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Thread: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

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    My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    CamFi is a system of hardware and software that remotely controls the camera, displays the captured images and transfers them if desired to the cell phone, tablet or computer being used. All of that is done wirelessly using CamFiís own Wi-Fi hot spot. The companyís website is cam-fi.com.

    Considering that the product is relatively new, I thought it might be helpful to provide my initial impressions. Keep in mind that this review is made only after very brief use of the CamFi. I have tested it only in a couple of situations in my home office and not at all under the real-world situations of doing tabletop photography in my makeshift studio, which is how I plan to use it. My tests were conducted using only a Windows desktop lacking a touch screen and a Windows two-in-one (it has laptop and tablet modes) that does have a touch screen; no other platforms were tested.

    Use the companyís documentation or support or feel free to ask me to learn about any details not covered below that interest you.

    COMPATIBILITY
    The CamFi system currently supports 19 Canon cameras and 23 Nikon cameras. It also supports iPad, iPhone, Android, Windows and Mac devices. Compatible operating systems and cameras are listed at the companyís website. If you plan to use an old device as I had hoped to do, be aware that the company advises that 1270 x 768 is the smallest resolution on a Windows computer that will properly display it. (The highest resolution of an old Windows netbook I had initially hoped to use is too low.)

    COST & WARRANTY
    CamFiís price of about $135 including shipping in the U.S. is less than half the cost of CamRanger, a major competitor. (I have never used CamRanger, so I have no idea about its relative effectiveness.) No warranty is mentioned at the companyís website or in the shipped packaging but the reseller I bought the device from sent me an email explaining that the manufacturer provides a one-year warranty.

    GOOD IMPLEMENTATIONS
    The speed is relatively fast. The installation file for the PC application is only about 50MB so it downloads quickly. The installation wizard on my desktop and laptop completes in seconds. The softwareís startup is almost instantaneous including the time required to establish the Wi-Fi connection. Downloading and installing the one firmware update also happened rapidly. After capturing an image, thumbnails of the JPEG and corresponding RAW file are displayed immediately upon changing to either of the required viewing modes. Transferring the smallest JPEGs produced by my Nikon D7000 to my computerís disc takes about five seconds per file. Thatís when the camera and computer are within a few feet of each other and when I am transferring about six files. Increasing that distance and transferring more photos may take more time per file.

    The PC software seems so intuitive (a rare compliment from me about any software) that the User Guide may not be necessary. I only briefly read it mostly for the purpose of writing this review and I rarely used it to learn how to operate the software.

    The Quick Start Guide and User Guide are effective.
    Theyíre short, succinct, accurate (at least to the extent that I looked up a few details) and informative. The User Guide explains the iOS app as an example of how to operate the software. I assume that information suffices for learning how to use all other platforms. Whether you plan to use manual or auto focus (though note my qualms about manual focus explained below), be sure to check important information in the User Guide about certain required camera settings.

    The auto focus is very effective. Simply activate the Focus button and click (or tap if youíre using a touch screen) the area of the scene to be in focus. Focus is automatically achieved under normal lighting and contrast situations and a confirming message is displayed. I darkened the room so much that the CamFi system had the same difficulty I would expect the camera on its own to have, but it did achieve sharp auto focus.

    The system automatically updated the firmware the first time I used it. Considering that the product is so new, itís good to see that there is already at least one update and that it worked quickly and seemingly flawlessly. Unfortunately, there is no explanation of the changes that were made.

    Helpful confirmations and alerts are automatically displayed. When you make changes that control the cameraís settings, a message confirms that they have taken effect, adding comfort especially to a new user such as myself that the software seems to be working effectively and that I have used it properly. If you release the shutter at a distance from the camera that would otherwise prevent you from knowing whether that has actually happened, a message confirms that indeed the scene was captured. When something has gone wrong, such as when turning on the hardware but forgetting to plug its cable into the camera, when the cameraís battery dies, or when the CamFi fails to read the camera settings (see below), those alerts are also provided.

    The scene being viewed can be easily displayed horizontally or vertically
    on your device. If the camera is vertically oriented, you can change the display of the scene 90 degrees before or after it is captured to make as much use as possible of the size of your display.

