Mobile Triggers Compared to Help You Choose the Right One

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When it comes to mobile triggers or cable releases photographers often have multiple responses:

  • I got the knock-off brand and it doesn’t work when I need it
  • I got the basic button kind and have to count the time on my own
  • The intervalometer is way too expensive
  • I could save money and build a DIY release but that’s too much effort
Triggertrap

Image from Triggertrap site

Image from the Triggertrap website.

I hear comments like that on almost a daily basis. In my previous article on long exposure photography accessories I mentioned Triggertrap and Trigger Happy. In this article I’m going to discuss both of those (with a bonus tip at the end) and also discuss some other options that are available to you.

This article is not a review of the products but rather just an overview of what each offers. It is worth noting that I do own each of the products and will share my personal recommendation at the end of the article. So if you don’t care so much about the comparison then please skip down to the bonus tip and my recommendation.

However, if you’re considering a mobile trigger for your camera, but haven’t purchased one yet, then please continue reading.

Triggertrap

Triggertrap started as a Kickstarter project, and really set the bar high for its standards and features. The Triggertrap software is open source and can be found on Github. The quality of the physical cables is top notch, very durable, and they’re also attractive.

The mobile kits are available for Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Sony, Olympus, Samsung, Panasonic, Pentax, Sigma, Leica, Lytro, Hasselblad, Contax, Konica Minolta and Kodak.

A mobile kit is available for nearly every camera you could possibly want. It connects to the headphone jack of your phone and then the cable release part of your camera. The mobile kits start at $37.46 USD.

Triggertrap 1

The mobile app (iOS and Android) has a variety of trigger options that can go way beyond just pushing the button. Here is a list of all the trigger options:

  • Sound sensor
  • Vibration sensor
  • Motion sensor
  • Facial recognition
  • Time-lapse
  • TimeWarp
  • DistanceLapse
  • Bramping
  • Star Trail
  • Long Exposure HDR
  • Long Exposure HDR time-lapse
  • Press and Hold
  • Timed Exposures
  • Simple Cable Release
  • Wifi Trigger
  • Triggertrap also includes a neutral density filter calculator, which is convenient. Although I prefer Slower Shutter, it is convenient having a calculator in the same place as the trigger. The app also includes local sunrise and sunset times which is very convenient.

It is worth noting two more things about Triggertrap. First, all the features of the apps are not available on both iOS and Android. Second, that is likely to change quick because Triggertrap is always working on improvements and new features.

The apps are free so while you are paying for the mobile kits, you are not paying for the software side.

Trigger Happy

Trigger Happy also began as a Kickstarter project and was successfully funded. It works the same way at Triggertrap, using the headphone jack of your mobile device.

NOTE: Since writing this article, TriggerHappy has closed for business, but some of the products are still available. They decided to open their software up to the world and made it Open Source available on GitHub.  They are also recommending people to check out Triggertrap.

Triggerhappy

The kits are available for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Olympus, Sony only and retail at $29-49 USD. The apps are limited to the most basic features including the following trigger options:

  • Simple camera trigger
  • Bulb
  • Time-lapse mode / Intervalometer
  • HDR mode
  • Bramping

This system was the first I owned, via the Kickstarter project; it’s changed since then but even the original still works very well. The apps are also free, so while you are paying for the kit you are not paying for the software side.

SmartShutter

SmartShutter is from a company called Zesty Accessories in Japan, and is different than the other mobile releases as it uses Bluetooth to trigger instead of a wired release. Cool, right? The product sells for between $39.99 and $64.99 direct or through Amazon.

It works very well, but the app is extremely limited. I do have some issues with the design of the Nikon version, but instead of re-stating it here you can see to my full review and video of the product here.

Zesty

I mentioned that the product uses Bluetooth, but you should know that it relies on your camera’s battery for power. That means if you’re using a camera like the Sony A7, which has poor battery life, then this device will drain your camera battery faster. But if you have a camera like the Nikon D810 your battery life will continue performing well.

The devices are available for Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus, Pentax, Konica Minolta, Contax, Fuji, Sigma, Hasselblad and Samsung.

