Okii Systems has scratched a major itch for DSLR cinematographers with the development of its USB Remote Controller. The device is a wired USB controller that allows for start/stop of recording, and a host of other adjustments to exposure, iso, etc. from a distance via USB extension cable, which is particularly useful for cameras mounted in awkward positions, or on a jib arm.
Unfortunately at this time the Okii Systems controller is only available for Canon DSLR cameras, and not Nikon. I contacted Will at Okii Systems to find out if there were future plans for a Nikon version of the remote, and here is what he had to say.
I've actually been working on adding Nikon support to the existing controllers. Unfortunately, Nikon doesn't provide a way to leave the LCD on the rear of the camera turned on when a USB cable is plugged in. For whatever reason, it defaults to assuming you'll be displaying an image over USB on your computer. Another side effect of this is that all the controls on the camera body become locked.
Obviously this isn't a problem on the Canon bodies, so until I figure out a work-around, there won't be any Nikon support.
I haven't given up on Nikon, as it is my preferred camera brand. I've been shooting Nikon for the last 10 years. Unfortunately I've been too busy to spend much time on Nikon development, but their USB implementation actually does offer some benefits. The biggest one is that you aren't stuck with three step sizes like Canon (and Canon makes this more complicated by varying the amount each step moves the focus depending on the specific lens and the focal length, if it's a zoom).
Nikon lets you actually choose the exact number of steps to move the focus each time you send a command, so there's potential to have it be very smooth, almost like the Birger EOS mount. Unfortunately, with the controls locking and live view disabling as soon as a USB connection is established, it kind of renders it unusable. I suppose if you only intend to use the camera on a crane or jib, with an HDMI monitor, it could be useful, but I'd rather find a way to still allow full control, or else it feels like an incomplete product.
While as a Nikon guy I'm disappointed that there won't be a Nikon version of the controller in the immediate future, I am hopeful that Nikon will either address this issue, or Will will work his magic and figure out a workaround.
Thanks Will at Okii for the quick and thoughtful response to my questions. I'll be on the lookout for new Okii products, and will hopefully have the chance to test one live on an upcoming Canon shoot soon.
Chris Stenberg is a creative director, photographer, filmmaker, and traveller. In his spare time you can find him biking and boarding in the mountains of British Columbia.