Best camera remote shutter releases
30th May 2012 | 09:20
Avoid camera shake with these remote releases
Camera remote shutter releases explained
There are many reasons why you might want to trigger your camera's shutter remotely, and there are a range of wired and wireless remote releases that enable you to do this.
Wireless remotes are particularly useful when taking group shots with yourself in the frame, or when it isn't practical to stand directly behind your camera at the time of capture, such as with some types of nature photography.
Cheaper wired remotes, meanwhile, are just as suitable as wireless types when you want to trigger the camera without touching the shutter release button, such as for macro photography where camera stability is vital to achieving a sharp image.
Prices start at around £15 in the UK and $22 in the US for the basic, key fob-like Canon RC-6 infrared remote or the wired Canon RS-60E3 controller. At the other end of the scale, the professional-minded Canon LC-5 weighs in at a colossal £335/$430, and enables you to shoot from up to 100m away from the camera.
At mid-range prices of between £30-60/$40-70 there's lots to get excited about. Features include wireless RF (Radio Frequency) connectivity; single, continuous and timer-delay shooting modes switched direct from the controller; some remotes even include options for controlling time-lapse shooting.
Wired or wireless
One distinction that's commonly made between types of remote controller is whether they're wireless, or connect to the camera via a cable. All controllers apart from the Canon RC-6, whether wired or wireless, have a cable that connects to the camera's remote control terminal.
With wired remotes the controller plugs into the terminal, giving you an operating range of about 60-80cm (extension cables are available to boost the range).
Wireless remotes have separate transmitter and receiver units, the latter of which connect to the camera's remote control terminal via its own cable.
There are two types of wireless system. The Canon LC-5 uses an infrared beam, similar to that of the Canon RC-6 controller, but much more powerful. The maximum operating range is 100m, compared with just 5m for the RC-6. All other wireless remotes here use an RF (Radio Frequency) link.
The only real advantage of an infrared system is that you can use it in countries and situations where the use of RF equipment is forbidden.
However, just like TV remote controllers that use a similar infrared link, you need a line of sight between the transmitter and receiver. This means that if someone or something blocks the controller's path of light between you and the camera, you won't be able to take your shot. RF links have no such constraints.
It's useful to be able to lightly press the shutter button on a remote controller to enable the camera to achieve autofocus and light metering, and then fully press it when you want to take your shot, as with the shutter button on the camera.
Most remotes have this type of two-stage shutter button. However, the Canon RC-6 instead has a one-stage button that needs to be fully pressed to activate autofocus and metering, after which the shot is taken either immediately or after a short delay.
A benefit of using the remote control terminal rather than the camera's infrared receiver is that you have greater flexibility in drive modes. Instead of being limited to the self-timer/remote drive mode, you can also select the single or continuous drive modes.
Some controllers enable you to switch between single, continuous and a self-timer delay on the controller itself, rather than making adjustments on the camera. This can be a bonus if you're some distance away from the camera, as it saves you having to walk back and forth every time you want to make a minor change.
Advanced controllers often include timers for bulb (long exposure) shooting, so you can either use the controller as a stop watch or set the length of exposure; other features may include a time-lapse mode. Such functions are controlled via an LCD display and menus.
So, now that we know all that, here's our selection of our favourite camera remote releases.
Camera remote shutter releases under £35/$45
Hama RS60-E3 - £13 (around $20)
This is Hama's direct equivalent of the Canon RS60-E3 wired remote - it's pretty much the same size and it operates in exactly the same way. A two-stage switch enables autofocus and metering with a light press, and shutter release with a full press. The switch also slides forward once it's fully pressed, enabling you to lock it in place for bulb exposures or prolonged shooting in continuous drive mode.
The cable length is a bit more generous than on the Canon RS60-E3 equivalent, at 80cm rather than 60cm, but the two-stage button feels a little imprecise by comparison. Even so, it represents pretty good value.
Canon RC-6 - £15/$22
Bypassing the usual need for one of two types of terminal connectors, the infrared Canon RC-6 works with all current Canon cameras apart from the 1100D and variants of the 1D. Since Canon DSLRs only tend to have an IR receiver at the front of the camera, built into the hand grip, you can't operate the camera from behind.
But the RC-6 is particularly useful for self-portraits, with a range of five metres and a two-second self-timer delay, and unlike the older RC-5, the addition of a switch on the back panel also offers immediate shutter release. The main button is only a one-stage switch, so you can't activate autofocus and light metering in advance.
Canon RS-60E3 - £15/$22
Small and simple to use, Canon's RS-60E3 suits all cameras with a mini-jack remote control terminal, to which it connects via a 60cm cable. For tidy stowage, the cable wraps around the body of the controller and there's a dummy socket for the plug to fit into. The unit requires no batteries, and the only moving part is the remote shutter button assembly.
