Hardware vs. Software (Nikon)

This week I ran head-on into a fantastic hardware product (Nikon WU-1a) that is almost made useless by its software (Wireless Mobile Utility).

Nikon WU-1a
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I wish this sort of thing was rare, but it happens only too often. (I’m looking at you, Logitech)

In this case, the device is a tiny adapter that plugs into what looks like a micro-USB port on the side of a Nikon camera. And I do mean tiny. Think “dime-sized”. There is a single WPS button inset on one side, and the thing creates a Wi-Fi network for your tablet or phone.  On the hardware/firmware side, the only shortcoming I can see is that you cannot join an existing Wi-Fi network, you have to create a separate ad-hoc(ish) network with the dongle. This is too bad, but understandable to me, because even though there is a WPS button, I can’t imagine an intelligible interface allowing joining a secured Wi-Fi network on your camera.  Apparently the Wi-Fi has b/g/n support, though I highly doubt it has 5GHz support.

The transfers all take place over PTP/IP, which is a standard for this kinda thing. Standards often seems to enable better technology.  It supports picture transfer, but notably all of the other picture parameters such as ISO, aperture, shutter speed, focus, etc.

This is where the software falls over.  Hard.  I loaded the software on my iPhone and connected (after a few tries).  I can take a picture remotely (with live view), download pictures and… well, that’s it.  It was so weak that I basically decided to take it back.  But first, I googled.

I found a number of people who, like myself, were very underwhelmed.  What I also discovered was an Android app called DSLR Dashboard. I scrounged up an old Android phone that was compatible and tried it out.  This software alone turned around my perception of the hardware – it does everything, focus bracketing, intervalometer, histogram, RAW transfer (that’s gotta be slow), photo management on the camera and so much more.

I also found this forum thread with not only the common complaints, but the user that posted it decided to write his own iOS software to replace the pathetic first-party stuff.  The  release of said software is unfortunately, still pending.

The Nikon iOS developers are doing a serious disservice to the hardware engineers.  This device is apparently now integrated into the D5300, so the camera itself is going to take the flak for their junk software.

Please, companies, do TRY to make your own products look good.