    The company support is excellent.
    I asked before purchasing the product about a capability that was important to me and received a nearly immediate, informative response. I also contacted the company during my first day of using the product and got similarly helpful information including notification that they will soon fix a minor issue noted below that I brought to their attention. They have also committed to testing another issue explained below.

    MINOR CONCERNS
    The folder where photos are to be downloaded to has to be configured every time a download takes place unless you use the default download folder. Thatís despite that a global Settings configuration already determines that folder. Fortunately, I plan to use CamFi for downloading image files to my computer only rarely if ever. For those who would like to regularly do that, customer support has advised me that they plan to fix that issue in the coming days. Edit: Version 1.9.2 for Windows has fixed that.

    CamFiís horizontal film strip displays the images in the order they are captured from right to left.
    I am used to my camera, cataloging software and post-processing software displaying the capture order from left to right.

    The cable that connects the CamFi to the camera ideally should be slightly longer. Normally I plan to mount the CamFi on the hot shoe simply as a safe place to keep it during use. (It uses the shoe only as a mount, not as an electronic connection.) If I want to instead mount a flash unit on the hot shoe, it would be ideal to attach the CamFi to the tripod as the companyís website recommends. Thatís not possible using my Manfrotto tripod and head. Thatís because the cable that connects the CamFi to the camera is not long enough to reach the legs and because itís not practical to attach the CamFi anywhere else. I could simply allow the CamFi to dangle in the air hanging from the camera but Iím concerned that doing so might damage the cable.

    If this issue becomes a nuisance often enough, I may purchase an inexpensive dual-shoe bracket as suggested at the website. The situation would be resolved if the cable was just a few inches longer, so I may look for one despite the companyís understandable warning that a lesser quality cable might cause problems.

    EDIT: I now realize that the cables that came with the two Nikon cameras I use are much longer (almost 5 feet long) and that CamFi officially supports use of those cables.

    The softwareís white balance settings are limited.
    Whereas my camera has Auto1 and Auto2 white balance settings, the CamFi software has only one Auto setting. Similarly, the temperature and tint settings that fine tune the various white balance settings on my camera are also not available in the CamFi software. One of the CamFi dropdown menus makes me think I should be able to configure a Kelvin temperature but thatís not possible. Perhaps it is only meant to read the Kelvin temperature when one is set on the camera but I havenít tried that possibility. I always shoot raw files, so the white balance issues are only minor to me. Iím guessing the same is probably true for anyone using such a sophisticated device.

    Slightly inaccurate website: The device that makes it possible to mount the CamFi on the hot shoe has two screws though only one is shown at the website. I am a bit leery when a shipped product is not as advertised even when it is an improvement to the advertised version, which is probably true in this case. Thatís because I then wonder if other marketing information is inaccurate when it comes to more important details. Fortunately, so far I have found no other misleading information. This is a personal pet peeve that most people might not care about in the slightest.

    IMPLEMENTATIONS NEEDING CONSIDERABLE IMPROVEMENT
    The connection between the CamFi and the camera is occasionally lost. When that happens, an alert is displayed. I have not yet determined any consistent situation when it happens, partly because it has not happened often. That explains why I have not yet mentioned it to the company support. The only solution at least on my PC is to use the Task Manager to close the application (it canít be closed any other way at that point) and to restart it.

    The system occasionally fails to read the cameraís settings
    , and as explained immediately above, an alert is displayed. On my first day of use, sometimes I had to try many times before the software would successfully read the cameraís information. Other times I went through periods when everything was successfully read every time. This problem has not occurred during my second and only other day of use. The company has committed to testing this issue using the camera model I use.

    The manual focus is not gradual as when manually focusing a lens, at least not on my desktop that has no touch screen and not on my two-in-one that does. Instead, there are six incremental positions that render the capability useless at least as far as I can tell so far. In fact, the best use of the manual focus would be to intentionally capture a scene out of focus by selecting whatever degree of blur best meets your needs. (Perhaps the manual focus is implemented differently when using other platforms but I doubt it. That's because the iOS platform explained in the User Guide features the same six incremental buttons used on the PC platform.) Fortunately, the ability to auto focus on any area of the scene as described above works effectively in perhaps all but the most demanding situations for which manual focus would be needed.