This has a good solid feel to it, with a precise two-stage mechanism for autofocus and metering with a light press, and shooting with a full press. Once fully pressed the button can slide forward to lock in place for bulb exposures or continuous shooting, without the need to keep the button manually pressed in.
Hahnel HRC280 - £15/$30
Ideal for photographers who have multiple cameras with both types of remote controller terminal, the Hahnel HRC280 fits both. The controller itself has a socket in which a cable can be fitted and locked in place, making it work with Canon, Pentax or Samsung DSLRs. Both types are supplied with 80cm cables, and you also get a two-metre extension cable; the controller therefore acts as a direct replacement for both the Canon RS-60E3 and RS-80N3 controllers.
The two-stage shutter button doesn't quite have the same level of precision as the Canon remotes, but it's still very good, and it also features a slide-forward locking mechanism for bulb exposures or continuous shooting.
Hama CA-1 - £20 (around $31)
A neat little unit, the CA-1 is a wireless RF remote for cameras that have a mini-jack remote controller terminal. It's cheap compared with most of the RF controllers on test, although it has a relatively limited maximum range of 30m, despite having an extending aerial built in to the transmitter (see the Hama CA-2 review for more).
As with other wireless remote controllers, you can switch between radio channels to avoid interference with other people's kit, using easily accessible switches on both units.
Hama CA-2 - £30 (around $47)
The Hama CA-2 controller looks and feels identical to the CA-1, but has an additional three-pin connector to suit cameras such as the Canon EOS 5D and Canon EOS 7D. Unlike most wireless remotes, the receiver unit doesn't have the facility to clip in to the camera's hot shoe, so it merely dangles from its connection terminal, putting a bit of a strain on the plug and socket.
The extendable aerial on the transmitter is a bit flimsy, but you can shoot from a few metres away, even through walls, without the need to extend it. As with the Hama CA-1, there's compatibility for single, continuous, self-timer and bulb shooting, but drive modes have to be selected on the camera itself.
Camera remote shutter releases £40-60/$45-90
Canon RS-80N3 - £40/$45
A little larger than the Canon RS-60E3, this controller features a thicker, more business-like cable and plug that fits three-pin remote controller terminals as featured on the likes of the Canon EOS 5D and Canon EOS 7D.
The cable itself is a bit longer at 80cm, and if you require greater reach, Canon produces a 10m extension lead (ET-1000-N3), although it's very expensive to buy at around £80/$75 - twice the price of the controller itself. The build quality of the unit is impressive, and the two-stage operating button has a precise feel to it, complete with locking mechanism for bulb exposures and continuous shooting once the relevant drive mode has been selected.
Hama Wireless Remote DCCS - £40 (around $62)
Costing just a little more than Hama's CA-1 and CA-2 wireless RF remotes, its DCCS model is a much better option. There's no extending aerial on the transmitter but the range is much greater nevertheless, at 150m as opposed to 30m.
The transmitter features a drive mode switch with single, continuous, self-timer and bulb options, while the receiver also goes one better with its own two-stage shutter button, which can be used to trigger the camera in wired remote mode, even with no batteries fitted. An additional connection cable makes it compatible with Canon, Kodak, Olympus, Samsung, Fuji, Leica, Panasonic, Sony, Konica-Minolta, Nikon or Pentax DSLRs.
Hahnel Combi TF - £40/$90
A versatile remote with a wireless RF range of 100m, the Combi TF comes with both three-pin and mini-jack cables to ensure compatibility with all Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Panasonic DSLRs. Switches on the transmitter module provide options for immediate or four-second delayed firing, and there's compatibility for continuous drive and bulb exposures.
Uniquely among the units on test, the transmitter can also be mounted in the camera's hot shoe to enable firing of a remote flashgun, the only frustration being that the flash will only work in manual mode and not with TTL flash metering. Extras include a dual-colour LED that indicates a light press or full press of the two-stage shutter button.
Hama Timer Remote DCCS - £40 (around $62)
Unlike the Hahnel Giga T Pro II, this timer remote is wired rather than wireless, but boasts a similar range of shooting options. These include single, continuous and time-delay modes that can be selected using the controller, and bulb exposures using a timer that's displayed on the LCD panel.
A four-way pad makes for easy adjustment of settings for time-lapse shooting, including the number of shots in the sequence and the delay between each shot. However, it lacks the Hahnel's option to set dual parameters for short bursts of shots at intervals throughout a longer overall time-lapse sequence. Separate cables make it compatible with Canon, Kodak, Olympus, Samsung, Fuji, Leica, Panasonic, Sony, Konica-Minolta, Nikon or Pentax cameras.
