Triggertrap v1 – High Speed Photography Trigger

What is Triggertrap v1?

In the last article, we reviewed the Triggertrap Mobile Dongle. While the Dongle is an amazing and handy gadget, which is easy to carry around, there are other triggers available that are more advanced. Triggertrap v1 is one of those trigger systems and we received one to test it.

Triggertrap v1 or ttv1 is a device that can trigger your Camera or Flash based on external stimulants like light, sound, laser and much more (DIY mode). Speed of device is measured in just couple milliseconds.

Keep reading article to find out does Triggertrap v1 justifies it’s price of $200.

 

High Speed Photography

Without getting into a debate about what High Speed Photography is, I’ll share my opinion. Question: “Is a water droplet image made with high speed photography?” My answer would be yes and no. You can capture images of water droplets by manually taking shots. You can try to get the shots through trial and error, or in burst mode (high shutter speed and more frames per seconds). In both cases you can eventually catch some great shots — I surely did. But on other hand, if you want to control your photography, and get images of water droplets where you want, and in the shapes you desire, then you should use a trigger and a laser. Triggers are also useful for capturing images of burst water balloons and other high speed movements.

In examples of high speed movements that include breaking plates, glasses and bottles. My question would be,“How many would you break before you get the desired shot by triggering it with your fingers (pressing a shutter button on camera or remotely), even using the burst mode?” My guess would be: probably a few usable photos and lots of broken stuff. This is where triggers come in handy. Once you prepare properly, triggers allow you to make good shots consistently - even on a very first attempt. Let’s see if I’m right.

Red Pepper (Paprika) - Laser - Flash

Red Pepper (Paprika) – Laser – Flash

Why Would You Need a Fast Trigger?

Do you really need one ? It is actually up to you. If you ever wanted to take photos of splashing, breaking, flying, bullets, even time-lapses and bulb ramping, then the Triggertrap is a device you may consider. When you want consistent results and more control over fast movements, it’s time to get a trigger. When you want consistent results, more control over fast movements in your photography, then it is time to get a trigger. The Triggertrap v1 device is based on the Arduino board. You can read more about the Arduino here.

 

What’s in the Box?

When you buy a Triggertrap device, you will receive a small box with the device and a cable for your camera + audio jack adapter. In some cases, you may receive the wrong audio jack (adapter), but don’t worry cause it’s dirt cheap and you can get the proper one in a local electronics store. We used one that we got for triggering the ‘three digit’ (entry level) EOS D-SLRs, like the 550D (Rebel T2i).

Canon cable has a 2.5mm male jack on one end, and adapter was 3.5mm > 2.5mm. Triggertrap connector is 3.5mm, so getting from 2.5mm (female) to 3.5mm (male) was no trouble at all, and to be honest we used both adapters in many of our setups for images that we made.

Triggertrap V1

Triggertrap V1

 

Features of the Triggertrap

Housing:
- Transparent plastic with 4 screws on top (4 on bottom).
- LCD display.
- Small LED in top right corner.
- 3 AAA battery holder inside.
- 4 touch sensitive buttons.

Connectors:
- micro USB
- On/Off switch
- CAM (camera output)
- AUX (for DIY, input))
- START (which is STOP button as well)

Modes:
- Light
- Sound
- Laser
- Time-lapse
- Bramping

 

First Impressions

The first impression that I had was that it could have a better sealed casing (housing). There are not many waterproof triggers available, but I think triggers should be waterproof or at least weatherproof and triggertrap with its open back cover is far from that.  Nevertheless, it is relatively easy to to make transparent casings, for example using a transparent plastic bag or box, to make the trigger somewhat weatherproof. So it is not major deal after all.

It would also be good if the trigger had a screw threading, so that it could be mounted on a light stand, or attached to a hot shoe (on or off camera). You’ll have to keep tapping the trigger to keep it stable while you shoot.This is not a major disadvantage as you can prevent it from moving by using tape.

Battery casing was wobbly and loose, check how we fixed it.

 

Software

The Triggertrap v1 device which we received, had an “old” software which was without Bramping mode. I followed the instructions from the Triggertrap site, and easily upgraded ttv1 firmware without issues.
A great thing about the device is that you can change the program code if you know how to. So, if you don’t like a feature, change it as you wish — pretty awesome!

 

Triggertrap at Work

What to Trigger: Camera or Flash?

