Finally, Desktop WiFi

(news & commentary) Updated

bythom airnef2

For years I’ve been pointing out that the camera companies just don’t understand workflow. They put technologies into their gear and then underutilize them in terms of user solutions. 

Nothing does better to illustrate that than Nikon’s “snapbridge”, which is their (yes all lower case) marketing term for WiFi connectivity in their cameras, either built-in (e.g. D7200) or add-on (e.g. WU-1a, WU-1b). Yes, Nikon cameras can connect to your iOS or Android device and send them smallish JPEGs, but it’s not exactly the function that it could be, and it’s implemented poorly.

Airnef, a new open-source utility from long-time dpreview forum poster Adam (aka Horshack on dpreview), comes to the rescue. Released today, this small utility allows you to download image files—and not just JPEGs or smaller versions, though it supports small and large thumbnail downloads, too—directly to your Windows, OS-X, or Linux computer. The initial version is relatively simple and does the basics of moving images from camera to computer wirelessly. Adam promises that future versions will add features, such as file-renaming and other ingest-type features.

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I’ve had the chance to briefly test the 1.0 version prior to launch on my D7200, and it works as described. Solid, interruptible, well-documented transfers from camera to computer without going through hoops. On a D7200, you can easily control what’s going to the computer from the camera (the i button menu on image review, for example), or you can just grab all files directly from the computer after the two connect. On Windows systems, you can even take some of the steps out of making the WiFi connection process by having your camera’s WiFi prioritized over your regular WiFi: when you enable WiFi on the camera, your Windows system will automatically switch over to talk to your camera. (Update: Macintosh users can do the same thing for their Airport by doing the following after once using the camera’s WiFi network connection: [1] open System Preferences; [2] click the Network icon; [3] select your WiFi network in the left panel; [4] click Advanced; and then [5] drag the camera network to the top of the list.)

If you’re a command line junkie, the underlying Python engine can be commanded with additional options, including folder inclusion/exclusion, troubleshooting commands, and more. 

Speed of transfers is going to depend a bit on your WiFi setup, but in initial testing I was getting an average of about 10 second transfers on D7200 NEF files, which is reasonable. It’s not as fast as a good card reader, but it also doesn’t require you take cards out of the camera and plug in a card reader. I’ve been looking at redoing my product shot set up so that I can get rid of the sneaker net card transfer, and Airnef just might work for what I need. Indeed, if I hit transfer from the camera I’d have my images where I want them by the time I sit back down at my computer across the studio.  

So the question is simple: why didn’t Nikon do this? Why didn’t they do it years ago? Cameras really haven’t integrated well into modern digital world, despite being digital and having all the components necessary to do so. In other words: software failure. 

I’m 100% in support of where Adam’s going with Airnef, and hope that this wakes up the camera companies to the fact that they just don’t make things easy for their customers, but need to. 

Oh, despite the name, Airnef does support some Canon cameras with WiFi, and will likely support Sony systems in the future. 

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