This is my review of Nikon’s new WT-4.

Because I haven’t found any real useful information about this product other than Nikon specs.

 This is the wireless transmitter unit that is paired with the D3 as well as several other newer model cameras.

I have been using the wireless capabilities of Nikon’s cameras for more than several years (since their wireless first came out for the D2X) and I have found wireless transmitters to be extremely useful in my photography workflow. I am no longer tripping over a fire wire cable that connects the camera to the computer.  I can go longer distances from the computer and still have the images appear on the computer for review within seconds. And, the wireless camera to computer workflow impresses some clients.

It’s just much easier for a client to choose an image from a full sized computer monitor rather than the back of the camera’s very small display. Thus at the time of the shoot you can determine facial expressions, body position, background intrusions, perspective, etc, etc. all at an easily viewed size and you can also review images side by side for comparison with Adobe bridge.

 That being said, I started shooting digital years ago with the D1X and a fire wire cable, I then used the D2X and the WT-2?  If I remember correctly the WT-1 was designed for the D2-H and it was the WT-2 that came out for the D2X. At any rate the WT-2 worked pretty well. If you were in a studio or indoor setting the signal might occasionally become disconnected but it was easily noticed that this was the case because those little wireless connection lights were right in your face while you were taking photos. I also usually had someone working on the computer showing images to clients and they would let me know when something was wrong or if images were not being received. Outside shooting was usually a little more problematic with disconnections happening more frequently.

The WT-2 was designed to attach the unit onto the underside of the D2X camera body,  it coupled to the camera battery supply and attached to the camera as well by a very short USB cable to the left side of the camera body. Overall the WT-2 had nice design features… it looked like part of the camera and was easily transported with the camera. You could leave it on the camera just turning off the wireless transmissions for when you did not want to transmit but were going to use the wireless again in the near future, or you could easily uncouple the device entirely from the camera if you knew that it would be some time before you wanted to use wireless. The working time of the wireless unit on my D2X, using the cameras battery was around four hours sometimes longer. The battery consumption was not really much of a concern as I always had extra camera batteries on hand and you always knew where you were in respect to battery power left by looking at the display on the top of your camera.

Bad Bad WT-4… no visible battery indicator.

 Now lets examine the new and very much unimproved Nikon WT-4.

First is the design… there is none. Nikon took a cigarette box, put an antennae on it and called it the WT-4. It now has its own battery supply, But there is NO battery included with the purchase of the unit!!!! (And these are not cheap batteries) The WT-4 connects to your camera via an approximately 5 foot long USB cable.

As soon as I wrote this last sentence I was immediately reminded of my tripping over fire wire cables from the old days of the D1X. Nikon also includes a very cheap/cheesy carrying case for the WT-4 that has no useful way of hooking/connecting to anything. There is no belt clip nor is there a belt loop. I really do not know how Nikon expects someone to find this carrying case useful. For a temporary situation I am sort of strapping the unit onto my cameras shoulder strap by the Velcro tab at the top of the carrying case. Which leads to another undesign by Nikon. The Velcro closure tab at the top of the carrying case blocks the on/off switch and makes turning the unit on or off kind of clumsy and difficult while it is in the carrying case.

Lets now discuss the USB connection of the WT-4 to the camera.

The connection is via a four to five foot long cable that is very easily disconnected from the camera at BOTH ends! If you find an error in the connection… that is the first place to look.

Referring back to the WT-2 vs. the WT-4 I think that the WT-2 had a much better physical connection to the camera. The connecting cable was just long enough to make the distance and I mostly left it connected all of the time… which meant less likelihood of breaking of wearing out the parts that connect the camera to the wireless unit.

The WT-4 USB cord physically needs to be disconnected daily after use in order to transport everything in a regular sized camera bag. I am an extremely careful person with my gear and I can see that the physical connections of the WT-4 are going to be future weak spots in my gear.

