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Tether Tools CASE Air Review

A few days ago I received the CASE Air wireless tethering system from Tether Tools.  The moment I opened the box I checked the charge on the system and when I could verify that it was fully charged I went to work.  

Overview: 

My relationship with the system is one of love and “eh.”

If you want to read the Pros and Cons check them out below.  If not, and you want to cut to the chase, I would recommend maybe purchasing the CASE Air if it fits your workflow.  You’ve got to be a patient shooter though…very patient.  This doesn’t work so much with some folks. 

My next step, personally, will be to grab up a Cam Ranger and see if it stacks up against the CASE air and then update this blog post and possibly add a comparison video. 🙂 

Would I recommend you buy this unit? Probably.  Who’s it for?  Those that are patient shooters and not in need of capturing action shots over short times.

Rating: 3 Stars

For the sake of all things holy I will not go into the tech specs of this little thing.  Every video that I found went into how it sends files, how it attaches to your ipad, iphone, etc, etc.  If you want to check those reviews out, google em.  You’ll find about 100 reviews that say the same thing over and over and over again without any real world applications, errors, and stuff like that.  That’s what we’re here to discuss.

Now, on to the full test, real life results, and review.

Scenarios

After testing for three days and being semi ok with the performance I charged the battery and I put the CASE Air in front of two clients and one model over three days.

Scenario 1: 

Athletic client for an advertising banner for their team

Scenario 2: 

Commercial client.  It was a women’s fitness group shoot for a personal trainer.  Total of 9 ladies on set for a total of 6-7 hours of solid shooting time.

Scenario 3:

Model test shoot. Single model. Studio setting.  Raw + small jpeg.

Camera and gear used on set: 

  • Canon 5dMKIII w/battery grip
  • Canon L Series lenses
  • Sandisk Extreme Pro 64GB CF card (bought new when I bought the CASE Air)
  • Apple iPad Pro 9.7” (bought a week earlier)
  • CASE Air Wireless Tethering System
  • Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 for trigger and mounting of CASE Air
  • 90%+ of the images were shot hand held for ease of moving around the location and speed

Pros: 

Ease of Use

I LOVE THIS THING.  It’s so easy to use.  All you have to do is click it into your hot shoe or (as I did) slap it on top of a Pocket Wizard Mini TT1, attach the provided cable turn it on, turn on the app, and BOOM, you’re set.  Well, kinda.  

Pseudo win!

Aesthetics 

Look at it.  It’s slick. 🙂 

Being who I am, I prefer the only thing on my camera that is white to be my lens.  I like the slick look of this little thing.  So yeah, major win.

UI for the app

LOVE it.  It’s slick, clean, simple, and pretty intuitive.  Just swipe to move the different options in and out of the screen and you’re good.  Check out the settings in the little sprocket at the bottom and make sure your RAW download is disabled though.  I didn’t when I got it and MAN that took a long time.

WIN! (All but the ID10T error I displayed. 🙂  )

Convenience

This is where a wireless system trumps the actual use of a tethered cable system.  I’m sure you figured this out.  It’s a LOT easier to have a wireless system connected to your camera than have a long tether cable locked into your camera while changing shooting locations on site (where the client test was performed) and having to worry about moving carts and tables around.  Instead you’ve got a tablet or large smart phone and you just get to work.  

WIN!

Client Reaction

This was HUGE for me.  Every client I put in front of LOVED the fact that they could walk around and show friends or walk over and check out the ipad.  It was so much easier than navigating the gear around them.  I could easily hand it to my assistant and have him take it over.  The feedback on everything was AWESOME.  So much easier than being wired to a cart and/or laptop.

MAJOR WIN!

Price

While not wanting to spend $300 on a cam ranger + gear to keep it safe while on set, this thing was a blessing.  For a good price I could attach it to a hot shoe and it was set and ready to go.

WIN, WIN, WIN!

Cons:

Greyed out thumbnails and/or Full Size Previews 

If you check out the video below and the images attached to this blog you’ll see what I mean.  Please overlook the resolution of the images.  I just grabbed my iPhone on the spot and shot the video and images.  I didn’t want to break out another camera body after a long day of shooting, a tripod, and so on.  So forgive me. 

 

There’s several instances while on set and in a test to reproduce the issue where the thumbnail was greyed out (like a corrupt file) or the actual full size image was greyed out.  While not a huge issue for us while on set (we just didn’t let the client view these images – even if they were the best), it’s still annoying.  

At one point, in Scenario 2 and 3 I went to the camera instead and let the client preview the files there.

Pseudo fail. 

Thumbnails not Matching Full Preview

This threw me for a loop while on set and totally embarrassed me after a second.  I found myself fumbling over my words and my assistant didn’t do much better at explaining the issues of “new equipment bugs” to clients.

Check out the example shots where I was able to reproduce the issue. 

