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I am hobby wildlife photographer and I would like to control my Canon 7D Mark II with 50 mm lens from long (at least 20 meters) distance with live view and all focusing functions. A device from which it would be controlled could bo laptop or tablet. As you may suspect, I am talking about controlling it in the forest without comfort of power supply (compact batteries are possible).

I did a bit of research and these are my options:

  • Passive USB 3.0 cable - As I read, 5+ meters of cable will not work.
  • Active USB 3.0 cable (repeater) - This sounds interesting, but I have not found anything like this battery powered. Maybe it could be possible to re-work it to be battery powered, but I have not idea how much power it needs at this time. Another question is, how many repeaters would be needed for 20 m distance (maybe just one + passive cable?).
  • USB extender over ethernet - this seems suspicious, I don't belive that it would handle needed bitrate.
  • Wifi adapter - I have been testing Canon W-E1 for a while but it completely looses signal when distance is 10-15 meters and it functions very unreliably when obstacles (trees, ...) are in the way.
  • Wifi adapter + battery powered wifi repeater - I have no experience with this and I have not found any of it till now. The possibility of reworking such a device to be battery powered is also in palce here.
  • USB Optical fiber cable - The most expensive option, should not need external power, but I would like to keep the price below 100 € if possible...

If you have an experience with some of mentioned options, or if you know about option I have not mentioned, please share it with me. I know the most "pro" is the last one, but I don't want to buy a cable in price of my camera :D Thank you.

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    You might consider also asking this question on the SuperUser stack, since extending USB/WiFi is something that comes up a lot more in computer administration generally than it does in photography. – Nate S. Oct 28 '19 at 18:35
  • And if you get a nice response there, come back and share it :o) – Rafael Oct 28 '19 at 18:35
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    Very nice question. I am only worried a bit about the noise of the lens while focusing. One option might be some kind of parabolic reflector for the wifi signal. – Rafael Oct 28 '19 at 18:36
  • Does it have to be USB3? USB2 20m cables [or longer, with a repeater every 10m] are about $£€ 20. They power right off the computer's USB bus. – Tetsujin Oct 28 '19 at 19:21
  • @Tetsujin Good point. I assumed USB 3.0 as mandatory as tha camera output is 3.0. It sends quite hi-res live-view to computer, so I assume it needs to handle high bit rates. But I will definitely try to "cripple" it down trough some 2.0 cable and I will send a feedback here. Does every of repeater needs to be powered, or just the first one? – Oki Oct 28 '19 at 19:31
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You can extend the Wifi range with a good antenna at one end (possibly the PC end).

Technically that would be a Wifi dongle with a removable antenna (like possibly this one where you remove the provided antenna and connect a directional one (examples only, no quality implied). And with some luck the dongle has already more range with its provided antenna than your PC.

  • Actually, camera is the device which creates the WiFi. I am not sure, if this could be a solution in my case. – Oki Oct 29 '19 at 3:52
  • @Oki it doesn't matter. If you have a directional antenna on the other end, the communication will improve (it concentrates the outgoing signal and the incoming signal as well). Even simple aluminum foil helps tbh... Related: lifehacks.stackexchange.com/questions/2002/… – Fábio Dias Oct 29 '19 at 5:41
  • @Oki With the antenna, the PC can catch a weaker signal from the camera, and send a stronger signal to it. – xenoid Oct 29 '19 at 8:02
  • That sounds interesting. So you suggest using wifi dongle in PC, replace its default antena with more powerful directional one, and I should have longer reach with wifi created by camera? If so, I will probably try it. And also thank you for "wifi boost" tips, I will try something. – Oki Oct 29 '19 at 19:17
  • Exactly. And not very expensive to try. – xenoid Oct 29 '19 at 19:49
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Consider a remote triggering option, and solving the 'live view' thru some other option. There are plenty of affordable and expensive triggering options that will work comfortable at 50m even with obstacles. Examples include the Pocketwizard line of wireless triggers. Of course, none of these solutions supports live view, but you can achieve something like live view with remote camera solutions, especially those that support LTE/mobile networks, such as the Arlo Go security camera.

The idea is you monitor the scene with the remote camera and trigger the camera with the wireless trigger. Of course, this is not a elegant as live view, but likely simpler and perhaps more affordable.

Good Luck

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    You can also monitor the scene with a low-tech pair of binoculars. – xenoid Oct 28 '19 at 21:42
  • Thanks, but this is not what I am looking for. I really need that live view to focus on moving animals. I don't want to do "high aperture snapshots", I want to use wider apertures because of bokeh and weak light conditions. – Oki Oct 29 '19 at 19:25
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It's right near your maximum price (depending on the exchange rate you can get), but there is a non-optical 20m active USB 3.0 cable available.

Depending on how much power the laptop/tablet you plug it into can supply, you may need to power it externally, but if that's the case, it only needs 5V @1000mA, so you can use any commonly available USB battery bank and a suitable adapter.

  • Thanks, I actually found out that USB 2.0 cable might be enough to control camera also with live view so I will try 2.0 extender as first - it will be much cheaper. – Oki Oct 29 '19 at 19:27
  • @Oki, that's great then, extending 2.0 that distance is quite easy. And FYI since you're new here, the way we say thanks on this site is to click the up arrow next to all the answers you found helpful, and accept the best one :) – Nate S. Oct 29 '19 at 19:31
  • I know a bit how it goes here, but actual solution is comment below my original question. I can't mark comment as answer, so I suggest I should write the answer on my own and mark @Tetsujin as the one who suggested a solution. – Oki Oct 29 '19 at 19:41
  • Cool cool, yes, self-answers are fine, so go for it! – Nate S. Oct 29 '19 at 19:42
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As @Tetsujin suggested in a comment, it looks like I do not need USB 3.0 to reliably control the camera with live view. I have tried to couple my USB 3.0 cable from camera with old 2.0 extension and connect it to PC. And it worked like a charm, I have not noticed any drop-downs or disconnects during live view.

So buying long 2.0 active extension should be enough for my needs and it will be much cheaper then 3.0 extension.

Boosting WiFi signal using dongle + more powerful directorial antena mentioned by @xenoid will be my second options if the first fails for whatever reason. Thank you for all your suggestions.

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