C O N T E N T S
A S C R A P B O O K O F S O L U T I O N S F O R T H E P H O T O G R A P H E R
Enhancing the enjoyment of taking pictures with news that matters, features that entertain and images that delight. Published frequently.
19 October 2016
We've been using a $199 Miops Smart trigger for a few months now and we still haven't plumbed its depths. With the right connection cable, the small device can fire your camera's shutter or a remote flash faster than you can react to high speed events like lightning flashes.
We had a problem conjuring up lightning. But we didn't have much of a problem with the Miops Smart itself.
You might not think a trigger can enhance your photo-taking pleasure but we consider them an indispensable accessory. Our film cameras (even the antiques) all have shutter buttons with a threaded hole that accept a mechanical shutter release cable. None of our digital cameras do.
We liked using a cable release because it avoided the inevitable camera shake that occurs when you press the shutter button. You can minimize that. And at high shutter speeds or with image stabilization active, hardly detect it. But a cable release eliminates it.
You can pick up a Bluetooth remote trigger for your smartphone for less than $15, which we highly recommend. But the situation isn't that simple for your camera, which may or may not be compatible with wireless or cabled releases.
You can spend between $18 and $160 for a remote release for your dSLR.
These are hardware solutions but there is also one mostly software solution we're aware of. Triggertrap is an app that runs on your mobile device with a special cable connecting it to your compatible camera. It ingeniously uses the device's camera to detect motion or faces to enable advanced triggers. And you can escape the cable with another mobile device running the app and connecting to the first via WiFi.
We've also reviewed the Weye Feye remote release, which is a device that cables to your camera's USB port and communicates via WiFi with your mobile device. Its unique advantage is that it can display what your camera is looking at on your remote device. But there's some latency in that and there are no automatic triggers.
In contrast to these solutions, the Miops Smart is a hardware solution that connects to your camera's auxiliary port (not the USB port) with a special cable. It can function as a standalone trigger or be controlled remotely via Bluetooth with a free mobile device app. It can also be triggered by any common infrared remote control.
All of these solutions get your finger off the shutter button. But the Miops Smart and Triggertrap can also fire the shutter autonomously. You just pick an event for them to watch for and find something else for your finger to do.
Here's a comparison of the events each of these devices can watch:
TRIGGER EVENTS COMPARISON TRIGGER MIOPS TRIGGERTRAP Lightning Yes No Sound Yes Yes Motion Laser only Yes, via device Timelapse Yes Yes Vibration No Yes HDR Yes Yes Cable Release Yes, with app Yes DIY Yes No Combinations Yes No Face Detection No Yes, via device
Some of those modes could use a little elucidation and we'll get to that below.
The company successfully concluded a Kickstarter campaign last month for the Miops Mobile, which as a smartphone-driven trigger more directly competes with the Triggertrap solution. The Miops Mobile offers a simpler hardware interface (no LCD, no flash trigger, no lightning or laser modes) and a more expansive software interface (using a smartphone to detect sound, distance via GPS, vibration, etc.).
Onur Celik from Miops pointed out that the Miops Smart is a dedicated high speed trigger, unlike the other two. With its built-in sensors it can capture high-speed events like lightning, bullets hitting a target and water droplets splashing.
There's no reason, though some of the smartphone triggers could not be incorporated into the Miops Smart app. But we don't know if the company plans to do so.
Just for the record, the specifications for the Miops Smart are:
MIOPS SMART SPECIFICATIONS Screen Color LCD with 128x128 pixels Audio Internal microphone Firmware Upgradeable with Mac | Windows utilities Connectivity Bluetooth 4.0 (low power)
Two 2.5mm jacks (DIY port, Flash port)
One 3.5mm jack (camera port)
Mini-USB (5 volts)
Power Rechargeable, replaceable lithium-ion battery
3.7 volts, 1020 mAh, 3.8 Wh
Weight Under 0.5 lb. 4.0 x 2.5 x 0.75 inches Warranty Two years
IN THE BOX
The retail box contains:
- The Miops Smart device
- A rechargeable lithium-ion battery
In addition, your order should ship with the following items in separate sleeves:
- A PC sync flash connection cable
- A camera connection cable compatible with your camera
- A USB cable to charge the battery
CHARGING THE BATTERY
The battery is shipped about 80 percent charged, which is usable. But you'll want to give it a full charge as soon as convenient. A full charge from no power takes two hours using a 500 mA battery charger or the USB port of your computer.
We didn't have any trouble with the battery contacts or charging.
A NOTE ON THE CABLES
We do have to report a small issue we had with the N1 Nikon cable.
You push the multi-pin plug into the terminal on your camera and then screw in a collar to keep it from being pulled out. We had a problem with the locking collar's threads on both a D300 and D200.
While the threads just barely grabbed the terminal's threads on the D300, they never mated on the D200. Under magnification, we didn't detect any specific manufacturing defect.
A GPS unit we have uses the same terminal and its plug (show above) is constructed a bit differently with more threads.
