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Wireless photography with an iPad and ShutterSnitch - Continued
ShutterSnitch FAQ: ShutterSnitch tips

Except where noted, the answers that follow are based on some assumptions. First, that the destination device is an iPad and the destination app is ShutterSnitch. While a lot is the same if you're transmitting to an iPhone or iPod touch, or even to a computer, not everything is. Second, you're hoping to use this wireless camera-to-iPad wizardry to accomplish one or more of these things:
  • Check lighting and exposure during group photo or portrait sessions
  • Better engage your portrait subjects by showing them the progress of the shoot, even during rushed assignments or assignments that take place on the move
  • Deposit JPEGs on the iPad as you capture them, including when the iPad is in your camera bag or backpack, for subsequent inclusion in slide shows or to transmit selects to clients
  • Ensure that remotes are firing correctly as well as take in the JPEGs those cameras are recording
In other words, if you're an individual photographer or part of a small group of photographers that shoot together, usually on location, and you don't need to bridge large wireless distances or send gazillions of photos per session, this information is for you.

Q: Can ShutterSnitch receive both JPEG and RAW files?

Yes. But for a couple of reasons you're going to want to stick to sending JPEGs:
  • Typical transmit rates, with any of the camera transmitter options we've tested, are in the neighbourhood of 1MB/second, give or take a few hundred KB. This is just fine if you're funneling through 2MB JPEGs but too slow for 20MB+ CR2s or NEFs. So, ShutterSnitch can receive RAW files, but you're not going to find it practical to send RAW files usually.

    Transmitters can be configured to send JPEG only, even if your camera is capturing RAW+JPEG. In this instance, you can capture RAW files to your camera's memory card for later processing while passing JPEGs over to ShutterSnitch. Also, if the transmitter is an Eye-Fi card, ShutterSnitch can be configured to accept JPEGs but reject RAW files.

  • While ShutterSnitch can receive RAW files, ShutterSnitch won't yet display them (this is true in v1.1.8 and will probably remain true until ShutterSnitch 2.0). Which means from within the ShutterSnitch app itself there's nothing you can do with the RAW files that have arrived. Brian Gerfort, the Copenhagen-based developer of ShutterSnitch, says that a future version will show RAW files. But wireless speed, and the iPad's skimpy 256MB total RAM, will mean it's still not a great idea to send them.
Q: What is the biggest JPEG ShutterSnitch can handle?

There are two practical limits to the size (in both megabytes and megapixels) of JPEG that ShutterSnitch can receive: the speed of the wireless link, as described above, and the amount of memory available to ShutterSnitch to process incoming pictures. Both vary. The former is dependent on various wireless factors, the latter is dependent on how long it has been since the iPad was restarted. An iPad that has just been restarted definitely offers ShutterSnitch more RAM in which to maneuver, but there's no getting around how little working memory Apple's tablet contains.

What these limits mean is you can't expect to funnel very many low-compression, full-resolution JPEGs from cameras like the EOS-1D Mark IV or Nikon D3X before ShutterSnitch will bog down or is "jettisoned" (as the crash logs will report) by the iPad's iOS 3.2.2 operating system. The upcoming iOS 4.2 update for the iPad is expected to provide better memory management, but it will still be juggling only 256MB.

To keep the transmit times quick and ShutterSnitch working reliably we've standardized on camera JPEG settings that generate photos under 9MP and smaller than 2MB. Dialing in these settings may take a bit of experimentation with your particular camera. This works great, and gives ShutterSnitch a file that is more than ample for the purpose of image review on the iPad's large (for a mobile device), accurate screen or even emailing/uploading a proof of sorts to a customer. For many newspaper uses the file will be more than adequate.

We're also almost always recording a RAW version of each photo too, plus some cameras allow the second version to be another JPEG, which you could choose to be at the camera's maximum resolution. So you're not limited to capturing just the JPEG that ShutterSnitch gets.

Q: I've set up my camera to send smaller JPEGs as you recommend, but ShutterSnitch still sometimes crashes. What can I do to prevent this?

The single best thing you can do to keep an iPad running iOS 3.2.2 from crashing is to restart it regularly. This helps keep ShutterSnitch, as well as any other photo app that requires significant chunks of RAM, running smoothly. If ShutterSnitch does crash, you MUST reboot the iPad before relaunching ShutterSnitch. A memory-related crash leaves the iPad in an unstable state, and the only way to make things right is to shut down the iPad and then fire it up again.

Q: How should I configure ShutterSnitch in the Settings app?

The screenshot below shows how we have things set almost always. Don't change the port unless you know why you might want to, choose to show listening info so you can verify when opening a collection that the iPad's IP address is what you expect it to be and keep speed above hi-res off for improved zoomed image quality.

If you don't want the display to turn off automatically when ShutterSnitch is running then enable [Keep display on]. Even if the screen turns off automatically, or you turn it off manually by pressing the button on the side of the iPad, ShutterSnitch will continue to receive pictures.

shuttersnitch_settings.jpg
Get Set: ShutterSnitch's area in the Settings app

A post in the ShutterSnitch forum describes each setting in greater detail. You'll find lots of other good info about the app in the forum too, plus you can pose questions directly to developer Brian Gerfort.

Q: Does ShutterSnitch display pictures in a particular colour space?

Yes, sort of. While the iPad, as of iOS 3.2.2, lacks the necessary colour management hooks that would allow developers to render pictures in different colour spaces correctly, it does display with very good accuracy any picture that happens to be in the sRGB colour space. By comparison, pictures in Adobe RGB will appear flat and unsaturated within ShutterSnitch or any other iPad app.

