A lot of modern cameras offer Wifi or Bluetooth to connect to a smartphone or tablet. Using either one of those you can transfer pictures to you smartphone or tablet or in some cases even activate your camera remotely. But what if your camera doesn’t offer any form of wireless connectivity or the functionality of the connection is too limited (for instance, with my Sony A7 I could activate my camera using my smartphone but I could only take photos in JPEG quality). For those people CamFi (CameraNu.nl Affiliate link) was invented. In this review I’ll tell you more about it and about using it in the field. I’ve used the CamFi with my Nikon D800, Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphone and a Windows 10 laptop. Of course CamFi is also compatible with iPhones / iPads or Mac computers.
The CamFi is a small (think matchbox) sized unit with just one switch, some ports and a built-in battery. The CamFi can add WiFi connectivity to a lot of different Canon and Nikon cameras (on their site you can find the list of supported models, where the camera seems to be the limiting factor on stead of the CamFi). So if you add a CamFi to your camera you’ve upgraded it with WiFi, and then?
- Live view for smartphone, tablet or even laptop
- Full control of your camera settings (you can set aperture, shutter speed, white balance, file type, metering etc. but also autofocus)
- Take a photo
- Record video (if you camera supports that)
- Time Lapse photography
- Focus Stacking
- Advanced bracketing
Sound complex or hard doesn’t it? Well it isn’t, it is quite simple actually. You connect the CamFi to the camera using the USB cable. CamFi comes with one USB cable with an Mini-USB connector. If you have a different connection on your camera, like the USB 3.0 port on my D800, you’ll have to use the cable that comes with you camera. The CamFi uses a standard female USB port, so you can use any normal USB cable to connect it. The CamFi also comes with a ‘hot shoe’ mount so you can put the CamFi on top of your camera. You can also use an L-bracket to keep you hot shoe free for using a speedlight. The supplied L-bracket was a little small for my big D800, but I’m sure it will work perfect with smaller cameras.
After you’ve connected the CamFi to your camera you can turn it on. The CamFi has got a built in battery that can keep it running for about 6 hours. Charging the CamFi is done via a normal Micro-USB port, so you can use your smartphone charger or a free USB port on your PC to charge it. After turning the CamFi on (it takes about 20-30 seconds to boot) you can connect your smarphone of PC to the unsecured WiFi network of the CamFi. Once you are connected you can open the app on your phone or the software on your PC and it will connect to your CamFi by itself. One click on the ‘live view’ button in the app and you’ve got a live connection with your camera. If WiFi doesn’t work or you don’t want to use WiFi you can also connect the CamFi to your PC using a standard UTP-network cable.
The app and desktop software
The app and desktop software of the CamFi looks real nice and is a pleasure to work with. The user interface is clean and easy to understand / learn. The most important settings are always available in the home screen for easy access. If you click or press them a bigger, easy to adjust slider or switch is shown to adjust the desired setting. Changing settings in the app leads to an instant change in the camera. So if you adjust you aperture you will immediately hear the lens clicking and adjusting accordingly. In the app you can also change the file type you want to use (JPEG to RAW).
You can also use the app or software to download images to your smartphone or PC. You aren’t limited to the images you have taken while using the CamFi, you can browse all the images on the memory card(s) and select which one you want to download. CamFi does support downloading full RAW’s, but my D800 makes 36 megapixel RAW’s that can be up to 80 MB in size. Even with a quick 150 Mbit connection that is going to take a while to transfer. Luckily the CamFi also supports compression to make transfer faster.
It is possible to set the CamFi to transfer every image to take to your connected device. That is great for checking the images you’ve taken on a bigger screen. Especially when you use a tablet or PC with a bigger screen it is a lot easier to see if the images are in focus for instance.
Another great function is the option to zoom in to the live view image. That is a great help when using manual focus. On the app you can enlarge the image by using the normal ‘pinch to zoom’ function on your phone. After zooming in the images freezes for a short time, giving the CamFi time to transfer the zoomed live image from your camera. Quality wise the zoomed images, at least on my D800, is still very good and perfectly usable for precise focusing.
Live view + adjusting settings
The Live view functionality of the CamFi is very good. The framerate of the image is a little lower than on the camera screen (may also be dependent on the camera you use), but it is very usable for photographing stationary or slow moving subjects like landscapes or portraits. I can’t imagine anyone using the CamFi for sport photography (except perhaps as a secondary camera behind a goal or on a dangerous location).
When you zoom in to the live view feed the image will freeze for a short time, but after that the framerate and quality of the image is the same as the not zoomed image. That makes the zoom function very good for manual focus. This is really great for macro photo’s, where using a bigger screen for focusing is a lot easier than using the small camera screen. Or taking photos close to the ground, so you don’t have to lay down to check your image or focus.
Of course the CamFi is dependent on your camera when it comes to the image quality of the live view feed. The same goes for the auto focus functions and speed. The CamFi does offer the option to use auto focus in live view, but the speed is mainly limited by the camera. In my case the D800 uses a slow but accurate form of contrast detection auto focus when you use live view. I’m guessing the focus speed will be a lot better when you use an up to date Canon with the faster dual pixel focus.
Adjusting settings is, like I wrote earlier, quite easy. You have a lot of the most used functions in a lay-over on the main screen, for easy and quick adjustment. In the menu there are some extra, less used, functions.
