Intervalometers - Built-in Cameras and Standalone

Getting the Camera on the Pole to Fire

Multiple Solutions to a Simple Problem

The most quick and easy approach to pole photography is the timed shutter release (i.e., push the release and 10 seconds later the photo is taken). Since all digital cameras have it (as far as we know), this is the easiest way to get going with pole photography. The main problem with it is that getting the right photo can take some time because you have to put the camera up and bring it down, push the shutter release again, and put it back up. It works! When we started, we took many, many photos this way.
If you want to make your pole photography a LOT easier, but want to keep your cost down, you should look at the Pixie Click Remote Trigger Frame for point and shoot cameras. Simply put your camera on the sturdy frame, and then you can raise the pole and push the pushbutton. It fires the solenoid which pushes the trigger. It's reliable, and much less expensive than buying a new camera. We guarantee that it will work with your point and shoot camera or your money back. This means that you can put your camera up on the pole and turn the pole to take different photos from different angles. You might take 5 or 6 shots, and one of them will probably be perfect! Or, if you are photographing an event like a parade, sporting event, or rally, you won't miss any of the action you might otherwise miss if you were lowering and raising the camera to keep depressing the shutter. Click here for more info about the Pixie Click.

If you are willing to upgrade your camera, you can also buy a camera with a built-in intervalometer or to buy an intervalometer for your camera. An intervalometer is just a fancy name for a timed shutter release that shoots continuously at a specified interval (hence intervalometer). For example, you can set the camera to take a full-frame photo every 30 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, etc. Note: Many cameras also have a "movie mode" which is different than timed release exposures; shooting in movie mode will take a continuous set of photos, but the photo size is much, much smaller than the regular photo size. Instead of taking the normal 6, 8 or 10 million pixel image, it might take a 307,200 pixel image (640x480) or 2 million pixel image if it shoots in high definition (1080x1920).

Like using the Pixie Click, you no longer have to raise and lower your camera. However, you have to live with the interval set forth by the camera manufacturer. If the fastest interval is one minute, then it will take 5 minutes to take 5 photos. (With a remote trigger, you can take the photos as fast as your camera permits.) However, this method also works like a charm, and we used this approach to take hundreds of photos before we decided to develop the Pixie Click. You simply point the camera in the general direction and then adjust the camera position left/right and upward/downward slightly every 30 seconds so that each photo is slightly different. Then, after four or five photos (which is just a couple of minutes), one can lower the pole and review the images taken; usually, one of the photos will be just great.

The Nikon P4 will take full-sized 8 mexapixel images every 30 seconds until the battery or storage card are exhausted. It can be found used on Amazon for less than $200.

We previously used an older Canon point-and-shoot pocket camera that had a built-in intervalometer. However, when we needed to upgrade to a larger format, we discovered that Canon removed the feature from their point-and-shoot cameras. We bought a Nikon P4, and the feature was referenced as "Continuous Shooting" mode. However, that was a few years ago; Nikon has kept the feature in their Nikon Professional Series point and shoot cameras, but they now refer to it accurately as "Interval Timer Mode." We're reviewed some manuals, and here are some cameras that have a built-in intervalometer feature. If you know of others, please send us an email.


Nikon P100; MSRP: $499.95, BH Photo: $399.95

Nikon P6000; MSRP: $500 (now discontinued), Adorama Price: $350 (refurbished)

Samsung TL350; MSRP: $400, Online Price: $299
 

Be careful when shopping for a camera with a built-in intervalometer. Nikon now markets "Continuous Shooting Mode" or "Sports Continuous Mode" in many of their cameras. This feature is not a timed interval but simply a burst of photos. While very useful for photographing high-speed activities like sports, it will not be very useful for pole photography. Some cameras like the P6000 have intervale shooting but also have a special interval movie mode which appears to be similar to interval shooting, but it probably packages the images together as a movie file instead of as single images.

Thanks to Bob Webster for letting us know about the Samsung TL350 model. The manual indicates that it supports interval shooting for up to 48 hours. The price is right on the camera, and it shoots HD video as well. The only slight drawback for pole photography is that the minimum interval allowed is one minute, while the Nikon cameras allow a 30 second minimum interval. For most photos, this should not be a big issue, but if the framing is tricky and requires a bunch of shots, it will take a bit longer to get the perfect shot.

Canon's TC-80N3 Timer Remote Control provides many different settings, but will set you back about $135 at Adorama. Unless you are making time-lapse series, we recommend buying a remote trigger.

INTERVALOMETERS
Canon and Nikon make standalone intervalometers that will attach to one's DSLR. The good news is that these are pretty feature rich and allow one to set the interval as small as one second. The bad news is that these products are not cheap, and, if you are just using the intervalometer as a substitute for a remote trigger on your pole, one would probably be better served by buying a remote trigger. However, we can imagine how there might be some additional applications where an intervalometer could be useful. For example, if you plan to also launch your camera off of a kite and lift it several hundred feet off the ground, you may be outside the range of a remote trigger. Since we don't need a tool like that, we opted for purchase of a remote trigger instead.

REMOTE TRIGGERS

The RFN3 wireless shutter release has proven very reliable, and has quite a few desirable features including a hot shoe mount.

If you have a DSLR, a wireless (i.e., radio) trigger can be a very helpful tool. The ability to be in one location with the camera in another has many applications: 1) Group photograph where the photographer is one of the group; 2) nature photography where you set up your camera and retreat to a more distant location; 3) architectural photography of bathrooms or other locations with lots of mirrors that would be reflecting the photographer; and 4) yes, pole photography. Typically, the release cord for each manufacturer has its own configuration and can vary even among cameras of the same manufacturer, so one needs to make sure that the shutter release that you are buying is made for your camera.

Recommendations - Here is our list of buying considerations for remote triggers:
1) Range - Get one with at least a 100 foot range, and a 300 foot range is better. This is because our experience is that these triggers must be rated in ideal test conditions for marketing purposes as they often do not work at their maximum range in the field.
2) Hot shoe attachment - If your receiver has a flash hot shoe attachment, it keeps the trigger from swinging by its cord. By having it securely seated on the hot shoe, it won't be swinging wildly around knocking into your camera and lens as you lift your pole. Obviously tape or velcro can secure a trigger, but it's better to have the hot shoe attachment.
3) On/Off button on the transmitter - On some transmitters, the unit is "off" unless the transmitter button is being depressed. That sounds OK, but in real life, a transmitter in a camera bag can get lodged against the transmitter and depress the button while your bag sits in the corner of your office; then, out in the field, you find that your transmitter battery has been depleted. If the transmitter has a separate off button, then you turn it off when you store it and you can have confidence that your equipment will work when you are on location.
4) The standard features on most of these units include the following: 1) 16 or more frequencies (usually set by dip switches); 2) On/off button on the receiver; 3) Two-stage trigger for focus and shoot; 4) Multi-color LED light on receiver to show operational state (waiting, focus, shoot).
5) Cost - Virtually all of these triggers cost less than $125 now, with many of them being in the $50 to $100 range. Since they are all relatively close in cost, buy one based on the above considerations first. 6) Read Customer Reviews - On many web sites (Amazon, BH Photo, etc.), you will find customer reviews and recommendations. Check those reviews! Sometimes you will see a series of negative reviews, and, if so, you should buy with caution!