Battery: Did I mention that there is no battery included with the WT-4?  Did I mention that they are kind of expensive? Plan on spending another $200.00 for a couple of batteries and a charging system. And here’s another good one… you will never know when the battery is going to be out of juice… it just goes dead. So have another one ready. Or two. Or three, if you have no recharging facilities at your shooting location. There is no battery power-left indicator on the outside of the WT-4. You now have to go into the wireless shooting menu to find the battery reserve information.

Inserting the batteries into the WT-4 is easy enough but getting them out is another story. I have had problems with them sticking in the unit from the beginning and anyone with extra big adult fingers will have a very difficult time getting these batteries out from their compartment as the release tab is quite close to the hinge of the battery door. Even with the release tab pushed back the battery often sticks in the compartment and it takes some effort to get it out. Makes you want to rip the little plastic door off when it happens.

Did I mention software? The software that comes with the WT-4 does not allow any wireless camera controls from the computer… for that you have to purchase at additional cost… Camera Control Pro… This is software that previously was standard fare for the D2X with the WT-2, but this is not even offered as an upgrade feature for prior owners of the software… you now have to buy all new software products. So why is Nikon charging $700.00 for a half a product and sneaking the other half into necessary additional purchases? They probably don’t want you to know how much the final cost is really going to be! Would you pay $1000.00-$1200.00 for the wireless capability from the get-go?

In my photography workflow, which is generally indoors, the batteries of the WT-4 lasted about 2.5 to 4 hours. I turn off the unit when I can between photo sets but these batteries do not last very long! They last no longer than my old D2X setup which was running everything from the one camera battery. The only possible/small advantage to this new D3/WT-4 is that the camera battery lasts a little bit longer.

So, now I have to carry another Set of Batteries with me as well as another Battery Charger to all of the functions I shoot with the D3 setup!

I am not at all happy with all of the extras one has to purchase just to make the WT-4 perform at the same level as the WT-2.

Getting the WT-4 operational is easy enough from the beginning, just follow the directions. Everything happens automatically after the first connection has been set into the camera and computer. (I use Macs)

Establishing a camera/computer connection with the WT-4 takes much longer vs. the WT-2/D2X connection and my camera now has a funny way of going into LCD spasms when the connection finally is ready. I have had to wait as long as several minutes to establish a connection after turning my camera back on during a shoot, even with the camera only several feet away from the computer.

And, just as with the WT-2 I have had lost connections using the WT-4 for no apparent reason and the images are then lost into outer space never to be seen again. Several times when these connections were lost, the software just closed the camera control window and the wireless unit kept on as if nothing was wrong. It is much better program when the images start showing up on the back LCD display… very obvious then that something is now amiss and your camera/computer connection has been lost.

 How about outdoors?

I used the WT-4 outdoors to shoot some outdoor baseball and found the connection OK at best. Over the coarse of three days of shooting the connection was disconnected at least three times without my immediate knowledge and those subsequent images were lost! My camera and computer were always within 40 feet of each other but it was somewhat windy on one of the days? I have no idea what the system buffer is… I never have been able to recover any images from the WT-4 after any inadvertent disconnection. I cannot attest to the unit storing images until a connection is reestablished!

At this time I would not trust it to shoot anything that cannot be replicated. If you cannot have that team get together again a few minutes later for another retake of their portrait do not use the WT-4.

If you utilize the type of shooting workflow where you display images on your computer for a client to choose from and you have to purchase the WT-4 because there is no other choice then I guess we are stuck with what Nikon gets to us. If this is something that you are thinking of but not committed to as of yet… maybe it is best to wait for the next version. I would hope that Nikon takes the time to think about what they are putting out on the photography Wi-Fi landscape least someone else designs and develops the product for them.

Notice that in this image I have a small keychain type plastic clip on the WT-4 which allows me to clip the unit onto the cameras shoulder strap and it thus travels with the camera as the camera is put on a tripod on handed off to another person or even just put down for a moment.

 PS Nikon still has the best skin tones for any digital camera system!

 

Reviews of the D3 and other Nikon Software are being contemplated.

Michael McFaul

John Galt Productions