Need suggestions for a radio-triggered 35mm compact camera

Discussion in 'Lighting Equipment' started by Paul Lewis, Oct 25, 2017.

  1. Hello all,

    I have a project for which I have need of a radio-triggered "crash camera". As you read, it may seem like a digital camera is the answer for this situation, but the other photos in this project are film-based, and I have no desire to use digital. The camera will be mounted on a moving vehicle and need to be triggered remotely.
    Since people here often use radio triggers, I thought this would be the best forum in which to ask. Infrared isn't an option for the trigger since I won't be facing the camera.

    Camera specs:
    Camera needs to be inexpensive
    Camera lens needs to be around f2.8
    Camera needs to be automatic wind and autofocus
    Camera must be reasonably small. An SLR is not an option here.
    Camera needs to be triggered remotely from a distance of about 150 ft.
    I'm willing to open camera and re-wire shutter release switch. Camera doesn't need to survive this project.

    Radio specs:
    Two PocketWizard Plus II radio transmitters
    I'm willing to buy new radio triggers

    The type of camera that I'm thinking would be good for this project is a Canon AF35M. Good lens, automatic wind, autofocus, reasonably small.

    I could really use some advice about triggering a compact camera such as the AF35M (am open to other possibilities!).

    Any assistance would be appreciated!

  2. Some additional thoughts:

    If the camera is to be triggered remotely, how do I deal with the "half-press" shutter release that most compact cameras have? I won't need to use "half-press", but how do I overcome it?

    Can I use a radio trigger in conjunction with a relay to trigger the shutter release? I'm not an electronics expert, as you probably already guessed.
  3. I hope I do not offend by suggesting where I would turn. Namely to those who are electronics engineering experts in radio frequency devices, their range and characteristics. With umpteen gazillion years of experience with RF, I would call and talk to someone at the home of the Pocket Wizards ( you said you have a couple). I am just getting into that system, but it looks like they have encountered all of the variables over the years. Could likely come up with a couple ideas for a camera or two. i miss the idea of a what do you call it a crash camera...but not important. I assume rugged and maybe even destructible sacrificial in the long haul. on a car roof, cabin, etc..? i would not go back to film models unless that is your affectionate desire, since nothing they do can not be achieved in the digital world...that is an opinion I think I may share with others in the community. Film is good. Film is no better than a good digital sensor. But anyway. ask the experts and see what variables they define. And who knows maybe they have even worked with owners of the kind of camera bodies and lenses you contemplate....inexpensive? Yep, never buy expensive. And never pay retail either, just joshing. I wish you well, friend.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2017
  4. Thanks, Gerry. An electronics expert or someone that has done work with Pocketwizards, or something similar, for remote control purposes would be helpful, and I'll go that route. I mention "crash camera", because this camera may not survive due to rough handling. Hence, a $40-60 compact film camera is a good option (along with the fact that I would like to keep the look consistent with my other images).
  5. Getting the right camera is the key. There are plenty of "modern" film cameras that have a socket allowing electrical/electronic remote triggering. Adding a simple and cheap radio trigger to one would be a simple business.

    Many older cameras also took a motor-drive that added the facility to be electrically triggered.

    However, most of the above would be quite bulky SLRs.

    Compact cameras? - no. They'd need an electro-mechanical device to physically push the plunger of the cable-release socket. Such an adapter would make the whole setup as bulky as an SLR anyway.

    Pocket wizards are only designed to trigger flash units. Cheap alternatives like YongNuo RF-602 or 603s are more versatile and have an extra output specifically designed to fire a camera shutter.

    As mentioned above, those triggers will interface directly with a great number of digital cameras, making the whole project dead easy. "Obsolete" digital cameras can be got for a few tens of dollars, and you only need about 12 megapixels to equal or exceed the quality of a film camera.

    More crash resistant too. If the back of a film camera comes open.... goodbye film. Whereas an SD card is more likely to survive.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2017
  6. Pocket wizards are only designed to trigger flash units.....
    My manual with the Plus Xs says that Pocket Wizard model will trigger a camera with the proper cord. I believe them. Though right now I am using a Vello ( cheap enough) set to trigger the camera with the PW in the flash shoe. Anyway, that is just a side bar. I agree with rodeo joe naturally.

    As a side bar to the mythology that surrounds our dearly beloved hobby, I make these assertions and duck for flying crockery while doing so--- 1) there is no such thing as a film look, namely a look that can not be duped in digital or with photo shop to match film. Try to tell in my gallery which b and w shots were Plus X and which were 5 mp from the Olympus E-1.
    rodeo_joe|1 and Charles_Webster like this.
  7. I agree wholeheartedly with your statement in bold Gerry.
    I mean; shooting film only to scan it and end up with a digital file?
    How crazy is that when you look at it logically!?

    For negatives and slides shot before digital camera quality caught up with and surpassed that of film it makes sense. Today, it's just a ridiculous indulgence, affectation or time-wasting exercise. Not to mention ecologically unsound.

    Let the crockery fly!
  8. If you made up your mind to go with a 35mm AF compact; rewire the half press contact to an external manual switch, activate it if your critical event is likely to happen soon, while you are waiting, deactivate if the camera survived and will have to serve a 2nd round.
    Do you really need AF? - What I had seen in SLRs didn't convince me operating speed wise. if you risk crashing the camera, will that happen after your shot? can't you predict your subject distance and zone focus? Are you content with about 1 frame per second?
    I'd go for RC vehicle RC sets to radio trigger cameras. I'd worry about Pocket Wizards' & similar's reach; it might be too short. - Optimizing antennae could fix that though.
  9. To begin I doubt you will find a suitable non-slr camera that still works. I could be wrong. If it were me I would go with a Nikon N90s or a D100. Use an RC radio in the 2.4ghz frequency range (cheaply and easily available) and put together a rig that will actuate a standard servo to push the shutter release and hold it down until you release it from the transmitter. Simple to do and should be effective. You can a build a few spares as well, something is always breaking in these kinds of projects.

    Rick H.

  10. To add a small piece of info from my recent acquaintance withe the Plus X Pocket Wizards. They have a limitation when used as a camera trigger. Namely that you do not get a two step focus first button press. Which I see as problematic and which is outlined as such in the company FAQ. They even suggest manual focus...which is not so groovy in my opinion. I will continue to use the simple enough Vello radio trigger to the camera remote. And PW Plus Xs for flash control only. There is a three PW relay mode that will do both. But again, no prefocus step and then release. I prefer to know the camera has focused and can be sure of that part. Otherewise I endorse the PW simple Plus X model as a fair price item to do what it does.
  11. Grip houses would be a good source of info and possibly cams or radios. CSI or Handheld in NYC or Cinequip in Minneapolis

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