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Remote (tethered) Canon camera control software - available for the Mac
DSLRRemotePro from Breeze Systems has been available for Windows PCs for some time, but has now been released to run on the Apple Mac.
You do need an Intel based Mac, but I've been trying out the software using OSX 10.6 (Snow Leopard) and found no OS related issues.
The software we've looked at is V1.0 and has a few minor glitches, but nothing too serious. We're told that an update will be out soon fixing a few problems and adding support for the new EOS 7D.
The functionality described below is also available for Windows PC users.
When I'm doing some of our product photography, the last thing I want to keep doing is moving back and forth to the computer with memory cards to check whether some fine detail in an object is captured the way I want.
Fortunately Canon provide software that allows you to set-up and control your camera with a USB connection.
This works (now with liveview support) but has always seemed a bit of a bare bones solution.
DSLRRemotePro for the Mac is now available, and since we are an all Apple Mac based company I was pleased to be able to try it out.
The software supports [2009 - see supplier for updates]:
I noticed that my old 1Ds isn't supported - this is due to changes in the way Canon software controls cameras, and to be fair, the current Canon software won't control the Firewire connected 1Ds either.
There are a number of other uses where it's helpful to have the camera at a different location to where files are being stored.
The software installs very simply, so I plugged in the camera (a Canon 1Ds Mk3) and started it up. You can download a trial version, which can be activated by purchasing a serial number.
The software works from one main window, and has detected that I'd left the camera set on manual 1/6th of a second at f/10
As someone who used to do usability work, I like software that is obvious to use. I probably only do product photography work a couple of times a month, so I want software that does not require me to get out the manual every time.
I'll go through some of the functionality before discussing how I found the software to use, but suffice to say I pressed the 'release' button and a photo appeared...
After experimenting a bit, I checked the main application preferences.
These cover what happens to pictures when downloaded from your camera.
The basic options here should fit most people's workflow preferences, but if you look in the application help under 'Tokens' you'll find a vast array of codes that you can include in the options here.
Personally I just want my files dumped into a dated folder for the session, but you can just as easily download them into a watched folder for processing with other software.
One issue I did find was that sequential file numbering produced incorrect numbers when the camera was set to download RAW and a JPEG image at the same time.
You can have the files recorded to your camera's memory card as well, as shown in the Camera menu below.
The other main menu covers the options for viewing pictures you've taken.
The software is available as a demo, so I'll run through a few features I used rather than list everything.
Liveview is supported on cameras that have it.
The liveview window can be enlarged if need be.
The box at the centre is for the 'zoomed' view. Moving round the white on blue rectangle will move the Zoom area, although this can be a bit sluggish waiting for the camera to respond.
The default view is with the lens fully open.
In this case I'm using a 24-70 2.8L lens, and at f/2.8 the depth of field is quite thin at such close distance.
The lens I'm photographing is an old Olympus wide angle adapter,on a small light table I use for some product photography.
The buttons at the bottom allow you to focus the lens (if it has AF). The number of arrows relate to the size of focusing steps.
The precise functionality available, depends on camera and lens capabilities. For the setup I was trying the lens could be focused even with the lens switch set to MF - this disabled camera AF.
After you take a picture ('preview' doesn't store the image to disk, 'release' does), the image is displayed in the main window.
The histogram shows exposure information.
In this instance it shows how the background is very bright, and saturated in some areas.
For some shots this may be an issue, others not.
There is the option to see 'per channel' displays, which can be of use in seeing whether strongly coloured objects are 'blowing out' one or more channels.
You can also set a flashing highlights warning, similar to that in the camera, but with more detailed control.
I don't use 'picture styles', but all the normal camera options are there if you do.
In the corner of the display is a small readout giving the RGB values for the pixel under the cursor.
The actual number will depend on particular camera settings.
A configurable grid is also available over the image, both in liveview and the main window.
The image can display AF points -none active here, since the lens was set to MF
If AF was used then it shows as a red outline.
Note that due to camera limitations, you have to set AF points at the camera.
If you've focus stacking software (such as in Photoshop CS4) then you can use the software to take a series of images at different focus settings.
The idea is that the software takes the sharpest parts of each image and merges them together.
I've seen good and bad examples of this, so it's not the panacea that you might think.
As well as focus, you can vary exposure (bracketing) to get a series of images (up to 15) for merging to HDR or for simple merging of multiple exposures.
Note the execute command option - this is a holdover from the PC version of the software and does not currently do anything - this may well change in the future.
The software can also be used to set the camera clock - mine had drifted several seconds since earlier this year.
I've never done time-lapse photography with the 1Ds3, but the software makes it easy to set this up.
Most of the features of the software were pretty easy to find and set up, however I realise that not everyone likes my 'suck it and see' approach, so it's good to see comprehensive help available.
I always suggest people read the manual...
In this instance I discovered a custom function for the camera that I'd not set - changing it gave me a live view histogram.
Easy to use software that offers numerous refinements over the standard Canon software.
I found it easy to use with lots of features that show it was designed by a working photographer.
The software is currently at Version 1.0 and this shows in a few minor areas, which Chris Breeze (the developer) assures me are soon to be fixed.
The only problem that I'd suggest being careful about, is the file numbering that goes askance if you have your camera set to RAW+JPEG (my usual default) - I set the camera to RAW only and there were no problems.
In a much harsher test of the software, I set it up for my partner Karen, for doing some product shots for her jewellery (she designs and makes bridal jewellery in the UK)
Karen preferred the overall control layout of DSLRRemotePro and was particularly taken with the remote focus option, since she could now focus accurately via liveview, without needing to change glasses to look at the camera back or climb up to the viewfinder (the studio is set up for ease of use at my height ;-)
Thanks to everyone who has ever purchased something via our links.
Much as I can't foist my 1Ds on her any more for her product shots, I think the Canon software is also a non starter.
You can leave comments/questions about this article at our blog or the comments sections below.
Software for controlling a range of Canon cameras.
Mac version OSX 10.4 - 10.6 (Intel only)
7D will be supported in upcoming software update
DSLR Remote Pro for Mac is US $75 (US $50 for existing DSLR Remote Pro for Windows customers). This offer is available until the end of October 2009 after which time the price will be US $95.
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The views in this article represent those of Keith Cooper.
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