Here at PDN Product Reviews Central, we have an admitted weakness for wacky gadgets. So when a test unit of Hahnel’s Inspire LiveView Remote Control arrived in the mail, we got a little wobbly in the knees.
The device uses wireless GHz technology to send live footage and images from your digital SLR to a remote 3.5-inch color LCD screen so you can view it and trigger the shutter from up to 180 feet away. Sports or nature shooters would be the obvious targets for this remote photography system but it was also just plain cool.
The Inspire LiveView Remote Control is available for Canon or Nikon DSLRs. The Canon version I tested consisted of a Receiver that attaches to the hot shoe of the camera and the handheld Transmitter with the 3.5-inch LCD screen. (It seemed more logical, at least in my mind, to swap the Receiver and Transmitter titles of the devices since you were, in effect, transmitting from the camera to the remote LCD but that’s a minor quibble.)
Ideally, the Inspire is used with a digital SLR that has a LiveView function and an AV socket so you can see what the camera is actually shooting—including screen setting info—on the remote LCD. The camera I was using, a Canon 60D, had LiveView and an AV socket with a cord so I was all set.
You can still use the device even if your camera doesn’t have those features however. There’s actually a built-in CMOS sensor in the receiver on top of the camera that records a close approximation of what you’re shooting. I say “close approximation” because it’s a few inches above your lens and doesn’t show you camera settings. Fortunately, nearly all current Canon and Nikon DSLRs have LiveView functionality so it shouldn’t be an issue for most users.
Both the Receiver and the Transmitter take four AA batteries and seem to burn through them fairly quickly so make sure you have an ample supply. Also make sure you screw down the Receiver firmly on your DSLR’s hot shoe because it fits a little loose.
Once the Receiver is attached, plug the included remote control cable into the remote port on the DSLR and find the AV cable from your camera box. (Yes, that AV cable that no one ever seems to use.)
The AV cable attaches to the yellow port on the receiver and then into the camera. There’s also a pouch included with the Inspire for wrapping up the excess AV cable. (AV cables can be rather long.) If all this sounds complicated, it’s not. The Inspire instruction book offers clear visuals and directions to take you step-by-step through set-up.
Once it’s attached and wired up, turn both the Receiver and Transmitter on, hit Live View on your DSLR, and you should start seeing a live feed from your DSLR on the 3.5-inch screen. The strength of the wireless signal is denoted by those familiar bars on the corner of the LCD screen. The Inspire can control up to four different receivers on four different DSLRs and it’s fairly easy to switch between units.
A button on the LCD screen lets you toggle between DSLR LiveView and InspireView, which is the feed from the Receiver’s CMOS sensor. As already stated, DSLR LiveView is the way you’re probably going to want to go since it’s actual through-the-lens footage. The InspireView does have a side benefit though when you’re zoomed in with your camera; it functions as a separate wide-angle feed so you can survey the scene before you take your close-up shot.
After I got everything set up, I was able to walk around my apartment with the LCD transmitter and see the LiveView the 60D was shooting in my studio. When I wanted to take a picture, I just pressed the big gray button on the display remote and the 60D would remotely autofocus and snap. A captured image would then play back on the screen. Pretty neat.
If there’s one major gripe I had about the Inspire LiveView Remote Control, it’s that the resolution of the 3.5-inch screen (320 x 240) was pretty poor. The live feed on the LCD looked dark and coarse and colors were off. It was also tough to tell the quality of the image I captured by looking at the playback on the screen.
Honestly, this isn’t such a big deal since the Inspire device is mostly designed for remotely composing shots, not for judging the quality in playback after capture. And for that, the resolution of the screen is good enough.
THE BOTTOM LINE
There are some devices out there that score immediate points with us for just being cool and the Inspire LiveView Remote Control is one of those. But along with the “wow” factor, the Inspire should be useful to sports and wildlife photographers who need to capture images from their cameras remotely but also want to have a good idea of what they’re shooting before they trip the shutter. Though the resolution of the 3.5-inch LCD is low, it’ll give you a good enough idea of what you’re shooting so you can remotely focus the camera and take a picture from a safe distance.
Hahnel Inspire LiveView Remote Control
Pros: A cool device for remotely viewing and capturing images; easy set-up
Cons: Image quality on low-resolution screen was poor; receiver fits loosely on hot shoe