A lot of photographers go out shooting while carrying a phone, but do not utilize functionality of it to shoot pictures. Like the name implies, smartphones have a lot of computing power (i.e. they are smart) which cannot be directly used for photography. Triggertrap changes this. The Triggertrap dongle is a little device that connects your smartphone with a camera or a flash to improve your control over it. The device basically looks like a cable, from which one end is plugged in the phone’s audio jack and the other in the camera or a flash. It is as simple as that.
The kit I will be testing during this review is the Triggertrap Mobile Kit for a Nikon D800 and the Triggertrap Flash Adapter, which can be used to connect a flash. The main component is the dongle, in which the ‘brains’ of the Triggertrap are located. This dongle is a 3.5mm male to 2.5mm female cable with a bit of electronics in it. The electronics in the cable are used to translate the outgoing signal of the smartphone to a signal which the camera or flash can use for triggering.
Now that I have explained the method to connect the various components, I can tell you something about the functionality of the device. What exactly can your smartphone do for you? When the Triggertrap is used to connect your camera to your smartphone then it basically works as a wired shutter release with an interval timer and some additional triggering methods. In the Triggertrap app on your smartphone, you can find options commonly shared with wired remotes, such as bulb or interval shooting. Besides this the Triggertrap app can also use the sensors available in your smartphone to trigger your camera. With this you can think of sound, movement (of the phone) or motion detection using the smartphone’s camera.
Using it with a camera
I started off using the Triggertrap for some long-exposure photography. As soon as I started my first exposure (90 seconds) I realized that this might not be the most practical way to shoot. During this period I was forced to hand-hold my phone. Suddenly the long exposure feels very long indeed, giving me some time to think: “This is exactly why I prefer wireless shutter releases”. Normally it is possible to let wired shutter releases hang by their own weight, but I did not feel comfortable doing this with my smartphone. I have to say that the results are what I would them to be, but the way in which I obtained them was not so ergonomic.
When you utilize the special capabilities of the Triggertrap, things get interesting. A friend of mine requested that I take some pictures of his football team. After the initial shots I wanted to have some more crazy pictures, because this is how I know these guys. I connected the Triggertrap and set up the sound sensor. Honestly, they were a bit confused after I explained the guys that they had to scream in order to get a picture taken but they results were great. The team photos I got seemed more genuine and not too posed.
Using it with a flash
As you might know, there is a small delay between the moment the camera is trigger and it actually takes the picture. With modern cameras it is small enough to be hardly noticeable, but when the action gets really fast it can seems like an eternity. This is why you might want to trigger a flash and not a camera since the flash delay is much smaller.
High-speed photography requires this smaller delay in order to capture events that take place in a split second. Think of breaking cups, popping balloons and other such things. There is one other main reason you want to use flash for high speed photography: since low-power flashes have a low duration, thus they can freeze motion much better than the shutters in cameras.
The Triggertrap Flash Adapter is well suited for capturing these short moments. I have tried myself to shoot some exploding balloons and it worked well. What is great about working with an iPhone is that it is very convenient to change settings, such as delay or the sensor sensitivity due to the large screen of the iPhone and the touch interface. I have no remarks about the app that is made to use with the TriggerTrap.
The Triggertrap is a very nifty device that can be very useful. It is easy to use, works well and extremely easy to take with you. The little cable can fit in any bag. Because most people always bring a smartphone with them it means that if you bring the cable you always bring a wired release as well.
Unfortunately there is a practical issue with it. When shooting with the Triggertrap there is no way to lay your phone down. During the exposure you will be stuck holding it. Personally for me this is quite a nuisance. Besides this it is also annoying that every time when your smartphone battery depletes you lose all functionality (which happens way too often with me).
I really love the creative triggering method through sound or vibration since it is possible to shoot some unique pictures with it. Combined with the flash adapter it makes high-speed photography easy to do. A note on the high-speed triggering: Triggertrap states that currently only the iOS app has a small enough delay to really do high speed photography, the Android app has a too big delay (at the time of writing). A word of warning, then, if you want to buy it for Android!
In the end I can recommend the Triggertrap to others. While the wired connection to a smartphone might be annoying, it does enable you to do some other stuff. Especially for the price of £22.99 GBP for the Mobile Kit and £19.99 GBP for the Flash Adapter it makes a great present for Christmas or a birthday. A present that doesn’t break the bank but with high gadget factor.