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CamRanger Mini Review - Remote Aerial Mast Photography Made Easy | Vantage Point Products

CamRanger Mini Review - Remote Aerial Mast Photography Made Easy | Vantage Point Products

  • Vantage Point Products

Camranger Mini for elevated photography | Vantage Point Products

CamRanger, the most trusted name in professional remote wireless Nikon and Canon DSLR camera control, are back with the CamRanger Mini. It’s smaller, lighter, slightly faster but with increased wireless control range of 400ft / 120m! The best news is that it’s less expensive at £229.99 Inc VAT (£191.66 Ex VAT) compared to the (soon to be discontinued) original CamRanger (RRP £299.99 Inc VAT).

Camranger Mini size with carry case | Vantage Point Products

Before you say it – no, that is not what the hardware itself is worth, but the CamRanger Mini’s Nikon and Canon remote camera control software quality, reliability, functionality and customer support are where the value is unquestionable!

Sadly, even though they are improving in recent years, Nikon and Canon’s built-in wireless camera control options, app interfaces and remote range performance pale in comparison, plus, the built-in camera Wi-Fi module eats up your camera battery (and their Bluetooth enabled camera models offer no live view and very limited range).

Not so with the CamRanger Mini!

CamRanger Mini smartphone wireless display | Vantage Point Products

Our customer base of professional photographers have been using the original CamRanger for years, especially when they want to safely and effectively remotely control their DSLR during aerial photography, using our trusted range of high quality, strong, rigid but very lightweight British built carbon fibre aerial imaging mast systems (reaching 20ft / 6.1m, 30ft / 9.25m and 40ft / 12.2m).

Vantage Point Products CamRanger Mini review for elevated aerial photography

Intro2020, the longest running sole distributor and UK customer support provider for CamRanger products in the UK, loaned us a CamRanger Mini unit to test in the field, as we wanted see for ourselves if it could live up to the performance of the original CamRanger unit during aerial photography.

Spoiler Alert!

It exceeded our expectations, and we’re so pleased with the results that we will be recommending the CamRanger Mini for all our customers, and stocking them for sale with our aerial camera mast systems through our online store www.vantagepointproducts.com

Email help@vantagepointproducts.com to register your interest and pre-order one or more CamRanger Mini units from us directly, and you will receive a discount off the purchase of any one of our high quality carbon fibre aerial imaging mast systems listed here.

Our real world field test review is below, but here’s a summary of the features, benefits and compatibility of the latest CamRanger Mini:

  • Works with most Nikon and Canon DSLR’s by using the short USB cable provided with your camera model – see below for the full list of CamRanger Mini compatible cameras.

No need to use built in camera Wi-Fi, local or mobile internet to function – the unit generates its own local reliable Wi-Fi hotspot, using a built-in 1800 mAh lithium ion battery powered portable Wi-Fi router that lasts 3-4 hours per charge. Unlike the original CamRanger that had replaceable batteries, you can extend the battery life of the CamRanger Mini for longer duration shoots if you add our weatherproof rugged 2600mAh 5V 1A rechargeable battery pack as shown in the review below.

CamRanger Mini Review by Vantage Point Products carbon fibre aerial mast supplier UK

  • Proven 400ft / 120m (unobstructed line of sight) wireless remote camera control range– we proved this remote control range in the field as you can see below!
  • Functions with the CamRanger Mini app using any Android or iOS enabled smartphone or tablet - iOS 9+ and Android 5.0 (Kit Kat)+, OS X 10.8+. FYI, the CamRanger Mini is not compatible with macOS or Windows, unlike the previous model; but the CamRanger 2* (price unknown, expected at some point in 2019) will have this function and more features useful for studio shoot workflows, such as client mode (and future reported compatibility* with Sony and Fuji cameras as well as Nikon and Canon).
  • Weather resistant hard case with carabiner included– Useful for protecting your CamRanger Mini in transit, attaching it to the tripod or mast (using a low cost hook and loop tie, shown below), storing the cables (one to charge unit, the other suitable for a few DSLRs), a Snickers bar for snacking on during shoots (not a king size though) and a pack of chewing gum in case you have clients nearby you need to smile at after lunch.