To take advantage of the iPad's ability to give you a colour accurate view then you'll have to set your camera's output colour space to sRGB. If you're also capturing a RAW file, note that the colour space setting has no effect on the RAW image data, which is good. Plus, the sRGB colour space selection is either ignored or can be overridden in your RAW converter. So, if you're sRGB-phobic and your camera is set to RAW+JPEG, not to worry, your choice of sRGB will only impact, positively, the JPEG going to ShutterSnitch.

Q: Can devices other than camera transmitters send pictures to ShutterSnitch?

Yes. Any computer or other device capable of FTP transfers should be able to send pictures to ShutterSnitch. It's also possible to view a list of files within the active ShutterSnitch collection and copy files from that collection to the connecting device. Be sure to change the FTP client's port from the default to 26000 and, if you're having trouble getting past the login step, try disabling passive mode.

The screenshots below show Transmit, a superb FTP client for Mac, configured for and then connected to ShutterSnitch. The .JPG files are pictures sent by a camera transmitter, the other files have been created by ShutterSnitch for its own use.

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Mac Friendly: Transmit for Mac, configured for and then connected to a ShutterSnitch collection. Click screenshots to enlarge

ShutterSnitch can also broadcast its existence via Bonjour, a device discovery protocol, which makes it possible for Transmit and other Bonjour-supporting applications to automatically detect the presence of ShutterSnitch's FTP server on the wireless network.

Q: Is the Eye-Fi wireless/memory SD combo card compatible with ShutterSnitch?

Yes. Not only are all of the original (now referred to by Eye-Fi as "classic") or current X2-series cards compatible, ShutterSnitch has specific Eye-Fi support that makes it a breeze to set up the app as an Eye-Fi card's destination.

Q: Can ShutterSnitch receive pictures from multiple camera transmitters at the same time?

Yes. We've tested it with JPEGs streaming in from three different cameras and ShutterSnitch held up just fine. Simultaneously, we connected to ShutterSnitch's FTP server using Transmit on the Mac to both copy pictures to and from a collection. That worked a-ok too.

What ShutterSnitch v1.1.8 can't do is receive pictures from more than one Eye-Fi card at a time. This limitation will probably be removed in a later ShutterSnitch release, though as of this writing Gerfort hasn't committed to making this change, only to investigating the possibility of it. In the interim, sending from, for example, two cameras in the same session means using an Eye-Fi card and some other transmitter, or two other transmitters, but not two Eye-Fi cards.

Q: You mentioned earlier there are things that ShutterSnitch doesn't do as well as it should. What are they?

As of v1.1.8, ShutterSnitch bams along quite well as long as you don't pummel it with lots of big, high-resolution photos. Doing so guarantees it will crash after a short while (the screenshot below labeled memory errors gives an idea of what happens when you try). Avoid that and stability should be excellent. It has been for us.

Its remaining areas of clunkiness revolve around the display of pictures:
  • Some photos are shown slightly cropped when they ought not to be. You can see this by comparing the first two screenshots below. The one labeled crop error is how ShutterSnitch displays the photo, lopping off a bit at the top and bottom. Pinching the photo reveals the full image, temporarily. This unintended cropping doesn't happen to every photo, but it does happen.

  • The zoomed view of a photo is blurrier in ShutterSnitch than when the same photo is viewed in the iPad's Photos app. You can see the difference in the comparison labeled blurry zoom; the ShutterSnitch zoomed version is on the left while the Photos app zoomed version is on the right.

    Restarting the iPad immediately before a ShutterSnitch session helps limit the blurriness, at least at first. You'll notice, however, as a shooting session progresses that the zoomed view becomes less and less crisp, until it's as blurry as the example below. The full screen view always looks good, this really only affects the zoomed view.

    This isn't exactly a bug; Gerfort says it has to do with how ShutterSnitch is managing what little memory the iPad doles out to process photos. He expects that proper zooming will come in a future ShutterSnitch update, once iOS 4.2 for the iPad is out in November 2010. Until then, careful focus checking in the zoomed view isn't really possible. To do that you need to transfer the pic to the Photos app, and that operation is slow to complete (probably because of an iOS 3.2.2 bug).

  • Sometimes, when shooting bursts of pictures, they appear in ShutterSnitch in random, non-chronological order, and there's no way to sort them back into the correct order.

ShutterSnitchProblems
Actual image (pinched)
Crop error
Blurry zoom
Memory errors
There are lots of feature additions we'd love to see going forward, including automatic image export and the ability to switch to another app while ShutterSnitch continues to receive pictures in the background. Plus a few tweaks to existing features wouldn't hurt either. But only the unintended crop and the blurry zoom (especially the blurry zoom) can be said to be critical right now, and both are on the list to be fixed by Gerfort in the months ahead.

Q: Where can I buy ShutterSnitch?

From the App Store within Apple iTunes for $7.99 (or a roughly equivalent price in countries other than the U.S. and Canada).

Q: Why is the app called ShutterSnitch?

Its name is derived from ShutterSnitch's ability to warn you if certain shooting parameters, such as shutter speed and aperture, aren't in line with rules you set within the app. This isn't a feature we've used, but might in the future as part of ensuring that a remote camera is staying set correctly.

Q: What other changes are coming to ShutterSnitch?

In a July 27, 2010 forum posting, Gerfort gave the following hints as to what to look forward to in ShutterSnitch 2.0:

shuttersnitch2.jpg

Some of these changes require iOS 4, which Apple has said will come to the iPad in November 2010. ShutterSnitch 2.0 will follow that.

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