Saturday, May 9, 2009

The $50 wireless tethering solution

So after using the eye-fi solution for quite a while, I felt it was nice, something useable for simple see the pictures after the shot, but not with any speed. Most professionals want a quick near instant response like that of USB tethered commercial solutions. So with my D300 I thought it would be great to have live view over a wireless connection, and the ability to review photographs taken with a near instant preview. To do this I looked at Nikons WT-4a, a very nice solution with a not so nice price somewhere north of $700. I can't justify that as a non-full time photographer.

I mainly wanted to be able to shoot in a studio environement and see the image and light quality quick and easy. I also thought it would be a great tool for teaching where I can shoot and have everyone see the image. So I had seen that a new USB spec had come out for wireless, and that there were a few devices built extend traditional USB wirelessly. The device I chose to implement my "homebrew" wireless tether was the Cables Unlimited Wireless USB Adapter Kit. I bought mine back in January when I did this project, it was closer to $80 back then, now they can be had for under $40.

So for under $50 you can have wireless USB tethering that will work on most any camera! There a quite a few buts however.

  • The product supports Windows, BUT not Mac. Sorry guys, although someone else may have a mac compatible product out by now.
  • Its fast, even faster at transmitting data then the very expensive WT-4a. Being that it is Certified Wireless USB, it can communicate at 480mbits/sec up to 3 meters, and 110mbits/sec up to 10 meters. so speed is really great, BUT it can't do isosynchronous transfer modes. What that means is you can't stream video ie a web cam with this. Luckly Nikon does not use this mode so I get live view just fine!
  • The images they show make you think it just plugs and plays. BUT a big issue is that it requires a 5 volt power brick on the remote device. So its really wireless usb + AC powerline. This is a problem as it defeats the purpose of wireless tethering. We'll fix this though.

So heres my homebrew project. I built in back in late january and it works pretty good. Initial startup is a bit slow to start Nikon Capture, but once it shows connected to the camera its the same as if it were connected via USB cable. I removed the power module that the USB remote drops into, and put it in a temporary box to test the concept. Underneath it is a 4 AAA powerpack that it soldered onto the module. I wanted to be able to reverse things if it was totally awful. The Dongle on the right will plug into my laptop.

Another thing I did was buy this right angle adapter designed for Motorola cells phones. It allows the USB cable to run up the side of my D300 rather then sticking straight out which is a recipe for distaster in my book.

Here a link to where to get the Right angle adapter. I'd recommend it even for wired tethering as its more likely to reduce damage if stressed.

So heres what it looks like mounted on my camera. I used a cheap flash bracket I had lying around, put a connector onto the battery pack with a 1/4" thread so that the plate could screw onto it. its a little bulky and eventually I'll put it into a better box, I'm still trying to find one I like. I did consider putting it into a hot shoe type mount, but I wanted to keep the top free as I use the pop up flash as a commander. Another Option I've been toying with is integrating the whole affair into a camera strap.

So hows it work? Well it connects a little slowly to Nikon Camera Control 2, but once connected it runs well. Transfers are very fast, about 4 seconds for a Fine Jpeg from my D300, and 8 Seconds for a RAW+ fine. (I think this might be even faster then the WT-4a, as wifi is a slower protocol) Live view works great as well, a little slower then a direct connection, but fully useable for doing live view. This will open up some interesting possibilities for me to set the camera up somewhere that I might not be able to see what I'm pointing at. One thing that is a little annoying is the camera is in PC mode and I can't actually preview on the camera LCD while I'm tethering.
Battery life is also pretty good, I've gone over 2 hours without depleting a set of batteries, but I left the power on so I'm not sure the exact duration of time that they will last. I will tell you that using rechargables will be an issue as you'll need either an upvoltage convertor or an extra cell to meet the 5 volt minimum is requires.

