DIY Wireless Photography Tether

Over the last few years, I have greatly enjoyed my transition to DSLR photography. Using this tool I have been able to explore taking the photographs I’ve always envisioned in my imagination.

Taking photos the traditional way, raising the viewfinder to my eye and framing the shot, is absolutely my preferred method of capture. A DSLR’s viewfinder literally looks through the lens, and I have enjoyed the sense of immersion this action gives me.

At the same time, I’m fascinated with the notion of tethered photography. That is, connecting the camera to a computing device and using the computer interface to control the camera. Additionally, since my camera supports it, I can also use the computer screen to see what I’m capturing with what’s known as “live view.”

There are several instances where I’d find this appealing.

  • Studio photophraphy – for staff “head shots.”
  • HDR Photography – for nature shots where the the light levels are variable.
  • Video Recording – for changing the focus point during recording without touching the camera.
  • Remote photography – for shots where my presence next to the camera is an obstacle 1.

My ultimate goal was to find a solution which would allow me to tether my camera to my iOS devices wirelessly. As my “always carry” devices run iOS, this was essential. As it turns out, there are several such devices which allow just this, the most notable being Camranger. The only problem with this product is that it retails for $299! There are cheaper options as well, starting around $150, but they have less of a track record than Camranger’s offering.

$299, and even $150, is well out of my price range for a piece of equipment which isn’t essential to my typical workflow. As such, I had pretty much given up the prospect of acquiring one of these tools for myself. And then I came across a post about the TP-Link MR3040.

TP-LinkThis is a small battery-powered router which is normally used to connect to a 4g network and provide mobile wifi. It’s run, however, with an open source firmware. This makes the MR3040 able to be flashed 2 with an open source firmware called “OpenWRT.” This openness lead an ingenious developer to create a custom firmware for the tiny router, based on OpenWRT, which allows compatible cameras to be tethered wirelessly. Clients for Mac, Windows, and Android are available for download from the DSLRdashboard website and are free. The iOS client is available in the app store and costs $10. I have no problem paying someone for the incredible amount of hard work he’s put in to this project!

This week I purchased one of these routers and set it up as my camera’s wireless tether. It works flawlessly. I still need to come up with a solution to either mount the MR3040 on the camera’s accessory shoe, or hang it from my tripod. I’ve looked over a couple of options, and even with the added costs of hardware I’ll have a wireless tethered solution for around $50. The router itself is $30 of that cost. That’s quite a difference from $299!

Once the router is loaded with the custom firmware and configured, the process to connect wireless tether a camera consists of three steps. First, the camera must be plugged into the router’s USB port via a mini-USB cable 3. Second a computing device needs to connect to the wireless network created by the router 4. Third qDSLRremote client needs to installed and opened on whatever device is being used as the control.

Tomorrow I’ll show off the interface, hopefully with a video 5. Until then, here’s a great video which shows you how to flash the router with the custom OpenWRT firmware.

  1. I see this as helpful for nature shots, or even to take pictures of a speaker without drawing attention to myself. 
  2. Think of firmware as the router’s operating system. “Flashing” means either upgrading or installing an operating system. 
  3. Strictly speaking, it’s mini-USB (not micro-USB) on one end and what’s commonly called “regular USB” on the other. 
  4. I named mine “DSLR-Remote” and turned on wireless security. 
  5. I can use my phone to video me showing off the interface, and use it to tell my camera to take a video of me showing off the interface. It’s all mirrors within mirrors and I think it’ll be awesome. Even better if I record my iPad screen. I’m just twisted that way. 

One thought

  1. What ever you use, the results are more than amazing capturing the handiwork of God. I enjoy it tremendously

    Sent from my iPad

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