Nikon D4 WT-5 Wireless Transmitter – A Sports Photographers Review and Field Test

My White Sox side project this summer has been focused around (pun intended) setting up my Nikon D4’s to work in harmony with the new Nikon WT-5 wireless transmitter.

My goal was/is to implement the WT-5’s to work with the D4’s to transmit time sensitive images directly from the camera, while on-field, to our Mass Communications Social Media Coordinator to facilitate real-time image uploads to our club’s Twitter and Facebook pages.  Speed is everythingNow is almost too late.

This is the type of image I need to move immediately to the White Sox twitter feed. Gordon's "Jake" imitation, for the record, was incredible.

Sounds simple, right?  Wrong.  My personal experience with setting up the WT-5’s to work via the FTP mode while also getting our in-house wireless network to work reliably from the field during game time has been frustrating at best.

Two views of the Nikon D4 network menu indicating a successful image FTP transfer.

Setting up the D4 WT-5 combination in itself is a bit time consuming, primarily because connection settings need to be inputted via a process reminiscent of texting from a standard, “non-smart” cell phone.  If you have long passwords and network names, it’s gonna take a little time to get everything entered.  No way around that if you are setting up the network connections in-camera, just be prepared to spend a little time during the initial setup.

What I discovered rather early in the setup process is apparently, and in my opinion, unfortunately, the Nikon WT-5’s require that the FTP site you are attempting to connect with be what they call APPE compliant.  If the FTP site is non-APPE compliant, the transfer process fails.  While attempting to transmit images to a non-APPE compliant FTP server the D4 keeps re-sending the image, in part because the communication between the FTP site and the WT-5 transmitter is apparently not understood properly.  This in turn prevents the file packet from being received completely.  If you do not force quit the transmission process from the camera when the failure occurs, the FTP site quickly fills up with truncated, unusable copies of the file attempting to be sent.  The wireless activity monitor in the network menu on the camera will indicate there is trouble if the file transfer “time remaining” hangs with one second left.  Successful transfers end with a zero seconds remaining.

Trouble ahead according to this network menu view. One second remains in the transmission process. This means multiple, truncated versions of this file are piling up on the FTP site.

Adding insult to injury, PhotoShelter’s subscribers FTP site is non-APPE compliant, which means that my intended workflow solution plan (camera direct to PhotoShelter FTP where our Social Media Coordinator can browse thumbnails and download web-sized images) came screeching to a halt.  Ahhhhh!  We have come to rely on PhotoShelter as part of our everyday work-flow.  Unfortunately, according to those in the know at PhotoShelter, we will have to wait and see when or even if they create an APPE compliant FTP solution.  Perhaps with Nikon’s involvement, these two photo industry powerhouses will collaborate and make it work.  My fingers are crossed.  Are you listening, guys?

Here you can see the multiple, truncated files that ended up on our FTP site, the result of WT-5 transmission difficulties. One version of _2RV2913.JPG finally made it (the 8.2 MB version) after I moved to an area inside the office where my wireless connection was unaffected by outside interference.

We finally ended up purchasing an APPE compliant FTP server, thinking the problem was solved.  Not so fast, bucko!  What now has become the latest pain in this saga, that being hitting and maintaining a reliable wireless network connection near or during game time, has been extremely challenging.  I was told by our in-house network specialist that the Nikon WT-5 transmitter is quite small and therefore not very powerful (compared to say, an iPhone), hence the added difficulty.  While a Mac iPhone or iPad might hit the network without difficulty, the WT-5 isn’t so fortunate.  The real world mess of microwave network transmissions, cell phones and generally overcrowded airwaves (especially near game time with 30, 000 fans in the ballpark, smart phone at their side) has made reliable connecting in a major sports venue during a game difficult.  I have also run into the “multiple image transfer hang” issues even while sending to an APPE compliant FTP site!  This occurs, I theorize, when the network connection slows or occasionally stops, which is what I find occurs often at game time.  If I try sending images, say 3 hours before the game, everything works well for the most part.  But again, I need to transmit during the game, not before or after the game!

I have discovered that the larger the file, the more difficult the transmission process becomes.  Small JPG’s seem to make it though more often than not, even during the game.  Of course, I am shooting high JPG and RAW, so downsizing the file size to accommodate ease of transmission is not an option.

The Nikon D4 and WT-5 combination does work quite well in a controlled environment, such as a studio or office setting with minimal interference or in ad hoc mode (Camera direct to laptop).  I was able to easily connect the D4 to my laptop while in ad hoc mode, which is quite convenient while shooting on location when shooting tethered is desirable.

Needless to say, my Nikon WT-5 project is still a work in progress.  It’s difficult for me to keep dedicating time to this project while keeping up with my day-to-day responsibilities.  I had our IT department put in a network access point in my office, but that’s not the photo box and although it’s a doable workaround for now, it’s not a solution.  As I mentioned, Nikon and PhotoShelter are aware of the difficulties I have encountered, and as off this writing, there have been no solutions offered from either company.

If you are a sports photographer looking to take advantage of the WT-5 in order to transmit live from events as I am, be prepared to have a strong network connection nearby as well as an APPE compliant FTP server setup on the other end.

I will keep everyone posted with any new developments if and when they occur.

 

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