But a Triggertrap cable we have looks just like the Miops cable, although it seemed to have a few more threads, too. We were able to use the Triggertrap cable with the Miops device to make a more secure connection.
Available as a separate option, the $25 Miops mobile dongle connects your smartphone via its earphone jack to your camera's electronic trigger port. The Miops Smart can then be positioned off the camera as far as your Bluetooth connection will allow.
When the Miops Smart detects a triggering event, it will signal your smartphone to fire the camera's shutter.
The front panel of the compact black-and-orange device contains the 128x128-pixel LCD screen and the six-button control panel for directly interacting with the device. Above them is the Power switch and in the right corner are two status LEDs to show trigger activity and power.
On the very top side of the device is the optical receiver's lens to monitor any light directed to the device.
On the left side, under a flexible orange cover, are three 2.5mm jacks (to connect DIY projects, a flash or a camera) and the mini-USB port to charge the lithium-ion battery.
On the bottom of the unit is the battery cover and the hot shoe mount.
The hot shoe on Nikon dSLRs is a little non-standard with a thicker metal bracket. So the Miops won't slide into them. You can use an inexpensive adapter to mount it on a Nikon hot shoe or just use the Miops screw mount, which is what we ended up doing.
It's an attractive box with an adequate screen to set it for various functions. We did find the Power switch a little stiff and we're no fans of split buttons like the Menu/Start button in the middle of the four-way navigator. We were even less inclined toward them when we had to repeatedly use them to reset something like sound sensitivity.
But you don't have to use the Miops Smart's controls to use the device, convenient as they are. We found it much more pleasant to use the free app that pairs the Miops Smart with your smartphone.
We had a little problem pairing the Miops Smart with our iPhone 6 Plus. We tried to pair them both ways. The Miops app failed to find the iPhone. And trying to pair the iPhone to the Miops from the iPhone failed to find the Miops.
Or so we thought. Celik walked us through the correct procedure:
- Enable Bluetooth on the iPhone.
- Power on the Miops Smart.
- Open the Miops app on the iPhone.
- Click the Refresh icon in the app which is located at the right top corner.
- The app will search for any available Miops Smart devices.
- Once it finds a device, click the device icon.
Step 6 was the trick. We hadn't noticed the device icon so we never selected it.
The smartphone app not only allows you to set and operate the Miops Smart remotely (well, as far as your Bluetooth connection will let your roam), it also adds some new capabilities to the device.
Those include conventional cable release options as well as the ability to build Scenarios you can store on the device.
The cable release options, which should be familiar to anyone who has used a mechanical cable or bulb release, include:
- Cable Release. Tap to fire the shutter.
- Press and Hold. Keep your finger on the button to keep the shutter open. When you raise your finger, the shutter will close.
- Press and Lock. Tap to open the shutter. Tap to close it.
- Timed Release. Specify the time up to an hour to keep the shutter open.
Those options require a continuous Bluetooth connection between the phone and the Miops Smart. But the basic operations available on the Miops Smart itself, which require only a setup command, do not.
Scenarios are a collection of steps, each of which can be a Miops Smart mode or a delay of up to 59 minutes 59 seconds in one second increments. One rule: you can't set the last step as a delay.
Touch the Plus sign to add a step, find the function, set its parameters and tap the Save button. You can reorder the steps by highlighting a step and swiping up or down.
To run a Scenario, you tap the Start button, which also transfers the Scenario to the Miops Smart, where you can find it on the Scenario screen.
So what can you do with it? Here's a few simple examples:
- Capture the home team coming out of the tunnel when the canon goes off. Use: Sound, Delay, Timelapse.
- Catch the "surprise" at a surprise party. Use: Sound, Timelapse.
Apart from the cable release functions, there are seven modes you can set the Miops Smart to use. We weren't able to test all of them sadly but that didn't stop us.
Lightning mode uses the optical receptor on the top of the Miops Smart to detect light. Make sure you are aiming that receptor at the light source.
This mode's single parameter is Sensitivity, which you can set from 1 to 99. The higher the value, the more sensitive the trigger is. Capturing lightning in daylight, for example, requires a high Sensitivity setting. Capturing just the big bolts of lightning at night would require a low setting.
You must also set your camera to Manual focus mode with focus set to infinity.
We had a few lightning storms while testing the Miops Smart but the lightning itself was not directly visible. If it wasn't the fog, it was the clouds.
But this mode is also sensitive to infrared light. So we tried it with a remote control. And it worked.
We used an old Apple TV remote control. A press of the Play button fired the shutter.
This mode could also trigger the camera with a flash.
This one was easy to test. It's quiet in the bunker and we are perfectly capable of making sounds. So nothing stood in the way.
But the typical use for Sound mode in high speed photography is to capture events you would otherwise not be able to react quickly enough to capture. Like popping balloons, breaking glass and explosions. You'd do that with a flash trigger, leaving the shutter open in a dark room until the event made noise.
