How I Broke My D700 By Tethering

If you've been reading my posts for the past few days you've probably noticed a theme: Wireless Tethering/Shooting. Now I'll disclose the reason that increased my interest in wireless solutions for shooting to my iPad or laptop. A couple of weeks ago I taught a workflow workshop in Texas for Precision Camera and Westcott. An important part of my workflow is shooting tethered into Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3. On the 3rd day of this 3 day workshop I just couldn't get the tethering to work. Nothing really changed on my end that I could see and it had worked flawlessly for two straight days, but for some reason I couldn't get past the 1st shot. I tried the usual troubleshooting things, but nothing would get this working again so I moved on. I shot to the card and just took breaks to import the shots via my Firewire 800 CF card reader and showed the class. I got home and didn't think about it again until my next studio shoot. This is when I knew something was really wrong. I tried different cables and nothing would work. Again I had to move on and shoot to the card to get through the session. When I got home that evening I decided to do some additional testing. I tried different cables and again nothing would work until I realized that the cable attaching to the camera seemed slightly more loose than usual. Nothing crazy, but noticeable. I applied a little more finger pressure to the cable end pressing leaning it one way and Lightroom saw the camera. I tried holding it this way as best I could, but the slightest movement would cause a disconnect again. 


It was time for a repair

On my way out the door to Photoshop World I stopped by my local authorized Nikon Repair Facility – Midwest Camera Repair (these guys are great) and dropped off the D700. They said that it was probably an issue with the port being broken off from the circuit board or the board itself had gone bad. If it was just the port then the repair would be around $125. If it was a bad board – oh oh – "we'll call you." Needless to say I was praying for a "disconnected port." Luckily that's all it was and I was happy to pay for this versus a whole new board. 


I don't want this to happen again

I shoot tethered 99.9% of the time in studio. I can't imagine going back to just looking at a 3 inch LCD. My colleague Tom Hogarty (Lightroom Product Manager) pointed me a device called TetherLock.

The concept is simple. You attach this device to your tripod hole/port (there is a pass-through so that you can still use a tripod) and run your cable through it. When you tighten it it not only keeps the cable in place, but if you accidentally step on or otherwise tug the cable while shooting there will be zero pressure/tension applied to the USB port on the camera. Like I said, the concept is simple. I ordered one here and it works fine. It's crazy expensive for what it is and YES there are several do-it-yourself options (I don't need you to list them for me, I get it ๐Ÿ™‚ ), but as I've said before I'm not a D.I.Y. kinda guy. Clearly I'm not the only one with big feet tripping over tethering cables while shooting or this product wouldn't exist. 

The other thing I would recommend whether you go with TetherLock or your own solution, is a USB cable that has a L-Left head on it. This allows the cable to run down flush along the body as opposed to sticking straight out. Here's the one I use.


The Bottom Line

Above setup Bogen-Manfrotto Double Head Accessory Arm and Gitzo Laptop tray that sits right on my tripod.

Built-in WiFi on all cameras can't get here fast enough for me. Until that day happens I'll continue to shoot tethered via a USB cable for my studio shoots. Not ripping the cable out during future shoots is going to be nice and better yet not damaging the camera/USB port is even going to be better.

21 Replies to “How I Broke My D700 By Tethering”

  1. Hi Terry,
    Have you seen the SD cards of “Eye-Fi” yet? (no, I’m not linked in any way..)
    As far as I can tell, they are just what you need. .. or make you wish you found out earlier. Keep up the good work ! JP

  2. Thanks Terry,

    The USB cable with the L-Head is something I’ve been looking for. It fit nicely while I have my L Bracket Really Right Stuff on and won’t stick out like a normal 16ft cable would!

    Ordered 3 of those cables!

    Also that cable lock is a great idea. Just Sunday I had a photoshoot for a jewelry client and I was shooting these 10 year old girls and their mom were totally trying to shoot with their point n shoots while I switched lenses, trips over my tether cable and almost pulled out the cable during a transfer (thank god I gaffer taped the cable to my camera)!

  3. Terry, thanks for the ‘heads up’ on a great product and really glad to hear your solution wasn’t an expensive one.

    For your info, I’ve contacted the manufacturers of Tetherlock regarding availability in the UK & Eurpoe. Their stockist in the UK is a company called Teamwork Digital Ltd and here’s the link to the product page for anyone interested:


  4. Does anyone make a wireless option that would plug into the camera’s and computer’s USB ports and use bluetooth? Something like the dongles that come with bluetooth peripherals if your computer does not have bluetooth built in. some of these are very small.

    1. Good idea but the Bluetooth device connected to the camera would need to be very small and flush fitting, otherwise it would be cumbersome.

  5. I wondered about such a product for a while and it seems like it would be a no brainer for someone to make a Wireless USB solution for tethering. Yet I haven’t seen one to date.

  6. Wow. This is pretty depressing. Mainly because I’m just starting to get into tethered shooting with LR3 with my A700. I’ve wondered about the wearing of the usb port, especially since it is a fairly custom(read: expensive to buy cables for) port.

    The wireless option sounds great… if only it were available.

    Btw, love your blog, Terry, great posts and good content.


    PS. Been looking at wireless USB since reading your post about wireless tethering and unfortunately, it’s all oriented towards display adapters, when it is available. Seems like most companies have given up on it. Which is unfortunate.

    What I would love to see is a transferjet-like transfer protocol, but with more distance. Nikon and Canon have their respective wireless transmitter units, but they cost a bit. ๐Ÿ™

  7. Nice to know about that USB cable. What is actually worse to find out is that the mini USB connection was only designed to function for 1500 insertions. Unfortunately, of course they got used on everything. The new micro USB connector is far superior and is designed for 10,000 insertions and have the wearing parts on the cable rather than the socket. This means you’re likely to wear out the $1.50 part rather than the socket on your smart phone, or whatever. A much better design decision all round.
    If you get yourself a loop of sturdy string, you can cross wrap wind both ends at the same time around the cord for a few inches and then pass one loop end through the other to finish up a tied stress relief point which you can clip or tie to your camera neck strap points.
    Just stopping the cable stress will save most internal connectors.

  8. Excellent article. What kind tripod are you using in the photo that shows your camera and laptop together on the adjustable arm on the tripod? Thanks for your tips and training. I’m a user of your iPhone app too, your work has been a help to me in learning more about photography and Adobe Photoshop CS5.

  9. Hey Terry!

    Based on my experience with my own D700, I feel fairly certain it wasn’t your fault that your camera’s USB port stopped working. I’ve had to send my D700 in twice already to have this situation repaired. I never once had a problem with my D200. I shoot tethered exclusively in the studio, and I’m *extremely* gentle with my USB port (especially after my first failure). I always secure my cord to my tripod so there is no unnecessary stress on the port. The problem (which Nikon won’t acknowledge) seems to be with poor quality parts somewhere in the mix. I’m no conspiracy theorist, but this is the only serious camera issue I’ve had more than once in my twelve years of shooting. I certainly hope your TetherLock works for you, but I’d be extra-cautious anyway.


  10. I experienced this problem myself…my D700 no longer works tethered. However, when I mentioned this to a nikon salesman at a show he said that nikon sell a slot in cover which strengthens the firewire slot so that it wont yank out when pulled. I have yet to see one of these and havent looked, seeing that mine wont work tethered but I thought Id mention it.

  11. My preferred solution to fragile USB ports is the opposite: instead of solidifying the cable connection, make it break-away. That way you don’t risk yanking a whole rig over. Check out Znaps — and their Kickstarter page. They’re in their first production run right now (Oct. 2015,) but they look like they’re going to have a solid product. I’ve ordered several.

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