Yes. It seems sweetly ironic that three days after I publish the How-To on bolting optical slaves to Speedlites (here), which is old-school technology that should be built-in already, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (“USPTO”) publishes a patent application by Canon USA for the wireless control of cameras and Speedlites via wi-fi. Talk about taking a quantum leap forward…

This is the technology that many Canonistas have been praying for — built-in, radio control of multiple Speedlites. The timing of the USPTO publication makes my recent article on controlling Speedlites from the LCD of your camera (here) look downright visionary — although I was writing about technology that Canon introduced in 2007.

I’ll say it straight out — this is not a joke, rumor, or hoax. You can see a summary of the application yourself on the UPSTO site by clicking here. Heck, for $3.00 you can even receive a PDF of the actual 37-page application (which I did) or you can use and get a copy for free.

I’ll also say this is no indication that Canon will sell gear with this technology anytime soon. Last year, Canon was awarded over 2,200 patents by the USPTO — which put it fourth on the list of top patent recipients (behind IBM, Samsung, and Microsoft). That’s an average of over 42 patents awarded per week to Canon. The August 12 publication of the wi-fi application is just one more step in a years-long process of earning a patent. Further, there is no guarantee that the USPTO will agree that this technology should be proprietary to Canon. Still…it’s fun to dream.

^^^ Cover page of Canon USA's patent application.

For a really thorough, yet understandable, description of the technology that Canon has described in the application, read this article over on Photography Bay. Kudos to PB for breaking the story in the first place.

^^^ Figure 4 from the patent application -- diagrams the electronic circuits inside the camera.

I’ve long expected that the next several weeks are going to be quite interesting in terms of industry announcements. There’s the once-every-five-years Canon Expo to be held in NYC on September 2-3. There’s also the once-every-two-years galactic gathering of all things photographic at Photokina in Cologne, Germany on September 21-26. So, certainly Canon and every other camera company is going to be pulling the covers of a few their most-secret projects.

Figure 12 of the patent application -- diagrams the remote control of multiple cameras and Speedlites via wi-fi.


5 Responses to Canon Files US Patent Application for Wi-Fi Control of Speedlites

  1. rohit says:

    interesting application.
    a few thoughts:
    on a mac notebook or hackintosh it's very easy to set up a network with the built-in airport. there shouldn't be any reason to need an ISP connected with wifi for this work. this would make working in the field easy still and with no additional gear if one already packs a computer. i suppose there are some folks that do this with their phones too.

    one concern though is lag time. I'm curious to know if wifi is as responsive enough for 1/250 or faster.

  2. Love it. Eager, anxious, downright impatient…. Bring it on!

  3. Eugene Khoo says:

    Just awesome! By using the same frequency and band, we'll all be able to get the same product and use the same products globally. No more US and Euro RadioPopper frequency requirements! By the way, I also love my RadioPoppers but I'd love Canon even more if it's in the next ST-E2 and flash units!

  4. IanW says:

    @EK: Ish. Euro wifi uses channels 12 and 13, which are not permitted in the US.

  5. That would mean that all the cameras and flashguns need to have built-in wi-fi. So anything you own right now is not compatible with this technology. So I guess this technology will be available about five years from now. Or maybe a separate accessory is required to be attached to the camera body like the WFT to transmit and maybe a new attachment to current model speedlites to communicate and trigger.

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