Typically a hardware review starts with a brief statement about the hardware that is going to be reviewed, but I am going to do things a little differently in this review, I am going to complain a little bit about Nikon and then move into the review of the recently released ioShutter for Nikon.
Nikon has done something that really annoys me. For many decades they have had a wonderfully robust solution for firing your camera shutter with a remote trigger.
I am talking about the Nikon 10-pin connector that has been used for years, and is still used on many of the current top of the line Nikon bodies. This connector threads into the camera body and provides a very secure connection which simply can’t be pulled out of the camera by accident.
At the other end of the Nikon spectrum, and on most of their lower “consumer” level bodies, Nikon utilizes an IR receiver and sells a small IR remote, the ML-L3. On the surface this IR option seems like a good idea, and for the most part it works just fine, but there are some definite limitations. One of these limitations is the need to have the remote be in “line of sight” of the cameras receiver. This can be a real problem if you are using one of Nikon’s older consumer bodies that only offered a receiver on the “front” of the camera and you were trying to shoot from the “rear” and even with more modern bodies that offer receivers on both the “front” and the “back”, there are still issues with being on the “right” or the “left” side of the camera. On a personal note, I also find the ML-L3 to be VERY easy to lose.
This leads to the “prosumer” bodies offered by Nikon that actually offer both the IR option of the lower end cameras, but also offer a wired solution as well. One would think that this would be the best of both worlds, but one would be wrong, at least if you have remotes for the older / higher end 10-pin connectors, Nikon decided to not use their existing 10-pin connectors and implemented a new connector, the DC-2. This new DC-2 connector works just fine, and even shares duties with other Nikon accessories, but if you are like me and already have 10-pin remotes such as the old school, but very reliable Nikon MC-20, it means that you need to double up on remotes, and if you are like me, your camera bag is already cluttered enough.
Enter the ioShutter for Nikon
The ioShutter release cable is a “dongle” that goes between your DSLR and your iPhone, iPodTouch or iPad and gives you the ability to control your DSLR through an app from ioShutter.
Before I go any further, please keep in mind that this review is based on the Nikon model from ioShutter but they offer models for cameras as well, please check out their website, but since I am a Nikon shooter, I will be covering the model for the Nikon cameras. Also, this review is not intended to be a tutorial on how to use the ioShutter cable or the associated app, both are covered quite nicely on the ioShutter website. Finally, I was not provided with a review / demo of this, I purchased this as a regular customer and base my review as such.
What ioShutter did that was VERY SMART in my opinion is that they included connectors for both the 10-pin and DC-2 connectors. You buy one release cable and you can control either type of camera. For the folks that have the more consumer level bodies that offer only IR, this isn’t going to help you, sorry. You get the ioShutter as well as 2 different cables, one for the 10-pin and one for the DC-2.
For the most part the ioShutter release cable is very well designed and built, but I do have a couple little things that I would like to see with it. First off is that the cable itself is a fairly light gauge wire. For the average user this will never be much of a problem, but I am a storm chaser / severe weather photographer and I have been known to be a little hard on my gear in the past in order to get the shot that I want. I will be interested to see how this lighter gauge cable will stand up over long term use. Secondly, I would like to have the overall length of the cable be about 12” longer than it is. The current length doesn’t let me get all that far away from my tripod. While my first complaint might potentially be a big deal, the second is nothing more than an annoyance. On a whole, I am quite happy with the hardware aspect of the cable.
The 2nd half of the ioShutter solution is the actual iOS application that you use to control your DSLR. The application is very well laid out and intuitive to use. It provides a simple shutter release w/ lock, a timer mode for delayed shutter releases, a timed bulb mode, a time lapse function, sound trigger and shake trigger. In this review I will not be covering the sound or shake functions as I have yet to use them, and they are not something I that I would use on a day to day basis.
When you first start the app, you are presented with what is really nothing more than a shutter release button as seen on the far left side of the image above. This shutter release works just as you would expect it to. You push the button and it actuates the shutter based on your camera settings. A second function of the main shutter release screen is the ability to lock your shutter down, as seen in the middle part of the above image. This is very useful for things like continuous shooting or for manually controlled BULB exposures. One nice feature is that if you are using the shutter lock, they provide you with a timer so you know how long your exposure has been. No more counting 1-1000, 2-1000 and so on, but to be honest, I still find myself doing just that. Finally, as shown on the far right side of the above image, this is where you navigate to the other functions of the app.
The ioShutter app provides a pretty flexible timer function. Not only can you set your camera to fire any any given short term time, 20 seconds as shown above, you can also set your camera to fire sometime much further in the future. You can set either a time later the same day, or even many days out in the future. Personally this isn’t really a function I would use all that often, but there are times that it will come in quite handy.
The bulb setting is a function that I am very interested in, and have already used a number of times. One of the problems with a large number of remote shutter releases out there is that in order for you to have really long exposures you need to keep your finger on the button for the whole time. The ioShutter app lets you program in how much time you want your shutter to be left open in BULB mode. In the case of the image above, it is set for a 1 hour exposure. This will be very handy for those that do a lot of night photography such as light painting and star trails. Both of which I have already used it for.
Time Lapse mode
Time lapse photography is something I do a lot, that probably isn’t much of a surprise to those that follow me, and I have to say that ioShutter has done a great job with the time lapse functionality in their app. Being a Nikon shooter you might think that I would simply be happy with the built in interval shooting tools in my Nikon bodies, but the fact is that those very tools are a little bit limiting. Nikon limits you to 999 shots per sequence, and somethings that simply is not enough. What ioShutter has done is allow you to set the interval between shots, 2 seconds in the case of the image above, and how long you want that sequence to run, 3 hours in this case. the really cool thing though is that you really aren’t limited in any way other than needing to leave an iOS device with your camera, and having enough power to run it all. If you wanted to have your camera take a hot every hour for a week, you can easily do it with this app / cable combo. To me, this is a very valuable tool.
As I mentioned earlier, the app also supports both sound and shake triggering, but I haven’t tested either of those functions and they are not in this review. I am sure that they work just as well as everything else in the system.
In general I am quite pleased with the solution from ioShutter. It does a great job of solving the problem of having camera bodies that use different connectors while providing the exact same interface and functionality to both. As I mentioned above, I fear that I might eventually wear the lighter gauge cable out in the conditions I find myself shooting in regularly, and I would like to have a slightly longer overall length for the cable, but neither would be a deal breaker for me in picking this system up. I am sure that to some the $69.95 retail price tag for the cable will seem somewhat high when compared to the prices of some of the competitors out there, but we all know that even the most basic of remote shutter release triggers can be quite expensive and not offer nearly the same functionality as the ioShutter offers. I do feel that the $9.99 price for the Pro app, which I used for my review, seems a little on the steep side after having spent the $69.95 for the cable. There is a free “lite” version of the app, but I have not used it, so I can’t speak to it’s merits over the Pro version.
At the end of the day though, this is a great little product that I will, and have, recommend to friends and fellow photographers.