Archive | September, 2012

Review: Triggertrap Mobile

tt main Review: Triggertrap Mobile

Shortly after posting my review of the Trigger Happy Camera Remote I was contacted by the one and only Haje Jan Kamps (a.k.a. the photocritic) to write a review of his new product, Triggertrap Mobile. In return for an honest review I would be given a free copy of the Triggertrap Mobile app and and a free Triggertrap Mobile dongle. I happily agreed, and a few days later the dongle was delivered to my front door.

Triggertrap Mobile is a descendant of the Triggertrap v1, which is an Arduino based hardware camera triggering device. The TTv1, for short, was a successfully funded Kickstarter project that I had watched grow from an idea to a real, shipping product. With the success of TTv1, it was a natural progression to try and harness the power of the various environmental sensors built into today’s smartphones and tablets. Leveraging these sensors would mean the ability to have a less featured, but still quite powerful, camera triggering system. Triggertrap Mobile does this exceptionally well, and at a price point that is sure to please just about everyone.

The Triggertrap system, both v1 and Mobile, work by sending audio pulses over standard stereo cables. Due to the nature of stereo audio having two channels (left and right), Triggertrap is able to leverage that ability into providing two different triggering channels. By default one channel is used for triggering the autofocus, and one channel is used for triggering the shutter, however you are able to customize and change the parameters of those channels to trigger other devices (flashes, for example).

Triggertrap Mobile, much like Trigger Happy, is a two part system, consisting of an app (either paid, or free) for your smartphone or tablet (currently only iOS is supported, however Android support is planned), and a hardware dongle that goes between your device and camera. One of the benefits of Triggertrap over Trigger Happy is that the dongle is camera independent, which means, if and when I decide to upgrade my camera, all I have to do is get a new, relatively inexpensive, cable to go between the dongle and my camera.

The Triggertrap Mobile app is quite robust and fully featured, especially for being such a young product (v1.2.0 was the version I tested). I only experienced two crashes, and uncovered two minor bugs, which I submitted to the folks at Triggertrap, which they acknowledged very quickly. The feature set of TT Mobile is quite extensive. All in all there are a total of 13 triggering modes available:

  • Cable Release
  • Bang*
  • Timelapse
  • Eased Timelapse*
  • Distance-lapse*
  • Seismic
  • Peekaboo*
  • Star Trail*
  • LE HDR*
  • LE HDR Timelapse*
  • Tesla*
  • Motion*
  • Bramping*

* = modes that are only available in the paid version of the app.

Of the 13 triggering modes, while I did experiment with all of them, I was only able to fully test and produce results for a handful of them in the two week time limit I gave myself.

Cable Release

Exactly what you would expect: press button, take picture. This mode works with both external and internal cameras, and has several modes for both program and manual shooting. When using the Cable Release mode you are presented with a dial containing four options:

Program: Put your camera in any mode, press the button and it takes the photo. This is the only mode that works with the internal camera.

Bulb: Put your camera in bulb mode, press (and hold) the button and then release the button to stop the exposure.

Timed Bulb: Put your camera in bulb mode, press the button once to start the exposure, and press it again to stop.

Manual: Put your camera in bulb mode, set the exposure length on the app, and press the button. You can only create a exposure with a 1/10s or slower shutter speed.

Bang

The bang mode triggers your camera (either the internal camera, or the external camera) when a configurable decibel volume is picked up on the devices internal microphone. You can configure the dB level to trigger as soft as -40 dB, or as loud as -0.1 dB.

Using this mode I was able to configure one of the channels to trigger my flashes to do some high speed photography. In the following result, I had set myself up in a dark room with a bucket, a spoon, a strawberry and a cup of milk. I set one of my flashes to 1/8 power, covered it with a blue gel and pointed it at the back wall. My other flash was set to 1/64 power and pointed directly at the spoon containing milk. My camera was set to take a 2 second exposure at ISO 100 and an aperture of f/6.3. Triggertrap Mobile was set to trigger my flashes (not my camera) when it heard a sound over -20 dB. The sound of the strawberry hitting the spoon was enough to reach this volume, thus triggering the flashes. Just prior to dropping the strawberry I would open the shutter of the camera. The 2 second shutter speed had a negligible effect on the overall exposure since I was doing this all in a dark room.

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Timelapse

The timelapse mode turns your device into an intervalometer and can trigger either the internal camera or one connected via the dongle. It features 2 sliders, one to set the number of photos and the other to specify how long you want to take photos for. There is also a handy sunrise and sunset tool built right in.