The free app allows for a quick trigger of the camera or a timed exposure. But the timed exposure allows for intervals, a delayed start, and even the number of photos to capture. In addition, the app has the ability to geotag your photographs using your phone’s GPS as well. The app is only available for iOS and is also free.

ioShutterPro

ioShutter is made by enlighten photo, the people who created Orbis and other amazing products for photographers. ioShutter is also the priciest of each of the triggers coming in at $69.99 for the cable kit. They do have a limited number available right now at 50% off due to what seems to be damaged packaging.

It comes in a nice package and includes a pouch to hold the cable when not in use. The design is actually very similar to the Triggertrap where there is a module with a cable that connects the module to the camera. That way if one part breaks only half of the cable needs to be replaced.

ioShutter is available for Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Pentax, Samsung and Hasselblad. But the mobile app(s) are only available for iOS at the time I’m writing this. Yes, I used plural because the ioShutter app comes in two versions: Lite which is free and Pro, which is an additional $5.99.

ioShutter Lite gives you the standard shutter release function you’d expect to find in a cable release. However the Pro version comes with other trigger options:

  • Timed exposure
  • Time-lapse
  • ClapToSnap
  • ShakeToTake

You can also stack features like creating a time-lapse with timed exposures.

Bonus Time

There are two quick things I want to mention before moving on to my recommended product.

The first is for Lifeproof case users. Your case comes with a headphone adapter. I leave mine connected to my earbuds all the time. So I picked up a second adapter, which connects, to my mobile kits.

The second tip is if you already own one of the cables mentioned above, but you want to try another app. I started with Trigger Happy but do not use their app anymore because I now use my favorite of them all, Triggertrap. Before I got my hands on a Triggertrap mobile kit I was using my Trigger Happy cable with the Triggertrap app. So it’s worth knowing that your cable kits should work fine with other apps. I also tested the Trigger Happy cable with ioShutter so I know it works there as well.

Suggested Product

My favorite mobile trigger is Triggertrap for two reasons. For one the app is amazing and contains so many useful features that shouldn’t and can’t be ignored. The team at Triggertrap is also looking for more ways to innovate in the industry, and they’re working on amazing things. For the price of the mobile kits, and the quality of the product itself, on top of the incredible mobile apps, the product is truly a winner.

So there you go – a simple comparison of your options, some tips and my recommendation. Feel free to comment with questions and comments as I’m sure you have your own preferences.

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Scott Wyden Kivowitz

is the Community & Blog Wrangler at Imagely, a father, photographer blogger, and educator. Scott is also the author of multiple photography ebooks including the topics of long exposures, panoramics, and street photography. Get his free Lightroom video series, Fundamentally Lightroom, to help you simplify your Lightroom workflow, and also receive his free photography guides collection as a thank you.

  • Looks like this article only touches on wired options and only Apple versions. There are very good wireless options as well, such as CamRanger, and in the Android space much more is possible because of the ability to use USB Host mode. Sad to say but Apple really isn’t there when it comes to mobile camera control apps.

  • I don’t consider CamRanger as just a mobile trigger. It’s far more advanced than just that. But yes, that’s a great option as well. Also, not all mobile triggers are made for Android, but TriggerTrap is. SmartShutter, which is on the list, is also Bluetooth so that one isn’t wired.

  • gservo

    Trigger traps is a mixed bag of usefulness but mostly good. Things to
    keep in mind. When you are using your phone , you are giving up your
    phone for the duration of the image. If your are doing a time laps or
    something else that takes time it can be an inconvenience. You need
    something to hold the phone on the tripod or the camera or it will just
    hang there.

    If you can get your hands and on an old phone you have less to worry about. You can recycle it and make that your remote.

    Be careful when using the sound shutter release. Your friends or kids
    can mistakenly add many photos to your memory card. Kids find it
    fascinating to clap their hands and take a photo.

    If your cameras have different cables you need to mange them or have a little bag just to keep them all together.

