Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wireless Shutter Release, FreeXwire + others


It's definitely NOT riding season here in Vancouver, BC. You can't temp fate as while the roads look clear there is probably a lot of black ice hanging around. Our temperatures seldom go this low and are usually in the high 30s F, but when the mercury hovers below and above freezing, combined with fog then this is a recipe for ice and slippery roads when you least expect it. Now is the time to prepare your vehicles and equipment for the upcoming season.
I follow other blogs and I noticed recently that Jack Riepe recently posted information about his hobby Model Trains (which you can read here) . My hobby is photography . I have belonged to a few camera clubs, was a former camera collector and had been developing my own film and optically printing on my enlargers since the beginning of time. Couple this to my love of cars and motorcycles and you have hobbies blending themselves together for weekend getaways travelling the backroads of British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. Last year we went down to the Palouse (WA) and Hell's Canyon (OR). A year or so ago we travelled to Bella Coola and the Queen Charlotte Islands. While it is not always possible to utilize 2 wheeled vehicles on my travels I try to take you along and show you some of the sights along the way.
In the old days (before digital) my developing and snapshot budget was astronomical. It wouldn't be that unusual to shoot 3 rolls of 36 ex FILM per day, which worked out to close to $50./day. It would have been bad enough with just one camera, but I also travelled with MF equipment (more professional) which was even more expensive. Ten exposures on 120 film would cost about $20. (film + developing) and I would shoot at least one roll per day, depending upon format. A lot of hard earned money would be flying out the door towards fueling my hobby. I consider photos to be a remembrance of good times passed. If a photo can bring a smile to your face then it has dones its job. I decided a long time ago that I needed at least one remembrance per trip and as you know the photographer is hardly ever "in the picture". This is how I explored the use of Wireless Shutter Releases.

(Quantum FreeXwire FW10 Tranmitter/Receiver dual mode)

I remember on one trip we took to California and wanted to take a photo of the "Witches Tree" on the 17 mile drive (Carmel, CA) with ourselves in the foreground. I carefully set up the tripod, set the 10 second self timer, framed ourselves, hit the shutter and ran back to put myself in the picture too. Well, with film you have to return from your holidays, take your film to be processed and a week later you picked up your photos, and guess what ? I didn't realize that a rather large lady had walked behind us and was a prominent figure in our photo. The plan for enlarging this photo had now evaporated.
Very few film cameras had wireless remotes but when P&S digital cameras started to appear, many had IR remotes as accessories. I had been purchasing digital cameras since the beginning and tried to always purchase the ones with IR controllers. Olympus was one of those brands which initially included IR remotes as part of the camera. In the early days, digital did not compare with film so while I had a P&S in my pocket my main camera was a Nikon F-100 which had the 10 pin connector

(Quantum FreeXwire, FW44: 2 step MD cable for Nikon 10-pin connector)

Eventually the performance of digital cameras started to compare with film so I started to decrease film use. I used digital for Snapshots and MF film cameras for all of my serious efforts. It seemed that Nikon only includes their 10-pin connector for their upscale models such as their D-100, D-200 so I had been unable to use my Quantum units with my D-70 or D-80 as they have a separate 4-pin connector. All of these propriety connectors cannot be purchased from Nikon and are only available if you purchase another costly accessory and cut off the plug. That plug pictured above, FW44 is listed for US$109.99 fob: NY. So much money for a couple of feet of wire and a connector at each end.

(Nikon F-100 showing 10-pin connector socket)

For the past several years I had been relying on IR controllers with the D70/D80. They are great for those night shots (Timed "B" exposures) as it is more convenient than using a wired release. The problem with the IR controllers is that the sensor is on the right side and close to the lens (Front view). Whenever you try to place yourself in a group shot you have to be sure to stand on the right side so that the IR can "hit" the sensor. If you stand on the left, opposite to the lens (& lens shade), it covers the sensor and the camera will not fire. Recently while down at Washington Pass there was a lot of snow on the sides of the highway and we wanted to get a photo of the SIGN and mountains behind. The camera/tripod was set up for the photo, BUT the IR was "over-range", and was too far away to fire the shutter, so again I had to rely on the 10 second timer. It is not always possible to anticipate when the shutter will fire as you are running towards your intended position. This is when I again got serious to explore my options for a radio wireless shutter release, as opposed to IR as must be in direct view of the sensor and is only limited to a short 15 ft or so.
I am not promoting eBay but I noticed that a wireless shutter was available from several sources at a very reasonable (read CHEAP) price. Since it was only US36. including shipping direct to my door, I ordered one and here is what it looks like.

(Yongnuo: YN-128 made in China)

This is what I received in the mail. Includes both batteries for the receiver and the "remote" transmitter and instruction sheet. This is the unit for the Canon G-10, which also fits the XSi and various models of Pentax which use the 2.5mm mini stereo plug.

