Camera manuals to go

Buried in a previous article, instead of carrying the paper manuals around, I mentioned that you should download your manufacturer’s camera manuals onto the iPhone for reference. But I didn’t explain how this could be done or why it is useful.

Here are three applications I’ve used that render PDFs:

Three apps: Air Sharing, Dropbox, and GoodReader

Air Sharing, Dropbox, and GoodReader

I’ll be talking about Air Sharing, Dropbox, and GoodReader. If you want to know the solution I use for camera manuals, skip to the section on GoodReader.

Air Sharing

The first application is Air Sharing. I used it because it was free at the time I bought it. I managed to read the first 400 pages of Thom Hogan’s book using it. It saves your place as long as it doesn’t crash—which happened a few times. It’s major focus is as an internet drive application.


The second application is Dropbox app. Dropbox is a seemless internet drive for Mac and PC with both a free and premium service based on storage size. For this sort of thing, you can use the free account. And I highly recommend you use it, even if you don’t have an iPhone.


This app allows you to access your DropBox from your iPhone, which is actually quite handy. While I don’t read manuals on it, I do keep a folder on DropBox of any PDFs I’m currently reading so that I can read them no matter what computer I’m on. You can now access them from the iPhone using the app:

PDFs I’m reading on multiple computers

If it’s a PDF, it has pretty much been on my DropBox for some period of time. I also use DropBox to move small things like bookmarks and notes between computers, and sync chat logs and TaskPaper/Things tasks.

That’s cool, because sometimes you just don’t have your laptop nearby. Stuck on a bus? How about reading a back issue of PhotographyBB you’ve been putting off?

Ahh, free PDF magazines on DropBox

PhotographyBB isn’t exactly that challenging a read, but I like reading it because it makes me rethink how to explain photography to people.

I also use it to dish off a couple boring manuals, because Topaz doesn’t change that much from version to version—or plugin-to-plugin for that matter.

Topaz Adjust docs in DropBox

I open this screenshot in another window when I use Topaz, until I get the hang of the shortcuts.

I even took a screenshot of the keyboard shortcuts as a reference. I can never remember them. 🙂

Topaz Adjust shortcuts

This application also remembers your place. You just have to wait a while to load it up (since it’s downloading from the web). I do not recommend it for long reading, even if you turn it into a locally cached copy—the viewer is extremely sluggish and crashes even more often than Air Sharing does.

Another idea I plan on abusing is to create a packing spreadsheet for all the different bags/shooting situation cominations I have to prepare for, and adding the lists to my DropBox account. Since the checklist will be in iWork, you can view them in DropBox and even get at it on my iPhone.

At the rate I’m using DropBox, I might spring for the pro account someday. It’s is certainly more functional than the 20.5GB I still have free on my MobileMe account.


Okay, that covers the possibly already have anyway and the free case. But what do I really use?

My criteria is don’t crash, don’t have trouble with large files, have a “go to page” functionality, and be text searchable. Search is especially important for manufacturer manuals. So what app can handle this? The 99 cent version of GoodReader, of course!

Download your camera manuals in GoodReader

These are manuals for the Nikon D3, Nikon D70, Nikon D5000, Sony DSC-WX1, Olympus E-P2, Leica M8, and Nikon SB-800 flash. The only one missing is the Leica SF-24D flash, because Leica doesn’t put the manual online. Doh!

It’s a PDF reader first, and a web drive second. Since it only works via WebDAV, it can be incredibly frustrating when using Mac OS X Finder to copy the files over. Also, ignore the advertised DropBox support—it’s only via the web interface and nowhere near as cool as DropBox.

It’s nice always having your manuals nearby:

Sony DSC-WX1 manual in Good Reader

Manual for the Sony DSC-WX1. This pocket camera will rock your world

I even can see the callouts for my Leica M8:

Leica M8 manual in GoodReader

Ever think, even the simplest of cameras is way too complicated?

Too bad, Thom Hogan doesn’t put a PDF copy of his portable printed guide on the book CD. 🙁 Maybe I should suggest he do that. 🙂

In addition to that, if you are too cheap to spring for Photography for iPhone apps like a decent depth-of-field calculator (here’s the one I have) and a good Sun/Moon-rise/set calculator, you can generate the tables yourself. print to PDF, and drop them into GoodReader as necessary.

I’m sure there are other documents that are handy to have stored in here. Use your imagination.

Using the manuals

I’m sure there are other solutions for good PDF reading other than GoodReader, and its showcase function, the ability to convert a page to text file, is useless for what camera manuals. Just remember the app needs both search and go to page.

Let me show you why in two use cases:

The first example is a homage to the article mentioned. Let’s say you are reading Scott Kelby’s the Digital Photography Book vol 2,as I recommended, and you’re in the chapter on wedding photography. In it, he suggest to turn off the audio focus lock confirmation beep for indoor weddings. Sounds like a good idea to do in general, but how do you do that on your recently purchased Nikon D5000?

Open the manual in GoodRead, hit the magnifying glass to Find Text…

GoodReads Find Text…

Now search for beep.

beep search

Found, pretty quickly!

Beep found

Now I just scroll to that 158 + 16 pages (because that’s the offset in this manual) and…

Beep instructions found

Oh look, it looks just like the photo in the book. The menu is Custom Settings menu d1. Hmm, Scott didn’t mention that. That’s because it’s different on different Nikons.

That’s fine enough for the beginner photographer, so let me show you an example I ran into recently. I wanted to preset the white balance on my Olympus E-P2 because it’s always wrong in incandescent light. Let’s search for “white balance”:


after a brief wait.

Oh look, it’s on page 68.

Found white balance

Now because Olympus didn’t do moronic page numbering like Nikon did, you can jump to the page explicitly with “GoTo Page…”

Jump to page 68

I read that page and the next few until I got to this:

One touch White Balance on the E-P2

To set the white balance based on an exposure, remember to “Set [Fn Function[ to [strange icon] beforehand.” and then use the menus to get to white balance.

Hmm, You have to override the Fn button to set it to “one touch white balance” there is no “Pre” white balance functionality in the camera otherwise. That’s strange because the only way to get to the white balance is through the menu. They shouldn’t call this “one touch” they should call it “five touches and fucking takes away one of your buttons.” What moron thought of this?

Someone at Olympus needs to be fired. No matter, I stopped using “Five-touch-and-fuck-the-Fn” White Balance. It turns out I get a “[WB NG RETRY]” in any lighting but a daylight. Useless!

(Still, Olympus, please fire someone and fix the firmware.)

More than manuals

I found GoodReader useful to do some general purpose PDF reading of large texts on the iPhone. This will hold me over until the iPad comes out. I moved the camera manuals into their own folder, and created a new folder for the other reads:

Give your manuals their own folder

Here’s a nik Silver Efex Pro book, The Photographer’s Guide to Silver Efex Pro, I bought a while ago. I forgot to finish the last 80 pages of it.

Reading PDF in GoodReader

Not bad. But I just remembered it has embedded video content…

There are some things GoodReader can’t do

GoodReader PDFs caught in the crossfire between Adobe and Apple


2 thoughts on “Camera manuals to go

    1. @lloybudd: Thanks!

      Yeah, according to my iTunes receipt. 😉 (It was one of those promotions I think back in Dec 2008 when iPhone drives were all the rage.) 🙂

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