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Is There a Place for Using CamRanger for Real Estate Work?

Published: 05/08/2019

Jeri, from San Jose, CA writes:

“Recently, a couple of really high-end agents who do multi-million dollar listings have brought me in to do some shoots for them. It’s been fun! Unlike my other clients, who want lots of photos and they want all of them shot ultra-wide, these new agents made it clear that they don't want ultra-wide. I’m actually having to think more about composition and to be honest, it’s not as easy as I thought it was going to be, especially looking at things from the tiny screen on the back of my camera. I keep hearing all about the CamRanger and that I can see the image on a tablet before I take it. Should I just bite the bullet and get one?”

First, for those in our community who've never heard of a CamRanger (CR), it is a device that attaches to your camera. It creates a WiFi signal that, when paired up with the app that is downloaded on a tablet or cellphone, allows you to shoot tethered (e.g., you can control the camera from the tablet or phone.) If you'd like to see it in action, there are a bunch of YouTube tutorials available on it.

With that said Jeri, I’ll start by saying that I’m a little biased when it comes to answering your question. For me personally, using a CR was one of the two things that took my photography to the proverbial “next level”. So, my first reaction to your question is, “go for it”... but... I have to qualify that.

If you're a real estate shooter working in a business model that's based on volume and you're needing to shoot multiple houses in a day, then shooting with a CR probably doesn’t make a lot of sense. I can only assume that, in such a model, you're likely going to be taking a majority of your images shooting ultra-wide and corner-to-corner, so there’s no real need to spend time using a device that's geared to helping you think through nuances in composition. Beyond this, there’s also the fact that at times, connectivity can be an issue with the CR. When it goes down, you usually need to re-boot both the CR device, as well as the tablet. This could prove to be quite a nuisance; especially if things are not going well in the current house you're shooting which causes you to run late for your next shoot.

That said Jeri, if your business model is not driven by volume and you're only shooting one or two houses per day, then using a CR may be worth your while--particularly with these new clients of yours, stating that they don't want ultra-wide shots for their high-end listings. I use a 10” tablet with my CR and it’s so great to be able to see exactly what I'm shooting on a relatively big screen. I also think that, with increased proficiency at using a CR, speed would improve too. In fact, I seem to recall that Mike Kelley once said somewhere (maybe in one of his articles/videos?) that he’d use a CamRanger for real estate work because it would be easier to get the shot he wanted right away, rather than taking the time to do the "spray-and-pray" thing, hoping to get a good composition.

Anyway, as an FYI, CR users have been waiting forever for the new, updated version and as far as I know, you can't get the v.1 model anymore. I think that the only CR version you can get nowadays is a smaller version called the CamRanger Mini. I’ve never used it, so I’ll leave it to folks in our community who have, to give you some feedback on it and whether it might be worth getting, until the the CR v.2 model comes out (supposedly later this year, according to the CR website). My bottom-line is that if I were in your shoes Jeri, and needing to place more attention on composition and working in larger, higher-end homes, then I’d be inclined to use it.

So, I'm curious... is anyone out there using a CamRanger for real estate work? If so, what advice to you have for Jeri? If you've tried it but then stopped using it, I'm hoping you can share your experience, too.

Tony Colangelo is a residential and commercial photographer, as well as a photography coach, based in Victoria, BC, Canada. He is a long-time contributor to PFRE and is the creator of The Art & Science of Great Composition tutorial series.

17 comments on “Is There a Place for Using CamRanger for Real Estate Work?”

  1. I have been using the CR for several years now and cannot feel comfortable on set without it.
    I heartily agree with the comments above. I would also say that for volume work you would not be helped as it is designed to be a more sensitive tool for checking composition and errant elements in the scene.
    For high end work where the placement and exposure of every element is important, it is invaluable in getting to perfect faster.
    My biggest gripe is the flakiness of the USB connectors to my Canons. The USB 3 connector of the 5Dx bodie sis not nearly as solid as the USB C of my EOS R. And I occasionally have connection issues with the USB-C.
    I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of the v2 CR as the promised improvements will be much appreciated if they work as advertised.
    Downsides of using the CR are decreased battery life and the fact that you have a device dangling from your kit.

    In truth, if the manufacturers actually made their WiFi reliable and easy to connect to an app that was not made of manure, CR would be out of business as this whole process should be far simpler.

  2. I use the CR for the outside shots because I use an extension pole. Most of my clients want the really wide shot so not need for the CR on the inside.

  3. I use CamRanger with my Canon 5D mk II cameras. I have to say it is a great setup to get remote control of the older camera that does not come with wi-fi built in. I have had to have one of my camera's serviced when the USB connector broke inside the camera while on a shoot. I whipped out my backup camera and continued on. But it is a weakness on this camera, especially when you plug and unplug the CamRanger frequently.

    With older eyes, I do appreciate using CamRanger on an ipad with a shoulder strap to operate and evaluate my shots. It is also great for pole mounted photography (yeah, I actually hoist that heavy camera up a 20ft pole. No accidents so far... ).

