As you may know, the Sony a7 is a Wi-Fi enabled camera that you can download apps to in order to add functionality. While the company is pretty sluggish to release new apps, they have just published a beta version of the new Touchless Shutter app. The premise is simple: enable the user to trigger the camera without touching it while not having to fingle with any remotes or wireless connections.
How it works
First off, you need to download the app. This can be done through a computer or in the camera itself using its Wi-Fi capabilities. The former (the one I used) can be a rather long process, especially if you do not have the absolute latest firmware version installed on the camera. Once you’ve got everything going, you can start the app. From there, the interface is the same as if you were in the regular shooting zone. The controls are also the same although, if you press the menu button, you will get a striped-down version of the “normal” Sony menu. I found it fine as it has the primordial functions and skips the bells and whistles. The first issue I have found in the app is the fact that it doesn’t use the main menu you’d get while not in the software. No, it has a different system. I find that weird. Why not use the settings you are using for the entire camera while you are not in the Touchless Shutter app?
Anyway, the way you take a picture with this is that you wave your hand over the proximity sensor just over the EVF that is usually used to switch between the LCD and the viewfinder. That means you will not be able to frame with the EVF so it’s almost only used when on a tripod. It also means that the screen on the back will always be on, which could drain more battery (albeit that’s not so much of a concern in studio work). Since the proximity sensor is a ultrasonic one (I’m 95% sure about that) it functions as well in zero light as it does in the best lighting conditions. During my testing, I have found that it picks up your hand at around 5 centimeters from the sensor and closer.
There are really two bigs issues that prevent me from using the app in my product and still life photography. On one hand, the whole camera system is noticeably slower than when the application is not in use. I mean, it takes 2-3 seconds to access the ISO settings when moving the wheel and every other movement, albeit faster, seem choppy and unpolished. I saw Brian Matiash’s hands-on video of the app and his seem to be faster, but he’s on a Sony a7II. Keep in mind that the app is in beta and that issue could very well be fixed in the next iteration of it.
You may have heard that I use Capture One Pro as my tethered shooting photo editor. For me, photographing tethered to a computer is a must and everything that stops me from doing so is a no go. Unfortunately, the Touchless Shutter application blocks images going from the camera to the computer. If I use the proximity sensor or the regular trigger button to release the a7, the photo will appear on in Capture One. I also can’t trigger the imaging device from the computer by pressing Command+K like I used to while in the normal shooting mode. This renders the app useless for now. I’m using Capture One Pro 8.2 on Yosemite 10.10.3 and firmware version 1.20 for the a7.
My main use for the app was to release the camera while doing a serie of focus stacking shots so that the device would not move and, thus, make aligning a lot easier and precise. Unfortunately, that is not possible since the images will not even make it to the computer. I sure hope that the problem will be fixed in the proper release of the code or in an update to Capture One Pro. So, is it for commercial studio photographers? Right now, no.
Did you use the Touchless Shutter app on your Sony a7? If so, were your results as mine? Tell us below!