Review of Triggertrap® App and the Triggertrap® Mobile Dongle

Have you been keen to make some time lapse videos but have found it difficult to justify the expenditure on a intervalometer. Enter the Triggertrap app for your smart phone.

Time lapse videos have been around for a very long time. They are produced by taking a large number of still images reflecting some movement and then assembling those images as a movie played back at something like 24 to 30 frames per second. This in effect speeds up the actual movement to produce a video reflecting a changing scene in a relatively short time frame, which in reality takes place over a longer period of time, These types of videos are particularly useful to record cloud movement, city traffic, star trails, sunsets, sunrises  and shadow movement.

Unless you wanted to stand next to your camera and push the shutter button or a cable shutter release at some predetermined time interval, you needed an intervalometer. An intervalometer is a device which you can use to automatically control how often, how long and how many images you wish to capture. These could set you back anything from US$100 to US$200 depending on how sophisticated you wanted to be. Along came a mobile app that does the same sort of thing, and allows you to use your smartphone as a simple cable release or a pretty good intervalometer. You can download the Triggertrap app from The Apple App store (can also be used with Google Android devices) for free! The other piece of gear you need is the cable that connects your smartphone to the camera. For a South African this meant trying to source the necessary cable. After a quick internet search, I discovered that there was in fact an agent in South Africa – Sunshine Digital. Within two days I had the cable delivered to my door in George. Great service! When purchasing the cable you need to specify the camera that you will be using it on. The cable connects between the headphone socket of your iPhone and the cable release socket on your camera body. As simple as that. The app does the rest.

Triggertrap can be used as a simple cable release but it also enables you to capture a series of images to use for a time lapse sequence. Sound or motion can be used to trigger the shutter.

Set up is simple.  Launch the triggertrap app and connect your smartphone to your camera using the Mobile dongle and cable. Camera setup options are available by touching the icon at the top right corner (looks like three sliders). I was using a Canon DSLR and would be using manual focus, so in this case I chose the “Canon Manual Focus” option. There are settings for focus, shutter , your smartphone’s internal camera and the option to trigger another device on the same wireless network. The default settings will generally do the trick.

Camera Setting

It is best to set your camera for jpegs, manual exposure mode, manual focus, set white balance to the appropriate temperature and single shot capture (not continuous).

TriggerTrap Options

The home page displays the various options for use of the Triggertrap. In the order in which they appear, they are:

  • Cable Release. You can just tap the button to activate the shutter in order to capture an image. You can also tap and then hold the button to keep the shutter open for as long as you wish. Your camera needs to be set to “Bulb” mode.  An annoying feature (probably app based) is that depending where you touch the screen, the brightness of your smartphone screen gets reset to the lowest setting and you need to go into “settings” to get the brightness back to where you want it to be. This seems to happen in all capture options. Most annoying!
  • Bang.  In this mode the shutter is released by a loud noise like a clap or something similar. You can use a loud noise event to trigger the shutter – like a firework exploding.
  • Timelapse.  This feature, and the other variations of it, is what the app is really about. In this basic option, you can specify how many photos you wish to take and the length of time you want those captured in.  You are unable to specify the interval between photos. You need to adjust one of the above variables to give you the interval result.  I think it would be much more preferable to be able to input the interval and then either the total time or number of images.
  • Time Warp. This is a variation of the basic time lapse above. In this option you can progressively increase or decrease the capture interval over the time taken.
  • DistanceLapse. In this option the interval between shutter activations is based on distance moved or travelled. This uses your smartphones GPS receiver.
  • Seismic. If the phone detects a bump or vibration the shutter will be released. You are able to set the sensitivity of the bump or vibration.
  • Peekaboo. I think this option will not be used in nature photography but may be used for family or group photos as it adds face recognition to any camera and you can select the number of faces needed before the shutter is released.
  • Star Trail. Star trail photography generally requires longer shutter speeds. This option lets you set the number of exposures, how long each exposure should be (a minimum of 1 sec) and the gap between exposures.  If you do not want to see very small gaps in the trail then this must be set to a very short time interval (minimum of 100 milliseconds). You can then assemble the images into a single image depicting the star trails. By taking many images of shorter duration rather than one image of a much longer duration, you get the benefit of reduced noise in the final image.
  • LE HDR.  With this option you can capture a sequence of exposures at different exposure settings, which will allow you to create a HDR image. This option utilises slower shutter speeds to achieve longer exposures. Useful in low light situations when you want to capture a number of long exposure images.
  • LE HDR Timelapse.  This is a combination of the LE HDR and Timelapse options. This enables you to capture a sequence of images to produce an HDR time lapse video. 
  • Tesla. You can move a magnet towards or away from your phone to trigger the shutter. Not sure what the use of this is for!
  • Motion. This option detects movement and this will trigger the shutter. This can be quite useful if you want to capture a subject when that subject enters a scene. You need to take a reference shot of the scene by pressing the “Sample Background” button, making sure your phone is mounted securely. You can then set the percentage change that needs to take place to activate the shutter.
  • Bramping. This is useful if you want to capture a sequence of images like a sunrise or sunset where the scene get brighter or dimmer over time. You can set the initial shutter speed and the final shutter speed and the camera will take the sequence slowly adjusting the shutter speed over the length of the sequence, thereby ensuring a smoother transition of the exposures between images. 
  • Wi-Fi Slave. With this option you can trigger your camera’s shutter with another device on the same Wi-Fi network. This will allow you to be further away from the camera when you wish to capture an image. You just need to be in wireless range. Useful for sensitive subjects.

Conclusion 

A relatively inexpensive intervalometer! The only cost being the Dongle and cable. The cable is fairly short and I did not like the iPhone dangling on the end of the cable – only being attached by the plug in the earphone socket. I kept being concerned that this would part company and the cell phone would come crashing down to the ground. This was especially concerning when there was a fair breeze blowing. I eventually used my Plamp® to secure the cell phone to a leg of the tripod.

As mentioned above, the most annoying thing for me was that the screen brightness on the phone would suddenly dim and you would need to reset that, which meant getting back into the app. This is a bug in the app which needs to be fixed.

Other than those two issues the app, Dongle and cable worked well and I was able to produce some pretty good time lapse videos and images using some of the other options.

Very good value for money.