Wireless Camera Control and Bracketing Overdrive on a Budget!
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In HDR photography having a good range of exposures is key and although I have done fairly well with my cameras limits of 3 bracketed shots I have been exploring ways of expanding my bracket range other than manually stepping through each shot on the camera.
I stumbled on the amazing Promote® Control ($299) product which allows you to remotely control and set the bracketing parameters and then trigger the shutter. What this does is override the manufactures presets in the camera and any of the supported Canon or Nikon cameras will shoot any number of bracketed shots at any EV! Unfortunately they did not support my camera. Always being amazed that the upper end Nikon's could bracket 10 shots, I kept digging looking for an alternative to the Promote product.
Update 4-28-2010 - Another soution on the market - The Open Camera Control (OCC) open source project is now complete, a really slick project using a Nintendo DS as the controller. It does require an assortment of parts semi intensive soldering and programming but may be worth the effort to many as it can also provide time-lapse shooting with built-in alarm clock and has a Sound Trigger function to name a couple. They really created a stir in interest and traffic, more than likely the hundreds of thousands - nice! I drew in a whopping 20 readers here!!
Lining up the three solutions I am still convinced my solution here is the simplest and most cost effective and to top it off neither of the other solutions have a wireless interface!
First challenge was the software, Nikon Control tethering software did not support my camera, DIYPhotobits.com Camera Control on the other hand hinted that it might work. After several tests I was pleasantly surprised with the performance of the product with my camera, it worked perfectly! I also tried every other free/downloadable tethering software available but none came close to DIY. Now my $700 D5000 can bracket even more than 10 the $2k to $7K Nikons are limited to - I have successfully tested bracketing on my camera up to 12 shots.
Next step was to find a remote access solution, I could shoot with a Laptop Hardwired to the camera just like the Promote but wanted to try and get a wireless trigger in play. I was able to do this with two pieces of gear, the Cables Unlimited USB-WIRELESS Dongle Set ($35 - a solution I had seen on a blog) and a cheap Netbook from ebay ($85 - my solution for mobility) running Windows XP. The Netbook was to support my field work, it is light and with it running on batteries I can take it anywhere (7 inch screen and 1.5 lbs). The USB set had to be modified with $5 worth of parts from Radio Shack to be able to run it on batteries, out of the box it only operates plugged in. In the picture you can see my Radio shack battery case (4 AA batteries with an on/off switch) mounted to my tripod handle with 2 small screws, the dongle transmitter base was also attached to the battery case with some double sided Velcro. To get a similar professional rig from Nikon WT-4A Wireless Transmitter is about $600, it does offer much better range and performance however.
Now I can program and bracket any number of shots up to 20 feet away from my camera with a total cost of $125. $175 less than Promote and with wireless, they do not even support this, you are hard wired to you camera at all times!
DIYPhotobits allows you to adjust most of the settings on your camera remotely and also has some wonderful time lapse controls. The images may also be tethered/sent back to the Computer immediately after the sequence.