Some more advanced photography techniques have quite the learning curve, which can scare most of us away from even trying. What if there was a trigger smart enough to make these tasks simple and easy to set up?
Studio18 has designed a wonderful little device, the Cubic Trigger, that looks like a simple remote shutter at first. In fact, that is part of the magic here. You might at first expect it to be a wireless pocket trigger, but it is meant to be tethered to your camera with a Bluetooth 4.0 connection to a smartphone.
By keeping the hardware side of things very lean, the battery can last a very long time. It uses the very common button cell CR 2032 battery, which provides six months of regular use, which is considered about four hours of use a day. Turning on the geotagging feature takes the expected battery life down to a month or so. That is the trade-off us Canon users don't have to worry about since the geotagging is currently only supported by Nikon cameras. While Nikon allows the GPS data to be stored in the photo file natively, the same functionality on Canon would have required an extra battery and additional hardware. I personally do not use the feature and would have opted for the longer battery life either way.
The Cubic Trigger comes with a hot shoe adapter or a lanyard and has a shutter button right on it. Two cables are provided for connecting your camera to the micro USB port on the device. Once you have hooked up your camera, it is time to open up some cool opportunities via the app.
The Cubic Trigger companion app really has some advanced features while maintaining an intuitive and simple interface. The main screen features a large shutter button and a large focus button below it.
The app features are broken into the following categories:
- Star Trail
- Dodge and Burn
- Scheduled Tasks
- Sound Trigger
Basic mode, like it sounds, simply covers the main settings the camera offers. You can do more complicated self-timers and utilize bulb mode, which I've found rare for smartphone shutter apps.
Time-lapse and Star Trail
Since I have never done a time-lapse or a star trail photo, this feature is a big plus. Both tasks require planning and research that I've never really had the time to look into. Having an app to literally pull the trigger for me is very helpful.
Besides just offering the settings, there is a light bulb icon in each area offering insight into how to use the features. Pressing this in the star trails section starts with three notes:
- Set camera to bulb mode
- Set camera to manual focus
- Turn off noise reduction in camera
These are followed by more specific instructions or suggestions for aperture, exposure times, and ISO settings.
This is part of the above and beyond feel of the app. You don't need to know how to work things going in. They have done a good job baking some real-life photography experience into the app's help component throughout.
Dodge and Burn
Using a black card or in some cases your cell phone as a tool to block out light from a shot is a technique used by many to get even exposures without graduated filters. I have only ever guessed while doing this, but the app allows you to dodge and burn like a pro. You simply pick an exposure time for the dark area, specify your plus or minus exposure value settings for the lighter area, and then an alert will tell you when to remove the block. It is a pretty neat and unique feature.
The bracketing feature is one often used for HDR photography. It is usually easy enough to set up in camera, but being able to choose from three, five, seven, or nine images, along with the EV steps and speed without jumping deep into the settings is a major plus.
While I wouldn't consider myself a slouch when it comes to bracketing in camera, I was actually a bit bewildered by the advanced options available under this section at first. You quickly can see that the nine-by-nine grid shows all the exposure times with the center being your zero or base, however.
Again, the camera's responsiveness using the app was impressive.
This feature should sound familiar to anyone familiar with servers. You can set up a number of timed shots for anything you want, like catching a sunrise when you have trouble waking up early enough. The scheduled task feature was very impressive in that the camera would always wake up, and the app kept running in the background even with the phone locked. It pulled off every test-task I scheduled flawlessly.
Of all the unique features the CubicTrigger offers, I might like this one the most. Sound trigger allows you to set a decibel level that will trigger your shutter. It has a test button to see how loud the current conditions register as, and you can choose between a highly sensitive 70 dB or a fairly loud 90 dB in increments of 5 dB.
This feature has a number of fun applications. My kids loved it right away. You can yell "cheese" or anything loud enough to take a photo. I could also see it being a cool way for a photo booth to be run.
There is an accessibility benefit I thought of right away. We have a friend with a son who suffers from cerebral palsy in his right arm and hand. This makes about 99 percent of the cameras on the market difficult to use. When I was asked about options to help, all I could really offer was a shutter release for the left hand. If he was able to audibly tell the camera when to take a photo, he could focus on shooting, freeing up both hands. I will be telling them about this setup now as an option.
See It in Action
How To Get One
The Cubic Trigger is compatible with most major camera brands and can be ordered with cables for either Canon, Nikon, or Sony. The trigger is available directly from their Indiegogo page, which is still running specials until the end of this month.
I look forward to seeing where this app heads. The founders, Simon Yeh and Ming Hsieh, cite their goal as making a complicated process simple. I believe they have done a great job with this product and look forward to trying my first star trail photo and time-lapse sequence thanks to their app.