Monthly Archives: September 2014

Controlling a DSLR from the Smartphone

Finally weekend has arrived and it is time for a new project. I recently found an App for Android called DSLR Controller allowing the smartphone to operate the DSLR camera remotely. The App can be purchased in the Google Playstore for around 7 EUR. The connection between both smartphone and camera is either established via USB cables or WIFI, if integrated in the camera.

Requirements

  • Android device with USB host support
  • Canon EOS DSLR
  • USB OTG (On-The-Go) Cable
  • Compatibility between devices (check here)

As neither my Canon EOS 1000D nor the EOS 7D include WIFI, I went for a connection via USB. I have learned that the type of USB Cable is crucial. A regular USB cable won’t let the smartphone detect the camera. A cable must have a special characteristic to let the smartphone act as a host and the camera act as client. A USB On-The-Go cable is therefore required and I found that the Pure² High Speed Micro USB OTG Cable – also around 7 EUR on Amazon – worked just fine to connect my Google Nexus 5 with both DSLRs I have in my equipment. Another regular USB cable is used to connect the type A receptable from the OTG cable with the DSLR.

In addition, I thought that it would be very convenient to have the smartphone mounted to the DSLR while connected. I did some quick research and found a smartphone-to-DSLR connector set by Photecs on Amazon for around 40 EUR. This set consists of a ball head connector that is applied to the accessory shoe of the camera, the actual smartphone mount and two connector cables (one OTG, one regular). As the OTG cable supplied with this set did not work with my 7D, I decided to go for the separate OTG cable as described above. The ball head connector is of a very solid quality (probably aluminium) and feels more than suitable to safely hold my smartphone in place. The camera mount itself is not made of metal, but feels solid nonetheless and has some soft coatings at the areas touching the smartphone to prevent it from scratching. Due to its spring mechanism, the smartphone mount can adjust to smartphones of various sizes. Here is a picture of my setup:

DSLR Controller Setup 02

Thanks to the layout of the USB cables, there is only one way to connect all devices with each other. I have DSLR Controller installed on my Android. With no compatible camera connected or turned off, the App will start but quickly respond with the information “Could not find a compatible camera on either WI-FI or USB. If you have a compatible camera connected, please make sure it is turned on. If it is already turned on, try waking it up by pressing the shutter button or turning it off and on again. Please make sure a memory card is present in the camera as well!

With a compatible camera connected, the App will start and both smartphone and camera begin to communicate. The DSLR automatically goes into Live-View mode and the smartphone displays the live image.

DSLR Controller Setup

With this setup, there are various benefits from the smartphone controlling the DSLR. In most situations, I actually prefer seeing directly through the viewfinder of my cameras instead of using the live-view feature for several reasons. However, in some situations, live-view can be extremely helpful. DSLR Controller even combines a huge live-view display with a touchscreen. The settings of the camera are very convenient to change. Most importantly, DSLR Controller provides features that most Canon EOS DSLR cameras do not include such as to select more than three exposure steps on auto exposure bracketing or to configure the camera to shoot timelapse videos. Here is a more detailed list of features provided:

Main features include:

  • Liveview
    • Focus points and area
    • Zoom area and control
    • Luminosity and RGB histograms
    • Grid and aspect ratio overlays
    • Anamorphic desqueeze (1.3, 1.5, 2.0x)
    • Display filters
    • Horizontal/vertical level (if supported)
    • Audio levels (if supported)
    • Lightmeter feedback (if supported)
    • Mirroring
  • Focus
    • Auto focus
    • Manual focus
    • Remote manual focus
    • 3-speed focus adjustments
    • Bracketing (with AEB/HDR support)
    • A-B pull
  • Capture
    • Normal capture
    • Bulb capture (hold as well as timed)
    • Continuous capture
    • Video recording
    • Mirror Lockup support
  • Image review
    • CR2 support
    • Luminosity and RGB histograms
    • EXIF display
    • Exposure blinking
    • Follow shot mode
    • Mirroring
    • Image sharing
    • Selectively save to Android or camera
  • HDR capture (Auto Exposure Bracketing)
    • Exposure Compensation
    • Shutterspeed
    • Aperture
    • ISO
    • Bulb
  • Timelapse capture
    • Supports HDR/AEB capture
  • Wi-Fi Passthrough

Adjustable settings include:

  • Shutter speed
  • Aperture
  • Exposure compensation
  • Exposure bracketing
  • Flash compensation
  • ISO speed
  • Auto focus mode
  • Focus and zoom area
  • Picture style
  • Drive mode
  • White balance
  • Color temperature
  • Auto-lighting optimizer
  • Metering mode
  • Image quality and format
  • Video quality and format

Display filters include:

  • Exposure
  • Peaking (four modes)
  • Contrast (four modes)
  • Channel mask (four modes)
  • Grayscale (four modes)

My first impression is that DSLR controller is definitely a powerful and great tool to operate my cameras. I can’t wait to use this setup on the next occasion in order to get some HDR photos with several additional exposures and I will probably attempt to shoot some time-lapse scenes. Here is a picture of my setup fully assembled.

DSLR Controller Setup