In live view you can take a photo by pressing just one button. Quick and easy. The CamFi can also help when you take images for longer shutter speeds. You have full control over the bulb mode of your camera, so even shutter speeds in excess of 30 seconds aren’t a problem. And because the connection is wireless you don’t have to worry about camera shake when starting or ending a cycle.
In the normal photo-mode the CamFi is a direct competitor to the Triggertrap or a basic wired- or IR remote. The big difference is that you aren’t limited by wires like the Triggertrap or a normal wired remote is. When comparing the CamFi to a IR remote you’ll find the range of the CamFi to be a lot longer (up to 50 meters) and you don’t need a direct line of sight with your camera. And the CamFi doesn’t have any problems with bright sunlight that can mess with IR remotes sometimes.
Besides those differences the big plus of the CamFi is the live view image and the option to adjust the setting of the camera by using you phone or PC. Something you don’t have with a Triggertrap or simple remote.
The CamFi also supports recording video, but I’m no videographer so I haven’t used that.
Besides using the CamFi as a remote control with live view functionality you also get some smart extra functionality in the app. Because adding new features is mostly something that can be done in the app more functionality could be added in the future.
At the moment the app offers focus stacking, timelapse and advance bracketing. In focus stacking mode the app takes several consecutive photos with the focus point being moved just a little in every photo. In (for instance) Photoshop you can stack those images in to one photo with more depth of field. This technique is mostly used for macro photography since you have a very small depth of field with macro images. CamFi helps you with that by taking different images and moving the focus point for you, you can’t make focus stacking easier than this. By the way, you will still have to stack the images in Photoshop yourself, the app doesn’t do that for you.
Timelapse photography is making a video by taking a lot of different photos with a predefined time between them. If you have enough photos you can turn them in to a video in which time seems to fly by. Experimenting with time lapse photography is a lot of fun, but taking all the images takes a lot of time and you really need a tool to help you. The CamFi app helps and makes it easy, just set the number of images, the time in between the different images and activate it to start.
Advanced bracketing is the last of the advanced functionalities. With my Nikon D800 using bracketing on the camera itself is easy, so having this function on the CamFi isn’t that important to me. On consumer cameras bracketing can be a hassle, with the functionality buried deep in the menu. The advanced bracketing is truly advanced since you can control exactly how the bracketing is done. You choose if the ISO, aperture or shutter speed is changed to adjust the exposure. That means you have full control, which is an advantage compared to using your cameras settings for bracketing.
Compared to the competition
Earlier in the review I compared the CamFi to a Triggertrap or a wired or IR remote. But how does the, 150 euro, CamFi compare to those and other options in the market.
The Triggertrap offers some of the functionality you also get with the CamFi since the Triggertrap also allows you to activate your camera with your smartphone. Costing just 30 euros the Triggertrap is a lot cheaper than the CamFi, but besides the mentioned method using your smartphone the CamFi and Triggertrap are completely different in almost every way. You can’t control any of the settings of your camera on your phone with the Triggertrap, and of course you don’t have a wireless connection and no live view. If all you are looking for is a way to activate your camera for long exposures or time lapse the Triggertrap will be just fine, but if you want more the Triggertrap isn’t for you.
If you are a Nikon shooter (other brands will have similar options) you can also choose one of the many wired and wireless remotes. For the consumer models (up to the D7200) you can use a simple IR-remote costing about 30 euros. The more advanced cameras don’t have an IR-receiver, so an IR-remote won’t be of any use. You could go for one of the wired remotes that are about 35 euros. If you want more control and more options your only options are the quite expensive pro-models that will set you back 200 to even 400 euros. And if you really want remote control you’ll even need two of the madly expensive WR-1 remotes that are 400 euros a piece! And even then you don’t have live view!
Other options are a lot more expensive or offer less functionality than the CamFi, so it is a truly an one of a kind product if you ask me.
During the review period I’ve had some hick-ups with the CamFi. It is clear it still is a new product that is still being updated and improved. All the hick-ups I’ve had seem to be software or app related, losing connection to the camera or live view shutting down without reopening. No big problems and re-opening the app or turning the camera off and on again fixed the problems instantly. Since I’ve used the CamFi quite a lot during the review period I can count the numbers of hick-ups on one hand, so I’m not bothered by that at all.
Update: New Functionality, CamFi Matrix
After completing the review CamFi has informed me they have added some impressive new functionality to the CamFi: CamFi Matrix. CamFi Matrix is specialist software, that may of may not appeal to you but it is very impressive anyway. CamFi Matrix allows you to control multiple cameras from one PC. That is functionality that can be used in a lot of different scenarios, like creating VR images, panoramic images or even for creative event or wedding photography. In the image below you can see how a CamFi Matrix setup can look.
In the following YouTube clip you can see the CamFi Matrix in action. I haven’t been able to test it myself since I don’t have multiple cameras, but the functionality looks promising. Another sign CamFi is still being updated and they are adding new functionality.
The CamFi can upgrade a lot of different cameras with advanced WiFi functionality, which is great by itself. And the really impressive part is that the CamFi isn’t really expensive, at just 150 euros it is cheaper than most photo-related accessories. I’ve had a lot of fun using the CamFi, and found that while it may not be perfect it is very good. The CamFi (CameraNu.nl Affiliate link) offers a lot of functionality, but the app and software is easy to use. Even if you aren’t very tech-savvy. A perfect system for everyone who wants to add 2016 technology to an older camera or needs more advanced wireless functionality in a camera that does have WiFi.