Web Design, Video and Photography

Best Free Tethering Software for Nikons and Macs

qDslrDashboard - Free software for tethering a Nikon to a mac computer

Recently we wanted to test tethering our Nikon D7000 to a Macbook Pro running Sierra. For those who don’t know what tethering is, it’s hooking up your camera to the computer. It allows us to view an image on the computer instead of through the view finder or LCD screen of the camera. This makes it easier to see what’s going on with an image. Having a bigger view of an image, it’s more likely we’ll see a mistake that we might miss on the smaller LCD or in the view finder of the camera.

One of the things you find out about tethering is that it requires software. Canon cameras include free software called Canon EOS Utility for tethering. Nikon users aren’t as lucky. Their cameras require an extra purchase for tethering software which can be pricey.

In the age of the internet and open source software there is a bright side. It’s not hard to find free software from developers who have coded such programs in their own time. The hard part is trying to find open source software that works the way you want, is up to date, and most importantly works with your specific camera. This can make finding what you want a challenge.

We spent a few days looking for free tethering software for our Nikon. We also experienced a few of the problems mentioned above. Some programs didn’t working the way we wanted, or didn’t support our specific camera. It seems the most popular program mentioned was Sofortbild.

From reading the reviews, it seemed like a solid app that would do what we wanted. Visiting the website though we found out there was an issue. Most of the reviews where it worked well were on the older Mac operating systems such as Yosemite and Snow Leopard. For El Capitan and Sierra users like us, the program was still in beta. It seemed that it was being built by one programmer which means updates or getting it running could take awhile.

Since we just wanted a Live View to work, we installed it hoping for the best. The interface isn’t the prettiest but it’s not bad. It did take a few minutes for the program to detect the camera when we plugged it in. It let us take pictures and view them instantaneously on the computer. We were also able to remotely control the camera through the program on the computer. In other words we could snap pics by tapping a button, change the aperture, etc. all on the computer. When switching to Live View though we were met with a grey, blank window. Live view didn’t seem to work at all. Without that feature we were on to the next program.

We tried looking at digiCamControl next. Sadly, it was Windows only software. We also started looking at gPhoto2 but glancing through the documents it’s seems to be a command line tool to control the camera. While that’s nice, it still didn’t solve the Live View feature we wanted. We work with the command line constantly on web projects. It’s the last thing we want to do with camera software.

Through gPhoto2, we came across a program called digiKam. From the articles it sounded like it could be used to tether. Sadly, the examples we saw didn’t appear to work in the way the bloggers made it sound. The tethering screenshots we saw for it were ugly. It seemed like their idea of tethering was just connecting the camera to the computer and using digiKam to load them into the computer. Once in the computer, a preview with some basic photoshop tools were enabled. The article was a few years old so it might be worth a look to see if things have changed since then. For us, it was once again onto the next program.

When we were about to give up hope we came across qDslrDashboard. It seemed to be a newer version of DSLR Controller. The great thing about qDslrDashboard is that it has the best user interface we’ve seen from the free software we tried. It also works with a wide range of cameras and operating systems. Best of all, it had the Live View feature we wanted. The remote system worked fine from the few hundred test shots we tried, even though the software page claims it’s still a work in progress and there might be some bugs.

The only issue we had with the software was being able to have a Live View through the computer while controlling the camera from the camera itself. Once you switched to Live View, while you were able to see on the computer screen what the camera was looking at, all changes to the f-stop, shutter speed, and other options had to be done through the program on the computer.

To regain control of the camera, Live View had to be switched off along with changing the setting to camera mode. At that point you could control the camera through the camera itself, and any pictures would then pop up on the computer screen after they were taken. There didn’t seem to be a way to do a Live View while controlling the aperture, shutter speed, and other functions through the camera. While it didn’t do exactly what we wanted in the way we wanted, it was close enough that it seems to fit the bill. It’s a great program for those looking for free tethering software for their Nikon and Mac computers.

If anyone knows of any other free tethering software for slightly older Nikon’s that works on the newer Mac operating systems, let us know. We’d love to try it out!

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