An Elegant Solution for Tethered Shooting
I don’t usually do product reviews, as I’m not that hardware oriented, and this month I have two, reviews… sort-of… Anyway, my friend sent me a modest little block of machined aluminum that proves to be very useful in solving a vexing problem when capturing images, while tethered to a computer. Now, this is admittedly only a problem for a fairly narrow segment of the professional photography community, but it is something I have experienced, and at the time I was most active in this area, there was nothing like this available or I would have bought one right away!
Just what is this problem? Well… if you’ve ever captured images directly into a computer, you know that you’ve got to connect the camera to your computer via some sort of cable. I was shooting with the Canon 1Ds mkII, the first viable hi-res DSLR that could compete with the medium format digital backs – it had a great Firewire interface, which made it useable in a tethered capture mode. Firewire was much faster than USB so the data transfer to the computer was reasonably fast, but the little mini-Firewire plug was fairly delicate! In my high-stress studio shooting environment, with assistants running around moving lights and changing setups, the cable was always getting pulled out, sometimes in the middle of some quick shooting sessions! I had to have the camera repaired once, when I lost connectivity due to a fried plug! My solution, at the time was to gaffer-tape the cable to the tripod, but this wasn’t useful when I shot hand held—which I often did just for speed in covering multiple setups in a short period of time. I started shooting more to cards and using the video-out directly to a TV monitor just to preview shots and ended up downloading files from the cards as a separate activity. The video preview was essentially the same image that would have been sent to the tiny LCD on the back of the camera, but most of the time it was good enough for what I was doing and the video “socket” didn’t seem to suffer as much when the cable was pulled out.
TetherBLOCK is a clever locking device that secures the cable to the camera, by passing it through a channel cut out of a block of metal, that attaches to the camera tripod socket.
A simple idea right? Once the TetherBLOCK is in place its virtually impossible to dislodge the cable from the camera.
These days, wireless connectivity is all the rage, but we’re not quite at the point where we can shoot RAW and transfer high-res RAW files to a computer wirelessly with enough speed to be practical for, rapid fire shooting situations. Perhaps the photographers who will be most interested would be the high-end medium format shooters – those 60 megapixel files require solid tether solutions, and this small accessory is just the thing to provide practical insurance against fried cable sockets in an expensive camera!
There are certainly cheaper solutions (I used to use gaffer tape) but none as solid, or professional looking. I found the TetherBLOCK most useful when shooting handheld. I always drape the cable over my shoulder, when I’m shooting—with the TetherBLOCK, I don’t have to worry about the cable at all, and I can concentrate on capturing images—the cable is truly locked into place. The TetherBLOCK is a very well made, high quality device that looks like part of the camera, and its basically indestructible, so it will outlast your camera, and will still work on your next camera!
All that being said, at $90 its not the most inexpensive hunk of metal, and not an impulse buy. You’ll know if this is something you need, if your average shoot requires tethering, you have more than two people in the studio with you, and you typically shoot 30 shots in one minute! I spent many years shooting like this in very high-stress situations, and believe me, a little less worry goes a long way.
The TetherBLOCK people also supply those extra long USB cables with right-angle fittings to work nicely for tethered shooting. You can find TetherBLOCK at professional camera stores, and online at B&H, or from the TetherBLOCK website.