Two Ways the 6D’s Wi-Fi has been a (Kinda) Lifesaver
May 31st, 2013
I am a researcher by nature. As a pastor/preacher, teacher, author, and photographer, I have learned the value of research. Even when it comes to photography, I believe in engaging in research. I read articles, watch training videos and webinars, look at a LOT of pictures (preferable by people better than me), and dialogue with other photographers. The early buzz on Canon’s newest full frame DSLR, the 6D, wasn’t very hot. Nikon was introducing its own “cheaper” full frame body, the D600, and the specs from that camera looked a lot more high end. Fast forward six months or so, and many people (myself included) have realized that the 6D is a lot more camera than what it looked like on paper (and the D600 might not be as much camera as its specs suggest). But this isn’t a Nikon bashing article… Two of the new, unique features to the 6D were the built in GPS and Wi-Fi. These features were often dismissed on camera forums as being “gimmicks” and not anything that real photographers needed.
They were wrong.
I discovered just how valuable the latter feature was over the past couple of weeks in two completely unrelated ways.
First, a little background. The 6D comes with a built in Wi-Fi radio that allows it to either connect through the existing infrastructure to transmit data or to actually make a direct connection to another device. The options for its use include directly uploading to social media, a “tether” device”, or to allow a certain degree of control of the camera from a remote device, like a smartphone. I had already used this feature on several occasions for putting myself in the picture (remotely focusing, changing settings, and releasing the shutter) and even for completely hands-free macro work to assure that no vibration was involved. Handy. Nice.
But not a lifesaver (per se).
But the transfer of data in both directions proved very valuable in two very different ways recently. The first was at an event I was shooting two weekends ago. I shoot in RAW exclusively, and typically have a well defined workflow once I am back at home at my high powered PC. I typically like to put the finishing touches on my work before sharing it with the client. But this event was hours away from home, lasted for multiple days, and I had been informed that the promotions director wanted a handful of images each day to share on social media to keep buzz going for the event. I quickly walked through the 6D’s built in RAW converter (which I had never used), and found that it was actually quite clever. It allowed for some minor tweaks before outputting in the JPEG size of choice, even down to choosing the color space. Cool. I assured the promotion’s director that it would be no problem. I would output the JPEGs each night and email them to him.
But then I hit a snag.
I was in the motel room the first evening, reviewing the images and choosing the ones that I would output, but when I went to output, I hit a problem. Because of the large number of images and the nature in which they would used (exclusively for the Internet or minor printing), I had switched from full size RAW to MRAW (medium). Less storage space required, slightly faster workflow. I’ve done this extensively in the past without an issue. Even the MRAW files (at 11 Megapixels) are larger (and much, much cleaner) than files from most DSLRs just a few years back. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was that the RAW converter in the 6D only works with FULL size RAW images for some reason. Uh oh! Second problem – I was traveling light, with just an iPad, not a laptop. I have a card reader that plugs into it and will accept SD cards…but I had forgotten it. Momentary panic.
I then remembered that the EOS Remote App allows for data transfer. I quickly made the connection, and, sure enough, there were all of the images. One problem solved. But there was another issue. The iPad doesn’t natively work with RAW images. I began looking at RAW conversion Apps, but in the process discovered an interesting thing: when I downloaded images from the camera to the iPad through the EOS Remote App, it was automatically doing a basic RAW conversion and outputting JPEGs to my device. I was delighted! I couldn’t make any tweaks, obviously, but the images looked great natively. I quickly emailed the requisite images and away I went for the rest of the weekend. I repeated this procedure for several more days and everyone was happy. Nice!
So that was the first “lifesaving” event, a significant problem solved by the built in Wi-Fi of the 6D. I suspect the EOS Remote App will (should) become more full featured in the future, but it is a great start that helped a working professional in this setting.
Scenario #2. It was a very different setting. Heavy May rainstorms were breaking up, and there looked to be some nice color in the sky towards sundown. I decided to go to a favorite spot to shoot some long exposures. I had run by this area earlier in the day, and noticed that due to a long, snowy winter and heavy spring rains the water level in the massive Ottawa River here in Ontario is really high. As a result, many trees along the river’s edge have become partially submerged, meaning that there was a unique opportunity for great reflections on the canvas of long exposure water. I threw together a quick kit: a 6D body, the Canon 17-40 mm f/4L wide angle lens, a Haida ProII MC ND1000 ten stop neutral density filter, a Manfrotto tripod and head, and a cable release. I knew the lighting conditions + the 10 stop ND filter would mean very long exposure times that would exceed the built in limitation of 30 seconds. I had to put the camera in Bulb mode and use the cable release to keep the shutter open for longer periods (in this case often more than two minutes).
I got setup along the bank of the river. It looked beautiful, and I was excited at the prospect of getting some great images. I was just getting ready to start the first frame when I looked down at my feet. I had on a pair of jeans and sandals. My feet were covered with mosquitoes, and my first slap left blood everywhere.
Now, if you have never encountered Northern mosquitoes, know that they tend to be large and come in droves. They are jokingly referred to as the “Canadian Airforce”, and they are pretty potent. I started slapping them away, but obviously the scent of blood was in the air, and their numbers only increased. I started the exposure, holding the cable release in my hand while doing what must have looked like the world’s worst dance routine. It didn’t work all that well, because whenever I stopped to look I could only see more mosquitoes on me. They were driving me crazy!
It was then I had another “eureka moment”. I had used the remote camera control function before on the camera, but never in Bulb mode for exposure times beyond the 30 seconds. Would the Remote App work for this type of shot? Worth a try. I pulled out my iPhone, connected the camera (direct Wi-Fi connection), and hit the shutter button. The exposure started, and I was given a handy countdown of how long the shutter had been open. Nice! I quickly walked back to my car, holding down the shutter “button” on my iPhone the whole way. I got in the car, and sat, mosquito free, as I proceeded to take multiple exposures at lengths as long as 2 1/2 minutes. I have to tell you, it was a pretty great feeling.
One of those images is this one:
I’ve shot long exposures in -40 temperatures, with the wind seeming to flay the skin off my face. The thought of being out there only long enough to get set up, then getting out of the wind and taking the long exposures sounds pretty great to me. The nice thing is that once the shot is taken, you can review it on the screen of your remote device. You could even download it and review it in greater detail.
For me, this is a feature that has proven to be more than a gimmick. I wrote in my review of the 6D about the value of the remote capture for shooting self portraits. I used one of those portraits in the lead shot for a review of the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS. That same shot will serve as my headshot for an upcoming feature in Popular Science magazine (July edition). That was a use that I was planning on when I took ownership of the 6D. These last two encounters, however, illustrate the practical value in the field. Far more than a gimmick, the Wi-Fi functionality on the Canon EOS 6D has a been a lifesaver…and in the case of the mosquitoes, might even have preserved my sanity…
Here’s one more from the “Mosquito Night”