ראשי English Aputure Gigtube Wireless Review

Aputure Gigtube Wireless Review

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We encountered the Gigtube Wireless developed by the Chinese company Aputure on the last day of Photokina 2010 several months ago, in one of small booths of the exhibition. The Gigtube Wireless is a combination between a wireless camera remote and an external wireless camera screen. MegaPixel recently cooperated with the photographer Raphael Ben Dor to bring to you the first ever review of the Gigtube Wireless.

After Photokina 2010 we were approached by Aputure who asked if we would like to review its new Gigtube Wireless unit and we were very delighted to receive a package by mail a few weeks later. We decided to give the unit to our associate – professional studio photographer Raphael Ben Dor to test. The following review includes not only his insights after several weeks of use but also a 6 minutes video (Hebrew with English subtitles) which shows some of the potential uses for the unit.

Before we move to the review here are the Gigtube Wireless main specifications:

  • Display: 3.5" 230,000 pixels (16M colors) with built in sun-protector.
  • Battery : Rechargeable Lithium Battery, 1200mAh (both for the screen and the transmitter).
  • Frequency: 433MHz/2.4Ghz.
  • Unit Range: Up to 100m (around 330 feet).
  • Compatibility : Most Nikon/Canon and Olympus models (see compatibility list).

The Gigtube Wireless in action (photo: Raphael Ben Dor)

Aputure Gigtube Wireless grey

Installation

Installing the Gigtube Wireless was a breeze. We tested it on both the Canon 5D MK II and a Nikon D90. The procedure is as follows (you can also watch it on the video below):

  • Connecting the transmitter to the camera hotshoe (there is no communication through the hotshoe its just a place to put the transmitter).
  • Connecting the two cables (AV out and camera trigger cable) to the transmitter.
  • Turning on the transmitter and external screen.
  • Turning on the camera on and going to Liveview mode.
  • Taking a picture.

Use

After turning on the unit we discovered that the Nikon D90 displayed the image on both the camera screen and the external screen while on the Canon 5D MK II only the external screen showed the image. There are relatively small number of options to choose from on the external display such as on/off (called "sleep"), brightness, contrast, auto-screen shutdown and on-screen massaging. Everything was very straightforward.

Operating range

The Gigtube Wireless official operating range is 100 meters (or around 330 feet). With almost every official wireless range specification we tested in the past there are official numbers and then there is reality. So when we came to test the Gigtube Wireless we were actually very pleasantly surprised. Up to about 50 meters (around 150 feet) the image reception on the external screen was flawless. Between 50-60 meters there were minor interference (the image jumped occasionally)  but otherwise it was fairly usable. Up until 90 meters (around 290 feet) it remained more or less usable with some interference and between 100-115 meters those interference became unbearable. Above 115 meters (377 feet) the image was lost completely.

Gigtube Wireless box (photo: Raphael Ben Dor)

Aputure Gigtube Wireless

A comment on WIFI

When we first received the Gigtube Wireless we noticed that each time we tried to use it – it interfered with our office WIFI (we have a good old faithful Linksys WRT54GL). However this did not happen in Raphael Ben Dor's Studio or in the presence of other routers so it might have been an isolated incident (the unit can also switch channels to prevent this problem).

Battery life

When we first got the batteries we only had a short time to charge them and so they ran out of power very quickly (this was also reflected in the video below). However after we fully charged them for several hours (sadly there was no led indicator to tell us when the charging ended) we found out that for studio work at least the batteries last almost indefinitely (one charge lasted so far over 3 weeks). Obviously this might not reflect the battery life an outdoor photographer might encounter with a constant use several hours a day, but we can defiantly say that we were very pleased with the results in the battery life department (as long as you remember to fully charge them before each use). One last point  on this subject – the external display has a battery life indicator however we are not sure if it could be trusted since it still shows full battery after 3 weeks of use.

Gigtube Wireless parts (photo: Raphael Ben Dor)

Aputure Gigtube Wireless parts

Display

The Gigtube Wireless has a 3.5" display – larger than any conventional DSLR display. Although 0.5 inch might not sound like much it did feel substantially larger than our Canon 5D MK II display. Resolution is a different matter. Aputure used a 230k resolution display this is relatively low in comparison to most current day semi-pro and pro-level DSLR cameras. We hope that a high-res 3.5" screen will find its way into the next iteration of the device. The external screen also comes with a an extractable plastic sun protector. This is a nice touch especially  for outdoor photography but for real outdoor use (especially in the harsh Israeli sun) a more serious solution is required (to be honest from our experience no existing camera screen can handle direct sunlight very well either).

Build quality

Our only real complaint about the Gigtube Wireless has to do with build quality. It's not that it is especially poorly built, but given the fact that it performs everything else so well we really would have loved to see a more robust device and not get that plastic feel (Raphael even suggested in the video that he would have liked to see a metal body to the device although knowing how the industry wok these days, this is probably unlikely). Don't get us wrong here, the Gigtube Wireless worked fine on our test and did not break or anything of that sort but professional photographers are used to work with more massive equipment and the Gigtube Wireless simply didn't feel as robust as it might have – hopefully this will be addressed in future versions.

Gigtube Wireless – long range (photo: Raphael Ben Dor)

Aputure Gigtube Wireless screen reciver

Video review

To show the Gigtube Wireless and some of its capabilities we hooked up with professional studio photographer Raphael Ben Dor who prepared a 6 minute video for us (The video is in Hebrew but you can use English subtitles in Youtube):

Please notice that the video was recorded before we fully charged the Gigtube Wireless batteries (see the "battery life" section of this article).

Conclusion

The Gigtube Wireless is an innovative solution which allows photographers to easily take pictures while being far away from their cameras and still see the image that they are taking in real time. The device is simple to install and use, compatible with most common cameras (at least from Nikon/Canon/Olympus) and has a very decent range (it even go through walls and on our video it worked through a steal refrigerator with the door closed). The main limitations of the device has very little to do with its design (maybe apart from built quality) and everything to do with how Liveview is implemented in most DSLR cameras. As we explained in the video most DSLRs are programmed to turn the Liveview off after several minutes to preserve battery and reduce sensor heating (exactly how long changes between camera models). There might be ways of getting around this, but for nature photographers it could be annoying to get back to the camera located 50-100 meters away every few minutes to turn the Liveview back on, scaring off the animals they wish to photograph.

Who might be the target audience of the Gigtube Wireless? Well, we could think of two potential groups: the first and most obvious – nature photographers who use the Gigtube Wireless to capture images with a camera while hiding far away. Two things come into play here – the speed of the autofocus in Liveview (still very slow on most DSLR cameras today) and as we noted before the automatic shutdown of the Liveview which can force the photographer to scare away the animal as he/she comes back to turn it on again.

The second group who might be interested in the Gigtube Wireless are professional studio photographers. For them the device might prove helpful by saving time and effort while taking pictures from very low angles (as we demonstrated in the video).  Amateur photographers might also find the Gigtube Wireless useful and while we came up with some interesting uses for the Gigtube Wireless in our video we are sure that many more innovative ideas will be found once the device become more widespread.

Pros:

  • Simple to install and easy to operate.
  • Long range. Easily over 50m (165 feet), could reach 100m (330 feet) with some interference.
  • Long battery life.
  • Large (3.5") display (but only standard 230k resolution).

Cons:

  • Not the most robust plastic body.
  • Liveview in most DSLR cameras shuts down after several minutes limiting the functionality for nature photographers.

More info on the Gigtube Wireless including price and availability can be found on aputure website.

Special thanks to Raphael Ben Dor. You can find more articles in English on our MegaPixel English page.

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