All in all It was a fun build, I always get questions when I use it. I have found it quite useful in a teaching environment when trying to show people lighting effects in a large group. Being able to have a shot show up nearly instantly on a 12" tablet or projection screen is quite useful.

PS - Since everyone has been asking where to get them for $40, here a a link


  1. Hi Pete,

    Great idea, any idea on power consumption? Might run on one of those 12v 23A bats with a converter.



  2. Its fairly high power, You do understand that a 23A battery has like 60mah of juice vs the 900mah I'm running with 4 AAAs? Also at 12v you would need regulation.

  3. I would LOVE to get one in Europe, any idea where to get it? Maybe some store in america ships it to europe? But which?

    This idea has been on my mind the last year, and I really need to get one ;).

  4. amazon is the cheap ticket in the US.....

  5. :( it was just a thought.
    Amazon in the UK doesn't have them. Also looking for these in europe but can't seem to find them.

  6. Amazon won´t ship to the Netherlands...

  7. Great job Peter! Would you consider selling one?

  8. I am still a bit confused how you hooked up the usb to the battery power....could you show some more pics and where you get the battery?

  9. Definitely something I'd love to play with. A suggestion: possibly finding a broken MB-D10 grip, hollowing out as much of it as possible, and jamming all the bits and pieces into it? You could probably fit all the big pieces into it & just tape the adapter to the bottom of it.

  10. Great idea, I'll put a link to your blog on my sites.

  11. You might try powering it with an extra EN-EL3e battery (same type that the camera uses). The label on the battery says 7.4V so it might work as is, but probably safer to run it through a voltage regulator (something like this:

    To connect the battery maybe you could cut apart a cheap 3rd party charger.

  12. Could you post a list of parts (with links)?

  13. kit:

  14. Pete, I'd like to republish your articles, with up to date changes, on a small Nikon site I moderate (, perhaps with larger pictures and a little more explanation. Would you be interested and willing. We have 6000+ members, mostly high-end shooters.

  15. Am I missing something? There's no how to here, only a look what I did...
    Come on where's the details?

  16. I've made a little research and realized that wireless USB is a new technology and there are not too many options available on the market yet.

    One option available for European customer is italian 'Olidata Wireless USB Adapter Set' which can be found for example:

    A similar product is announced by Fuitsu (seems to be not on the shelves yet)

    You can find a summary on the web page of the wisair - the maker of wireless USB chipset (

  17. very cool.

    this item is a 2-way battery pack - can be used to charge AAAs, but also can be used to get power from the AAAs.

    wonder if the dongle plugged into the base is acting like those external usb harddrives that require the 2-headed usb cables. it would be cool to wire it up to do away w/ the base all together and somehow just connect it to the battery pack. wouldn't want to fry my usb port on the camera tho

  18. Wow, this really blew up after getting picked up by Wired and Gizmodo.

    clarknj - thanks and feel free to flickr mail me, I'm PeteTsai over there...

    Tigerdirect has detailed images of the device, I didn't take any befores, But I do have another set coming from amazon for the full repacking project. This one I'll document a little better since I know what I'm up against with it.

    The EN-EL3e idea is great for some, but it won't help the poor D3 and D2 guys that only have big batterys. That and the fact that the EN-EL3e is overkill and would add complication in the need of additional components. Ideally my plan is to use 2 AAs with an energizer power 2 go for cell phones. I picked up 5 of them on clearance for $5/each. they cane with 2 lithium AAs and a pod that takes 3v and ups it to 5v to charge cell phones.

    Parts are trivial for this build, the next one will be more technically detailed. This blog post was mainly to explain the proof of concept, not to be a step by step guide on how to do it yourself. I was getting alot of questions when people would see it or I'd mention it on forums. I thought blogging would consolidate things and save me time. Kinda backfired on me, but in a good way! :)

    Roy - That device looks good, But I'm on board right now for 2 AAs due to smaller size and larger capacity over AAAs. Also I have maybe 60 AA NiMH batterys for my Speedlight collection (I just bought 2 more taking me to 13, yes my name is Pete, and I'm a Stroboholic) The docking base has a separate input for external power, none of the power is shared by the USB cable to host or remote source.

