TriggerTrap Mobile – App and Cable Transform your iPhone into a Sophisticated Camera Controller
$10 (iPhone app) – $10 (Mobile Dongle) – $10 (Camera Cable) – TriggerTrap.com
Thanks to digital sensors and the high quality and affordable pricing of medium to high-end DSLR cameras, there has been a renaisance in the photography scene. Swing by a site like 500px and you can quickly see how much high quality imagery is being produced by hobbyists and pros alike. This renewed popularity has lead photographers to experiment with different techniques, such as timelapses, low light, astrophotography, tilt-shifts, HDR, macros and underwater photography. What we’re also starting to see are add-on hybrid products that bridge the gap between pro gear and consumer gear.
TriggerTrap Mobile is a combination product that can help you with several photographic techniques. It’s an iPhone app, that can be used independently of a camera or in conjunction with it and it’s also a dongle that enables you to connect your DSLR camera to your iPhone and use it in a number of highly creative ways. The app and the specially designed interface leverage the processing power of your iPhone and opens up a world of possibilities.
The app itself has been thoughtfully designed and hides as much of the complexity of the processes as it can behind a simple interface. From the main menu you get access to the app’s functions which are cable release, bang (noise trigger), timelapse, eased timelapse, distance lapse, seismic, peekaboo (face recognition), star trail, LE HDR, LE HDR timelapse, tesla (metallic trigger) and motion. As you can see the functions go all the way from the incredibly simple (cable release) to the complicated (long exposure high-dynamic range timelapses).
The Triggertrap Mobile app can be used with the iPhone’s built in camera for some of its functions. Specifically, bang (the noise trigger), timelapse, eased timelapse, distance lapse, seismic, peekaboo, tesla and motion. Given that the iPhone 4 and 4S have fairly decent cameras on them, it’s possible to capture surprisingly high quality imagery using functions like the eased timelapse facility without going anywhere near a DSLR.
However where this product really stands out and the main reason it was created, is to control a DSLR camera. For only about $30 you can get the adapter and the cable to use with the app. I tested it with my Canon EOS550D and my iPhone 4 and the results were impressive. There is some configuration that needs to take place first, but once everything’s set up you won’t have to revisit the settings very often.
There are four main settings that you’ll need to set up before you can successfully use features such as timelapse. Delay before Trigger, Trigger Pulse Length, Shutter Lag and Delay after Trigger will all need to be configured. There is a tool built into the app to help with this, called the lag-o-meter, but I only had limited success with this and in the end relied on simply fiddling with the sliders until I arrived at a suitable configuration.
Once the app was set up correctly I had no issues using TriggerTrap at all. The cable release isn’t something I’d actively use, but features such as Star Trail are nothing short of awesome. To use StarTrail, you determine how many exposures you want to take, how long those exposures should be (typically 30 seconds a go) and how long the gap between photos should be. Then you just press the app’s trigger button and let it do its thing.
Now if you’re a Canon user you’re probably saying something along the lines of, “I can do a lot of this with the Magic Lantern firmware and that’s free,” and up to a point, you’d be right. However as good as Magic Lantern is, it can’t emulate the tricksier modes in TriggerTrap. For instance, the Distance-lapse mode utilises your iPhone’s GPS chip and only takes a photo every user-specififed distance – every 250m for instance. This means you can do proper timelapses in your car and if you hit a traffic jam, you don’t get 50 photos of the back of a truck.
Probably the most advanced mode is the LE HDR Timelapse mode, with, LE being Long Exposure and HDR being High Dyanmic Range. To use this, you set the middle exposure time (2 seconds for instance), how many exposures you want per set (for generating the HDR images) and the time between sets. You can also precisely set the HDR exposure EV rating from 1/3 gaps up to a full two stops. The only issue with this mode is that the camera needs to be in Bulb mode (so exposure times can be controlled) but some cameras have a minimum exposure time, when in Bulb mode, of half a second or more, which restricts when you can take photos.
Thought has clearly gone into all the modes in TriggerTrap mobile. For instance, with the mortion detector you can configure it to only fire when the pre-sampled background scene has changed by more than a certain percentage. This is useful when shooting outdoors because you can account for things like the wind blowing branches. Similarly the Tesla mode (which detects metal) can be configured to only trigger when a specific change is detected.
The downsides that need mentioning are, firstly, that it puts your phone out of use for the duration, which could prove problematic on some six hour timelapse shoot. Secondly, the app has to remain active and in the foreground to function, so if your phone rings, for instance, the app will stop triggering exposures until it is foregrounded again. That said, TriggerTrap Mobile and the combination lead and and adapter for DSLR cameras make for an incredibly versatile package. When you consider that you can get the whole suite (app and leads) for around $30, it seems like an easy purchase. If you’re serious about timelapses in particular and would like to try things like HDR timelapses, then you’ll love TriggerTrap and if you’d just like to experiment with techniques such as astro photography, then you’re spoilt for choice.