Satechi has just started shipping the new Smart Trigger, a US$44.99 Bluetooth add-on that makes it simple to turn your iOS device into a timer remote for your DSLR.
The Smart Trigger comes in five different versions, all of which work with a specific set of DSLRs. For my test, I was using a Canon EOS Rebel T4i camera, which used the "C" variant of the device. Strangely enough, there's nothing on the outside of the box that indicates exactly what camera it's supposed to work with...
The device includes a small receiver powered by a pair of AAA batteries that sits in the hot shoe mount on your camera. A coiled connecting cable (two different ones were included) is plugged into the receiver on one end and the camera's remote port on the other end.
There's a free accompanying app -- Satechi includes a QR code on the product box, which assumes that every iOS user with a DSLR also has a QR code reading app on their device. Note to Apple: when are you going to build in a QR code reading capability for iOS? Fortunately, it's easy to search for Smart Trigger in the App Store to download the app.
The Smart Trigger won't work with all iOS devices. It's compatible with the iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPad 3 and 4, iPad mini, and 5th generation iPod touch.
Why would a photographer wish to use a remote triggering device like this? Because it helps to reduce camera shake since the photographer isn't pressing the shutter release button, because the app can be useful in doing long exposures, and because it enables a way to easily set up time-lapse photographs.
The Smart Trigger is quite easy to set up; in fact, the hardest part was figuring out how to shut the door on the battery compartment. There's a button on top of the device that's used reconnect to the currently paired device (most likely a nice portable iPhone), put the receiver into sleep mode, or set up the Smart Trigger to pair with another iOS device.
The Smart Trigger uses Bluetooth 4.0, giving it a 50-foot radius of operation and pairing that just takes a pair of taps to complete. One tap on a scan button in the app finds the Smart Trigger and displays it, another tap finishes the pairing process.
There are three different shot modes available in the app: regular, manual, and timed. Regular Shot mode is useful for taking photos without having a hand on the shutter release button, which means that those shots taken from a tripod will have less shake and that you can also "push the button" while you're posing for a self-portrait.
The Manual Shot mode has additional controls, letting DSLR users focus their cameras through the app, lock the shutter open and take long exposures. As the manual for the Smart Trigger notes, this is perfect for light painting or photos of star trails.
Finally, Timed Shot Mode is used to turn your iPhone into an "intervalometer" -- in other words, letting you take shots at pre-determined intervals. Timed Shot Mode actually has three sub-settings: Delay, for setting the amount of time before the first exposure is captured; Bulb, which controls how long the shutter is held open; and Interval, controlling the amount of time between exposures. There is also a setting for how many images you want to take in a sequence, all the way up to "infinite" in which the shots keep on coming until you tap the shutter control button to stop the camera.
With my Canon EOS Rebel T4i, the app and features worked perfectly. In Manual Shot mode, tapping the focus button actually worked like depressing the shutter button on the camera by allowing it to autofocus on an object. The Timed Shot mode looks incredibly useful -- it took only moments to set it up for a one minute delay and then taking five images at a 5 second interval. One thing DSLR owners should be aware of when using Timed Shot mode is that they should turn off any "auto power off" function on their camera to insure that the camera is able to function properly.
Satechi notes that the use of Bluetooth 4.0 "Smart" connectivity, those two AAA batteries in the device should last a long time in normal use -- two to ten years.
With the Smart Trigger, Satechi has created an accessory that should be in the camera bag of every DSLR owner. With a full feature set and extremely reasonable price, the Smart Trigger is a valuable helper for any intermediate to professional photographer.
Easy to use and set up
Long battery life in the device
Excellent Bluetooth range
Included app is well-implemented and fairly self-explanatory
Price is a bargain considering the functionality
None to speak of
Who is it for?
Any intermediate, advanced or professional photographer who wants to use an iOS device as an intelligent Bluetooth remote control for a DSLR