    WISH LIST
    I wish the image could be dramatically magnified in Live View for extremely precise focusing purposes, exactly as when using my camera not connected to the CamFi system. If thatís possible using a different platform, it's not explained in the User Guide. I do wonder though if the focusing area (a square just like the one used in the camera's Live View) on a large display such as a laptop or tablet is actually at least as precise or possibly even more precise than the focusing area used in the highest magnification of Live View on the camera's LCD. If that's the case, I would remove this item from the wish list.

    I wish the system could be configured to display only the JPEG file
    rather than both files when shooting RAW+JPEG, exactly as happens when displaying image files on my cameraís LCD. I see no benefit to displaying both file formats of the image before they have been downloaded to the PC. Yet having to maneuver among both formats is a nuisance. (A setting does allow the user to control whether the raw file, the JPEG file or both file formats are downloaded to the PC.)

    I also wish an image file could be displayed at 100% without having to download it to the PC when the file is larger than my monitorís resolution. That capability would make it possible for me to more precisely and more conveniently determine whether I need to fine tune my setup or camera settings. As mentioned regarding other capabilities, if that one is available on other platforms it's not explained in the User Guide. EDIT: I learned completely by accident that the image can be displayed at full screen size (though that's of course still not at 100%). If you hover over the bottom right corner of the image being displayed while in Auto View mode, an icon is displayed. Clicking that icon displays the image at full screen size. This capability is not included in the User Guide.

    SUMMARY
    The CamFi system is relatively inexpensive and easy to learn to use. Though I hope improvements mentioned above will be made, the system seems overall at least to this new user to effectively do what it is designed to do. It comes with a one-year warranty and the company support is very responsive, which are especially important considering that the product is relatively new and is designed for use on so many platforms.

    I look forward to regularly using the CamFi system when doing tabletop photography in my makeshift studio. Thatís because I will now be able to wirelessly, remotely operate my camera and view my captured images while Iím still in my studio using a display that is much larger than my cameraís LCD. That usage itself will be more enjoyable and I also expect the process to save time and eliminate a bit of aggravation.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 3rd February 2016 at 05:57 PM.

  2. #2
    Shadowman's Avatar
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    Re: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    Nice review, it supposedly supports two of my cameras so there is an interest.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    Very good Mike, I'm sure this will be useful.

    Thanks for writing and sharing here.

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    Excellent review Mike...

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buckley View Post
    The connection between the CamFi and the camera is occasionally lost.
    To me this is the one strength of the CamRanger. It has been 100% solid and reliable in the connection and the software is extremely stable. Perhaps less so on the Windows platform, but certainly on iOS and Android. That being said Windows is the latest port.

    I have not used the CamFi, but have used the CamRanger for a couple of years. Hopefully they will get there, but I hear the same argument when it comes to the cost of PocketWizards to some of the completion. Their trademark has always been reliability and when I compare my third part trigger to the PocketWizard, I'd have to say when push comes to shove, I'd grab them in an instance just because they always work.

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    Re: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    Manfred,

    What is the smallest display size you believe is practical when examining photos to determine whether you need to further refine your tabletop setup or camera settings? I ask because I need to purchase a device for examining my photos in my makeshift studio using the CamFi system and for years I've only used a 27" monitor. I'm currently considering 11" displays and wonder if that is large enough without zooming in on the image.

    The CamFi system doesn't allow zooming, so to do that I would have to install some other software on my device to make that happen. I would also have to download the images to my device to be able to display them in the zoom-capable software.

    Does the CamRanger system allow you to zoom in on the image?

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    Hopefully they will get there, but I hear the same argument when it comes to the cost of PocketWizards to some of the completion.
    I completely understand. Lower cost justifies in my mind fewer capabilities or capabilities that are not as refined, but you'll never hear me saying that lower cost justifies a capability doing what it's supposed to do only some of the time even if it works most of the time.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 13th January 2016 at 05:15 PM.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    Mike - I use the CamRanger primarily as a field remote control and a device to monitor time-delayed landscape (including urban landscape) shots. I also use it in light painting work to view the scene and the results of the painting some distance from the camera, so our use of this technology is totally different.

