A few weeks ago I was invited to join my good friends, Joe & Jonelle from TimeLapseSA in a short, two day TimeLapse safari where they were promoting the Shukuma dollies and just generally dispensing wisdom about TimeLapse and the post processing techniques. This was the perfect point to try out the Triggertrap Mobile app and dongle. I originally saw this as a Kick-starter project and thought it might end up being interesting but only recently did I find out that they completed their development and also that they were available here in South Africa. Long story short, perfect timing!
So, what is Triggertrap mobile? Well, to put it simple, it’s a great way to control remote triggering on almost any camera on the market today that can have a trigger cable plugged in. The unit is actually two parts. A dongle that plugs into your camera and Smartphone, and a app for your Smartphone (the controller).
From there, it’s really dead simple. Plug in, select the shooting type, change your settings and fire away. After the first bout of shooting, you can then start getting down to business and actually set up the Triggertrap for your camera.
Step one: Actually change the Triggertrap settings to fit your camera!
Step two: Set the shutter delay.
On my Canon preset, it was set to 150ms but the internal test gave me a 70-80ms result for my Canon 5DmkIII. It is important to note though that when I did the test through live view, my shutter lag was quite a bit higher: 210-230ms was the norm. Something to keep in mind!
The Triggertrap has 14 triggering modes to date, from simple remote trigger (press button to fire) to TimeLapse HDR mode as the more conventional settings. Then it has a few funky modes, like triggering on movement or facial recognition, sound, or even on a magnetic field (can’t quite figure out that use case just yet). I tried out the triggering on movement and can see that it can work well, but need something to clamp my phone in place. This doesn’t really work well hand held.
For the most part, I used this for TimeLapse (which has another cool feature, by the way. Trigger over distance. You can set it to trigger every few meters you travel, so great for those TimeLapse shots in a train or car!).
I didn’t try out every single feature (we could only shoot for two days, after all, and the batteries needed recharging in between as well) but the ones I did try worked pretty well! I am in no way a TimeLapse expert, so what is did get out of the units should be a testament of how easy it is to use.
Most modes asks you to input your parameters via sliders or scrollers and when necessary the “you are an idiot” mode kicks in and tries to correct your settings for you (No Sir, you can, unfortunately, not shoot 200 shots at 30 second exposures with a 30 second delay in between in an hour. Laws of space and time requires it takes about 3 and a half hours. Sir, shall I set it accordingly?).
It is at this point where you realize how long a single shot is going to take (250 shots at 25fps is only 10 seconds of TimeLapse footage).
Be that as it may, if it wasn’t for Joe & Jonelle, I would have made more than a few really stupid mistakes (like not shooting wide open) and with only two days to shoot, I had to try and minimize those. Or at least reduce them from the number I usually make!
I was shooting a Canon 5DmkIII with a 17-40mm f/4 L and because you shoot wide open (at f/4) to reduce flicker in your video, I mounted a B+W 10stop (1000x) ND filter, also known as the B+W welding mask to the front. On the Triggertrap side, I ran the software on an Apple iPhone 5. The iPhone gave me between 500-600 shots before hitting the 20% low battery warning on regular TimeLapse and Time Warp modes, less when ‘bramping’ (bulb ramping).
For support, I mainly used my trusty old Benro C3770T carbon fibre tripod. With no centre column, I could go down nice and low, and also not worry about sudden gusts of wind interfering with the shots or moving the camera around on long exposures. I also used my Velbon Carbon Fibre travel tripod. Again, the carbon fibre makes it a lot more stable, but mainly, I used it because my fellow traveller and reviewer, Nanette, kept on stealing the bigger Benro!
As a TimeLapse unit, it works great. No problems there. The Time Warp mode is cool, because it will change the speed of your final clip by changing the interval between shots. So the clip can start fast and slow down, or speed- up when it gets to the end with a slow start, or various combinations in between.
‘Bramping’ (or Bulb Ramping) was what I really had high hopes for. It uses the camera’s bulb mode and adjusts your exposure duration during the length of the series. So you can set it to take 250 images, over 120 minutes with the first exposure taking 2 seconds, and the last exposure taking 37 seconds. The app then works out a curve and adjusts the sequence and intervals between every shot. It even has a handy sunrise and sunset times guide for where you currently find yourself. Unfortunately I think this part failed a bit.
The problem is that you have pretty slow decrease in light at sunset, for instance. Right to the point where the sun goes down and all of a sudden you lose 90% of your light in about 15-25 minutes. The result is that you have a fairly nice sunset that goes into full blackout because you don’t have enough light, and en slowly it picks up again near the end of your TimeLapse to display the stars again.
This is but one use of ‘Bramping’, but I hope they build in a more controllable set of settings to help us hit that “Holy Grail”
So… Do I like this unit? Yep, I think it’s awesome! Would I recommend it. Generally yes.
It has some flaws associated with the supporting technology. Battery life on my iPhone 5 was a limiting factor and as mentioned before, when the iPhone gives you a 20% low battery warning, the Triggertrap stops until you dismiss the message. If you are not close to the unit when it happens, it really sucks!
Also, running it on your iPhone means you don’t have a phone for a few hours so I suggest maybe using it on an iPod touch rather. Also, losing an iPod touch due to moisture (rain or dew) while you are sleeping is not the end of the world (in other words, get a waterproof case)
Thanks to my buddy, Andre Klopper for getting us there! Nanette Grebe for the behind the scenes videos and Joe & Jonelle Louw from TimeLapseSA for sharing their amazing wealth of information (and TimeLapse juice!)
Also, thank you to Sunshine.Co for the trigger they couriered to us at speed!