Flash is faster than any shutter, as Doc Edgerton proved years ago with his hummingbird and other high-speed photos. And, according to Miops, the average shutter lag of a dSLR is about 300 milliseconds, which is too slow to react in time for many of these explosive events.
The key to using this mode successfully when triggering the camera shutter (not a flash) is distinguishing the trigger sound from any other. This is usually a matter of adjusting the Sensitivity slider or moving the Miops Smart closer or father away from the event.
But not always.
We had a little trouble testing the Sound mode as a camera trigger. We were going to keep it simple. Just activate Sound mode in the quiet bunker and clap our hands (a variation of that timeless "Look, Ma, no hands!" stunt).
When we tried that, it worked just as we had expected, firing the shutter immediately after we clapped our hands. But there was a problem.
The Miops Smart heard the shutter and responded to that sound, too. So it continued taking pictures until we turned off Sound mode.
Clearly a different Sensitivity setting wasn't going to solve this issue. The shutter right next to the Miops Smart would just be too loud.
But again Celik came to the rescue, explaining you can enable the Lock option of the Sound trigger so it only fires once.
When triggering a strobe using its PC sync connection to cable it to the Miops, we found the Miops to be nearly instanteous once the strobe's capacitor had charged, which took about three flashes. That makes it the best way to capture high speed events like exploding balloons.
Many cameras include a time-lapse function or intervalometer to automatically take a photo at set intervals for a particular duration. You simply set the camera to fire the shutter every minute for an hour, say, to get 60 shots you can string together as an animated GIF.
Remote triggers can't resist offering similar functionality but it's a bit more complex because the trigger can't always control exposure.
On the Miops Smart, you set three parameters for Time Lapse mode:
- Interval sets the time between each trigger from one second to one hour in one second increments. A counter counts down each time the shutter is triggered.
- Exposure sets the exposure time from one second to one hour in one second increments. You're camera has to be in Bulb mode for this to work otherwise the camera will control the exposure time.
- Limit sets the duration of the mode as the number of images you want to capture.
So to duplicate our example GIF, we'd tell Time Lapse mode to use an Interval of 1:00 minute without Bulb mode so the Exposure is controlled by the camera for a Limit of 60 photos.
It may seem easier to do a time-lapse sequence using your camera's function, but the value of this mode increases when you realize you can use it in Scenarios.
Ah, Laser mode. We weren't able to test this because we couldn't find a friend with a laser. But the concept is pretty simple. You aim the laser beam from any external laser source (not an LED) to the optical receiver on the top of the Miops Smart. When the beam is broken, the trigger goes off.
That's the problem, though. The Miops Smart has to be cabled to either a flash or a camera so it can't always be positioned conveniently to draw a laser beam across the best path you want to observe.
That's a small target to hit, too. The lens does help to focus the laser beam into the Miops Smart but a little wind or other vibration can break the connection. Which triggers the Miops Smart.
As a method for detecting movement, we prefer the Triggertrap approach, which monitors the scene from the camera's point of view. If anything changes, the trigger is activated. No laser required.
Scenario Mode is a clever way to customize the behavior of the Miops Smart beyond its basic functions. The device itself can store three Scenarios, which you create on the smartphone app.
High Dynamic Range mode provides a bracketing function to capture scenes with no moving parts with multiple exposures taken at different settings. A central shot captures the scene normally with one or more shots overexposed for shadow detail and one or more shots underexposed to capture highlight detail.
The aperture stays the same throughout the series but the exposure time is varied.
- Center is the value of the exposure time for a normal central shot in the sequence, neither over- or under-exposed.
- EV or Exposure Compensation is the difference in exposure you want each image to capture
- Frame is the total number of images you want to capture.
This is great if your camera doesn't have exposure bracketing but bracketing on your camera is likely simpler to use than this function.
Again, though, the value of this mode increases when you realize you can use it in Scenarios.
This mode triggers your camera or a flash based on a signal from an external sensor attached by cable to the 3.5mm stereo jack DIY port on the side of the Miops Smart.
The external sensor's plug must match the stereo port's three terminals: ground (on the sleeve), 3-volt power (middle) and signal (tip). The Miops Smart can deliver 3 volts to power the external device and it can absorb a maximum of 3.3 volts. Sending more voltage than that into the Miops Smart will fry it.
DIY mode has three parameters:
- Threshold is the required percentage change in signal level to trigger the Miops Smart.
- Delay between the triggering event and the actual trigger can be set from 0 to 999 milliseconds.
- Mode specifies how the output signal of the sensor should change to qualify as a trigger event. The options are Change, Rising and Falling. Rising, for example, will detect increasing voltage.
We've used the Miops for several months now without a problem. It can be tricky to set sensitivity for some triggers but that's not the device's fault. It's just tricky.
If we had one wish it would be to see the Triggertrap smartphone triggers like face detection (and perhaps movement detection) implemented in the Miops app as well. With the Miops Mobile on its way, that may be a possibility.
But we found the high-speed light, sound and remote triggering to be well implemented. So we're giving the Miops all four corners.