It’s 2016: Why Don’t Flagship DSLRs have WiFi Built in Yet?

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This is the Nikon D5 flagship DSLR: it was announced yesterday at CES 2016. It’s got lots going for it and will surely be purchased by every major buyer for the wire services, photojournalists, wedding photographers, etc. But did no one notice the really weird thing about it? Yes, it’s going to have great image quality and 14 fps–and still there is no WiFi, Bluetooth or NFC connectivity. Instead, you have to use the external adapter.

It’s 2016 and not a single flagship DSLR camera is WiFi capable right out of the box yet the feature would greatly benefit many photographers.

Before we go on, let’s identify who those photographers are. Since we’re talking about cameras like the Canon 1D X and the Nikon D5, we have to figure out who buys those:

  • Photojournalists: shooting and sending straight to a wire or social media service is absolutely invaluable in 2016.
  • Wedding photographers: shooting, sharing and adding images to the wedding’s hashtag can add value to what people see. It’s also a great way to possibly get another sale since people are seeing a preview of what’s to come right then and there.
  • Commercial shooters: though you obviously want to show off only the best images, it doesn’t hurt to share something from the shoot onto Instagram for your social following and to therefore add value to what your audience sees.
  • Sports photographers: Pretty much the same reason as the photojournalists but more centered around sports. If you’ve got your camera in the ceiling during a sports game then you can immediately share a shot that no one else has because you’ve got a perspective that no one else has.
  • Adventure and Landscape photographers: Putting those images up sooner on your social followings make brands look at you in a different way that makes them want to work with you.

The reasons can go on and on; but why, in 2016, does a multi-thousand dollar DSLR not have WiFi built in? Why do I need to use an EyeFi card or your attachment? And if I use the EyeFi card, I need to put it in sideways and therefore hurt the connection and upload to my mobile device.

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More importantly, why would you not give more value to the photojournalists who can shoot and upload right there and then instead of letting them trail behind the person with their iPhone capturing a developing story as it’s happening? That advantage has just been taken away from the photojournalist!

This isn’t at all a major vouch for Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus, or Panasonic; but it’s clear that the advantages are there as their entire lineup has WiFi built in. With DSLRs, it’s only possible with certain models.

Again though, it’s not clear as to why–especially if you’re paying thousands and thousands of dollars. It seems like a feature that could be much more useful vs shooting at an ISO over 1,000,000. That just tends to throw the laws of exposure right out the window.

  • eosphotos
    Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
    Disqus/1.1(2.84):2446620012

    Although it’s not a flagship camera as such the Canon 6D is a very capable full frame DSLR that’s been around for a few years now and it has Wi-Fi and GPS built-in. It remains the only Canon EOS camera that has both features. It’s actually more useful for remote control – the Wi-Fi link will only allow you to transfer JPEG images over the wireless link but if all you want to do is quickly view them on a smartphone or tablet that’s OK. I would have thought that most new cameras, especially the flagship models would have this feature but it’s often the case that the flagship camera is lacking some feature of cheaper models – that’s marketing for you. The range is of course limited and the update rate drops as signal level decreases. I use a Wi-Fi channel sniffer app to check for interference and change the channel if necessary for better communication.

  • BlackRipleyDog
    Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
    Disqus/1.1(2.84):2443699679

    For pros, when working they need to focus on the job at hand and not the distraction of social media. Do your job and post later when back home when you are on your own nickel. Plus the hardware for wi-fi in a D5 would have to be as bullet-proof and robust as the camera itself. It probably is not ready for prime time yet.

  • Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
    Disqus/1.1(2.84):2443414528

    I only use wi-fi occasionally, but it’s hard not to feel a bit short changed when wi-fi is so common on cheap cameras. I also have a CamRanger for my 810 and it’s a good thing, but at a cost. I think if Sony/Fuji ect. can offer Wi-Fi in amateur cameras we should get it in the pro stuff.

  • Mark
    Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
    Disqus/1.1(2.84):2443169006

    The title should be: “It’s 2016: why don’t we have built in radio triggers and flashes with built in radio transceivers?”

  • joelwestworth
    Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
    Disqus/1.1(2.84):2442230716

    As Travis said below, the construction of the body is the limitation. For these bodies, they have tested built-in WiFi and the connection is too unreliable. That’s straight from Canon around the launch of the 5DS/R. They did want to implement it but it just wasn’t working. The reason why Canon and Nikon have to offer larger and more advanced wireless transmitters for their pro bodies. Mind you, these work much better.

    Source: Years working across photo specialty stores and picking many brains.