CamRanger Mini storage case Vantage Point Products review

Key features include (available on most Nikon and Canon DSLRs):

  • Connect in seconds, and very easy to use! – The CamRanger Mini takes only 30 seconds to start up and show on your smart device’s local Wi-Fi options. Once wirelessly connected, an in app on-screen warning allows you to select to disconnect and reconnect (in seconds) your DSLR and smart device if you want to open and close the app itself, giving you the option to re-start your session with pre-set camera settings, or start afresh. If your DSLR and CamRanger Mini is charged sufficiently, connection is incredibly stable (we used an Android based Samsung S8 smartphone for our tests, but most customers use an Android or iOS tablet for a larger live view screen). Compared to Made In China remote DSLR camera control software in similar hardware packages, it is a refreshing user experience for sure - newbies, prosumers and professional photographers can rejoice!
  • See what the camera sees- Wireless streaming of live view from the camera to smartphone or tablet
  • Focus up- Single tap to focus on an specific area, or make incremental focus adjustments
  • Proven long range remote shutter release- Wirelessly capture images at up to 400ft / 120m (unobstructed line of sight)
  • Start / Stop record video – Capture video with ease, watch the live view at a useable (but not real time, or near real time) frame rate per second. Monitor audio levels during movie mode.
  • Quickly see the results- Thumbnails automatically appear in the app above the live view after taking each picture, so you can easily tap a thumbnail to view the image captured
  • Speed up your workflow- In seconds, images can be saved to the camera’s memory card, and if required can be saved to the smartphone or tablet
  • Check your work– Pinch to zoom or double tap to view the image at up to 200% magnification
  • See more– App supports full screen mode to maximize live view and still enable access to remote control icon functions
  • Analyze more- Grid lines, file name, exif data, histogram overlays are available
  • Pre-set or reactively change settings on the go- Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO, Metering Mode, Drive/Shooting Mode, White Balance, Image Format, Focus Mode (Nikon only), Auto Exposure Mode (Nikon only), Exposure Compensation & Bracketing, Software Auto-Focus toggle to toggle AF/MF.
  • Play with time itself - Configure the intervalometer to take time lapse sequences. Supports bulb mode (camera model dependent) with typical start-stop control and by using custom defined shutter lengths. Combine HDR with time lapse. No need for your device to remain connected after starting.
  • Bracket your way to beautiful HDR images - Configure the CamRanger Mini to take a series of pictures automatically varying Shutter Speed, Aperture, or ISO – much more flexible than in-camera bracketing options. Images can then be post-processed with 3rd party software.

CamRanger Mini review USB connection ports on Nikon | Vantage Point Products

Compatible Nikon and Canon cameras (and USB cable required):

Nikon - Mini USB - D90, D7000, D300, D300s, D600, D610, D700, D3, D3s, D3x, D4, D4s

Nikon - 8 pin USB - D5000, D5100, D5200, D5300, D5500, D7100, D7200, D750, Df

Nikon - Micro USB - D5600, D7500

Nikon - Micro USB 3.0 - D800 / D800E, D810, D850, D500, D5

Canon - Mini USB -  SL1 / 100D,  Xsi / 450D, T1i / 500D, T2i / 550D, T3i / 600D, T4i / 650D, T5i / 700D,  T6i / 75D, T6s / 760D, T7i / 800D, 40D, 50D, 60D, 77D, 80D, 7D, 6D, 6D II, 5D II, 5D III, 1D III, 1Ds III, 1D IV, 1Dx, 1Dc.

Canon - Micro USB 3.0 - 7D II, 5D IV, 5DS / 5DSr, 1Dx II

Again, if you wish to pre-order a CamRanger Mini unit, email us help@vantagepointproducts.com to register your interest and pre-order one or more CamRanger Mini units from us directly. Orders will be satisfied on a first registered first paid basis, starting early November 2018. 

Read on to see our real world field test of the CamRanger Mini for remote aerial mast photography.

CamRanger Mini review for aerial photography by mast supplier Vantage Point Products

Here goes….

We mounted the CamRanger Mini on our range of strong, rigid but lightweight 100% higher modulus carbon fibre aerial imaging mast systems (far more rigid than competitors who use flexible glass fibre, hybrid material or thin top section carbon fibre poles).  Vantage Point Products always have and always will prioritise product quality, safety, performance and customer support.

Most of the customers who use our mast systems are already qualified commercial drone pilots, so we chose a location that would be unsafe, unsuitable (and probably illegal if permissions were not acquired) for flying a commercially operated drone – but not for aerial mast photography.

