Android tablet clone+DSLR liveview = WIN!

For photographers, there may be a niche segment where the combination of a cheap Android tablet and a DSLR capable of liveview can be very useful. I’m not talking about tethering in the traditional sense where you would send the images to the tablet.

If you have been following tablet market, you’ll undoubtedly know there’s been an influx of iPad clones coming out of Shenzhen, China. While the number of models may seem endless, many are just rebadged versions of other models. Not much is known about these clone tablets other than specs released on the web but they generally run Google Android OS, sized from 4″-10″, includes some kind of external storage like usb or sd card slots, with prices starting around $150. I doubt any of these will put any kind of dent on iPad sales as they generally use inferior touch screens and lack the coveted Apple iOS.

For photographers, there may be a niche segment where the combination of a cheap Android tablet and a DSLR capable of liveview can be very useful. I’m not talking about tethering in the traditional sense where you would send the images to the tablet. The lack of hard drives on tablets simply makes that infeasible. I’m envisioning using a cheap tablet as a supersized lcd screen and remote control device for a digital slr. The tablet would simply serve as a preview device with some camera controls. It would be attached to the camera via usb cable.

Here are some scenarios where this might be used:

  • Solves difficult angles. Camera attached to a monopod extended above the crowd in a concert shoot; camera mounted on a basketball backboard; camera mounted on the hood of a moving car.
  • Timelapse photography with the tablet serving as the intervalometer.
  • More creative compositions. With the freedom to position your camera anywhere within 15′ of your preview device and in any angle, previously impossible shots can not be achieved.
  • Liveview for macro photography. It’ll make life so much easier if you don’t have to touch the camera once you have that angle and focus set right.
  • Self portrait photography with the tablet serving as the preview device.
  • Wildlife photography where the camera can be positioned optimally while you are sitting comfortably inside a blind controlling the camera with the tablet.
  • Underwater photography. During the summer Olympics, cameras were mounted under the swimming lanes to capture swimmers in action. If someone invents a waterproof underwater housing with a usb attachment, it will open up a new dimension to underwater photography.
  • Stalker mode. You can now setup your rig and shoot from 15′ away. I’m sure voyeurs are way ahead of me on this concept.
  • As a general purpose live preview device to check focus on each shot. Now you can chimp with a much larger screen.
  • Preview white balance. This will entirely depend on the quality of the screen and the ability to color calibrate it so your mileage may vary depending on the device.
  • Histogram preview will be much easier and more pleasant on a large screen.
  • Movie mode preview. I’m not sure how well 1080 or 720 video will transfer over usb but if it works, you might be able to use the larger screen as a preview and composition screen and pretend to be the next Michael Bay or James Cameron.
  • As a live preview device for other members of a shoot such as clients, mua, art directors, etc.
  • Tablet serves as a Wifi download device for the camera in a studio shoot. Most tablets will be Wifi enabled. Software can download the images via usb and immediately upload to a local server. This will overcome the no hard drive limitation.

Of course if someone writes the app for the iPad, all this can be done with the iPad but unless you already own the iPad for other reasons, $500 is a lot of money to spend for a super sized live preview screen. OnOne Software, the maker of DSLR Camera Remote confirms their software will have limited functionality with the iPad but it requires a computer in the connection so I’m not sure what’s the point of having the iPad attached when you already have a computer attached.