  • Nate Curde

    Found that having a USB OTG cable and using my Android Tablet (Nexus7 Gen2) is a great option. I have used Helicon Remote https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.HeliconSoft.HeliconRemote2 and DSLR Dashboard https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.dslr.dashboard
    Find them most useful when doing fireworks & macro shots.

  • Jerry Boyden

    Scott, from the title, you imply this will be an honest showdown of all mobile apps available. Not so.This article is incomplete, and a complete waste if time. For the record, Android holds 61.9% of the U.S. market share despite the release of iPhone 6.

  • I did not create the title, but at the same time did not imply that all will be included. The only ones included are what I was able to get my hands on to test.

  • Seekerofknowledge

    Actually, you’re wrong. Most Android devices can’t be used in this way as they are just “feature phone” replacements, so your figure if 61.9% in this context is wildly inflated.

  • arkhunter

    I’ve never heard of an Android powered “feature phone”. Source?

  • KenV99

    For exactly the reasons you state, I use my iPod touch instead of my phone. I have a velcro strip on the back that I use to attach it to my tripod. Works great.

  • Great decision!

  • Jerry Boyden
  • KenV99

    All of the apps tested have Android versions except ioShutter. Do they work identically? I can’t say for all but for Triggertrap, pretty much. I have it on an iPhone 5, an iPod touch, a rooted Kindle Fire and a Nexus 7 2013 and they all have the same functionality.

  • Your Face

    I do the same with my ipod touch, the Velcro strip is a great idea though! I’ll have to get that a shot.

  • KenV99

    I bought a really cheap case and stuck the velcro loop side to that. The dongle cable is long enough to reach one of the legs on my tripod even when the center post is fully extended, but you may want to check that is the case with yours. Triggertrap sells a little holder for a phone that goes in the flash hot shoe, but you can get one for about $10 USD less on amazon. I like the fact I can pick it up using the velcro and adjust things without touching the camera, but I stabilize the tripod leg to ensure I don’t mess up the shot, while I think there is a greater chance of that if it’s attached to the camera and you are doing a timelapse or long exposure.

  • I honestly feel soooooo stupid. As I shot the meteor shower, with my iphone hanging on my tripod, me in the car listening to my ipod….. (facepalm).

  • No, not all are made for Android and there are some Android-only. I put them all in the ‘mobile trigger’ category regardless of functions.

    I’ve got a CamRanger and it has improved quite a lot from the time I first got it.

    The problem is the Apple limitations on devices and non-support of USB host mode. It means Apple users don’t have access to other apps like DSLR Controller, Helicon Remote, or DSLR Dashboard. Helicon Remote is available for the Mac but not iOS devices. It’s a silly restriction and Apple users should, I think, be lobbying Apple hard to remove it.

  • It’s not a matter that most Android phones are just ‘feature phone replacements’. Any Android powered smartphone does far more than any feature phone.

    The issue is the ability, in the case of Android, for the phone to work in USB host mode. Most cannot, unfortunately. Sometimes they can be updated with a modified version of the Android OS like Cyanogenmod, but that doesn’t always work either (there is a hardware dependency as well as software) and loading a hacked OS is a risky bit of work and you stand a reasonable chance of bricking the phone.

    I’ve got a book coming out later this year called The Mobile Photographer, http://www.amazon.com/Mobile-Photographer-Unofficial-Photography-Workflow/dp/160895823X/ that discusses all of this in much more detail with respect to the Android platform.

  • Isaiah Tanenbaum

    TT also sells a bracket that fits on your hotshoe.

  • thehokumculture

    I ordered Michron from Kickstarter too… doesn’t need a connection to my phone,just initally when programming it. And it has its own battery. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/vivolabs/michron-timelapse-for-everyone

  • JJtoob

    It’s a good thing I keep my old devices. I still have an iPod Touch fourth gen (and would have a second gen if I hadn’t given it to an ex…) and my last Android phone. I’m sure you can get a cheap used phone online just for this purpose if you plan on taking very long exposure or time lapse shots.

  • ida980

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  • Pat

    This is so practical!What’s more,there are more accessories of mobile phone for you.

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