We were near people and properties, potential crowds and built up areas, as well as close to (but not within 1km of) Southampton Airport. Thankfully our tallest mast is 40ft / 12.2m tall, so the 400ft height restriction was not an issue!

The shoot took place on the property of Places Leisure, Eastleigh’s new leisure centre, which “sports” a burnt orange and charcoal black façade.

We shot from two locations on site; the first was in a field a good distance away from the main building in order to test the transmission range of the CamRanger Mini (according to CamRanger this should be 400ft / 120m unobstructed line of sight, taking into account local radio noise that may cause interference).

Vantage Point Products carbon fibre 30ft 9m mast with CamRanger Mini review

The second shooting position was in the car park close to the main building, where cars and people were milling in and out. 

How to use the CamRanger Mini wireless camera controller for Nikon and Canon

First impressions of the CamRanger Mini was how quick and easy it was to connect our DSLR and smartphone (Samsung S8). We shot with a Nikon 5200 with 18-55mm kit lens – no judgement please; we wanted to test one of the older DSLR’s on the CamRanger Mini’s compatibility list, so that any newer DSLR would be guaranteed to work faster and better.

We attached the CamRanger Mini, stored within the weather resistant hard case with carabiner, to our mast mount by using a very low cost hook and loop tie. Switching the CamRanger Mini on was as easy as a flick of a switch, and the unit only took 30 seconds to initiate and display it’s IP address on our smartphone’s detected local Wi-Fi options (password protected, unique to and written on each CamRanger Mini unit).

CamRanger Mini wireless camera controller App display | Vantage Point Products

Once connection between the CamRanger Mini and smartphone was established (1-2 seconds after opening the CamRanger app and clicking “CONNECT”), we were presented with a blank live view screen with a menu showing the current camera type, settings and variable options (e.g. Shutter speed, ISO, Aperture, etc).

CamRanger Mini app screen for wireless WiFi connection | Vantage Point Products

CamRanger Mini wireless camera controller App connection screen | Vantage Point Products

To see what the camera sees, we simply selected the live view function eye symbol, and Voila! Your current camera view is presented straight away, clear and bright.

CamRanger Mini live view display | Vantage Point Products

Now it was time to extend our mast in the first location to test the results, as well as the 400ft / 120m transmission range CamRanger claimed for their latest product. While the live view is not real time (or near real time), it appears to have a slightly faster frame rate and screen refresh time than the original CamRanger, which is positive.

If you wanted to capture anything fast (i.e. sports, racing, body movements, etc) you would need to set up the camera via the CamRanger Mini app accordingly, press and wait for the batch of results (but that’s for someone else to review!).

We wanted to test the vertical transmission range of the CamRanger Mini at first, so we used our tallest mast at 40ft / 12.2m maximum extension. The wind was continuous but fluctuating between 9-15 on the local BBC weather scale (always useful to know when using a mast or planning a drone flight), but the mast stayed rigid and stable with minimal sway (probably 1-5cm, slowly left to right) due to the payload at max height, higher modulus carbon fibre we use, and thicker top most section.

CamRanger Mini wireless Nikon and Canon camera controller on Vantage Point Products mast

The total weight elevated to 40ft / 12.2m was 1125 grams, with the Nikon D5200 and 18-55m kit lens weighing approx. 750 grams, our light weight Z tilt head weighing only 200 grams, and the CamRanger Mini in case weighing approx. 175 grams, plus the USB cable adding the last few grams (the Snickers bar had disappeared by this stage, and the chewing gum was in my back pocket, so these could no longer be stored in the CamRanger Mini hard case….)

CamRanger Mini wireless camera controller at 9 meters on Vantage Point Products carbon fibre mast

Our mast is designed to be easily rotated from the base while extended without moving the tripod, so we were able to use the live view function on the CamRanger Mini app interface to easily frame the shot. Then it was time to press the live view image to use the touch focus function, and then press the shutter release button, shown as a red “CAPTURE” icon in the app interface…..

CamRanger Mini wireless app live view screenshot | Vantage Point Products

A second or two later, the camera remotely took the picture, and (due to the setting we chose) a thumbnail of the image file displayed at the top of the app interface above the live view screen (nicely out of the way, but visible and selectable if you want an enlarged view of any shot you just took).    