Major fail while in front of the client. 

Attempted workaround in private testing:

I actually went to the settings and cleared the cache, shut the app down on my ipad, and then restarted it.  It detected the CASE Air right away in the app and began downloading the thumbnail gallery preview gallery right away.  However, this lends itself to a whole other issue of waiting till all of the previews repopulate.

I’m not sure if this workout would be suggested by the Tether Tools folks, but being as this was a private experiment…let’s just say I learned a little bit. haha 

Speed

This is one of the places where I’m on the fence about the unit.  

Scenario 1 

Format: Raw + Medium jpeg

GREAT!  One shot, one kill.  BOOM,  Done.  Preview in hand.  Can’t ask for more.  Worked well when connected. 

Scenario 2

Format: RAW + Large jpeg

I was required to capture several dynamic movements through the range of motion along with static commercial style images.  While the single shots were great, the speed of the shots through the range of motion of the person in front of my camera caused the app to bog down with downloads as I was shooting bursts.

I found myself, more often than not, having to stop shooting, talk a second about execution of motion, let the app catch up, start shooting again.  This wouldn’t fly on a set with a larger client that expected full functionality and review on set.  Most clients would probably just put the iPad down and walk away.  Very unprofessional looking to clients. 

That being said, shoot slow and you’re good.  If you get a shot every 1.5-2 seconds you’re good to go.  Personally, I do not shoot this slow when shooting full range of motion and action for fitness and athletic photography.  So now I’m going to be stuck either not showing previews or going back to back of camera (BOC) for reviewing the images.  Back to square 1.

Check out the video showing the speed of the unit on fine jpeg only with a shot every 1-1.5 seconds. Private testing.

Scenario 3

Format: RAW + small jpeg

This was probably the fastest reaction time of them all. The small jpegs came up FAST.  That made me happy.  Shooting was kept to a slow/medium pace and the images kept popping up without an issue until we stopped for a second to review the images.

The issue came when the previews/thumbnails were not matching the images yet again.  Some were half greyed out and some of the larger previews were matching thumbnails from 2-3 mins earlier in the lineup.

While shooting the battery life dropped considerably.  After an hour I wouldn’t expect it to be at >60% as per the little yellow dot on top of the unit.

So after a short time, I went back to the back of the camera previews and shooting full tethered with the trusty orange cable.

Connecting and reconnecting on site

Setting up the CASE Air on site was SOMETIMES not as simple as one might think.  Most of the time it isn’t an issue.  Here’s the issues that I’ve experienced myself so far…

Scenario 1

I had to shut the app down, turn the unit on and off several times, and then restart the wifi several times to register the wifi signal from the CASE Air. 

I was told that this might be because of a local private airport being really close by and they have wifi boosters all over the air port area.  I have no way to verify this.  I was picking up multiple wifi signals with crazy code names though.  So that may have some merit to it.  Once it came up I was able to connect without an issue.

Scenario 2

I powered down the unit to save battery life and then restarted the unit when I was about to shoot again.  This took a solid 3-4 mins to get the wifi to pop up and reconnect.  When it did it kept spinning on the screen while it was downloading maybe?  I’m not sure.  I’ll ask the Tether Tool folks when I’m back at the office Monday.

I actually had a 3rd issue in private testing later.  When I was attempted to connect the unit to test, the wifi signal came up and no matter how many times I entered the password it wouldn’t connect.  Finally, after shutting off the unit and restarting a 4th time, it worked without having to put the password in.  So yeah…color me confused.

Scenario 3

I didn’t lose connection at all during this shoot.  So that’s good! 

Undecided

Battery Life

This…I just don’t know.  I mean I look at it on the unit and it says “yellow” which tells me 30-60% but on the app it says 100%.  After 5 hours of shooting, the same is happening.  Maybe I just got a defective unit but I’m going to shoot an email out to the Tether Tools folks and see what’s up with that. 

That being said, the CASE Air did outlast the PW TT1 battery.  So it may be better to use the TT5 for this setup or just the little dongle and let it hang off the side…which I hate the feeling of.

Live View

Personally in my particular workflow I hardly ever use live view.  That being said, I do have some scenarios where I can and probably will use it.  I just have take the time to test it.

Video

Not really interested in this for my workflow.  I have a video guy that works with me and I can preview the videos he shoots on set pretty easy through his gear.  So I’m not worried about it. 

Final Thoughts

I wanted to love this unit.  I really did.  I love what TT puts out and I want a lot more of it for my on site and studio workflow!  However, for now, I’m going to have to pass on this unit and go back to the trusty orange cables.  

That being said, I am planning to grab a Camranger soon and put it through the paces as well.  Though, something tells me that it will probably be more of the same until these companies come to speed with a nice, fast, file transfer over a short distance wifi. 

We can only hope!

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