Camera tethering

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Chris S.
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Camera tethering

Post by Chris S. »

The question of whether or not to use tethering software to tether the camera to a computer has come up in other threads, but I think it's an important question, and is easier to reference if it has its own thread.

I'd welcome everybody to weigh in with ideas or images--the more the merrier--but will get the ball rolling.

For studio macro, I always tether my camera to a dedicated computer using Nikon's Camera Control Pro 2. It's insultingly overpriced at $146 (street), but I still bought it and swear by it (as well as at it on occasion).

When tethered, the camera stores the images on the computer, rather than the in-camera memory card. This allows me to let the low-powered camera-control computer wirelessly beam the ingested images to a much more powerful computer for stacking and editing. The images are also displayed, immediately after being shot, full-frame on the big screen, with histograms.

For me, the big benefit of tethering is that I get to see each potential image on a big screen. I can evaluate the histogram (yes, I could do this on the camera's readout, but it's more illustratrive on the big monitor). Further, I can evaluate the effects of lighting and focus on a large screen. By tethering, I'm confident that when I do start the image stack photos, they are lit properly, positioned properly, etc.--much more than I could do with the camera's viewfinder.

Nikon Camera Control 2 is surely not the only game in town for tethered work, but it's the tethering application I'm most familiar with. I find it well worth the expense. By the time I actually start the stack, I'm sure that everything is just as I want it.

Best,

--Chris

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Post by gpmatthews »

Reasons for tethering can vary depending upon application. I am using Canon cameras mounted on a microscope and find having the computer screen next to the 'scope very convenient. I don't use Canon software, however, but use Breeze Systems software. Shutter release is possible via mouse, keyboard or foot-pedal. Foot-pedal is a must for chasing live creatures around a slide as it leaves both hands free for focus and x-y tracking.

The disadvantage of using tethering under these circumstances is the longer time for image transfer to the computer than writing direct to card. Although both writing to card and to computer disk are options whilst tethered, writing to card hangs the software for both Canon EOS 500D (using Breeze DSLR remote Pro) and G9 (using Breeze PS Remote). I haven't managed to solve this problem yet and did not suffer from this when using Breeze PS Remote with the Canon Powershot S50. It doesn't worry me particularly, as I prefer to save to computer, anyway, and it is acceptably fast for most purposes.

I also use the software to take stacks. To do this I often set up 100 repeat exposures in the "Time Lapse" menu with a suitable short delay between them. I can then let the software take the pictures while I adjust focus and monitor results on screen. The sequence can be terminated when sufficient shots have been taken.

Breeze DSLR Remote Pro has the ability to shoot stacks by controlling camera focus where a suitable lens is used. The stack can be automatically submitted to stacking software such as CombineZ. Unfortunately, as the microscope can only be focused manually, I have not tried out this feature, but it may be of interest to the macro guys.

Live View on the 500D is also very convenient with the camera tethered to a computer. It offers great potential for live demonstrations of microscopy, allowing several people to simultaneously observe what the microscopist is seeing. It is a lot easier than having people unfamiliar with microscopes wrestling with focus, ocular pitch on the binocular, etc., etc. I've only used it onto a laptop, but the potential of putting the image to a large format screen strikes me a considerable.

Finally, the ability to create custom file names during a session is a good feature of the software. I use this to record which objective I'm using and to identify stacks. Other comments can also be added.
Graham

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Post by ChrisR »

Good idea for the thread :D
Nikon Camera Control 2 is surely not the only game in town
Are there alternatives, for Nikon?

And are the camera controls the same, just remote, or are they different?
Eg how does mirror-lockup work? Are you still limited to the two-step method or the 1 second delay method, for a D700?

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Post by Harold Gough »

gpmatthews wrote:Reasons for tethering can vary depending upon application.
The first time I came across a published description of the technique it was to take an ultra wideangle shot of the open mouth of a (wide awake and active) crocodile in the wild.

Harold
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Post by gpmatthews »

... are you sure it was the camera that needed tethering?
Graham

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Post by Chris S. »

ChrisR wrote:Are there alternatives, for Nikon?

And are the camera controls the same, just remote, or are they different?
Eg how does mirror-lockup work? Are you still limited to the two-step method or the 1 second delay method, for a D700?
Chris R, sorry for my slow response. Once again, work interfered with fun stuff.

I've experimented with one alternative to the Nikon-brand software: TetherPro from OxfordEye. http://www.oxfordeye.co.uk/tetherPro/tetherPro.aspx . For me, there were a few rough edges in the OxforEye software and so I corresponded with the developer, who deserves an A+++ for customer service. He did yeoman's work to fix my issues. I still have to admit that I still prefer the Nikon software, but am rooting for OxfordEye, and would urge others to at least give the free trial a go. To be fair, I haven't tried it in several months, and suspect that the developer has done a lot of improving since I last tried the software out. It is quite a bit cheaper, and more full featured, than the Nikon software. But since I own and use the Nikon software, I have a choice. I think Nikon's is overpriced, but it is simple and it works, and--very sorry to say--I prefer it.

