In-Depth Review: ioShutter – SLR Remote Trigger for iPhone, iPad or Ipod touch 3

We were recently sent an ioShutter remote cable for testing and review.  We tested the cable with with an iPhone 4s and iPad (first generation) and tested both the lite and Pro version of the ioShutter apps.  The camera we used was a Canon 5D Mark II.  Below is our in-depth review.

Getting Started

Getting things to work is quite simple.  You’ll need an ioShutter cable which fits your SLR, available from a ton of stores including many online retailers such as B&H Photo,  as well as the ioShutter app which comes in both Lite and Pro versions.

ioShutter Lite Vs ioShutter Pro

The ioShutter app comes in a free (lite) and a paid (pro) version.  The pro version costs $9.99 on iTunes and provides numerous extra (and essential) features over the free version.  You can see detailed differences between the two versions in the screenshots and descriptions below.  In use, the free version feels a bit like a testing ground to confirm that the cable, app and camera are all compatible with each other. The pro version, on the other hand, provides welcomed fine tuning of each trigger function.

Compatability

ioShutter essentially works with any camera ioShutter makes a cable for – and they are adding new camera makes all the time.  They started with cables for Canon cameras (bless their hearts) and have since released cables for Hasselblad, Samsung and Pentax cameras.  This summer (2012) they plan to release cables for Nikon SLRs.

Layout and Usability

The layout of ioShutter is simple and elegant with a textured leather and brushed aluminum styling.  On the main page you are greeted by an overview of any triggers which are currently set (their icons light up), a camera trigger button, timer display and cancel button.  The large camera button can be used as a simple, click to shoot remote trigger or as a continues shooting trigger if you click and pull it down to the bottom.  A click and hold of the same button acts like holding the shutter button half way down on your camera — focus is activated and a picture is taken when you let go.  This is where the similarities between the free and paid apps end.

ioShutter Pro

ioShutter Lite

The UI is kept simple with a settings drawer that slides out from the main control panel.

ioShutter Pro

ioShutter Lite

 

Using the app was very intuitive.  I like the layout and simple design which is easy to read and understand.  If you are ever confused about something there are great help screens on every page, including a thorough cheat sheet on the main page.  The iPad version of the app is exactly the same as the iPhone app, which is convenient for familiarity, but a shame they didn’t take advantage of the large iPad screen in layout or controls.

When shooting a timelapse, you are generally sitting in a single spot waiting for what seems like forever for your timelapse to finish.  During this time you might want to check twitter, facebook, play games etc on your iPhone which happens to be controlling your camera.  You can’t do both.  I was glad to have both the iPad and iPhone along for the timelapse test but if you only own one iOS device, you may want to bring along a good book or friend to entertain you during the shoot.

The app keeps your device ‘awake’ while shooting, so you won’t have to worry about it turning off mid-shoot, but if you’re using an iPhone for control you’ll want to put it in airplane mode so the shoot isn’t interrupted by a text or call.

Triggering Functions

When a triggering option is activated, it is highlighted in the top row of icons, giving you a simple and quick overview of what you’re up to.

Timer

ioShutter Pro – The timer allows you to trigger the camera — or another ioShutter function — after a set amount of time (Timer) or on a specific date/time (Schedule).  Want to know who’s been raiding the fridge at exactly 3:14 every morning… wonder no more, you can catch them red handed.

ioShutter Lite– In the free version the schedule function disappears all-together and you are left with 2 simple timer settings.  Great if you want a little extra time to run in front of the camera for a self portrait.

ioShutter Pro Timer

ioShutter Lite Timer

Bulb

For the bulb function to work your camera needs to be in bulb mode.  Once your camera is in bulb mode the shutter is open for as long as the shutter button is depressed, or with ioShutter, as long as the settings are set for.  You could use the bulb setting to take photos of a starry night, night skyline of a city or when painting with light — basically  any time you want a shutter speed longer than a few seconds.

ioShutter Pro – In the pro app you can set your bulb time to whatever you want.  Minimum increments are in seconds.

ioShutter Lite – You get a choice between 60, 90, or 120 seconds.  It’ll give you a fun starting point, but you’ll soon want more incremental control.

ioShutter Pro Bulb

ioShutter Lite Bulb

 

TimeLapse

ioShutter Pro – Using the timelapse is pretty straight forward.  You pick how often you want the camera to take a picture (shutter interval) and how long you want the camera to take pictures for (duration).  The duration isn’t particularly essential to set as you can stop the timelapse manually whenever you want, but if you know you want a picture every 2 seconds for 30 minutes to create a 30 second timelapse, it’s a handy feature to have (30 images/minute and a frame rate of 30 FPS makes 30 seconds of final video).

