This review is of a newly designed Photo trigger device manufactured by Binary Logic in Poland and distributed by www.phototrigger.com in the UK. The Photo-Trigger! was kindly provided by Joe Dyer of www.phototrigger.com and is capable of capturing high speed flash images using sound and light triggers that include water droplets, balloons popping, lightning strikes and wildlife motion capture. It can be used as a very versatile intervalometer for timelapse and astro photography.
In the UK the product will be branded under the name Timestopper with the up coming water droplet control system called the SplashArt Controller.
My immediate thought when I started writing this was what to call the device?
a PhotoTrigger, PhotoTrigger! or Photo-Trigger!, well in the UK it will be called the Timestopper and the SplashArt Controller.
my second thought was what do you get in the box? and the answer is quite a lot:
- The Photo-Trigger! module
- A Sound Sensor
- A Light Sensor
- A Laser Module
- A Flash hot shoe and cable
- A cable to connect the Photo-Trigger! to the camera with a male/female extension lead
- and an A4 manual stapled together
- BUT you have to supply your own AA batteries (x2)
The box arrived very promptly from the supplier and was well wrapped with all the items in the box bagged and bubble wrapped so there shouldn’t be any postal problems.
The full functionality of the Photo-Trigger! can be seen on the www.phototrigger.com website and the manual can be downloaded from here. In the near future there will also be a water droplet system available to allow the capture of water droplet collisions.
The first thing to do was to take a few pictures of the Photo-Trigger! module to include in this review so after finding a couple of AA batteries the module was fired up. It is very apparent that the Photo-Trigger! is being produced manually in low volume runs rather than mass produced. There is some minor misalignment of the LED display and power on/off switch and the layout of sockets on the top of the module are not aligned with each other, their position being defined by the sockets used on the internal PCB. The other obvious omission is labels for the buttons and sockets BUT with only 3 buttons it is very simple to operate. I would of like to see some effort to waterproof the gaps around the LCD with a touch of silicon as I wouldn’t like to leave the module outside on a wet or humid night without some additional protection.
The Photo-Trigger! module is surprisingly small and lightweight, there should be no excuse for not slipping it into a camera bag pocket. The overall size is 100mm high x 75mm wide and 25mm deep and it fits nicely in the palm of your hand.
The front of the Photo-Trigger! module has a backlit 2 x 16 LCD display, 3 push buttons and a sliding on/off switch. The Central button selects the Menu option with the Left and Right buttons being used to adjust the option parameters; a very simple and quick menu system that is easy to get to grips with but without compromising on the power and versatility of the system (except timing adjustments, see my note later).
The LCD backlit can be turned on or off and a fairly quiet keypress buzzer can also be turned on/off via the menu settings.
The top of the Photo-Trigger! module has the sockets to connect your camera, an external flashgun, the light/sound sensors and laser.
The camera socket takes a 2.5mm stereo jack, the light/sound sensor socket takes a 3.5mm stereo jack, the laser socket is a small diameter DC power socket with the flash socket being a larger diameter DC power socket.
This is an interesting choice of sockets to use as the DC power socket is typically used as a power supply input not an output. It’s important to realise that this device does not have the option for an external power supply so you are reliant on the installed 2 x AA batteries.
First attempt with the intervalometer – 1200 images captured at 10 second intervals. Setting the Photo-Trigger! up for this could not of been easier and only took a few seconds of button pushing.
Playing with the Light Trigger -
I’ll say this up front because it really caused me some frustration until I realised what was happening.
It is worth noting that when setting the trigger delay you are initially adjusting the delay to the nearest microsecond, it is not until you start incrementing the 4th digit that you are changing the delay in milliseconds. For most applications the nearest millisecond is precise enough so get used to using the central button to increase the rate change of the settings. In a typical water droplet setup it takes 250-300mS for a droplet to fall 600mm (2 feet).
The formatting of the Trigger Delay setting is 00:00:000:000 microseconds which is slightly confusing but I think it is MM:SS.ssssss ?? this gives us the resolution of one microsecond.
Using this light beam set up with the laser diode and light sensor gives the user the opportunity to very accurately react to an event i.e the light beam being broken and then take an image after a precise delay, down to a microsecond. During the setup I noticed that the leads for the diode and light sensor are fairly short, extension leads would be needed for any field work.
For this review the Photo-Trigger! was used to control the camera shutter and the camera left to control the flashguns using a wireless link. In practise this method works fine but for the best control of the system the flashguns should be hard wired to the Photo-Trigger! to remove any synchronisation issues with the wireless link.
My own electronic droplet system was used to provide the water droplets to break the Photo-Trigger! light beam for the droplet images. A simple pipette or eye dropper would also be fine for releasing single droplets or attempting droplet collisions in a more haphazard way.
When Binary Logic release their water droplet system, the Splashart controller, all of the functions will be available in one system. This system will allow the capture of droplet collisions which requires the controlled release of multiple droplets.
- To get the best precision it is necessary to use the Bulb mode of the Photo-trigger!, this removes the mechanical delays and inaccuracies caused by the mirror lifting, the aperture closing to the defined setting and the shutter curtain exposing the sensor and firing the flash.
- In Normal mode the Photo-trigger! can control the camera and will allow the camera to fire the flash or the Photo-trigger! can control the camera and flash for more timing accuracy.
- A third mode called Mirror Lock Up improves the accuracy and reduces the shutter lag by lifting the Mirror and then waiting for the trigger event, this mode is probably the best mode to use unless you can completely black out your work area to use Bulb mode.
The sensitivity of the trigger beam can be adjusted using a very nice bar graph on the LCD display which shows the current level and the trigger level. This allows the user to adjust the trigger level depending on the ambient conditions and the photographic set up.
One quirk of the system is that in order to adjust the trigger delay you need to go up the menu structure until you get to Options and then go down the Options structure until the Trigger delay setting is found. Make the adjustment and then navigate all the way back up and down again to the Light Trigger Start. This is very time consuming and after 10-20 adjustments it really does get boring.
It seems to me that when the Light Trigger is in the ‘armed’ mode it should be possible for the user to increase or decrease the trigger delay using the left and right buttons with the central button being the trigger abort or rate change with some minimal reprogramming.
One interesting feature of the Photo-Trigger! is the ability to incrementally increase the Trigger delay time by a small amount between images using the Trigger delay delta function. This allow the user to create an animated timelapse of a repeatable event like a water droplet. A typical animation can be viewed here (1.8Mb avi file) shot with a Trigger delay delta of 5 milliseconds between images
My camera bag now has a new gadget inside it which will get a lot of use out in the field as well as in the studio.
…..to be continued
update to include interface information for new sensors
It is possible to use a micro switch instead of sensors.
In this case you will have zero<->full values only of course.
The jack plug is as follows:
TIP: 5 volts power supply from trigger
RING: feedback signal to trigger (input)
SLEEVE: GROUND (0V)
So to add microswitch you will have to make something like this:
TIP —- microswitch —- RING —- resistor —- SLEEVE
The resistor should be more than 1k ohm. I would suggest 10k ohm.
Be sure not to short circuit TIP with the SLEEVE!
Socket sizes for the Photo-Trigger!
Flash 5.5/2.1 mm DC plug
Laser 3.8/1.0 mm DC plug
Sensor 3.5mm stereo jack
Camera 2.5mm stereo jack