In most cases when you want to catch very fast movements, you need to trigger a flash (or flashes) instead of the camera. Why is that so? Cameras have a shutter lag that is much longer than a flash lag. In fact, the lag time for a flash firing on low power seems to be non-existent, while a camera’s shutter lag is much bigger no matter what settings you use.

With the Triggertrap Mobile App, we tested the shutter lag for the 550D (T2i, ), 40D and 5D Mark II.

Average Shutter Lag – based on 10 shots (MF)
Camera Normal (ms) Live View (ms)
Canon EOS 40D  101  184
Canon EOS 550D/T2i
 154  92
Canon EOS 5D Mk II
 126  182

Table above shows how inconsistent shutter lag is for Canon cameras. For our article it is correct to say that minimal shutter lag is around 100 milliseconds.

We partially explained this in the water droplet article, in which we mentioned that the flash duration on low power settings is really short, and can freeze almost anything. It is best to shoot with a shutter speed of 1-2 seconds while triggering a flash or multiple flashes within duration of a single exposure. There is one important thing that you should be careful about — ambient light. When you shoot at 1 – 2 (or more) seconds without using flash, check that the setup is completely dark. Avoid any ambient light in your image. Once you are sure that the only light emitted is from your flash(es), you can now press the shutter release (on your camera), and use your trigger to fire the flash(es).  The long exposure it’s not used only to allow usage of flashes at small capacities and enabling closed down apertures but to get you some fare amount of time for triggering the action.

 

Sound Triggering

In testing sound triggering, I must admit that I didn’t think much about it before I started. My idea was to use an air-gun (a rifle that shoots bullets by compressed air). The method included putting the trigger as close as possible to me (the shooter), and as far as possible from the object (the apple or water balloon) that should be broken into pieces.

First of all, to make the apple explode you need to use a much larger (and more dangerous) bullet than what can be used in an air rifle. The bullet fired through the water balloon caused rippling.

Water Jellyfish

Water Jellyfish – Sound Triggered Camera

Our mistake was triggering camera instead of flash, but conditions (ambient) light was too bright for long exposure photography. On the other hand, shooting in dark would be a challenge of its own, so the whole setup, as it came out, was bad from the start.

 

Light Triggering

Light is faster than sound. This is where the Triggertrap shines!

To prove that the Triggertrap v1 is really fast, you can’t test it while you trigger your camera, but you have to use a flash unit as the light source. Setup, point two flashes towards camera that will record video, trigger one (main) flash unit with triggertrap v1 and put other on slave mode. Looking at video it seems as if the flashes were fired at the same time, but when you see the video frame by frame, you can confirm that there was almost no trigger delay. Triggertrap claims that the time delay is 2ms, which I believe from my experience to be correct.

Match

Match – Light mode – Camera

Laser Triggering

This is my favorite triggering mode of them all, because in this mode I have the most control. You can setup where and when to trigger.

There is a challenge though, because you have to prepare a method to prevent the laser beam from showing in the image. This is why you may need to spend some time in setting up laser triggering properly. Pre-triggering is the best way to use laser triggering. Once you have that in place, you can be as creative as you want.
Laser triggering can make the setting up process last longer, because you will have problems like how to setup a laser that shouldn’t not be seen in picture. Pre-triggering is the way in which the laser method works best but thinking of how to trigger a laser is the creative part.

Balloon - Laser mode - Flash

Balloon – Laser mode – Flash

For the shot shown above, I made a trigger stick. To trigger flash in precise moment when balloon is exploding, you need to cut the laser beam very close to time you poked the balloon with a needle. So basically you need to touch the balloon with a needle in the same time while wire is touching (cutting) the laser beam few inches (centimeters) above balloon. All this is needed so we can avoid the laser beam in our photo. When I move the needle towards the balloon, other part splits the beam at exactly the same time when the balloon is burst . I made it in such way, that I could move triggering wire up and down, because not all balloons are the same shape and size.

Here are a couple more shots:

Balloon splash in hand

Balloon splash in hand – Laser – Flash

My Favorite one:

Bottle Break - Laser - Flash

Bottle Break – Laser – Flash

I don’t think that you would guess right how many bottles did we break before this shot. Well, this is the second glass bottle we broke. The first bottle (picture) was amazing as well, but we had a framing issue. I think that this is a great shot for the second attempt. The setup took about 2 hours. We moved all the equipment and supplies from the house to the garage and we even had to go to a store to get a number of the supplies. If you have access to a place where you can store your gear, you can spend a mere 15-20 minutes to setup and take the images like this. So, to answer the question “Can you make a perfect first attempt shot?” – the answer is YES (although we made it in second :-))

To capture the image shown above, we made our own trigger initiator out of plain white paper. We made the paper in the shape of the letter “L”, and adjusted it to hang in front of the laser. When I was shooting the paper with air rifle bullets, the base of the letter L moves and releases the laser beam onto the trigger.