ioShutter Lite – The settings are a bit limiting to say the least.  The app gives you an idea of what’s possible and provides a testing ground, but if you want to make more than a test timelapse you’ll want (need) the pro version.

ioShutter Pro TimeLapse

ioShutter Lite timelapse

Here’s a little hands on look at using the timelapse function.

 sound activated shutterSound Activated Shutter

A unique feature for ioShutter that separates it from the traditional remote shutter cables is the sound-activated shutter control.

ioShutter Pro – The pro version gives you lots of settings and control.

  • Sensitivity is important so the camera is only triggered when you want it to be.
  • Delay will delay the shutter X seconds after the sound comes – useful for taking self portraits of yourself looking normal, not while you are clapping.
  • Sound duration will limit which sounds trigger your camera.  Good if there is lots of extra sound where you are shooting.
  • No repeat interval  is one of the more important settings.  It will deactivate the trigger for X seconds after the last shot.  If your phone is placed near the camera, the shutter itself registers quite high on the sound scale.  If you don’t have a ‘no repeat’ set, you’re camera will trigger the next shot and you’ll be in machine gun mode before you know it.

ioShutter Lite – Allows you to clap to trigger the release.  There is a built in ‘no repeat’ of about 3 seconds so you won’t have the problem of your camera machine gunning.  Obviously the possibilities are limited, but again, fun to play with.

ioShutter Pro Sound

ioShutter Lite Sound

 Shake to Take

ioShutter Pro – The pro version gives you axis control, intensity,  delay, shake duration, and no repeat settings.  Make sure you scroll the bottom settings area to see all the options (I missed it the first time around).  Lots of options for lots of control, nice.

  • Axis Control lets you turn on/off any axis simply by clicking on the directional arrow (very intuitive).  Or, if you prefer all axis on, simply click activate all.
  • Intensity is the amount of movement it takes to trigger the camera.
  • Delay controls how many seconds between the shaking and the picture taking.
  • Shake Duration sets how long the rumbles have to continue, above the set intensity, before the camera is activated.
  • No Repeat interval sets how long before the camera can be triggered a second time.

ioShutter Lite – The free version of the app gives you a simple ‘Shake to Take’.  The no repeat appears to be set for about 3 seconds with the sensitivity fairly weak.  You’ll need to shake your device about as hard as a heavy clap to activate the shutter.  Again, the pro app adds some highly welcomed features, while the lite version feels more like a testing ground to see if it really works.

As cool as this feature is, I’m having trouble thinking of a lot of practical uses. Perhaps some sort of a camera trap to shoot wildlife that is activated when the animal steps on a platform that is connected to your iPod?? Other suggestions?

ioShutter Pro Shake

ioShutter Lite Shake

 

Price

Finally, let’s talk about price.  Even though the ioShutter app+cord do a lot, the $70 price tag for the cable feels expensive.  Canon produces a cable (TC80N3) which offers remote release, bulb, and timer functions for $150, but there are also aftermarket cheapo timers that can be had for as little as $20 (which I’ve had good experience with).  None of these competitors have shake or sound though.  Once the $70 cable is purchased you’ll still need the $10 app to make proper use of your purchase, $80 in total.

What I Love About ioShutter

  • Nice design and user interface.
  • Having one less set of batteries to charge for a dedicated remote timer.
  • Fun triggering options like sound and vibration.

What I Don’t Love About ioShutter

  • Having to pay for an app which feels like it should be bundled (free) with the purchase of the cord.
  • Being asked for my contact info (even though it’s optional to provide it) to release some of the functions in the paid version.

Conclusion

ioShutter really takes advantage of the iOS display and touch interface and has created a great looking, easy to use remote shutter.  To really take advantage of your $70 ioShutter cable, you’ll be wanting to get the pro version.  The Lite version of the app is OK to get your feet wet, but doesn’t provide enough control to be really useful.  I feel that the Pro app should be offered free after purchasing the $70 cable, but this is a simple marketing decision that could easily be changed.  I also wasn’t a fan of getting the ‘contact info’ pop-up in the paid app, but again, it’s a simple fix if they were to rethink this.  Overall, ioShutter is a great tool that worked great without any bugs.  The ioShutter cable has found a permanent place in my camera bag and the Pro app on my iPhone.  I’ll be using this setup again.