  19. 2 AA's wouldn't give you enough voltage, that's only 3V. You can use a DC-DC converter to up the voltage, but from googling they seem a bit more complicated than a down volting with a voltage regulator.

    As a side note, I almost pulled the trigger on getting the components to try this, until I found out that the Cables Unlimited dongles don't have 64bit Vista drivers. Also reviews on the dongles say that they are really slow and doesn't get anywhere near wired USB speeds. Guess I'll have to wait for 2nd gen components.

  20. Pete, Im wondering if you can dismantle that base to slim things down a bit. You might be able to get it to the same size as the dongle, then Velcro away!

  21. I did dismantle the base. It was bigger and much more odd looking with the base. There is a circuit board inside the base with straight up USB connector, a circuit for the power, and 2 right angle connectors the USB in and the Power in. I received my spare set from Amazon tonight so I'll be documenting a full dissection as I go to town on it. This one will have full blown repackaging vs the current one that was mainly a working proof of concept.

  22. You might consider making & posting a small video, for Youtube, if you have access to a cam of sorts. It should spare you from tons of questions bound to be posted even if the HOW-TO guide is idiot-proof. BTW, should you choose that route, consider watermarking the video.

    Thanks for the time & effort.

  23. saw your "power 2 go" comment...and dunno if this rechargeable li-ion battery pack is usable, but if ...but I picked one up for $19 bucks at Fry's (in store) charges thru a mini USB and output is thru a normal size USB... it is 7.8Wh capacity, with output of 5V, 700mA max

  24. I just got parts and made up the rig... it works very well.... I did hacksaw th base "collar" down to allow the dongle to pivit 90 degrees. I opted for a 4AA battery pack as the width of the pack is the same as the base. My battery pack has a power switch
    I have cramed the rest of the unit into a case.

    the battery pack and case are epoxied together back to back..... the case has a hole cut into the lid for the dongle.... but it is now flat against the case because the piviting is allowed. I opted not to completely dismantle the original base because the dongle needs to make an additional connection to a wired contact mounted in the base. I originally wanted to solder this additional connection to the dongle, but I realized that the dongle needs to be able to be plugged into the PC for "pairing". If it is hard wired it would become impossible to re-pair the device!!

  25. Also got picked up by Engadget (but a Wired report). Good work my friend.

    Sticking w/ AA makes sense, especially from a strobist's point of view. You'll have to let us know how that Energizer thing works out - I'm a bit skeptical how it can output and maintain an additional +2V, but I hope you prove me wrong!

  26. Can you use any of the other tether software (tethpro or the one from Breeze Systems) out there or are you stuck using Nikon Capture?

  27. Hey Chris do you have any photos? And how it is wired up? thx

  28. You shouldn't need an extra battery pack. The 10 pin connector has a 5v output. That's how all the GPS adapters are powered.

  29. I wonder if we can power that WiFi USB dongle off the USB connector in the D300??? USB connector by standards has 5 VDC output so if the camera does outout that voltage I would make a SUB cable female one end and mini USB male the other end to the camera and it should use the camera power to energize the wifi dongle... does anybody tried this already?

  30. How about this solution for a D200 would that work with it???

  31. I didn't see Stepohen's note but that's right it powers the GPS systems... now the question would be... is that compatible with my D200?

  32. Hi Pete,

    We happen to share the same name and a magazine contacted me about including your wireless tethering solution in an upcoming edition. Can you send me your email address so that I can forward you the email?

    I'm at

  33. Sorry Stephen I had a typo in your name.

  34. Great stuff Pete! One suggestion though, instead of trying to attach all the separate components to the camera itself, why not consolidate everything into one self-contained unit which you can then attach to the camera strap? It will be like one of those wireless transmitters guitar players attach to their guitar strap.


    this is a kit that has all the hardware to change two AA's 3v into 5.
    ^some of the parts.

    so it's like $20 at the most, and tiny. Awesome.