The Triggertrap’s laser sensor is tiny, but this is typical for a number of triggers. That means that you have to point your laser directly on to the receiver, and this can get challenging if you don’t have the right equipment.

 

Time Lapse and Bramping Modes

These two modes are great addon for Triggertrap. Making triggertrap not only interesting for people who are into High speed photography but for ones who are into making time-lapses as well.

Time-Lapse mode works very simple, you setup your camera and settings, most preferable into manual mode, everything set to manual (shutter speed, focus, aperture and WB). Once you set all up, you setup triggertrap, delay before first image and interval between all other images, and off course number of shoots you want to make.

Bramping mode is little more complex, but results are amazing. You have option to control camera exposure (shutter speed) from 1/30 and up to how many seconds you want. Getting transfer from Day to Night and opposite without flickering. To use Bramping you should know when Sun rises or falls in your area, maybe you need one day to see how long does it take from day till full night and check exposures for your subject in full night.

We didn’t make video from this two modes, but we tested it and it works great. When we make video, we will post it here.

 

Pros and Cons

Here’s a basic rundown — pros and cons — of what I think of the Triggertrap v1.

Pros: The Triggertrap v1 has great potential. Functionality is as described. Functions and controls are easy to setup. The AUX port can be used for DIY sensors like pressure or currency. USB port for charging is great feature. Time-lapse and Bramping mode are great add-ons. You can hack it, edit code, make your own modes and much more. It is very fast, and as mentioned before, you are only limited by your creative mind. Upgradeable firmware, hack enabled.
Cons: Housing is not complete, making it easy for moisture to get into the trigger. There is no mount adapter of any kind, whether hot shoe or screw thread for a light stand. To change batteries you need to open the trigger and disconnect the top board. Too easy to change settings when you don’t want to because of the  hyper sensitive touch buttons. Device lacks button to lock or at least a lock feature.

 

Our Recommendations:

It would have been useful if most of the modes could have the option to limit the number of shots to a certain quantity and to have option to set delay manually between two impulses.
If you shoot in sound mode, there may be more than one sound to contend with if you use an air rifle to hit a plastic bottle. If you have a long exposure set on your camera, and you trigger your flashguns, it is very likely that you will have two bursts of flash which will mess up your image. Similarly for laser mode, there’s the option to choose on make, on break ,or on change, but if you break the laser beam a couple of times, you will end up messing up your photos with two or more flash bursts.

The good thing about using the Triggertrap, is that you can make changes to the programming code to suit your desires. Search the internet for solutions, or just upgrade the software if they make some official changes.

P.S. if you know where can we find or if you made some changes, please let us know, so we can test it. Thanks.

 

Conclusion

Even if you have never done high speed photography before, the Triggertrap will make it easy for you to learn it quickly. The only thing that will limit you is your creativity. Initially when I wrote down my ideas for this review, I choose not to search on the internet for any related content. I just didn’t want to, because I thought that there’s a chance from the many ideas that I have, that a few would be unique. I realized that NONE were! My ideas were not unique — someone already tested them. We decided to still put these ideas into action, but try to make the images as professional as possible. You can be the judge of how well we did it.

Final thought; You may have a divided opinion about Triggertrap. Either you’ll like it or you won’t and most probable reason not to, is its casing alone. My question for all of you having trouble digesting the casing issue is this: “What is more important – casing or device abilities to help you make amazing images ?”. I think you already know my answer so I’ll keep it simple: “Don’t judge the book by it’s covers!”.

 

Equipment used:

Canon EOS 40D

Canon EOS 5D Mk I

Canon EOS 5D Mk II (Heineken shot)

Canon EF 100mm f2.8 Macro

Check behind the scenes photos on our Facebook page.

 

Firmware Updates

0.3.36 21st March 2013

In timelapse mode the exposure option is normally off. If you turn it on, it overrides the default shutter signal to hold it open for the selected period. This is ideal for long exposure timelapses at night – similar to the way the Star Trail mode works on Triggertrap Mobile.

 

About Tommy

Photography allows me to be what I want to be, to be where I want to be, and to do what I want to do ... I'm not professional photographer and I don't need a title, I love to take photographs and that is what I do, I love to learn and I always try to do it better ...

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