Archive | August, 2012

Review: Trigger Happy Camera Remote

Trigger Happy App on an iPhone 4S

Earlier this year I saw a neat little Kickstarter project for the Trigger Happy Camera Remote. It instantly piqued my interest as I am a fan of time lapse photography and it is something I enjoy doing. I didn’t hesitate making my $50 donation to the project to get early bird access to the special cable that would be required to go along with the freely available software for iOS or Android. Last week I finally received this missing piece of the Trigger Happy system, the “Trigger Happy Unit”. This would finally mean that I could dump my hacked TI-83 calculator as an invervalometer.

While the TI-83 was cool, it also drained batteries very quickly and it’s timing mechanism wasn’t exactly accurate. For example, 5,000 TI-83 cycles equaled approximately 3 seconds, which would slowly increase over time as the batteries drained. The Trigger Happy system appealed to me for several reasons: the software ran on my iPhone, which is a device I have with me nearly all the time; if I was near a power source I could plug in my iPhone, thus my only power bottleneck would exist at the camera; I could control the interval as well as the shutter speed from my iPhone, where previously I could only control the interval from the TI-83; I could start doing HDR time lapses and bramp time lapses.

So, what exactly is the Trigger Happy Camera Remote? Trigger Happy consists of two components:

Trigger Happy Unit

Trigger Happy Unit

  • The Trigger Happy Unit, which is a short, meter length cable with an embedded signal processor. This is what goes in between your camera and your device.
  • The Trigger Happy App, which is available for iOS and Android devices.

Since the Trigger Happy Unit is a cable, there isn’t much I can do to review it, other than to say it’s a cable, and both ends fit properly into my camera (a Canon EOS Rebel XT) and my device (an iPhone 4S). The folks at Trigger Happy do have cables that fit a wide array of cameras and manufactures, including Canon, Nikon, Sony, Pentax, Olympus, Samsung, Kodak and Fujifilm.

As for the app, well, that’s a different story. As of this review, I don’t believe the app is feature complete, or well tested. I will break the app review into three categories: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

Before we dive in, let’s go over some of the features the app is said to include:

  • Simple Remote Trigger: Press the button, take the shot.
  • Bulb Trigger: Press and hold the button, take the shot for the duration of the hold; or press once to start the exposure, press again to stop.
  • Intervalometer (for Time Lapse): Set the interval (the time between the shots), set the duration of the time lapse (in hours or minutes, or unlimited) and set the shutter speed (as fast as 1/30s or a slow as 24 hours).
  • HDR Mode: Supposed to be able to do up to 9 shots and 16 stops of dynamic range.
  • Bramping: Also called “Bulb Ramping”, which is useful for making time lapses that go from day to night, or vice-versa.

The Good

Unfortunately, the good of the app is relatively short. The app launches reliably, and the bulb trigger feature works. The Standard time lapse and Bramp time lapse features also work as described.

The Bad

The HDR portion of the app crashes for me on my iPhone. I can set the Interval and Duration, but as soon as I try to set the HDR parameters (Exposure Interval, Number of Shots and Base Shutter) the app crashes. Every. Single. Time.

The Ugly

There are many interface and usability issues that I believe are preventing this system from being ready for prime time.

Interface Issues

  • Erroneous information diaglogs: When setting the Interval to “off” or the Duration to “unlimited” informational messages still appear.  For example, setting the Interval to “off”, going back to the Time Lapse screen, and then going into the Interval screen once again yields a message stating “A photo will be taken ever 6 seconds”, despite the Interval being set to “off”. Similarly, when going from Subsecond back to Normal the informational dialog still shows the subsecond shutter duration, despite the “1 second” duration being selected on the screen.
  • Shutter length messages: When subsecond shutter speeds are selected the information message says the duration in seconds and milliseconds. As a photographer I don’t think in milliseconds, I think in fractions of 1 second, ie- 1/30, 1/4, 1/2, etc. I believe the app should use language that makes sense to photographers.

Usability Issues

  • No memory: The app doesn’t remember the last settings you used for the time lapse interval, duration and shutter length. Every time the app launches the default values are displayed (interval: 6 seconds, duration: 1 hour, shutter length: 1 second).
  • Lack of a Simple Trigger: The Trigger Happy website touts a “Simple Trigger”, however I can’t seem to find this feature in the app. The only two trigger systems I see are bulb related: press and hold, and touch to start and stop. To me, a simple trigger means I can can use any of the auto or semi-auto modes (Program, Aperture Priority & Shutter Priority), connect the cable to the device and have a standard remote cable release. That is, I press the button, the camera calculates the exposure and the shutter is released. As it operates right now the camera must be in Manual mode, and the shutter must be set to bulb. In fact, I couldn’t get the shutter release portion of the app to work at all unless the shutter was in bulb mode.

The Result

What sort of review would go over The Good, The Bad and The Ugly without including a sample of what could be done? Here’s a time lapse of my two year old twins during playtime. This was captured over the course of one hour using an interval of 3 seconds and a 1 second shutter speed.

The Bottom Line

Overall, I believe the Trigger Happy Remote has some serious potential, however there are just a few problems with the app getting in the way. The current price on the Trigger Happy Unit is $49.99, and it is expected to go up to $69.99 once production is ramped up. At this stage of the game, I do not believe the Trigger Happy Remote can demand that price. That said, I am happy with my purchase and I understand that a majority of these problems are probably due to being an early adopter and using immature and untested code. I have total faith that the developers of Trigger Happy will get the kinks ironed out and this will become the de facto invervalometer and remote triggering system for iOS and Android devices.

You can find out more about Trigger Happy here, purchase a Trigger Happy Unit here and get support for Trigger Happy here.

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