Undoubtedly, you’ve seen some incredibly beautiful long-exposure photos of the night sky, or time-lapse movies of the Milky Way marching steadily across the frame. To reproduce shots like those, you could employ cheap, finicky intervalometers or you could go the smart and easy route and play with a remote camera trigger that’s programmed by your phone to control the shutter. Those app-controlled remotes have been around a few years, and they vary in quality. But few are as slick as the Pulse Camera Remote from Alpine Labs.
The $99 remote mounts onto the hot-shoe of your camera and plugs into the USB port on the camera body. Pulse then pairs to a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth to give the user nearly full control of the camera’s settings. The Bluetooth connection lets you control it from as far as 100 feet away, and while it can’t spin your camera’s manual control dials for you, the Pulse can adjust shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, and trigger the shots. It’s also very light, and if something else is in the hot shoe, Pulse can just dangle from its USB cable.
There are more than 60 cameras (mostly Canon and Nikon, but also the Panasonic GH4) on Alpine Labs’ list of tested cameras. Sony cameras are absent—the company has some tethering restrictions that render the Pulse useless. And while there are many consumer-grade cameras that allow for some degree of control via built-in Wi-Fi, many professional grade cameras do not have Wi-Fi. For instance, Canon’s 5DmkVI is the first in the massively popular 5D series to include Wi-Fi. So if you’ve got something like an older Canon 5D, the Pulse can be a valuable photo assistant.
The unit pairs with your phone easily, and the app’s interface is intuitive. Shooting styles include photo (simple remote trigger), video, time lapse, long exposure, and HDR. It can also act as a photo booth, snapping up to 10 photos in a row with 5 to 60 seconds between each shot—however much time your subjects need to change the positions of their feather boas. For time-lapse sequences, Pulse can ramp the ISO and shutter speed for varying exposures. This is helpful for capturing a time-lapse shot of a sunrise or sunset where the changing brightness requires different exposure settings. The App will even control up to three different Pulse units for multi-angle shots for broader coverage.
Pulse is a set-it-and-forget-it device. Once you’ve dialed in the sequence or other instructions via the app, Pulse no longer needs the smartphone around to keep track of what it’s doing. For long time lapse shoots, I was able to re-connect the app to the device and it would tell me what percentage of the sequence was complete. A calculator shows how long the final time lapse sequence will be according to how many frames have been programmed to be shot during the sequence.
There’s an on-off switch on the unit, and there were a few occasions when I picked it up and realized I had forgotten to turn it off. The battery had drained in my camera bag, and it was dead. This makes me wish it would just pull power through the USB connection from the camera (if that’s even an option) to avoid having to keep it charged up. One other quibble: there’s no live preview option since it uses low-energy Bluetooth, which has data limitations. You only get an image thumbnail of the most recent shot.
8/10 – Excellent, with room to kvetch.
Read more: http://www.wired.com/