    I also find it impresses some agents. Some like to peek at the photos as I work and are impressed with how they look. I guess a bit of tech wizardry helps the image a bit 🙂

  4. I've been shooting 2 to 5 homes a day, 6 or 7 days a week for 4 years with a CamRanger. I've never experienced the finicky problems I hear about. After more than a thousand shoots I did have a USB plug get a bit loose. The company's communication over the issue was polite a super-quick. In 2 days I was shooting with a new unit. It's easily one of my favorite pieces of equipment and I could do a 'normal' home in 40 minutes with it (if I wanted to, which I don't). Highly recommended, you won't be sorry!

  5. For run & gun, a CamRanger isn't going to be of much help. If you do only a couple of job each day and prefer to craft your images, it works very well. If you are a Canon shooter, the CR gives you the ability to shoot brackets of more than 3 frames. I don't use any flavor of HDR, but a deep bracket is sometimes a great way to quickly get a wide range of exposures for later compositing. I could manually change shutter speed and chimp each image to see if I have a good exposure for a particular area, but it's faster to just run a bracket. It's also useful to see and adjust your camera if you need to back it into a corner or place the camera somewhere that doesn't allow you to make adjustments or see the screen on the back to check the histogram. If you have the camera on a tripod in the back of a pickup while you wait for the perfect light on a twilight image, you likely don't want to be climbing up and down to check how the image is shaping up. If you are painting with a speedlight, you can check your work as you go with far less walking back and forth and avoid bumping the camera.

    Having a nice big 10" tablet to view images on is much easier on my left eye that's been abused by looking through a viewfinder for years. I can also check focus much easier and catch reflections of gear and myself so I'm not stuck cloning stuff out in post later on. Also, my back isn't as young as it used to be and crouching down to look through the viewfinder or check a composition on the back of the camera all day can have me gobbling the ibuprofen by 5 0'clock which I'd rather not do if I can avoid it.

    I have never tried, but there is supposed to be a way to allow other people on the shoot to view images on their own device as they are made. An art director or stylist can detail a scene live which can save loads of time. There could even be times when the client or their rep is on set to supervise and you can put them someplace out of the way so they aren't trying to see images on the back of the camera.

    The one thing that really makes using the CamRanger for me worth it is I can walk into the scene and pop a handheld flash and quickly see if it's done what I wanted it to do or if I need to make some adjustments to position/power. That's as huge for me as when I went with remote controlled speedlights. Now I can not only change the power on a speed light upstairs, I can be up there to change it's position/orientation without having to walk down to see what effect the change had.

    Whether it's worth the money and the time to deploy it is down to your workflow and how much you put into your images. For me, I'm not saving any time on a job, but it's allowing me to spend more time on the hero shots doing things that I wouldn't do before. If time were a huge factor and quality be damned, I might just forgo it on that job. The rest of the time, I believe that it helps me bring up the quality of my work while staying within the same time frame.

    My take is, obviously, a mirror of Tony's comments but I figured I would write it out rather than just posting one sentence.

    If you are doing other types of work where tethering, especially remote tethering, would be helpful, you can't miss with the CamRanger. The last beauty pageant I did tethered had me tense the whole time due to all of the people wandering around and not concerned at all about treading on the cable during the photo sessions (not at the pageant itself which I did handheld and untethered).

  6. I do not use CR, but I use another similar tool (DSLR Controlled, Android app that only works via USB, so my thin tablet stays on the hotshoe of my Canon 5D3, a bit like external monitors for videographers). I mostly do run and gun, and if this was my main job it would definitely be volume based.
    The tablet saves me a lot of errors which I would have to fix in post production (from perspective correction to self image in mirrors/windows/showers or misplaced items), and helps me with composition and histogram. The live view is nearly real time, and I can occasionally remove the tablet to push the camera in a corner while still retaining the ability to control it, albeit from close distance.
    I’d definitely recommend this kind of tool, I’m not on CR just because my option is cheaper and does the job, for me.

  7. I am one of those who has been waiting anxiously for the CR-2. I currently do not have a CR and finding getting behind the camera in tight corners can be challenging for a really tall old guy. Throw in progressive glasses into the mix and it's can be almost impossible to see the live view of my Canon 5D-IV and not bump the camera. I am pretty much shooting blind at that point and hoping until I move the camera and can view the image.

    I have not tried the wi-fi Canon Connect app but may do so until the CR-2 comes out. I've heard it is not very good but would be interested in hearing other's views.

  8. Definitely recommend the Camranger, but it did eventually damage my usb port on the camera. I haven't had it fixed and have been using the canon app with the built-in wifi. The app is not as nice as Camranger’s and the range is not even close (my bigger complaint), but it is kind of nice not to have something hanging off the camera or an additional thing to charge.

    When the port was first damaged I felt a little paralyzed, so beware! Tethering almost made me forget how to take a photo without it. It was kind of refreshing to figure out how to shoot again without it, but I have to have a bigger screen to see what I’m doing. I miss way too many details looking at the viewfinder.

    I am kind of disappointed in how long it is taking to come out with Camranger 2. I don't really understand the point of making your product unavailable for a year and making an announcement for a new product a little prematurely.

