Saturday, January 24, 2015

DIY camera shutter release

In this entry I'm going to show you how you can create a wired camera shutter, using reasonably common items!

Remote shutters, wired or wireless, aren't very expensive. But that's not really the point, anyway.

Basically, you're going to need only one thing, an AUX-type cable that goes into the remote shutter port of your camera. I've got a (fairly outdated) Canon EOS 450D, and the remote shutter port is a 2,5mm jack. To my understanding, most Canon cameras have a 2,5mm port. Interestingly, it's the same kind of port that some older phones use as a headphone jack. Most PC's use its big brother, the 3,5mm connection, for microphones and speakers.

If your house has a box with random electronics, chances are you might find a suitable cable. I found several, but then again, we borderline electronics hoarders.

From left to right; 1. A standard 3,5mm AUX male. This is the kind of cable that goes from your TV to your surround sound system. The one everyone is looking for when you want to plug your ipod to a stereo at the party.

2. The malnourished sibling, 2,5mm. This one goes into your Canon, or your Nikon! And a few other seemingly arbitrary places! You need one of these for our project!

3. This is the sort of AUX connector that has your headphones at the other end. It has more connector rings.

Now, as long as your cable has a 2,5mm male at one end, it can have almost whatever at the other end. The cable I'm using has a 2,5mm that goes into the camera, and a standard 3,5mm male in the other end. This is the optimal cable to use for our remote shutter. The second best alternative, and probably the most common to find around the house, is a 2,5mm cable with male connectors at both end. (In case someone is confused by this terminology, it's called male because it's like a *hmm* that goes into a *hmm*, which is the female end, the port e.g. on your PC.)

Now, to the interesting part!

Remember what I said about some headphones having a 2,5mm connector? If those headphones have any sort of button (Typically somewhere along the cable), then they can probably be used as a remote shutter. Plug them in, and click the button to snap a picture! Your camera may have an options setting that you have to check for remote shutters, mine didn't. If you're brave enough, you might be able to cut the cable off on the far side of the button - The button should still be fully functional, and you'd be left with a very professional looking camera trigger.

I didn't have any 2,5mm headphones. But I had a 2,5mm male to male 3,5mm cable! I know that the buttons on those headphones work by connecting completing the circuit that correspond to the first and the last connectors on the AUX male plug. The shiny knob, and the bottom of the chrome shaft, so to speak.

How is that information helpful? Well, you can either strip the wires inside the headphone wire and touch one wire to the other, or solder a button between them. This can be useful if you only have a cable that ends in 2,5mm but has something else in the other end. Like a female jack, or something that adapts the cable into an older system. I had a video cable like that. You can still solder these into a usable remote shutter, but no one want's to solder anything... Atleast I didn't.

So if you have a male to male cable, with either 2,5mm in both ends or with a 3,5mm male in one end, you can do what I did.

You can use any metal object to close the circuit between the knob and the bottom connector on the shaft. A safety pin or a keyring, for example.

This is a small keyring! Snap snap snap snap. I wedged the bottom of the plug between the two rings, and with my finger I was able to roll the top so that the ring touches the knob on the end, which closes the circuit. Every time the circuit is closed, the camera snaps a picture. With Autofocus on, it focuses before taking a picture. When shooting in bulb-mode, where the shutter stays open as long as you press the button, the camera will keep shooting for as long as the circuit is closed.

This is another solution. It's the part on the top of soda/beer cans that you twist. Bend it to an angle. Stick the 3,5mm through the hole (If it's still intact.), it's like a perfect fit. Now, if I'm not mistaken, it's aluminium. Aluminium doesn't bend super well, and might break. It doesn't seem to be as reliable as the keyring or the safety pin in use, so I wouldn't recommend it for bulb photography.

This one is my favourite. It's just a bent safety pin. If you put it on a 3,5mm, like I did, then you might need to unwind the spring a bit to fit it around the plug. To make it fit snugly around a 2,5mm, you might want to wind the spring an extra lap around the connector.

It's that simple. Now you can take all kinds of no-arm selfies. You know, selfies look a lot better if the camera is farther away and zoomed in. But that's not the only benefit of a remote shutter, they're also very handy when you're doing long exposure photography, or filming a video.

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