UPDATE: I have now posted a detailed setup guide for the WFT-E4 here
I recently bought the Canon WFT-E4 wireless transmitter (known as the WFT-E4A in North America - something to do with allowable radio frequencies). This device attaches to the base of the 5D mark II, a bit like a battery grip, and among other things allows you to transfer files as you shoot them over to a nearby computer. Similar models are available for the 40D, 50D, 1D III and 1Ds III.
The device can be set up in 3 different ways:
Firstly as an FTP client, it can transfer shots wirelessly to a nearby laptop while you shoot.
Secondly, as a PTP client, you can have full remote control of the camera through EOS Utility, including a live view image, again – all wirelessly. This is a fantastic for setup for remote cameras.
Thirdly, in HTTP mode the device starts a built-in web server and up to 3 people can view a dynamically generated web page of all the images it has shot, and also control when the camera shoots.
I bought it primarily for the FTP functionality.
When shooting on location with a client overseeing the shoot, it is important for them to be able to review the images as the shoot progresses. If you wait until the end of the day to review shots and the images aren’t quite what the client is looking for, it can often be impossible to revisit the location within the time and budget available.
The screen on the back of the camera simply isn’t good enough for this kind of review, and also slows down shooting as people stand around the camera.
Previously I have either had to shoot tethered to a laptop via a Firewire or USB cable, or where that is not practical, frequently changing out CF cards and have an assistant copy them onto the laptop. Neither of which is ideal.
Now I can shoot without any cables getting in the way, and full screen images pop up on the laptop soon after I shoot them.
Transfer speeds are in the order of 1.5MB/sec. So a RAW file still takes in the region of 15 secs to copy over, which is too slow for most uses. However, if you shoot in RAW + JPEG mode, the transmitter can be set to send only the JPEG files. A small JPEG is still plenty large enough to display full screen on the laptop, and they pop up on the screen in about 1 second.
You can set the camera either to transmit every file as soon as it is taken, or wait until you play back images on the screen and transmit only those you select with the SET button. Both these modes can be useful depending on the type of subject matter you are shooting.
Overall I am very happy with the purchase. However there are a couple of annoyances:
1) While the WFT is a great bit of kit, it is hard to get set up. The Canon manual is 107 pages long and assumes you are very familiar with networking jargon. After a day and a half of getting fed up I eventually got it working. In the next post I’ll explain how to set it up the way I am using it, in case anyone else is having trouble.
2) the transmitter takes an LP-E6 battery, the same as the one in the 5DII. However, Canon decided not to include one in the box. For a £700 accessory that cannot be used without it, I thought this was a bit cheap! And given that LP-E6s are harder to find than apologetic bankers at the moment, this is more than simply an inconvenience…