DSLR Dashboard Android Application and the Nikon WU-1B

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I preface every review with the same disclosure. I am not a professional. I do not shoot test charts. I do not try every lens with every camera. All opinions are my own, and are only based upon my own experiences with the gear. I haven’t had a ton of gear, or all of the expensive gear.  I won’t list every specification or test for every specification. My review is not meant for professionals – if you are a professional, you shouldn’t need a review from an amateur. The information below is simply my own observations while doing normal photography, and is for other car enthusiasts and amateurs like myself.

Nikon WU-1B

If you have a smartphone, and a camera that supports it (like the D600), get it. It’s that simple. It plugs into the side of the camera, and allows your smartphone to connect to it via WiFi. It’s a cheap way to expand the capabilities of the camera, as it allows you to do more than the camera natively allows. Specifically, it allows you to shoot more than 3 shot brackets, and to do focus stacking remotely. For the price, it is one of the more advanced remote control systems.

I used to have a Nikon D5100, and I like the swivel screen. It let me shoot low to the ground, without me actually needing to lay down on the ground to focus and compose my shots. It also let me shoot over my head, and still be able to compose the shot correctly. When I got the D600, I lost that ability, as the D600’s screen is fixed in place, and not visible when you have to place your camera a long way from your eyes. The WU-1B gives you a way to get that type of versatility back, by letting your smartphone become the LiveView screen and  giving you control directly from the screen as well.

Nikon WMU app

The Nikon application to take photos and videos from the smartphone is called WMU, and it’s available for download for free from the Google Play store. This application allows you to focus and take pictures, using your smartphone, and allows you to download the photos that you select to your smartphone. This is great for the average user who wants to take a nice photo, and then post it up to FB, or email it to someone. It’s simple and efficient.

What it doesn’t do it allow you to do more advanced functionality, like bracketing, or focus stacking. It’s limited functionality is both a plus and a minus. It’s great if you just want to snap a JPG shot, but not very good if your desire is to shoot several RAW shots.
There are lots of tutorials and reviews on it, so I won’t repeat the same info. Here is a simple video tutorial about it:

DSLR Dashboard for Android app

DSLR Dashboard is an application developed privately by an individual, and it is more powerful than the WMU application from Nikon. DSLR Dashboard is only available for Android 4.x platforms, but works with the WU-1B adapter. It allows you the ability to do timelapses, focus stacking, custom bracketing of up to 21 frames (although, I still haven’t found a scene that needed more than 3 frames with the D600), as well as control almost all of the features of the D600 from the smartphone. And yes, you can do video with it as well.

There are two things to know when using a Samsung Galaxy S3 with it (GS2 does not work at all with it) :
1) Getting the phone to connect to the camera. First, plug in the WU-1B, and turn on the camera. Open your WiFI settings and choose to connect to the Nikon WiFi adapter. Then, open the DSLR Dashboard app. It will give an opening screen, but won’t automatically connect to the WU-1B. Click on the back arrow on the GS3 (bottom right “hard” button). This brings up a dialog box that shows you a button to connect to the WU-1B. Click it to connect.
2) The application buttons often have two functions built in – normal press and release and press-and-hold. Example: Custom Bracketing – if you press it normally, and release, it brings up a dialog box to make setting changes – but it does not activate custom bracketing. In order to activate and use custom bracketing, you have to press and hold the smae button for a couple of seconds – then it glows orange, and bracketing is enabled. Press and hold again to turn the feature off.
AF assist light works the same way on the AF button. Press and hold to turn the light off, or on.

Here’s the best part – the app is free. While it is still in beta, it is the best application currently available for wireless tethering for your smartphone.
Get it, try it.

Here’s a link to the development thread on the app: http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1256583

Here is a link to the app in Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.dslr.dashboard&hl=en

Here is a link to the User Guide (It is not free, but I highly recommend that you spend the $4 to get it – it will help you learn some features quickly.): http://dmpop.homelinux.com/dslrdashboard/