The CamRanger allows you to control your DSLR with an iPad, iPhone, or Android device from up to 150 feet away like a Wizard. In the review below I’m going to put it through its paces and hopefully help you decide whether the CamRanger makes sense for you and/or if it’s worth the steep price ($300 at the time of this review).
Before I jump into the nitty-gritty let me just walk you through the evolution of remote triggers I (and probably most others) have used. First, I relied simply on setting the timer for a two second delay, then I graduated to the old school wired trigger that had a little metal piece that depressed the button for me when it was screwed on (Nikon Df, Leica, and X100S), then the wired remote that cost less than a decent dinner and was made of plastic, next was the wireless Nikon remote that paired easily with my D600 and had a battery that lasted for ages, somewhere in there was the iPhone with the X100T and Olympus cameras, and finally the CamRanger… Supposedly the MacDaddy of remotes. Having experience triggering a camera with everything but magic I feel well qualified to review the next generation wireless remote.
What is it?
The CamRanger is a wireless remote that you connect to your camera with a… Wire… And (here’s the wireless part) you can pair your iPad, iPhone, or Android device to the CamRanger rendering your camera your own personal puppet. It’s got a built-in (replaceable) battery that lasts around 4 hours and can be recharged by connecting it to an external battery or by using a wired plug that comes with the CamRanger.
What can it do?
The CamRanger automates capturing HDR images, focus stacking, and time-lapses. You can wirelessly control your cameras exposure settings, focus, and trigger the shutter. The CamRanger lets you upload your images (RAW or JPEG) directly to your iPad, iPhone, or Android device to check the focus, edit it, or share it. You can hand your iPad to a client and have the CamRanger app in client mode and allow them to preview your images as you take them rather than looking over your shoulder.*
*Notice I said you can, not that you should. I have never had a client watch over my shoulder as I work, nor would I let them. I’m sure there are situations where this might make sense but I’m not super comfortable with clients seeing my RAW images before I’ve had a chance to edit them and/or cut out the crappy images.
Night view is just like what it sounds like… The screen turns red and reduces the impact on your night vision when you are working after the sun has set. It works pretty well but I don’t notice much of a difference from the normal view in regards to impact on my night vision.
One of the primary reasons I purchased the CamRanger was to check my focus when in the field without having to rely on the crappy LCD screen on the back of the D810. I recommend shooting in RAW + JPG in order to zoom all the way in to check the detail at 100%. I don’t know if it was because I was shooting on the particular camera (D810) or because it was all RAW but when I shot exclusively RAW, like I do 100% of the time, the CamRanger app was finicky about me zooming in and either wouldn’t let me or would only zoom in to what looked like 50%. I’m sure this could be addressed in a future app update though.
I was having issues focusing my Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens in low light and having the CamRanger I now feel 100% confident that I can obtain focus no matter what conditions I’m shooting in.
If you have shot with a Nikon and Canon professional body for most of your photography career you may not be aware of a handy-dandy tool called focus peaking. Focus peaking simply shows you where your camera is focused without you having to zoom in or guesstimate (actual article on what focus peaking is can be found here). I didn’t know that the CamRanger had this and it’s not advertised on their site (unless I missed it) but it was a pleasant surprise and they ought to brag about it.
One of the often overlooked techniques, yet one of the most important techniques in professional work, is focus stacking. If you’ve attempted this in the past you know it’s fairly time-consuming and requires you to change the focus after each shot until you’ve captured enough images to merge into one image that has sharp focus the entire way through. The CamRanger promised to automate this process and save me lots of time so one of the first things I did was put the focus stacking tool to work. Here are the results:
Other than stacking the images in Photoshop there was no other post processing (or sharpening) done.
As you can see, after setting the CamRanger to take 8 frames, at an aperture of f4, I simply stacked them in Photoshop and ended up with a sharp image as promised. The CamRanger made focus stacking incredibly simple and proved that it would save me a good deal of time in the field. This alone would have been enough for me to recommend the CamRanger to other professionals out there.
Does it work?
The only issue I had with the CamRanger when connected to my D810 was that I wasn’t able to zoom in on some of the RAW files to check focus while the ones I was able to zoom in on seemed like it was only a 50% zoom. This was easily fixed by shooting in RAW+JPEG allowing the app to download the smaller JPEG file and letting me zoom in 100% to check the focus. Other than that, everything worked as advertised and exceeded my expectations. Had I not been able to zoom in 100% the CamRanger would have been sent back to Amazon on the next truck.
Is it worth it?
Here’s the thing, I wouldn’t recommend this product to an enthusiast who doesn’t monetize his or her photography unless you already own an iPad or comparable device to use in the field. Why? The CamRanger costs around $300 at the time of typing this review and an iPad Mini Retina costs around $500 so you’re close to $900 after taxes. I’m sure you can get an Android device for much less but since I don’t use Android I can’t really speak to that. I purchased the CamRanger and an iPad Mini 4 to control it.
I would recommend this to a pro-enthusiast or professional photographer every day of the week. I’d go so far as to say it’s the iPhone of photography… You don’t know you need one until you have one. Please don’t confuse this glowing recommendation with me saying you need one to produce professional work… Remember, I used to produce professional work (work I was paid for) with an inexpensive Olympus Pen and nothing else.
If you’ve read any of my other review you may know that I don’t recommend or review anything that I don’t already own. With that being said, when I picked up the CamRanger I also picked up an iPad Mini Retina (my iPad Pro is too big for field use) and a tough case to keep it in. I needed a case that could withstand a fall, ocean spray, and the occasional dip in a lake, river, or creek. I’ve included a link to all three below.
Do I need it?
I started my business with a cheap Olympus Pen camera and have used money earned by my photography business to upgrade my equipment over the years. Every piece of photography gear I purchase is paid for by money I’ve earned doing photography. I won’t purchase a piece of equipment if I don’t think it can help me earn enough money to justify its cost. Therefore, I’m incredibly particular about the equipment I buy and don’t spend frivolously. With that being said, I would say that I needed this. Here is why…
Last week I was working on some new urban landscape photography for my Fractal Landscapes project and had to perch my camera precariously on the edge of a cement wall about 100 feet above the freeway on one side and next to some poison ivy on the other. I couldn’t check the focus, exposure, or anything else in the LiveView so I had to rely on feel and experience. Luckily it worked out but I would have been extremely pissed had I got back and found out I wasted two and a half hours creating images that were out of focus or poorly exposed. The CamRanger gives me piece of mind and ensures I don’t waste my time.
In addition to that, I often use focus stacking in landscape photography and the CamRanger makes this incredibly easy and efficient. In an entire day of shooting I save close to an hour by not having to repeatedly chimp my screen to adjust focus or remember where I last focused (not hard things to do but certainly time-consuming).
How Easy Is It To Use?
Remember how I said it was the iPhone of photography? I could say the same thing here, it is incredibly easy to set up and use. You simply download the app, open the app and register your CamRanger, then close the app and open settings on your device that you chose to control your camera, connect to the CamRanger WiFi network, then open the CamRanger app once again and your camera will pair without a problem. Magic!
The CamRanger has earned a permanent place in my camera bag. I will be using it extensively when shooting product, marketing, landscape, and fine art photography. The only time I won’t be using this magical piece of equipment is when I’m shooting street photography. I can’t promise you this will improve your photography but I can certainly promise you it will make your life easier. I highly recommend you give it a try, I would be willing to bet that you will feel the same way.
To find out if your camera is compatible with the CamRanger please hit this link.
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.