    • markthetog
      Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
      Disqus/1.1(2.84):2442991791

      Truth. The other problem is that if the Wifi goes funky in your camera you need to send it in for repair. I use a CamRanger and the unit is solid and long ranged. If it busts I can get it replaced easily.

    • Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
      Disqus/1.1(2.84):2443674116

      Yet they managed to do it with the D500.

      If my $35 Chromecast has Wi-Fi (and is extremely reliable), my $7000 camera should as well.

      • Brent Busch
        Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
        Disqus/1.1(2.84):2448656944

        The D500 isn’t a full magnesium body, the D5 is! A full metal body basically acts like a Faraday cage and makes transmitting signals from an internal antenna very difficult.

        • Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
          Disqus/1.1(2.84):2448729727

          Which is why the antenna can rest between the magnesium body and the outer plastic/rubber casing that you actually touch…done.

          Even if it were impossible, the Wi-Fi dongle should be $20 max! It would only need to be the antenna, the actual software would resides in camera.

          Either way, Nikon is nickel & dimming with 15 year old technology.

          • Brent Busch
            Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
            Disqus/1.1(2.84):2448738530

            “Which is why the antenna can rest between the magnesium body and the outer plastic/rubber casing that you actually touch…done.”

            It doesn’t work that way. I guess you’re the genius and they’re just a bunch of rube idiots that don’t have any electrical or electronics engineers on staff. /sarc

            • Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
              Disqus/1.1(2.84):2448862008

              1) Unlike you, I wasn’t rude at all in my reply. I didn’t even mention you personally, I only addressed the topic directly. Honestly, I didn’t even look at your name until now.

              2) Not that this is rocket science at all, but I hold an Engineering degree from Penn State. Do some due diligence with a Google search if you like.

              3) I’ve owned a D2X and a D3…both of which I used Eyefi cards in. I had to remove the sides of the CF card adapter, after which the eyefi worked great.

              4) Yet they did it with the D500, and multiple manufactures are doing it as well (including the new Leica SL, which also has an all magnesium weather sealed body. If I’m not mistaken, Phase One is doing the same as well). Point being, it’s a far cry from being the “Darpa Hard” problem you’re making it out to be.

              5) Stop trolling! 😉

            • Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
              Disqus/1.1(2.84):2523399632

              Looks like Pentax just did it as well…Wi-Fi with an all magnesium alloy body, with GPS to boot! :-O

  • Travis Haughton
    Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
    Disqus/1.1(2.84):2442223970

    I’m guessing it’s partially marketing. They know pro photographers will pay if they need the feature.

    But it is also a technical problem putting antennas in magnesium-alloy bodies. The top-tier cameras are built like tanks, and getting the kind of wireless performance that a professional would demand has to be limited by the physical materials.

    I’ve used the wifi function of a 6D and when it works, it’s great. But the range is often limited and speeds aren’t going to keep up with the demands of sports photographers on deadline. Especially in arenas and stadiums with tons of signal interference.

    • Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
      Disqus/1.1(2.84):2443640280

      Oh so true! I rarely use the WiFi feature on that camera. I works great when I can get it to connect. Most of the time I forget that I even have it.

      • Nate Gates
        Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
        Disqus/1.1(2.84):2453452686

        I love the 6D Wifi ! On location or at an event (like a wedding) quick raw edit in camera, upload to iphone, add a little more artistic edit.. bam! Posted a cool shot that was JUST taken.. people love it. I CANNOT understand how any of the camera makers would not include this capability in their high end models.

        • Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
          Disqus/1.1(2.84):2453500062

          It’s okay for an image or 2, but when you’re shooting for a news outlet and the wifi is spotty at most, and I’ve experienced this firsthand. There’s just too much going on. I’ve done weddings and events too and those are different, but sports and news, those deadlines are crazy tight. There’s no time to fiddle with anything artistic, actually you can’t do anything like that. So I just don’t bother with it 🙂 The only time I do is for something personal.

  • Richard Jackson
    Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
    Disqus/1.1(2.84):2442180735

    I guess my concern about this is that, personally here, I never use a DSLR image straight out of camera. Everything I shoot is in RAW and is imported into Lightroom as part of a workflow towards producing my final image.

    Wifi for image transfer just doesn’t feature for me, but remote control shooting does, so I agree wifi should be there in the first place also.

    Likewise I don’t know why there isn’t more radio triggering of flashes from inside the camera body also. Using IR/optical to trigger remote flashes seems equally old school. Guess you just upgrade to radio triggers on the hot shoe for that, but still…

  • mzrdisi
    Unknown Unknown Unknown Unknown
    Disqus/1.1(2.84):2442174574

    Some great mirrorless cameras have WiFi. 😉