I've heard of another alternative for Nikon tethering, but haven't tried it, and don't recall the name--sorry!

Mirror lockup does not work directly in either the Nikon nor OxforEye tethering software. Both programs seem to give a single signal to the camera, which locks up the mirror, but does not take the picture (though mirror up has a 30 second timout, which would result in the picture being taken eventually if you don't mind the loss of substantial time). So I've used the tethering software to set up the shot and eventually view the photo, together with a remote release to lock up the mirror and then trip the shutter--which takes two clicks of the remote release. I've more recently been trying the programmed delay approach, which seems to result in no quality decrease. I'd prefer if the tethering software natively accomodated mirror up, but cannot see any differences in using the delay feature--even at 60x. I'd note that I use Charlie Krebs' recommended approach of triggering the flash at the end of a long exposure in a dark room, which effectively extends the delay time.

But overall, I would not want to work without some form of tethering. The huge benefit, to me, of seeing what I am going to get on a big computer screen, while setting up the shot, is enormous. I would never want to shoot a stack in the dark and see it on a full monitor only after the fact. To my mind, tethering is standard operating procedure.

Best,

--Chris

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Post by AndrewC »

http://www.fastpictureviewer.com/prophoto/

At only $40 or sometimes less with offers.

Note: this is only an image transfer software probably using WIA and PTP, doesn't give you any camera control but it supports pretty much any camera and also includes a 64bit codec for NEF files.

If you are one of those lucky bxggers with LiveView you can interface through the Nikon SDK enabled packages such as DCamCapture which happens to be free.
Last edited by AndrewC on Sat Oct 31, 2009 2:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
rgds, Andrew

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Post by AndrewC »

.... also if any of you like software it is very easy to use WIA to tell a PTP linked camera to take a picture and then transfer it.

I'm working on some scripts right now but I can get round the mirror-up problem by sending sequential "grab an image" commands.

Andrew

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Post by AndrewC »

... and echo everything Chris said - once you "tether" you won't go back :)
rgds, Andrew

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Post by Harold Gough »

AndrewC wrote:... and echo everything Chris said - once you "tether" you won't go back :)
You mean, you never reach the end of your tether?

Harold
Last edited by Harold Gough on Sat Oct 31, 2009 4:57 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Post by Tardigrade37 »

I would like to add my two cents that the reason I bought a Canon 500D over a Nikon D5000 was that the remote capture software (EOS utility) is included for free. It works very well and I'm happy I didn't have to spend the extra $100+ for the Nikon remote capture.

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Post by AndrewC »

Harold Gough wrote:
AndrewC wrote:... and echo everything Chris said - once you "tether" you won't go back :)
You mean, you never reach the end of your tether?

Harold

... to answer obliquely, "no" because some clever guy worked out how to go wirelessly USB tethered :)

http://petetek.blogspot.com/2009/05/pet ... table.html
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Post by Harold Gough »

AndrewC wrote:some clever guy worked out how to go wirelessly USB tethered
That answers a question I have been thinking of asking in relation to maintaining full function when e.g. bellows are interposed between some of the current automated lenses and the camera body. I just find it surprising that such wireless connectivity is not widely available.

Harold
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Post by elf »

Harold Gough wrote:
AndrewC wrote:some clever guy worked out how to go wirelessly USB tethered
That answers a question I have been thinking of asking in relation to maintaining full function when e.g. bellows are interposed between some of the current automated lenses and the camera body. I just find it surprising that such wireless connectivity is not widely available.

Harold
I've seen a couple of DIYs that do this. Basically, buy one of the extension tube sets (Kenko), drill a few holes in the side of the first and last units, and solder long wires to them. It would be nice for someone to manufacture a set that had an external connector for the pins.

I've written a tethering program based on the Olympus SDK, but the SDK has too many limitations to make my program a commercial product. If it were not for the significant time delay between images in my program, I would be using it for all of my studio work. It's really nice to be able to verify the image quality of each image as the stack is taken. It's also a lot easier to verify the first and last images cover the DOF range you desire.

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Post by Charles Krebs »

Graham (and others),

Can you shoot a very rapid sequence of images while "tethered" or is it necessary to wait for each image to transfer?

For "normal" stacking of subjects that do not move it not an issue. But with the microscope I often need to take a very quick sequence of a live subject that has briefly paused (often these are later "manually" combined for DOF purposes). As long as I can still utilize the in-camera buffer it would be OK, but if tethering introduces any delay between exposures it would be a problem for some of my uses.

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