Nikon D2Xs WiFi Connection

Nikon has had a WiFi (802.11b) connectivity option available for their high-end digital SLRs for a while now, in the form of the WT-1A Wireless Transmitter. They recently announced a significantly upgraded version though, in the form of the WT-2A, first introduced with the D2X, and now supported by the D2Xs as well. Besides the higher transfer rates of the 802.11g protocol (backwards compatible with 802.11b), the new transmitter supports PTP-IP connections as well as the FTP protocol supported by the WT-1A. Provision has also been made for connecting to secure WiFi networks using the WEP protocol, and the new unit can also operate in "ad hoc" mode and respond to DHCP servers for IP address assignment, for much easier connection. For the truly paranoid, the WT-2A also supports TKIP (Temporal Key Integrity Protocol), which rotates security keys on a periodic basis, to prevent the link encryption from being cracked via brute force hacks.

A big plus for the WT-2A is that its support for PTP/IP permits not only simplified setup and connection, but allows Nikon Capture to control the camera wirelessly. This means you can control any aspect of the camera that could be managed over a wired connection via a wireless link. (Fantastic news for many event, sports, and nature photographers.)

We had an opportunity to work with the Nikon D2X and WT-2A at a Nikon rollout event for the original D2X model, and found that the combination worked very smoothly. We didn't time the data transfers, but our impression was that large/fine JPEG images took on the order of 5-6 seconds to come across the link. Even studio photographers should find the combination of D2X, WT-2A, and Nikon Capture singularly useful, as it permits previewing each image on a computer monitor's screen in Nikon Capture as you shoot them. - We saw the value of this in a lighting workshop conducted by the inimitable Joe McNally, where we could effortlessly check light levels, color balance, and focus on the computer screen nearly in real-time, with images automatically transmitted to the computer as soon as they were shot on the camera. (Joe pointed out a huge benefit of this arrangement for commercial photographers, in that it provides a way to get the Art Director clear of the action while you're shooting, ensconced safely in a remote corner of the studio with their latte, a computer screen, and an assistant trained in extreme patience. ;-)

Returning to our own studio after the rollout event, we unfortunately ran out of time on our loan period for the camera before we had a chance to set up a WiFi connection using our own computers and WiFi network. As a result, we don't have any screen shots of a live connection between the D2X and a computer to show you, nor exact timing numbers for file transfers, but we did collect a representative smattering of the menu screens that control the WiFi connection from the camera's side. The WT-2A operates identically on the D2Xs, so the screen shots and descriptions below from the D2X fully apply:

Here's the first menu screen for the wireless connection, accessed from the D2X's Setup menu. Here you can turn the WT-2A on or off, set the transfer mode to either FTP (shown) or PTP/IP, or step into the settings menu to configure network protocols and operating modes of the camera/transmitter combination. There's also a connection wizard available to help in setting up the WiFi connection. (It's still decidedly non-trivial, but light years ahead of the user interface on the original WT-1A.)
This is the main wireless LAN settings screen. Options here include a sub-menu for network settings, an option for "pairing" to establish a link to a specific host computer running Nikon's Wireless Connecting Utility, and options to set when and how the camera will transfer images.

Auto Send does just what you'd expect, transmitting each image as it's captured. (An alternative is to select individual images after reviewing them on the camera's LCD screen, and then transmitting only those.) Other options include whether to delete the images from the local memory card after transmission (sounds like a bad idea to me), send the files as JPEG or RAW+JPEG, to select the folder on the CF card for transmission, and to deselect all images currently queued for transmission.

This is the main screen for Wireless LAN setup. Sub-menus from here let you configure network, TCP/IP, and FTP settings.
The first of two screens for network setup. You can set the SSID of the network you want to attach to via an alphanumeric "typewriter" screen (painfully slow to use, but you thankfully shouldn't need to use it very often). You can also select Ad hoc or Enterprise communications modes. Ad hoc supports direct peer-to-peer wireless connections, but is only available with the 802.11b standard. The faster 802.11g standard supports full connection via an access point. The second LAN screen lets you choose encryption method and set or edit the encryption key.
Here's the first of three screens for configuring the TCP/IP interface. You can obtain an IP address automatically from a DHCP server, or set the address and mask manually, as well as the address of a DNS server, if one is to be used.
Here's the first of four FTP setup screens, if you intend to transfer files that way, rather than via PTP/IP. (PTP/IP is used to connect to Nikon Capture, but FTP is a better way to go if you're moving large numbers of files and want more control over the transfer and the ability to keep backup copies of the images on your memory card. This screen sets the IP address, port, and transfer mode for the FTP server. Subsequent screens specify the login name and password, home folder for incoming files, and proxy server, if one is to be used.

There's quite a bit more we could talk about regarding wireless transfers with the D2X and WT-2A, it's really deserving of an entire review in and of itself. The foregoing should whet your appetite, and give technically oriented readers a bit of an idea of how the WT-2A works, and what sorts of connections and environments it can support.

While wireless connections offer incredible flexibility and open new opportunities for shooting and workflow, they can also carry some risk. FTP transfers involve transmitting the user name and password for the FTP logon over the wireless link. If you're not using WEP security, that means that your account information is being broadcast "in the clear," an open invitation for any hacker with a WiFi packet sniffer to gain access to your server. If you intend to transfer files from the D2XS wirelessly using FTP, we strongly encourage you to only do so via a secure network. - And note too, that most public networks with password-protected logons only protect the network, not your computer or the server on the other end of the connection. Once someone gains access to the network, they can still sniff your packets, even if the network is protected against access by people without the network key. Also, even with WEP-protected WiFi connections, once the signal passes out of the WiFi realm and into the world of wired connections, FTP user names and passwords are once again "in the clear," subject to being sniffed out by people with malicious intent. If you do need to use FTP transfers in any public environment (sporting events, trade shows, etc.), at the very least, change the FTP password on a daily basis, and make sure that the account used to perform the FTP transfers has maximally restrictive privileges on the server.


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