Here is the resultant images we took at 40ft / 12.2m extension, and then at lower elevations when the wind got stronger and we needed to user our more rigid mast systems with thicker top sections, as our masts are designed to be both telescopic and modular for adding or removing sections (40ft / 12.2m mast can carry 1.5-2kg at full extension, the 30ft / 9.25m mast can carry 3kg, and the 20ft / 6.1m mast can carry 4kg).

Again, no judgement please – we are specialists in designing safe, strong, rigid but lightweight carbon fibre imaging mast systems first, and then we are aerial photographers second (images are SOOC, not post processed). Thankfully we have many happy customers who are much better at photography than we are! 

40ft:

Resultant image of using a CamRanger Mini on a Vantage Point Products 12m 40ft carbon fibre mast

30ft:

30ft 9m CamRanger Mini resultant image on Vantage Point Products high modulus carbon fibre mast system

20ft:

Aerial photography at 6 meters 20ft using CamRanger Mini wireless camera control and Vantage Point Products mast

Now it was time to test the reported 400ft / 120m wireless transmission range of the CamRanger Mini…. To be honest, we doubted this would be true, and we only wanted to prove it could work at 40ft / 12.2m to suit our tallest mast, but we were very pleasantly surprised!

Take a look at the collage below, where our co-owner and second shooter Bianca walked away from our mast and CamRanger Mini while holding the smartphone, as she watched the live view, pressing “CAPTURE” to take a photo at intervals of distance.

To test the reaction time of the CamRanger Mini, she held her hand up for only 3-5 seconds after pressing the shutter release button in the app, and as you can see (take it from us), her hand is only dropped when she is further than 400ft / 120m away!

This proves that there is connection and some lag with each increase in distance, but the CamRanger Mini still presented a stable live view and was responsive for remote control!

Wireless range test for CamRanger Mini by Tom Hogan Vantage Point Products

We expect that greater local radio noise, and certainly non line of sight would heavily reduce the range and responsiveness, but for £229.99 Inc VAT (£191.66 Ex VAT) what more can you ask for stable remote photography with your favorite DSLR?

The final part of our test was to get closer to the building itself, and shoot where access is definitely an issue for a drone flight.

We set up the mast and CamRanger Mini in under a minute in a parking space, and then along the pathway to capture two angles for a more dynamic shot. At this point, we thought that the CamRanger Mini app had frozen (bad for the review), but it turned out that our camera battery was about to die, and, as per the CamRanger Mini manual, the unit will only function well when connected to a partially or fully charged camera battery.

We swapped out the camera battery, and also checked the battery level on the CamRanger Mini just to make sure. After an hour or more of shooting it was still at 60-70% battery charge which was impressive (guessing from the battery indicator that lights up with blue bars when you press the battery test button).

Here are the results of our aerial shots using the CamRanger Mini at 30ft / 9.25m, and 20ft / 6.1m, closer to the main building. Again, using the CamRanger Mini was quick, easy and straight forward, so we were soon ready to pack up our aerial photography gear in 5 minutes flat and head back to the office.

Places Leisure Eastleigh aerial image by Vantage Point Products using CamRanger Mini

Example aerial image when using CamRanger Mini on Vantage Point Products aerial photography masts

Conclusion:

The CamRanger Mini simply does exactly what is says it will do, and it does it well in our experience; it has good camera compatibility, app stability, responsiveness, and amazing remote control range.

It is accessible to all levels of photographer, and it gets the job done – whether in the studio, high up on a photography mast, or hundreds of feet away as we’ve proven.

Clearly the CamRanger Mini software has been designed very, very well. If there are any future software updates, according to their website CamRanger will offer these without charge.

We’re sure it’s not perfect (although we didn’t find any faults in testing) but what product is? Now and again, with more use, we’d probably find a few small quirks. We haven’t tested it with every single Nikon and Canon DSLR it is compatible with, or every type of compatible smartphone or tablet.

But….when it comes to remotely controlling your DSLR, especially at height for aerial photography, in our opinion the quality software and rapid US / UK customer support alone is well worth the price tag.

What more can you ask for stable remote photography with your favorite DSLR?

We’re positive that this helpful tool will become as fast a favorite as the original CamRanger that professional photographers have relied upon for years.

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