Smart Trigger Turns Your iPhone Into A DSLR Remote And Intervalometer [Review]


Snugly In Your DSLR's Hotshoe: Satechi's Smart Trigger.
Snugly In Your DSLR's Hotshoe: Satechi's Smart Trigger.

Unless you like sprinting to beat your camera’s timer, as the family photog, you know often you just end up being left out of the family memories.

Smart Trigger by Satechi
Category: iOS/photography accessories
Works With: iPhone, iPod
Price: $45

The Satechi Smart Trigger can offer some help there. By connecting to your DLSR, it gives you a cartful of remote shutter controls that works wirelessly via your iPhone or iPod Touch. But it also includes some features advanced photographers, or those wanting to get into landscape or time-lapse photography, will find highly beneficial.

What It Does

Essentially, the Satechi Smart Trigger is a shutter release, just like the cable-driven hand-held models ‘ol grand-pappi used to use, and like the kinds that are still sold even today.

Smart Trigger communicates with your iPhone via Bluetooth.

The difference between those models of yore and the Smart Trigger? First, rather than cable, Satechi used radio waves a la Bluetooth 4.0 for shutter activation. This allows you to untether from your camera, and use your iPhone to activate its shutter from 40-50 feet away.

Second, Satechi’s free Smart Trigger companion app adds some other modern features that make it useful, such as remote focussing, manual and infinite bulb modes, and most useful of all, a powerful intervalometer with oodles of adjustable settings.

In Use

Once perched in your DSLR’s flash shoe, Satechi’s Smart Trigger is almost ready to work. Pairing happens first, and that was fairly easy, though some have reported issues connecting to iPhone 5 or the iPad mini. No problems pairing with my iPhone 5 however. My unit connected quick.

Once connected, controls happen via Satechi’s free iOS app, also called Smart Trigger.

The app essentially has three modes: Regular Shot, Manual Shot, and Timed Shot (intervalometer). And though not exactly brandishing the intuitive UI of an Jony Ive creation, with a few consultations of the manual, how to use each mode eventually made sense.

Jacked in to your camera, Smart Trigger extends controls to your iPhone.

Regular Shot is essentially a giant button that, when pressed, focusses your camera then activates the shutter. This is mode you’d use to take the family photos you want to be in.

Manual Mode was built to control your camera’s bulb function. Here, when your camera is set to “bulb,” the the Smart Trigger app will keep your camera’s shutter open until you let off the button. A shutter lock switch makes the process even easier, keeping your shutter open until you turn it off. This of course is very useful for long exposure shots, like sunsets, star shots, and with a good neutral density filter, long exposure daytime shots.
A dedicated focus button is also included in Manual Shot mode, so you can get everything all nice and sharp before you let the mirror fly.

Timed Shot is the last of the modes the Smart Trigger has to offer, and it’s definitely the most powerful. With it, you can tweak a whole host of settings, like how long the camera should wait before starting your string of timed images; how long the camera should wait between shutter activations; how long the shutter should stay open for each shot; and most importantly, how long the camera should continue taking photos (an hour, a day?), or how many the images the camera should create before calling it a day.

Smart Trigger app’s Timed and Manual Modes.

You might be wondering where the aperture is set though out all of this. Answer: in camera. Smart Trigger doesn’t touch aperture in any way, nor the shutter really unless the cam is set to bulb. Smart Trigger defaults to your DSLR’s set shutter speed when bulb isn’t being used, which is actually handy for daytime shoots where long exposures won’t work.

In use, it was great having all these features accessible wirelessly and on the screen of my iPhone. And for the most part, they all worked well, but I did experience some faux pas.

Shutter lag was the first culprit, as the camera sometimes responded up to a second late after I opened or closed the shutter. Maybe this is wireless lag, who knows, but this was an issue I experienced somewhat regularly, and to me it disqualifies the Smart Trigger for time sensitive photos.

I also experienced issues with Smart Trigger’s Timed Mode missing entire shots or leaving the shutter open for two shots instead of actuating twice. In an important shoot this would mean a missed or overexposed image. This seemed to happen mainly when between-shot delay was set below a couple of seconds, and happened very infrequently when delay was set above a few seconds.

But even with its quirks, at $45 for the hardware, paired and a very useable iPhone app, the Smart Trigger is a good value. Controlling shutter from your iPhone will prove handy, and as the Smart Trigger app gets smarter, so will your purchase.

Product Name: : Smart Trigger
The Good: Wireless shutter controls and a powerful intervalometer.
The Bad: Shutter lag can cause late, missed, or overexposed shots.
The Verdict It isn’t perfect, but at $45 bucks, a very good value.
Buy from: Satechi