canon? Because I can’t.

To this date there’s no way to directly tether an iPad to a camera directly, to use it as an external display. If you want to use the iPad, you need to tether the camera to a pc that is on the same Wi-Fi network as the iPad (an ad-hoc network works fine as well). You can easily see that this way doesn’t solve any problem but instead add one more device to the mix, making the entire setup rather ridiculous.

So, why can’t you use the iPad directly?

Because camera makers like Canon and Nikon decided to don’t support these devices making their SDK only available for desktop/laptop development. If you ask me, this is a rather stupid move and I hope they will soon change their minds in light of the wide adoption of tablets.

Unfortunately at least for Canon a change in their decision seems unlikely due to a very strong announcement of not having plans of changing their SDK package.

In an ideal world you should be able to use the Camera Connection Kit or a custom Dock-to-MiniUSB cable to tether your camera directly to your iPad (or any other tablet) and use this device as a bigger monitor, allowing you to really see your shot and helping you in making better decisions before pressing the shutter.

To be fair it’s not only camera-makers fault. As of today the iPad only supports video-out and not video-in preventing any possibility of direct-integration. I’m confident that this could be the easiest side of the equation to be changed, because along with technological improvement on the hardware side, this software limitation can be easily lifted. If you do the 3-pieces setup you are already able to control your camera from the iPad, so we can argue that the tablet has all the horse power that is needed to perform these tasks.

I wish it will come the day when I’ll be able to reduce the volume and weight of my backpack, but for now the only option would be to get a MacBook Air: not the most cost-effective solution for sure.