  36. Ah, the Energizer unit must have something similar to that chip in the Minty Boost. I'm sold.

    Funny how when you order the USB dongles from Amazon, Amazon already suggests the Motorola right angle adapter, as most people who read this article end up ordering both!

    It would be cool to mount it to some plate that can mount to an RSS/Kirk (arca-swiss-type) L-plate.

  37. This comment has been removed by the author.

  38. Thanks Pete!

    I cant wait to see the full documented version.

    Hey, can someone post a link to the right angle adapter please? Thanks.

  39. Okay, a new compact version with a detailed dissection is coming shortly, I just finished it up.....

  40. This comment has been removed by the author.

  41. Hi all,
    Thanks again for the comments! The new post it up and should answer a lot of questions you might be having.

    I'll try and put a video together at some point to show how well the device works. The one thing thats really powerful about this is that it is universal, if you can tether any camera with a USB cable and have are a PC user (sorry mac and linux guys, don't blame me blame the manufacturers) It will work with any software that supports USB tethering, ie Nikon/Canon OEM, freeware/shareware using Nikon's SDK, or any other brand. If I upgrade my Nikon in a year to a new model device should still work with it, or if I switch camps and jump ship to Canon.
    The other thing thats great is it works with my Live View so now I can get some shots where I can compose the exposure and focus the camera remotely! Anyone have a WT-4a that can tell if it supports live view?

    I do have a panasonic DMC-L1 sitting on the shelf, maybe I'll try it on that when I get a chance. And a fellow shooter is Canon and PC so we might try to test it next time we meet up.

    I'd steer clear of rechargable packs as they'll die at the worst moment for you, AA's or AAAs are available everywhere so finding a set in a pinch will never be a problem.

    I did test the Energi 2 go, and it did power my PeteTether, but I'm not sure how well or if it will work with rechargables, hence why I kept my AAA solution for now. That and it just packaged together better. Good news is that I did run it from 2 AA duracells that were used and after 20 minutes they still tested out as very good afterward.

    I'm not using the 10 pin connector and I'd advise anyone against using power from the camera. Its not a source of power that you know all the demands on it, and why risk your camera doing so...

    The wireless USB dongle needs more power then a host device can supply as its transmitting and receiving a wireless signal at up to 480mbits/sec. You need a bit of power to do that constantly and consistently.

    I guess amazon has the right angle adapter, I got mine of fleabay.

  42. I was looking for this technology for a few months already. Thanks for posting. It will be impossible to ship this to Israel :-)
    I though also of using USB to RJ45 adapted and using RJ45 wireless technology, but i was not able to find that either:

  43. LewLorton - The newest blog post may have more of the detailed information you're looking for....

  44. Hi,
    This looks great, as non-fulltime professional photographer (my main job is software development), 600Euro's and upwards is also too much for me to spend on a WT-4 (better name it WT-F?!?)!!!

    Do you have any numbers on the max range of this build?. Also, what happens if you go too far and the connection drops? Will it re-connect quite fast when you come back within reach, or do you have to restart the Nikon software on your PC or something??

    Thanks for this how-to m8!

  45. Just to add to the conversation. I have tested this with my Canon XT. Worked great. I took and cut the power adapter from a wall plug for another device I had that ran 5v and wired it in to the 3 AAA battery case from RadioShack. Pete thanks for the good find.

  46. Here is a photo gallery of my build.... as requested... remember the USB stick must be removable to "pair" with transmiter!!!

    I currently attach it to my camers strap or tripod.

    hope this helps

  47. Chris, Are you using regulation on your battery pack into the Adapter? The output of the DC supply says 5V so you must be using regulation in order to supply the adapter. Are you using a small LDO?

