Recently I purchased the Nikon UT-1. In this post I want to share some of the challenges and some of the success I had wiith it.
The need for WIFI
I am professional photographer. I often shoot with my client looking over my shoulder. My two Nikon camera’s, the D4 and the D800, have great LCD-screens — but they are rather small. I need to see my images larger. More importantly, my clients need to see the images larger. In my studio I solve this problem by taking my memory card out of the camera, loading the images in my computer, and displaying them on the wall using a high resolution video-projector. Problem is, this takes a lot of time.
When I shoot on location, which actually is the majority of the time, I don’t have a wall to project on, or a projector to project with. So I want my client to hold my iPad, or have my laptop on his desk, and to have the images appear there as I shoot them. To me, this seems a no-brainer. In the photographic community there are many who don’t see this need, but to me it’s obvious: speed, efficiency, accuracy, and the ability to discuss the image as it is being shot, while looking at more than a tiny LCD-screen, are essential to me. I have no doubt that in the not so distant future this is the way professional photographers will work: as they shoot, people will be looking at the images appear on their mobile phones, tablets, TV’s and computers — all within seconds of the photo being made.
I have been on a quest to make this happen. And I have to say: I’ve got it working with my Nikon D4. Using the WT-5A I can send images of my choice (no, my client doesn’t get to see what I do not want him to see) to my iPhone, iPad, or MacbookPro.
And my clients love this! Absolutely love it! Imagine your client being able to scroll through the images you just took and indicating which ones he really likes! No more arguing with clients that the images you supplied are really good. And if the client isn’t happy, you can simply shoot a few more shots.
Here’s the problem. Some of my assignments require the higher resolution the D800 gives. And up till recently there was no wifi-capability for that. Oh yes, I did try the Eye-Fi card, and the Sandisk WiFi card, but it seems the body of the D800 doesn’t let the wifi signal out very well.
Enter the Nikon UT-1. This device allows you to connect the D800 (or the D800E and the D810) to connect to wifi. Well, actually, that’s not quite true: if you connect the WT-5 to it, you can connect to wifi.
Right there is where in my view it gets ridiculous. The WT-5 is €600 (yikes) and the UT-1 is €329. So, to make the D800 (and D810) connect to wifi will set you back €929. I think that’s crazy. The good news is: I already owned the WT-5! So I decided to spend the money and get the UT-1.
On a side note: I strongly considered buying a tether-cable. However, my fear is tripping over my cable and crashing my MacbookPro to the floor… not a helpful mental image. Besides, it seems to me Wifi should just work! You can operate your oven, your TV, even your central heating using Wifi — then surely wifi should work on a camera, right?
It works, but…
I’ll save you the suspense. It does — and it’s a huge disappointment. Here’s what I found.
First of all, the UT-1 is designed poorly. The battery door doesn’t open far enough to comfortably slot in the battery. Which is a problem, cause it needs a big battery: the EN-EL15. I don’t know why it needs such a big battery, but it does.
And then there is this: the UT-1 is supposed to sit on top of your camera, in the hot shoe. Sounds logical? Well, not to me. You see, the UT-1 was designed specifically for camera’s like the D800 and D810. And these are camera’s routinely used in the studio. And studio photographers use flash-triggers. And where does your flash-trigger go? Right – in the hot shoe!
So, now where to put the UT-1? Well, Nikon has a solution. It sells a steel bracket that can be screwed in to the bottom of the camera. And then the UT-1 can be set on the same bracket, a little to the left of the camera. Cost of the bracket: €80. For a piece of metal. I don’t know what the people at Nikon are smoking, but fortunately Falcon Eyes sells a bracket exactly like the Nikon one, for €16!
But it gets even more ridiculous. To connect the UT-1, with the WT-5 mounted on it, to the camera, you need to run a USB cable from the camera to the UT-1. Which in itself is not so crazy — until you need to operate the command buttons on the back of the camera. And you need to operate them a lot if you want to shoot wireless. There is simply no way a human hand can comfortably operate the buttons with that USB cable in place.
I wish I could tell you set up is easy. But it’s not. It takes hours and hours, with lots of frustration. The manual is complicated and contains errors in fairly important places. Fortunately, because I had succeeded in creating wireless transfers using my D4 and WT-5 I had a little experience. It only took me 6 hours to get it to work.
Because I want to be able to work on location where there is no wifi, I have a little Asus portable N-router. It plugs into the USB port of my laptop, and then creates a network on which both my laptop and camera can log in. Then, using the PC transfer mode I can select the images of my choice, and have them transfer across to my laptop, where Lightroom is standing by in tether-mode to load them and display them full screen.
Sounds like it finally works… well, in a manner of speaking. Transfer is amazingly slow. Even though there is no one else on this network, and my camera is right next to the MacbookPro, it can still take a long time before the images have come across. The camera displays how much time is still remaining, but those counts are optimistic: I find that it easily can take three times as long as the camera thinks. Which means I can be waiting for 2 minutes for one image to transfer. Not exactly a time-saver.
The problem is that the camera sends the RAW files, and not the jpg’s. Oh, I’ve got it set to sending JPG’s — it just doesn’t do it. Which is interesting, because neither will my D4. I have no idea why. What I want is for the camera to save RAW images to the card (obviously I want to flexibility and power that RAW offers for post-processing), but I want the camera to send across JPG’s to my screen over wifi. So that my art-director can see the images and we can discuss them and make desired changes and so get the images we want! I’ve got my camera set right to transfer jpg’s, I’m fairly sure, but no matter what I try, my camera won’t send jpg’s…
Which all leads me to a sad conclusion. I love Nikon — I really do. But the UT-1 is crap. I’m offended that Nikon would put such a product out there. And I’m afraid I am going to have to look for a cable. You’ll probably find my UT-1 in e-bay in the next few weeks. Not that I recommend you buy it, mind you.
While most of my blog is in Dutch, I wrote this in English. Reason is that I could not find one posting on a blog or a forum by someone who used the UT-1. There are a fair amount of postings out there on the D4 and WT-5 and they are helpful. But in the absence of experience with the UT-1, I thought I’d offer mine. And maybe in the process even send a signal to Nikon to do better. Cause I frankly expect more…