Thursday, December 1, 2005
Gadget Bag: Wireless Tools For The Outdoor Photographer
New technologies cut the cables and give us expanded creative options
The desire to cut wires also has led to wireless technologies for computers and peripherals. Wireless home networks aren't only for übergeeks. For photographers who work with digital files, a wireless network at home or in the studio can make a lot of sense. It's a fast, easy way to share files between computers. You can untether yourself and your laptop from the desk and upload images to your Website from the comfort of your couch. WiFi networks can carry large quantities of data at very high speeds over distances of 100 feet or more. Creating a WiFi network is simple and you need minimal hardware to get started.
First, you need a wireless router, or hub. This is the base station that hosts connections between WiFi devices. Second, you'll need a wireless capability in each of the devices you want to connect. This is either built in or can be added with an aftermarket wireless card or other similar accessory. Most new laptops now include WiFi capability.
When you're comparing WiFi equipment, you'll encounter the IEEE 802.11x specification. Most new devices use IEEE 802.11b or 802.11g, so you can't go wrong with an 802.11b/g device, as it supports both of the most common protocols.
The difference between "b" and "g" is speed—"b" transfers data at speeds of up to 11 Mbits/sec. while "g" operates at about 54 Mbits/sec., which is roughly 1.4 and 6.8 Mbytes/sec., respectively. If you choose a wireless router with the "b/g" specification, you can connect the widest variety of devices and still take advantage of the faster speed with devices that support it.
The Apple AirPort Extreme WiFi router and wireless cards are compatible with 802.11b/g devices, and includes a USB port to which you can connect a printer for wireless printing from your laptop or remote desktop. Its robust control software makes network security a breeze. List Price: $199.
Netgear, Linksys and many other companies offer similar routers, wireless cards and USB adapters for desktop computers. Estimated street prices range from $49 to $199.
All notebook computers that carry the Intel Centrino designation are wireless-ready. If you're shopping for a new computer, built-in wireless is the way to go, and practically every manufacturer offers this as an option.
Wireless Cameras And Printers
WiFi capability also is finding its way into digital cameras and printers. The Nikon D2h was the first digital camera to introduce this feature as an option, primarily intended for sports photographers who could send images wirelessly from the field to a laptop in the press box, where images could then be forwarded to news agencies or publications for immediate use.
For the photographer in the field, there's a similar benefit. With a WiFi-enabled laptop and camera, you can move freely around your location, experimenting with different compositions, and have images transferred to your laptop for instant review and backup. Granted, this feature is more luxury than imperative need, but imagine not having to download hundreds of images at the end of the day—it's being done as you shoot!
Photo printers also are going wireless, with several models now available that let you make prints directly from your digital camera, without wires or a computer. Although you'll probably want to edit images in software before making your final prints, this feature is handy for making quick proofs of images for reference and review prior to editing them.
The Nikon WT-2A Wireless Transmitter lets you remotely control your Nikon D2x or D2hs camera via Nikon Capture software (version 4.2 or later). You also can use the transmitter to relay files from the camera to an FTP server. Estimated Street Price: $629.
For Canon shooters, the Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E1A is compatible with the EOS-1D Mark II n and EOS-1Ds Mark II. Two modes allow you to either automatically transfer images from the camera to an FTP server after each shot or upload them all after the shoot. Estimated Street Price: $999.
On the compact camera side, the new Nikon Coolpix P1 and P2 models have WiFi connectivity built in. Use that connection for fast wireless downloads or, if your computer is nearby, you can opt to transfer and save images directly to your computer, bypassing your camera's memory card. You also can print wirelessly to a PictBridge-compatible printer using an optional accessory available from Nikon. The 8-megapixel P1 retails for about $549; the 5-megapixel P2 goes for around $399.
If you don't opt for a wireless router with a connection for your printer, you can get a printer with WiFi built in. The Canon PIXMA iP5200R is one of Canon's top photo printers and features its ChromaLife 100 inks. The printer connects to your home WiFi network, eliminating one more USB cable from the tangle on your desktop. Estimated Street Price: $299.
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