  48. Louis....

    No regulation... I'm using 6 volts and it is running fine.

  49. Chris - What did you use for the power connection adapter to the usb base?

  50. Hey Pete,

    Here's an issue I hope you can address. I installed the usb dongles and tested the connection and everything is working fine.

    I'm shooting with an Olympus E-3 and use Olympus Studio (similar to Nikon Capture) to control the camera.

    When I connect the camera in "storage" mode, the computer recognizes it immediately, with Windows essentially treating it as an external drive. I can read and write to the CF card like any other drive. The camera otherwise remains functionless and I cannot take photos in storage mode.

    When I put the camera in "control" mode (which allows the software on the computer to control the camera and/or read the images as they are shot), the computer fails to recognize the camera. The camera does, however, see the usb connection and goes immediately into control mode but the pc fails to recognize it. The PC does recognize the USB connection. There seems to be a communication failure between camera and software with wireless USB.

    I realize this may be a problem very specific to this camera but I didn't think it would hurt to bring it up. It seems to me that a USB connection is a USB connection but in this particular case, it's not working properly.

    I tested this out on two different computers, different operating systems (XP and Vista), different cables and nothing seems to make any difference.

    Any ideas???

  51. I assume you did try it wired first to test the software & computer?

    if it worke wired then not with the dongle then it sounds like the the issur lies with the dongle... I would then try the dongle with other USB hardware like a printer.... this will help you narrow down where the issue lies...

  52. Love the concept, but no love for x64. The installer prevents teh dongles from working. If anyone has it working on an x64 Windows, I'd love to know.

  53. For a 64 bit Vista Driver, go to Cables Unlimited website and download it:

  54. Why not using your mobile phone as a tethering device? Just purchase WMwifirouter or JoikuSpot with 20 USD. Works perfectly with Nikon.

  55. I am unable to view a few images...esp. those hosted at Can you embed all images in the post? Thanks

  56. Tested this device. Works okay with some small amount of latency. I tested it with the D200 and the D300 using Express Digital Darkroom Pro 8.9. The biggest problem seems to be to make the portable power-supply durable and retrofitted with the camera.

  57. If anyone has purchase the $40 Pocket Wizard Plus on ebay and has a working receiver that they would like to trade or sell please contact me. I got a working transmitter but I need a receiver to complete the set. Would prefer to buy the receiver, so I can mod the none working one for the USB Wireless.

  58. I decided to build my own box and post the pictures through a link to my website. You can view my project here:

  59. Looks like 64 bit Vista support is now offered:

  60. hello ! I have the A350 sony and I would like to know if this device works to this king of DSLR.
    Thanks every one

  61. It works on Canon and Nikon for sure, and I think some Sony folks have it working as well. Olympus usere have an issue with the way the factory software communicates, but I believe with some aftermarket software that could be overcome.

  62. It's ridiculous that a simple remote has not been developed for the D300, etc.

    Manufacturers are missing a huge opportunity to develop and sell a relatively simple product.

    There is a very large market demand for a simple device to allow a user to adjust shutter, exposure, aperature, etc, without having to touch the camera.

    The "industry" is forcing consumers to tether a bloody laptop to the camera for remote functions.


  63. i am using dslr remote on my iphone. it cost 19.99 and you hook the camera to your laptop via usb and adhoc into your laptop form the iphone and you get a wireless remote with live view and control of alot of features.

  64. Pete, I wonder if you think a variation on your solution could work, namely, substituting 802.11n for the wireless USB. So you'd stick a 802.11n adapter into the USB port of the camera (probably using an adapter to convert the 802.11 dongle's full-size USB connector down to the mini-USB port most cameras have), and use this to communicate to an 802.11n-capable laptop. If doable, this would increase the range and throughput, and ought to work on both Mac & PC. Thoughts?

