Why You Tether
Every photographer has been there before. We could be shooting in a challenging environment, or even perhaps a studio. We think that the tiny three-inch screen on the back of our camera is showing us the results that we want. However, when we upload the images to our computer, we see that we may have missed the mark. Focus may have been off on an image that we loved how the model posed. The back of the camera told us that it looked good, so we decided not to shoot more, because we thought we had a “keeper”. Perhaps the lighting looked great, but you find out later that something was off. Maybe you had the absolute worst thing happen to you, missing focus. There may or may not be a do over.
These problems could have easily been alleviated if you shot tethered. If you are relatively new to photography, you may not yet know what tethered shooting is. Let me explain. It’s a very simple concept. You connect (tether) your camera to your computer with a USB cable, and use software to show the images on your computer as you are shooting them. Typically this is done with Lightroom, Capture One, or Canon’s Digital Photo Professional software. There are other software packages that can use tethered capture, but these are the most widely used. There are pros and cons to each bit of software, but I would recommend Lightroom for beginners. As you shoot, the images will appear in the software, and you can check focus, zoom in, check lighting, adjust development settings, and anything else that benefits being on a larger screen than your camera’s LCD monitor. One would think that you need to be inside a studio to tether, but that is not the case. If your workflow allows it, you can easily tether on location, or even wirelessly with certain cameras or accessories attached to your camera.
When I first discovered tethered shooting, I used anything and everything to hold my laptop. Whether it was a couple boxes, a couch, or a makeshift table, or anything that I could get my hands on, they all did the trick. However, I have come to find out that using a dedicated tethering station can do a couple things. It can clean up your shooting space and keep it simple, as well as provide a more stable platform.
Tabelz is a company that specializes in gear made for tethered shooting. They sent us out some of their gear for review, and we’ve been using it for several months. They were kind enough to allow us a long review, and I’d love to share my thoughts on the gear.
Tabelz Product Features and Accessories
The Primary Table line of tethering tables comes in three sizes for 13”, 15”, and 17” laptops. I have a 15” MacBook Pro, so the SP150 Primary Table is perfect for me. The SP150 is designed with a gripped surface so your laptop won’t slide, even when tilted slightly. One side has a lip as well, for even greater fall protection if you choose to slightly angle the table towards yourself. In my experience tethering with the SP150, it is an all around durable piece of gear. You’ll only have to buy this once. A cool tidbit about the table. You should be able to fit it in some camera bags since it is relatively thin. That makes tethering on the go all the easier.
The bottom of the SP150 Primary Table also has three accessory slots for adding other items that might make your life a little easier when shooting. Some of the accessories that Tabelz offers are:
- G64 Storage Box
- ST60 Side Table
- TS1 Accessory Arm
- CH1 Cup Holder Kit
- Manfrotto Accessory Arm
- LS-25 Stand Adapter
I typically store all my images in an external SSD, so the G64 Storage Box comes in handy. I just throw the SSD beneath the table inside the box, and it’s out of sight and out of mind. I don’t use the side table that often, but if you are an external mouse user, this will be perfect for you. The accessory arm is awesome. My favorite way to use this accessory is to mount an Induro ball head to it, and I have a place to store my camera when not in use. It will indeed hold up to a 1DX Mark II’s weight as well, but I wouldn’t have something like a 70-200 attached to this huge camera, as it just puts too much weight to one side of the kit, making it easier to fall to one side. That shouldn’t happen, especially if you’re using a heavy-duty tripod with a wide base, but just be smart about it. You also have the option of shooting from the ball head right there. If you want to use your tripod for designated shooting though, only have one, but have extra light stands, Tabelz also has the LS-25 adapter, which allows you to put the table on a light stand instead of a tripod. It’s nifty, and frees up your tripod for shooting. I personally don’t use the cup holder much, simply because I don’t like having liquids that close to my computer. Fortunately, the cup holder also doubles as a lens holder. One feature that I would love if Tabelz added in the future to their tethering station would be a dual cup holder/lens holder. I would love to have two lenses handy. You can grab an extra cup holder to satisfy this need, but I’m confident that Tabelz could easily build this.
Quality and Durability
The quality and durability of Tabelz products is top notch. All their gear is made from high-grade aluminum, and has that brushed look, which I enjoy. The aluminum also has a heft to it. Use the table as a Frisbee if you want. It won’t fly, but it won’t break either. I feel comfortable with this setup both in the studio and on location.
The Tabelz SP150 is priced at $139, which I believe is a fair price. You’re only going to have to buy these products once, because they are built to last. Their prices are also significantly less that some other brands, and provide similar value in my opinion. They do offer less product and accessories for the tethering tables than their main competitor. One accessory that I do wish they had is a sun screen for shooting in bright locations, because nailing exposure is key. I am confident that they will release more accessories over time though. I’m looking forward to see what they come up with.
Once you discover tethered shooting, you’ll never look back. If you don’t need to move locations quickly, a tethering station can ensure that you get your lighting and exposure right, and may limit unnecessary post processing time. The Tabelz system of tethered shooting tables and accessories may be exactly what you’re looking for. Check out their lineup of gear at TABELZ.COM.