For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been working on a new camera controller.
Like many photographers, I often use a cable release to activate the camera. This has a number of advantages in allowing the camera to remain steady on a tripod, or simply to allow me to look over the camera while shooting. More recently, I’ve been using a radio remote controller which has the same simple shutter release control, but is wireless.
I’ve been involved in Bluetooth technology for some years now, and a new development is Bluetooth SMART – also known as Bluetooth Low Energy and included in the Bluetooth 4.0 standard that is appearing in mobile phones, tablets and computers now.
Bluetooth SMART is a very low power protocol, designed for low-data throughput devices such as temperature sensors, switches etc., and it lends itself quite well to the camera controller function I mentioned. Devices will run from a
coin cell for years – unusual for a wireless device.
So, I set about developing such a device, but rather than just have simple shutter control, I have added timer functionality.
You can trigger the device and take a single shot, just like a normal radio remote, but you can also set parameters that allow you to start a timer running which will wait for a period of time, then take a number of shots at a programmed interval. Once the parameters are set and the timer started it will run autonomously. Range is about 100 metres, so it’s a very useful remote trigger too.
All of this can be triggered and controlled from any Bluetooth 4.0 capable device, such as the iPhone 4S, iPad 3, most new Mac computers and newer PCs. Most new devices include Bluetooth 4.0, so expect to see many more in the coming months.
The prototype is all working, with a program in the device to give this functionality. The next steps are to produce a PCB (printed circuit board) to allow these to be made in higher volume – and neater – rather than like the hand-built prototype above. I also need to develop iOS and Android apps that will allow the device to be controlled from smartphones. This can be done at the moment, but via a rather clumsy generic Bluetooth application on these phones.
I reckon the device could be made available in the retail market at £50, with the iOS app being a free download. Different versions to connect to Canon, Nikon, Sony cameras would be available (a different connector is needed for each manufacturer) and the controller is your phone – which you have with you, rather than a second box for the trigger.
So how to do the next steps? Design the PCB myself, design the iOS app? both of these are new to me, but I know people who could do this. Maybe use Kickstarter to finance the project? Not sure.
But, I am looking to move this forward – if you have any bright ideas, let me know!
23rd July – added datasheet - Phooto iSMART Datasheet
2nd August – If you would like to make one of these, let me know, I can provide the circuit diagram and object code to load into the Bluegiga BLE112 used here. You will need to source the module and components. I would be interested to get feedback on the device – you might even be interested in developing iOS software for it?
6th August – Dr Michael Kroll’s ‘Blexplr‘ program has been invaluable in developing this application – and has now been updated with the UUIDs to support the device. (see picture).
19th August – First Nikon D90 version made.