  65. Thanks for this great idea!

    I tried to make my own Wi-Fi transmitter for my D300 using a D link wifi 802.11 dongle.

    I used some usb to mini usb cable.

    tring to connect the 2 pins of the usb to an external powersupply (battery pack), and the ones connected to the camera for data transmission.

    As i am not an electronic fan, it just doesn't work....

    Anyone with enough knowledge in electronic could figure out how to make it work?

    What I have for this project :

    -USB to mini USB cable
    -battery pack (What is the right voltage to use?)
    -D-Link DWA-110 USB dongle

    Thanks for your help!


  66. Love this Pete! Got mine running for $40 even with the battery pack - runndijn great with my Nikon D5000.

    As I am an HDR shooter all of my work with it is on a tripod so I mounted the my rig on the tripod handle.

    I am using it with a cheap Netbook running XP and DIYPhotbits for field work. Pics of the project can be seen here:



  67. Hi
    I think I am missing something or it is too late... 2 am in Cape Town. The wifi dongle I see has a big usb connector. How does it connect to the Nikon small usb connector.
    Also, do you need 2 of these or does a Mac Book Pro communicates directly with the Dongle on the camera?
    What software will work with it on Mac?

  68. Hi ! I tried doing this with my Canon 10D and TP-link WN321G and somehow I can't get it to function. I'm pretty sure I'm getting power from the battery pack but for some reason, my laptop just can't seem to detect the camera and the wireless USB. The software I'm using is DSLR Remote Pro (also from Breeze Systems). Did you configure anything in your laptop so that the laptop can detect your rig?

    I'd appreciate the help :-/

    Cheers and thanks in advance.

    Jojo Andrada (

  69. @ Pete - Pls. disregard my earlier post. I was thinking wifi. I've just been introduced to WUSB.

    Link :

    It's a totally different gadget. It looks like a wifi (lan) dongle so it's easy to get fooled.

    NOW ... I have to get me a pair of THOSE !

    Cheers !

    Jojo Andrada

  70. Still won't work with a MAC as the core chipset has no drivers, but I do have an idea for a mac method of doing this...

    Jojo, glad to see you figured out its not an actual wifi card being used here! Good luck!

  71. Using regular wifi dongles won't work because cameras do not have the drivers or the software to activate the wifi dongle. It won't matter if your dongle is sufficiently juiced.

    Now here's a thought, what if you can add the necessary software to the camera either via a firmware hack or copying the program to the CF card (which the camera reads from)?

    The objective of the software is to drive the dongle and configure the peer to peer connection (IP addresses and such)between the camera and the laptop.

    Wild ideas hehe. What do you think?

  72. would either of these devices work for power?

  73. Sy, they should work by the looks of them.

  74. Great idea. Love this I will research some more but I think this is better more affordable than anything thus far. Thanks

    Is it ok to post this and ad a link to my website/

  75. So Pete you said you have an idea for the Mac method of doing this.
    I'm really curious what that might be.. I haven't found any Wireless USB Device adaptor kit which worked with a Mac yet.

  76. Can I use this Battery?

    The thing is: I find one Battery-Pack from PortaPow ( and it looks really decent and it has 3400mAh. The One from the above Amazon-link got 4400 mAh. How much do I need?

    Thanks for the Blogpost anyway, great idea!

  77. I know it has been a while since you made this but could you use these 2 products to get almost the same thing?

    or even this if you needed better range?

  78. will this device work on a nikon d700 as a replacement for eye fi? Can I set up my iphone to transfer images from my nikon d700? thanks in advance.

  79. I have had similar idea. My project uses a MK802 mini PC and can be controlled even through WEB interface

  80. Hi Pete Tsai,

    I can't find the "Cables Unlimited Wireless USB Adapter Kit" anymore. Does anybody have'n idea where to get them...?

    please ...


    Thanks you so much!

  81. Thank you Pete-- I am going to put the package together has anyone used it with lightrooms 4 tethered remote feature

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