To test this feature I stuck my iPhone 4S on a Camalapse panning device, which was attached to my gorillapod, which was then attached to a tent I had set up at the beach. I set Triggertrap Mobile to take 1,000 photos over the course of 1 hour using the internal camera. That amounted to a photo every 3 seconds or so, which resulted in this 30 second time lapse when played back at 30fps:

Eased Timelapse

Eased timelapse mode lets you vary the interval between shots, thus giving the appearance of speeding up or slowing down time. This mode has several functions for easing the time in or out. The first, and most gentle ease is called “Quadratic” and the final, and most aggressive ease is called “Sine”. Check out the video on Triggertrap’s website for examples of each easing function. Eased timelapse mode can trigger the internal camera, or an external camera connected via the dongle.

Distance-lapse

Distance-lapse mode lets you trigger either the internal camera or an external camera based on a configured distance. This trigger uses the devices internal GPS antenna to calculate distance travelled. You can configure the app to use either metric or imperial units.

In this example I set up my iPhone 4S on a windshield mounting bracket and set Triggertrap to take a photo every 150 yards. The resulting 15 second video gives the impression that you’re travelling a constant rate of speed, despite travelling on roads varying in speed from 25 MPH to 65 MPH.

Seismic

Seismic mode uses your devices internal vibration and shock sensor to trigger the internal camera or an external camera hooked up via the dongle. This mode seems to be the most sensitive, and as a result the most useless. Event set to the maximum value my phone is constantly being triggered. Perhaps my phone is defective, or I just live in a highly seismic area.

Peekaboo

Peekaboo mode uses your device’s internal camera to trigger either itself or an external camera when it detects between 1 and 5 faces. This handy feature will effectively add facial recognition to any camera, as long as you have it point in the same direction as the camera you are triggering. In reality, it’s probably easier said than done, however if setup correctly it could produce some interesting results.

Star Trail

Star Trail mode does exactly what it says, it helps you take photos of star trails. Instead of using one hour long exposure, it will take a series of shorter exposures that you can then blend or stack to make your final image. As a result of using this method your final image will have less noise. Unfortunately, I was unable to test this mode as I live in a densely populated area with too much light pollution.

LE HDR

LE HDR mode can be used to create Long Exposure HDR (High Dynamic Range) images. This mode can only be used to trigger an external camera. It is important to recognize that this mode will only work in Long Exposure HDR scenarios. The reason being is that Triggertrap Mobile can only reliably trigger an external camera at shutter speeds as fast as 1/10s. If you’re shooting during the day, and you can’t get your shutter speeds that low, there are a few ways to try and get around this limitation: set your ISO is as low as your camera will go, increase the aperture of your lens, or use a neutral density filter. In a bind you can try using a circular polarizer, however it won’t cut out as much light as a ND filter would. In those mode you can take between 3 and 19 shots to be combined into an HDR. The app is smart enough to know what the maximum and minimum number of exposures you can have based on the middle shutter duration and the number of stops you have selected between exposures.

LE HDR Timelapse

LE HDR Timelapse mode is exactly like LE HDR mode, except there is an added “Between sets” slider to tell TT Mobile how often to trigger a new set of exposures. The major difference between the LE HDR Timelapse mode and the normal Timelapse mode is LE HDR Timelapse mode is missing an option to set the total number of shots you want to take. Instead, you have to press a “stop” button while the app is taking the shots. I can understand why, but it might make a good feature enhancement to be able to say “I want to take X number of HDR images”. Then, the app can go and compute that for X number of exposures, multiply by the number of HDR images desired, and then take that total number of exposures.

Tesla

Tesla mode uses your device’s internal magnetometer to detect changes in the magnetic field around your device. Like the Seismic mode, this mode is little too sensitive to be used for many things. The information screen suggests you could make this into a door alarm by placing a magnet near the door and then it would trigger as the door was opened. Any magnet I tried was too powerful and pinned the needle at the right side of the screen. As a result I wasn’t able to do any real experiments with this mode.

Motion

Motion mode uses your device’s internal camera to establish a baseline scene, and then it can trigger either itself, or an external camera when it detects a configurable amount of change in that scene. I had initially tried using this particular mode to trigger my strawberry photo above, but due to the lack of light in the room my iPhone was unable to detect any appreciable change, or motion, in the scene.

Bramping

Bramping, or Bulb Ramping, mode can ramp your exposure up or down during a time lapse sequence. This is useful when creating time lapses of a scene that has changing light situations, like sunrises or sunsets. I did find a bug in this mode, however, which is the help screen says this mode can only be used to trigger an external camera, however there is an internal toggle on the main screen.

Final Thoughts

Triggertrap Mobile is the mother of all camera triggering systems for mobile devices. It is fully featured, cheap and it works wonderfully. I would certainly recommend this system over any other triggering system for mobile devices.

You can get more information about Triggertrap Mobile on the Triggertrap website, buy the dongle from their store or Amazon, and download the app from iTunes (free, paid). You can also follow Triggertrap on Twitter, Facebook or Google+, as well as join their Flickr group to submit your Triggertrap creations.

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