Often working in studio, I wanted to use tethering to fine-tune my images. Unfortunately, I was disappointed with tethering options I had so far. My experience was not so good with my older cameras (Nikon D700, D300s and D7000), and it turned for even worse with my new Nikon D800.
I tested Lightroom tethering, I tried Nikon’s Camera Control Pro, as well as some other third-party software. The story repeated itself: errors, crashes, “camera not found” messages, sluggish action, unbelievably crude and user-unfriendly interfaces, you name it. Yes, user unfriendly – and plain silly too. For example – you have a Live View window on your laptop, but it remains so small (and you can’t resize it) that it really defeats its purpose of seeing better than on camera LCD. On top of all that, control options offered by most software are so basic that it makes you run between camera and laptop to change every detail of setting. Plainly, while photo-editing software made really big progress over last years, tethering limped far behind, remaining a gaping hole in the full software suite required by a studio photographer.
I can’t talk about Canon or Mac users. This is not an official review. I only share my own experience using Windows laptops (several brands, like Vaio, Samsung 9 and Dell) and various Nikon cameras. I often carried my Samsung laptop along with other things to use tethering, only to get annoyed with its total unreliability. So many times I tried, only to give up. Once in a while I tried a new piece of software, only to be disappointed again and again. So I simply decided to forget about tethering and shoot without it.
Just recently, by a chance, I heard from a friend – photographer about a small software company near us, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He recommend trying their tethering as something really good. He was so convincing that I decided to give tethering yet another try. Wow! Boy, was he right!
Comparing to everything else I tried, this piece of software is simply a miracle! It works flawlessly, it has a nice interface, and it has sooooo many options that at first it is even a bit too much. (but hey, it is good to have them all, you just use what you need).
The software I mention is ControlMyNikon, by TetherScript Technology. It is software solely for Nikon, and works on Windows. However, I’ve been told they are working on a Mac version too.
I tested it several times, and so far – I am in love with it. It did not crash on me a single time. It sometimes takes a moment or two to connect with camera – but it still is best, comparing to the other soft I tested. It is very responsive and quick, with a sleek interface, large Live View, support for two monitors, and an image browser.
First screen gives you a detailed info about software, possible updates, etc. Then – you select and connect your camera. You have tons of options to set right from your screen. I will not mention all, but only these which appeal to me. You can change ISO, aperture, shutter speed, you have a very precise light balance control, batch shooting options, you can even control the whole thing in speech mode, by talking to your laptop. Of course you can set bracketing too, you can focus, re-focus, shoot, or use manual focus mode. You have battery level of your laptop displayed all the time, so you know when you’ll get short of juice.
What I also love is an option to save your photos to laptop, camera, or both. I prefer keeping all images on my camera card, not to clog single drive of my laptop – and now I can do just that. Of course, you can set your image format and size right from ControlMyNikon too. You can set customized profiles and scripts. When you open Live View panel, a whole array of additional options opens too. A histogram, grid, many other options will assist you composing the right image. And, there is a special treat for macro-photographers. I am no macro photographer, so it was a new thing to me – Focus Stacking. It is a bit like taking bracketed photos for HDR. You take several differently exposed photos, and edit it later in a dedicated HDR program.
Here, the ControlMyNikon will take several photos, focusing each time on a slightly different distance (you set it how you want it). Then, photographs can be simply saved, or exported to Zerene Stacker – another small piece of software which will combine all photos for you. As an HDR software uses best exposed pixels from all photos to combine them in a single high-dynamic-range image, this Stacker will take the sharpest pixels, and will produce an incredibly all-over sharp macro photo! A real treat for macro photographers, isn’t it?
To try it, I had to download a trial of the Zerene Stacker. Comparing to the ControlMyNikon – I found it rather crude and overpriced. But hey – it works just fine! (There are some other focus stacking progs around, including free CombineZP, just Google them.) Extended Photoshop has also a “stacking script” -and I tried it with success. First, you open all images in Photoshop, then go to File>Scripts>Load Files into Stacks. Once it is done, select all created layers and go to Edit>Auto-Blend Layers, and choose “Stack Images” (selecting “Seamless Tones and Colors”. Flatten the resulted image and – voila!
Well, back to ControlMyNikon. Another Great aspect of this unique tethering software is its price! While it does so much more than most of its competition – it costs only… $29! (and it is good for up to three computers + has extensive video tutorials on line).
So, what I don’t like about ControlMyNikon?
It sometimes takes a bit longer to connect with my camera than I would wish. But it still is good, comparing to other programs. And, for some reason it did not see my D800 when connecting through the USB3 port of my laptop. I wasted a bit of time troubleshooting, but then – it works perfectly – and rather quickly – through regular USB2. Not a big deal, just don’t be surprised when you can’t hook it up via USB3. I wrote about it to TetherScript Technology tech support, and I received a very prompt response that they are aware of the issue and are working on a fix. So, not only I know it will be fixed, but I also had a chance to see their impressively quick customer support.
I am hooked on this software. The best tethering soft for my Nikon, I waited years for it.
Thank you, TetherScript. I will later try your other product – Cinematographer Pro. If it is as good as this one, it can be worth checking.
Until next time. If you like this post, please SHARE it with friends. Thanks!