USB Dongle Hack Tethers DSLR Cameras At A Fraction Of The Price


[Neal] wanted to tether his DSLR to his computer, but he wasn’t about to fork out the $1,000 Nikon was asking for their wireless adapter. Instead, he opted to construct his own solution using two separate camera accessories which cost him less than $200 when finished.

The two components he purchased were a wireless USB transmitter/receiver pair and an external battery grip. The battery grip allows him to use a pair of batteries to power his camera, while providing just enough space to wedge in the USB transmitter. He stripped the casing off the transmitter and connected it to a mini USB plug that he wired into the battery grip. He then added a small voltage regulator to step down the Nikon battery voltage from 7.2v to the 5v required by the USB transmitter.

The battery grip and transmitter were then hooked directly into his camera using the weatherproof plug built into the grip. Once he powered on his camera, it was connected to the PC immediately.

It’s amazing how the simplest hacks can save incredible amounts of money.  Nice job!

Be sure to check out the video embedded below to see the wireless adapter in action.


33 thoughts on “USB Dongle Hack Tethers DSLR Cameras At A Fraction Of The Price

  1. Sooooo….. He plugged two commercially available devices together, and you guys are calling it a “hack”???


    Hey, I plugged my phone in to the USB port on my TV to charge it… Can I get a “hack” write-up too?

    1. I think the idea was that he performed a beginner hack. He used commercially available parts. But then, he built a voltage regulator, and removed the case from the dongle swap a plug to mini b and crammed(aka “fit”) it into the other device.! voila a “hack” beginner level maybe,but still a hack i say nice job! It was neat when finished looked factory pretty.

  2. What really constitutes a “beginner” hack? Would I have thought to do this? Possibly not. Would you have thought to shorten the control linkage to the anti-ice control on a T700-GE-401C to reduce rumble and increase fuel delivery? Possibly not.

  3. @rich
    the eyefi just enables you to transmit the photo’s once you took them. This makes your camera remotely operatable (that is, shutter etc is triggered from the computer)

    nice hack.. honestly I’ve never seen a wireless usb transmitter in belgium. I wonder how hard it would be to make one of those yourself..

  4. I think the point is … He actually did it, rather than complaining it wasn’t a l33t enough hack, or that it was just a bunch of commercially available stuff plugged together.

  5. nikon does NOT ask for $1000 for Camera Control Pro 2
    its only $120 so you spent MORE than necessary

    if you want to make it wireless get a wireless USB doggle for $50 more

  6. Actually the Nikon accessory the post refers to is the nikon wt-4a wireless transmitter.

    The wireless dongle you mention is ugly and what is the watt hour rating of AA batteries vs. two Nikon EN-EL9a batteries?

    I’m familiar with the usb dongles this guy used and they draw one watt an hour.
    You do the math.

  7. biozz, maybe it would help if you actually read the guys build log. He links to the WT-4A, which is $1000. The software might be $120 but the 2-way wireless transmitter/controller is $1000.

    RTFA next time, slick.

  8. Bah, they’re just whining because he didn’t use an arduino.

    I can honestly say that this is ingenious for some photographers, especially astro-photographers like myself.

  9. @Keiichi969

    This is perfect for digiscoping, using a program like camera control pro, lightroom, or if you want to use an iPad the DSLR remote control pro to trigger the shutter.

  10. very nice, this reminds me of that one time, at band camp..
    ..i stuck a usb transmitter in my battery grip!
    ok, i didn’t because i’m too cheap for a DSLR, but this is somewhere along the lines of: integrating flash memory into your computer mouse, or more likely to be done by myself: building an external battery pack for your cellphone while still allowing for the connection of a charger/headphone cable(or both). so not a n00b hack, a useful hack. a n00b hack is like.. sticking a bluetooth headset inside a standard(obsolete)landline telephone. my personal n00b hack: tearing the shield metal off the male end of a male-female (why did they make it in the first place?) usb adapter, so that it can function as a female-female. then discovering that my phone doesnt supply power through the mini-usb port, hence the necessity of building the external power-pak, so i can experiment with getting it to use a standard usb keyboard.
    ‘beginner hack’ would be: download “wifi keyboard” and call that a hack

  11. Pretty cool. Everything seems obvious and simple once someone else has already done it.

    Hell, I look at old cars and think their construction/idea/build is so simple, I could do it. But tell that to the guy who came up with the idea X years ago.

    Good job Neal :)

  12. I call it a great hack if it either adds new functionality or simply replaces a much more expensive part.

    I am not sure why @Ekaj would post negative comments because we are too cheap to spend $1000 on the “commercially available part”. Really, if you are not interested in hacks I do not get why you are here Ekaj, except to troll.

    Hackaday – Perhaps it is time for community moderation of comments, or at least giving accounts the ability to block trolls by username (which I know isn’t bulletproof, but it’s at least something).

  13. Great Mod!

    I have been looking to do exactly this with a canon grip for a 50d.

    I have all the parts on order at the moment. This article was pointed out to me when I described exactly this on a forum. I had been searching for canon specific info and didn’t get a hit here. Doh!.

    As mentioned this is a simple hack and looking forward to performing it. Seeing as the Canon WFT grip is over £600, The parts cost me less than £50 to make one.

    I’m looking to add other options also like making the dongle switchable to disable it when not in use and to add a USB pass through to the grip for when I have the grip tethered to the camera but not using the dongle.

    I want to avoid plugging the USB in and out too often. I have some polymorph melting plastic which I intend to use to mold a nice and flush fitting USB plug to rather than have the bulky plug as shown.

    On the question someone asked of range. The dongles I’ve found say 30m but I believe that most are just 10m. I don’t expect to get anywhere near to 30m. I just hope it doesn’t interfere with my wireless flash triggers.

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