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Layman’s Camera Remote Control

Layman’s Camera Remote Control It’s sensible to use a remote control when your camera is mounted on a tripod, especially when you are using slow shutter speeds. The stability of even a high-quality tripod can be compromised if you touch and jostle the camera while taking a shot. A camera remote control enables a more hands-off approach.

An Insight

The core of this project is a simple circuit that connects to the camera’s remote shutter release. At a basic level, this just involves connecting two of the pins used for the camera remote together to simulate pressing the button on the remote. This project uses the Canon N3 connector, but you can achieve the same results with other connectors, too. Canon’s low-end DSLR cameras use an E3 socket (a 2.5-mm stereo socket) to connect remote shutter releases to the camera. However, the mid- to high-end DSLR cameras use Canon’s proprietary N3 socket.

Fig. 1 shows the N3 socket on a Canon camera body, its electrical connections, and a bare N3 connector. For the N3 interface, connecting the focus pin to the ground (common) pin is equivalent to a half-press of the shutter button, whereas connecting the shutter pin to the ground pin is equivalent to a full press.

Layman’s Camera Remote Control

A Simple Start

The easiest way to construct a cable for this project is to obtain a wired shutter release cable with an N3 connector interface. You can buy the more expensive cable from the camera manufacturer or find a cheaper alternative, which can still work well. Most remote release switches in the cables are made with metal leaves that are designed to make contact with the half-press (focus) wire touching ground (common). Then, the full-press (shutter) wire makes contact with both the ground and half-press. You can make your own shutter release cable with the help of a spare N3 connector and a homemade button switch (see Fig. 2).

Layman’s Camera Remote Control

Now that you know how the N3 interface works, all you need to do is wire a circuit that allows you to switch the yellow (F) and/or pink (S) wires to ground (G). The focus wire may be useless if you can focus the camera before it takes a picture, but it is included here for completeness. The completed electrical wiring is pictured below (Fig. 3). Make sure to clean up any loose strands of copper wire so that you don’t accidentally make contact between the three switching points.

Layman’s Camera Remote Control

Add Some Electronics

The solution presented above is really simple and straightforward — a small plastic box with a two-position button switch. The next solution is a more advanced module, which you can easily connect to a microcontroller to trigger the shutter on a Canon DSLR camera that has an N3 connector.

Furthermore, you can attach various sensors/transducers to enhance the shooting experience. For example, by adding a sound sensor, vibration monitor, or a motion detector/laser trip wire, you can snap a picture every time you say a word, if something falls, or if someone walks down the hallway!

The little circuit works from 3.3 V to 5.0 V DC and is wired around a quad bilateral switch

(IC1). The circuit has been kept simple for reliability’s sake. The whole of the circuit fits onto a single-sided Perfboard/PCB and is easy to set inside most prototype/custom enclosures. The 4-pin connector J1 is for the microcontroller interface, while the second 4-pin connector J2 can be attached to the N3 connector/cable. The design uses just two bilateral switches of IC1 to fire the camera’s shutter — one for the half-press and one for the full-press signals.

It is perfectly acceptable to use just one signal (shutter) to fire the camera, although with some camera bodies, it may be possible to achieve faster shutter speeds by “cooking” the camera with a short half-press before the full-press. Logic-high (H) inputs on the focus and shutter pins of J1 will set off the focus and shutter operation of the camera linked through the J2-N3 connector.

Layman’s Camera Remote Control

4066 datasheet

Arduino Fun

It’s possible to use Arduino to talk to the camera through the circuit shown above. Here is a “test” sketch to control the operation via the USB cable using the serial monitor. The functionality is very rudimentary and the sketch is pretty self-explanatory with the few comments that are included. All the sketch does is focus when you hit the “F” key and take a picture when you press the “S” key. See the hardware diagram and software code (sketch) shown below:

Layman’s Camera Remote Control

  1. #define FOCUS_PIN 12
  2. #define SHUTTER_PIN 13
  3. void setup()
  4. {
  5. pinMode(FOCUS_PIN, OUTPUT);
  6. pinMode(SHUTTER_PIN, OUTPUT);
  7. digitalWrite(FOCUS_PIN, LOW);
  8. digitalWrite(SHUTTER_PIN, LOW);
  9. Serial.begin(9600); // open serial
  10. Serial.println(“Press ‘f’ to focus and ‘s’ to fire shutter”);
  11. }
  12. void loop()
  13. {
  14. int cmd;
  15. while (Serial.available() > 0)
  16. {
  17. cmd = Serial.read();
  18. switch (cmd)
  19. {
  20. case ‘f’:
  21. {
  22. digitalWrite(FOCUS_PIN, HIGH);
  23. delay(800); // adjust this depending on focus time digitalWrite(FOCUS_PIN, LOW);
  24. break;
  25. }
  26. case ‘s’:
  27. {
  28. digitalWrite(SHUTTER_PIN, HIGH);
  29. delay(2000); // adjust this depending on shot type
  30. digitalWrite(SHUTTER_PIN, LOW);
  31. break;
  32. }
  33. default:
  34. {
  35. Serial.println(“Press ‘f’ to focus and ‘s’ to fire shutter”);
  36. }
  37. }
  38. }
  39. }
download Arduino Sketch

Combining electronics and photography can be fun. One popular use of a remote control is for wildlife photography, where you may not be able to stay physically close to the camera but you still want to have control over your snapshots. As far as I’m aware, you cannot purchase bare N3 connectors from local component vendors. However, a number of cables are available with an N3 connector on one end from online shops like eBay, Amazon, and AliExpress. Or you can try to make your own N3 connector at home using different tricks available over the web. This website offers one example: diff.net/peter/photography/canon_n3_connector_info.shtml.

Finally…

This is not intended to be a complete solution to everything you could possibly want to do; rather, it is a primer on first steps, along with some pointers and ideas on where to go next. Although the proof of concept was successfully tested, the information is provided without warranties, claims of accuracy, or completeness of any sort. Use this information at your own risk!

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Updated: 14th July 2017 — 11:37 am
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