    I don't have the limitations you shoot under in your makeshift studio and when I do the type of work you do, I shoot tethered to a laptop with a 16" screen. Again, our workflow is going to be quite different.

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    Re: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    I don't have the limitations you shoot under in your makeshift studio
    Few people do.

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    Re: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    Mike,
    I use a Samsung 10 inch tablet both on location and in my little studio. It is just the right size for previewing and small enough to be easily portable.

    The downside is calabration of these devices, the black point on mine is out enough to make dark field studio shots a bit hit and miss.

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    Re: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    Very helpful about the size, Rob!

    I'll be determining the ideal exposure using the histogram, which I believe (though I could be wrong) is being generated by the camera and reported in the CamFi software. I'll be viewing the image on the device in my studio only with an eye for composition, results of the lighting setup and camera settings, and looking for problematic issues that are too difficult to notice when using the small LCD on the camera. Once that is done, I'll take my keeper to my desktop and post-process it using my 27" monitor. Taking all of that into account, am I being naive to think that it's not even worth bothering to calibrate an inexpensive tablet or laptop?
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 13th January 2016 at 10:13 PM.

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    Moderator GrumpyDiver's Avatar
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    Re: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buckley View Post
    Taking all of that into account, am I being naive to think that it's not even worth bothering to calibrate an inexpensive tablet or laptop?
    If you have the tools, why not calibrate / profile even a cheap laptop, it will certainly improve the output, even if it is not perfect. When it comes to tablets, the iPads can be profiled with a Colormunki, but Android does not appear to be supported. I don't know about the Datacolor / Spyder line's capabilities. That being said, there are virtually no iPad apps that support colour management, so even your options are quite limited if you do profile the device.

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    Re: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    I decided upon an inexpensive laptop with an 11" display and Windows 10, so I assume I can calibrate it. That capability didn't enter into my decision but as Manfred says, it certainly can't hurt.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 15th January 2016 at 12:26 AM.

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    Re: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    One of the items explained above on my wish list is to be able to display the image at 100%. To solve that problem, I installed my cataloging software on my new laptop. When I am reviewing an image that requires really close-up examination, I use the CamFi unit to wirelessly save the file to my laptop's drive. I then view that file at 100% using my cataloging software.

    On a related note, I learned completely by accident that the image can be displayed at full screen size (though that's of course still not at 100%) while using the CamFi. If I hover over the bottom right corner of the image being displayed while in Auto View mode, an icon is displayed. Clicking that icon displays the image at full screen size. This capability is not mentioned in the User Guide and I am going to recommend to the manufacturer that they add it. I have also added this information to the first post in the thread.

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    Re: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    Two updates that I added to the first post of the thread...

    The USB cables that were shipped with my two Nikon cameras are much longer than the USB cable that came with the CamFi unit. CamFi officially supports the Nikon cables, so that solves the issue about CamFi's cable being too short.

    In fact, the cable that CamFi ships does not fit the USB port of all of the officially supported cameras, one example being the Nikon D5100. In those circumstances, use the cable that was shipped with your camera. CamFi promised to update their website to include that information. EDIT: They have done that.

    CamFi Version 1.9.2 for Windows has been officially released. That version adds the capability to automatically download images to the folder that is configured in the Settings.

    Using the camera's manual focus
    I mentioned in the first post that the CamFi's manual focus is very ineffective. Now that I have been using the system more, I can recommend an effective workflow when using manual focus is important for whatever reason: Use the camera (not CamFi) to manually focus when the camera's LCD display of Live View is highly magnified (zoomed in). Then resume use of the CamFi to make all other adjustments and to release the shutter.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 22nd February 2016 at 05:46 PM.

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    Re: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    Now that I have been using the CamFi unit about six weeks, I am providing the update shown below.

    February 22, 2016 Update
    This update pertains to the use of CamFi with Windows 10 Home. I haven't used it with any other operating system.