    I agree with Mark’s comment. If Canon could extend the range of the wifi and make a few adjustments to the app, I’d have no need for Camranger. As it is, I am getting by until I see what Camranger 2 is all about.

  9. I use my Cam Ranger occasionally when I have a job that gives me the time to use it, but for day-to-day RE work I found a solution that works great for me. It's a large, inexpensive monitor mounted on a camera bracket that allows me still use my hot shoe for the flash trigger. I bought a Neewer monitor that only cost around $125 on Amazon, but the bracket was another story. I tried several cheap solutions but none of them worked very well. I found a Promedia Boomerang Bracket that costs a ridiculous $300, but it's a very well built and versatile bracket. I've set up a temporary page on my website if you're interested in seeing my setup. Here's the link :http://www.roncastlephotos.com/equipment

  10. The value of CR or similar apps (like Sony Edge) isn't in the actual shooting, it's in the larger view of the frame to inspect the details. I only use it on commercial work where there is an interior designer present. Keep in mind that while the quality of the shot goes up, the expenditure of time goes up considerably, prehaps 3x or more, as the elements within the frame get tweaked. Once the POV is established, then each movable item in the frame can be tweaked, and re-tweaked, and re-tweaked... and you really have to charge for that time or you will find yourself making less then doing simple run & gun work. IMO, the money is in high volume run & gun work using an articulated rear screen.

    For that reason, I don't use CR on jobs that are only destined for MLS - it's reserved for clients who intend to go to print, or larger online presentation.

  11. I also use an external monitor with live view instead of CR. My Yongnuo RF605N transmitter is inserted into the camera hot shoe and my 7" Eyoyo monitor goes into the hot shoe on top of the transmitter with a short HDMI cable. Works great and no ibuprofen!

  12. Like most of the posted comments, I have also used Cam Ranger for a number of years and found it a useful tool. We did change over a couple of years ago to Case Air by Tether Tools (https://www.tethertools.com/product/case-air-wireless-tethering-system/). It is a much smaller unit than the Cam Ranger and has a cold shoe mount for easy attachment to your camera. I use a double hot shoe bracket that allows me to have the Case Air mounted along with my Godox wireless flash controller. There are some operational differences between the Cam Ranger and Case Air but it's worth looking into if you are considering making the investment. We run three photographers and are pleased we made the change to Case Air. BTW, we have a couple of used Cam Rangers for sale if anyone is interested.

  13. I do not use CamRanger but I do use an external monitor. I bought it for shooting video since I found that I was having difficulty getting my verticals vertical and with video you can't correct them in post. I use it with both my Sony A-6500 and my Canon 80D. Then I realized that I could also read the read outs, settings and see more small details that needed correcting before pressing the shutter release the saves me time in post. With my 73 year old eyes, having everything bigger than on the camera flip out monitor is a joy. I don't shoot many properties in a week so my budgets are limited so I bought a FEELWORLD F570 5.7 Inch monitor and love it. I cannot control all the camera settings from it. If I shot a lot of houses as many mass photographers do, I would definitely move up to a more expensive model with a touch screen from which you can control the camera settings. But since I shoot more custom shoots of high end homes, I am fortunate in being able to take my time and get it right in the camera as much as I can at time of shooting.

    Since I use a Lenovo tablet with my drone controller, working from a larger monitor comes naturally despite the difference in the user interface.

    But basically I agree with all the comments above since your choice of equipment has to factor in your business model and your equipment budget and, for us old guys, physical issues like aging eyes.

  14. I've been shooting with CR since starting my 2nd year in the business, shooting 2-5 house a day and can't live without it. at the beginning it slowed me down but after some shoot I was ready to go. if you don't have one, get the new one that it wireless, coming soon.

  15. It is so funny because as often happens I find myself thinking the opposite of most.

    For a photo that I have an hour to make, or higher end photo, I do in fact use my camranger, but I think it is more important for people wanting to me good photos, but do it very fast (ie real estate photography).

    I think it has to be better to look at the scene with our eyes. We can't agree on that? If there is a trashcan in the scene for example, am I more likely to see the four foot tall object in front of me, or the 2 1/4 transh can on one of my screens?

    A camranger is to ensure you got your lighting right onsite. To do that quickly, we need it. Although Scott Dubose may have something to say about that, I believe he does not use one?

    If you want to move fast, make great images, save yourself from lighting mistakes like forgetting to get a frame for a bad flash reflection, I would say get a camranger.

  16. I purchased one to put on a Manfroto 24' light stand for elevated shots. It was a way to get hi resolution and HDR images from my D810 from elevated perspectives. But the trouble of setting it and the super heavy-light stand up dissuaded me from promoting it in my services. I even purchased the motorized head. And for interior photography, I've practiced enough where I know what I'm going to get and can do it faster without a remote trigger (That's essentially what it is). PS, I'm using up to six speed-lights with triggers for my premium shoots. I'm not going to change any of my settings on the camera once I have it dialed in. There might be room for some creative applications where one could gel a flash and then use compositing for HDR but I would only do that for high-end listings.

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