(receiver shown mounted on the Canon G-10)

There is no electrical contact made with the flash hot shoe adapter, the plastic foot merely slides and locks onto the shoe as a place to hold it. The protruding cable plugs directly into the RS-60e3 socket. You push a button to turn it on which turns on a RED LED on the front. The remote has a shutter button and a 2 position slide switch (instant & 2 second delay) . The shutter button works exactly as on a camera, half a push focuses and turns the LED GREEN, and a full push activates the shutter. If you put you camera on "B" mode and slide the remote switch to "B" position, you hold the shutter button (on the remote) for 3 seconds. The shutter on the camera will stay open until you push the remote shutter button again, in which case it closes.

(rear of "remote" showing 16 channels are available)

There are also dip switches on the receiver section which can also be matched to each other. These units have a range of approx 300 feet (100 meters) which should be adequate for my purpose and since they are radio activated up in the 400 mghz range, you do not have to be "line of sight". The beauty of this unit as compared to IR is that you can do a countdown with your hands out of camera view and take an instantaneous photo rather than chance a random 10 second timer countdown.

I must say that for the price this unit works as advertised. In fact, it worked so well that I purchased another one for my Nikon D80

(wireless remote shown mounted on Nikon D-80)

I paid a lot of money for those Quantum FreeXwire radio slaves and they have been unused for many years. I found some wiring diagrams on the web and made up my own 2-step MD cables .

(homemade cable FreeXwire mini to G-10 or XSi compatible)

Connected to my G-10 I now have wireless shutter release working with the Quantum FreeXwire unit.

(side view of FreeXwire)

These Quantum units are mainly used for syc'ing studio lights with inputs from various sources to trigger lights without wires. Each unit can be either a receiver or transmitter depending upon your needs. The prices for these cables are artificially high as you cannot purchase these propriety plugs from Nikon (10-pin or 4-pin) or Canon (N3 or T3) and while I have obtained the wiring info for these dedicated plugs I am unable to make them.

What use is all this info anyway ? Well, I am planning on more solo rides this summer and I wish to be able to take more self photos of my travels in various locations. And also as a devoted hobbyist just the challenge of finding out how things work and the satisfaction derived.


  1. I think I would be indoors fiddling with my apparatus if the weather were anything remotely resembling the last few posts.

  2. I learned something here today....never knew you can get one of them gadgets...and actually use it.

  3. Dear Sir:

    I was very flattered to see my hobby and name spelled out in your blog today. Isn't it amazing at how much having a little fun costs? I own 12 scale locomotives. The sum total of 9 of them cost more than what I paid for my BMW motorcycle.

    Thank you agan for the kind mention. Your hobby is an art and a craft. Mine is a punchline.

    Fondest regards,
    Twisted Roads

  4. Those of you who know, please keep sharing. Newbies like me are soaking it up! This was really new and useful information.

    I was glad to see the picture of the Nikon D80. I bought a D40 for my first camera. It's comforting to know that I at least have the same brand as a knowledgeable person!

  5. Conch:
    If we had KW weather we wouldn't be fiddling with our apparatus either. We have to keep ourselves amused somehow

    I'm a dedicated hobbyist. I had radio controlled cars and electric planes. I recently purchased a AstroFlight helicopter, but I am afraid to fly it. Everytime I use the flight simulator, I crash

    Mr Jack:

    Dear Sir: (see, I'm learning a lot from you) Photography used to be an expensive hobby for me as I used to collect cameras and individually some cost more than a motorcycle. Somehow my collecting got out of control but cameras are small and you can fit many inside a few drawers. Bikes on the other hand take up a lot of space but I have learned to never ask permission to purchase another one. It somehow just "shows up"

    Fondest regards
    Twisted Mind

    I find that photography goes hand in hand with travelling the backroads . We have been discussing the possibility of doing a few "photographic" rides and I have found a couple of other riders with the same interest.
    Without going into great detail now (topic for future blog discussion) but group rides are designed for the security of a group of riders going to a common destination, and the security of travelling in a group would provide. Photographic rides are slightly different. You would meet and start off from the same point, but without a necessary Lead rider, nor a sweep. The plan would be for each rider to stop where they see an interesting photo op and not be afraid of falling too far behind as the group would have pre-determined stops where they will wait for the "stragglers" to catch up. and of course, everytime there is a "fork in the road", the group will wait before any directional changes. So under some criteria to be formulated, you are still travelling within a group but "by yourself" at any given time.
    If you have any questions regarding your camera, just ask.

  6. bobskoot, thanks for this great posting....this remote is now on my shopping list....about that Canon G10...does it have all the "manual" features as well? When you press the shutter, does it take the pic or does it have a 12 year old Olympus has a delay while it thinks about things before it trips the shutter....very annoying. Or is this just a feature available from DSLRs?

  7. bobskoot, wow you weren't kidding the freewire stuff is expensive....looks like I first have to figure out a camera before buying the right remote for it off ebay....I would like to find something similar to my Olympus C-4000 with longer zoom and more megapixels....the search continues.