    Any professional working with others during a shoot and experiencing the issues I have regularly been experiencing probably would not want to use this product. That's because of the issue pertaining to the display of the Live View explained below. Imagine telling a model or an art director to wait while the photographer reboots the computer, turns off the CamFi unit and camera, restarts everything and reconnects to the WiFi to be able to continue with the shoot.

    I use the product only for hobbyist purposes so I am going to keep it. I would try using CamRanger if Manfred hadn't reported that it is also a bit unstable when using it with Windows, which is how I would always use it. I don't want to take the time to learn how to use another software package with the risk that it still won't work perfectly at twice the price.

    Mark at the company's support is terrific about staying in touch by email. He has always responded to my emails within 24 hours and sometimes within an hour. He has also gotten in touch with me on his own to inform me of new developments. The company added helpful information to the website very soon after I made suggestions about that. I have sent Mark a report of the exact circumstances of every shoot conducted since January 28 with the hope that the detailed information will be helpful to him and his team. Though I'm grateful that the issues are kinks rather than deal breakers at least in my case, Mark's eagerness to correspond with me gives me the hope that the kinks explained below will eventually be worked out.

    LIVE VIEW
    When the CamFi software loses display of the Live View before the camera has closed it, it is not possible to restore the display. The only reliable solution is to at least turn off the CamFi hardware, camera and computer and to restart everything. (When the camera closes Live View, the CamFi software always successfully restores it.)

    EV (Exposure Compensation)
    The EV value often fails to remain at the changed value. Instead, it uncontrollably reverts to the value before the change was made.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 23rd February 2016 at 05:09 PM.

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    Re: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    A surprising new development: Mark got back to me (as always in less than 24 hours) after receiving my detailed report explaining everything that went right and wrong during my photo shoots conducted beginning January 28. Now that his team has seen those details, they have concluded that my particular hardware might be defective. They will ship me a replacement. At the very least, this proves that my experiences are not consistent with the manufacturer's expectations.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 23rd February 2016 at 12:59 PM.

  17. #17
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    Re: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Buckley View Post
    A surprising new development: Mark got back to me (as always in less than 24 hours) after receiving my detailed report explaining everything that went right and wrong during my photo shoots conducted beginning January 28. Now that his team has seen those details, they have concluded that my particular hardware might be defective. They will ship me a replacement. At the very least, this proves that my experiences are not consistent with the manufacturer's expectations.
    If they're aware of your postings here, I'm sure they're following them with interest.. I'll look forward to your comments on the replacement equipment once you've tested it.

  18. #18

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    Re: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    I continue to be extremely impressed with the service CamFi provides. My contact, Mark, reached out to me two days ago. He assumed that I had received the replacement unit and he was eager to know if it was working better for me. I had not received it. Apparently it was lost during shipping to me. So, the person responsible for all U.S. distributors called me on the phone to let me know that the second one was shipped the day Mark learned the first one had not arrived and that I should expect the second one today. He even provided me the tracking number. It just now arrived and I let both people know.

    By the way, I learned from the second person that Mark, my primary contact, is the inventor of the CamFi unit.

  19. #19

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    Re: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    Now that I have used the replacement CamFi unit during ten shoots conducted over six days, I am convinced that Mark is correct that the first unit was defective.

    The new unit has worked perfectly using the same cables and camera as the first unit except for a minor issue that the Exposure Compensation control still occasionally fails to set a parameter. (I use increments of one-third stop.) I always shoot raw files, so if the unit continues to operate as in these first ten shoots, I can always adjust the exposure if necessary during post-processing with no ill effects. That's because I will have to make an adjustment of no more than 1/3 stop. I have explained to Mark the details of this one remaining issue, so perhaps it will eventually be corrected.
    Last edited by Mike Buckley; 11th March 2016 at 06:44 PM.

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    Re: My Review of CamFi Wireless System

    I just now finally got around to testing how the system allows the user to choose a white balance configured to be a Kelvin temperature. Using a Nikon D7000 and the Windows platform, that value must be selected using the camera. You can then select the use of a Kelvin temperature in the CamFi software but you will not be able to change the value. The photo is then captured using the proper Kelvin temperature (the value set using the camera).

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