Phottix TR-90 - £50/$61
The TR-90 is a timer remote that connects via an 80cm cable, without any wireless aspirations. As such it's similar to the Hama Timer Remote, but lacks the option of alternative cables for mini-jack or three-pin terminals; so while you don't need to spend extra money on connection cables, you do need make sure you buy the correct version to suit your camera.
There are no onboard controls to select different drive modes, so this has to be done on the camera itself. Its time-lapse option is simple to use, and long exposures can be captured using either the self-timer and locking shutter button mechanism, or by pre-programming the required exposure time. Cables are available to link it with Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Kodak, Sony or Olympus DSLRs.
Nikon MC-30 - £59/$57
This remote control attaches to any Nikon camera that features a ten-pin socket, such as the Nikon D300s, via an 80cm cable. The MC-30 replicates light-press and full-press actions on the shutter button and includes a locking mechanism for Bulb exposures. Build quality is good, but it's very expensive for a basic model.
Secureline Twin 1-R3 TRC/TRN/TRS - £60/$50
Available for upmarket Canon, Nikon and Sony DSLRs, this remote includes a receiver for wired and wireless shutter release, the latter with a 100m range and selectable communication channels. A half-price, wireless 'UT' version is available for DSLRs with infrared receivers.
Camera remote shutter releases £60/$90 and up
Hahnel Giga T Pro II - £60/$100
Like the other two Hahnel remotes on test, this one is available for Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Sony bodies. Along with a 100m wireless RF range, there's a full feast of features including adjustable self-timer delay, single, continuous and bulb modes, and interval settings for time-lapse shooting.
Better still, there are two independent interval options, so you can shoot a programmed burst of exposures at set intervals throughout a longer overall period. Everything's controlled via a neat interface based around a four-way pad and LCD display. Build quality is excellent, and overall the Giga T Pro II puts the Canon TC-80N3 to shame, while costing only half the price.
Phottix Aion - £80/$90
A significant step up from the TR-90, the Phottix Aion boasts wireless connectivity with a range of 60m, and comes with cables to fit both types of camera connection. The transmitter unit is packed with all the features you need for selecting different drive modes, programmable self-timer delays, adjustable long exposure (bulb) shooting and time-lapse photography.
There's even an adjustable exposure bracketing option for long exposures, and everything's wrapped up behind a neat control panel with LCD display. You can also use the controller in wired rather than wireless mode, connecting the transmitter direct to the camera using one of the supplied cables. It works with Canon, Nikon, Sony and Olympus DSLRs.
Canon TC-80N3 - £120/$136
Despite being a wired rather than wireless controller, the TC-80N3 still requires a single CR2032 battery to power its LCD display and all-round cleverness. Connecting to compatible cameras such as the Canon EOS 5D and Canon EOS 7D via a three-pin plug, the unit's features include a self-timer, long-exposure timer, interval timer and the option to set the number of shots in a sequence.
It also works as a straightforward remote control, with the same basic functions as the RS-80N3, even with no battery fitted. It's simple to use, with a switch that cycles between the four main operating modes, a start/stop button, LCD display illumination switch and jog control for altering the settings.
Canon LC-5 - £335/$430
In addition to being a consummately professional piece of kit the LC-5 is real beast of a controller, with the receiver module and transmitter taking eight AA batteries between them. The unit is compatible with three-pin terminals on DSLRs such as the Canon EOS 5D and Canon EOS 7D, and there are three infrared channels to reduce the risk of your camera being fired by someone else's controller.
You can switch the camera to continuous drive mode and then select between single or continuous drive, or a 3.5-second delay, on the controller from up to 100m away. It works for bulb shooting but the two-stage shutter button has no lock, so you have to keep the button pressed for the whole exposure.
Verdict: best camera remote shutter release
For outright versatility, there's little to choose between the Hahnel Giga T Pro II and the Phottix Aion.
Both controllers offer a full array of drive modes, selectable on the transmitters, plus long-exposure options, programmable self-timer delay and fully adjustable interval settings for time-lapse photography. Both can be used in wired or wireless mode and come with cables to suit any DSLR.
For our money, the Hahnel just wins out thanks to its dual interval option, which enables you to set up short bursts of shots at intervals within a longer time-lapse sequence. It's also cheaper, and has a greater wireless range of 100m, against the Phottix's 60m.
The Hama Timer Remote is a good option for wired time-lapse shooting, while Hama's Wireless Remote is cost-effective if you don't need time-lapse options. For a basic remote, the Hahnel HRC280 is unbeatable value.