There are times when it’s best to have a hands-off approach to photography. Physically pressing a shutter button during focus-critical macro work or a long exposure low light shot could cause motion blur. Alternatively, you may need to trigger from a distance to avoid casting a shadow over your subject, or in the case of wildlife, to keep yourself concealed.
Remote releases used to take the form of a cable release that screwed directly into your shutter button, but these days you can also opt for various wireless solutions. Basic infra-red button remotes are good, but more advanced radio frequency or Bluetooth triggers offer much greater range and don’t require a direct line of sight. Then there are Wi-Fi adaptor remotes that plug in to your camera and create a wireless hotspot so your smartphone or tablet can control your camera via a companion app.
The remotes on this list all offer something a bit more special than just a basic remote shutter release. A common theme is the inclusion of an intervalometer timer, so you can program the remote to automatically fire your camera multiple times and use separate software to create a time lapse sequence from the shots.
Five things to watch out for
1. Wired or wireless?
Wireless remotes are now very affordable and give greater range, but a wired remote will give an uninterruptible connection.
2. Going smarter
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth triggers harness the power of your smart device for even more comprehensive remote camera control.
3. Extra features
Advanced remotes pack an intervalometer for time lapse sequences, and some also include auto HDR and focus stacking modes.
4. Cable concerns
Every manufacturer has a different connection socket - and some makes have several types. So make sure the cable release you choose will fit your camera
5. Back to basics
Forget to pack your remote? There’s always your camera’s self timer, and some newer models even include a built-in intervalometer.
Canon camera remotes
This is the latest of Canon's wireless controllers, and unlike earlier models that used infrared, the BR-E1 uses Bluetooth to link up to your camera without the need for cables. It is compatible with a range of more recent Canon best-sellers including the mirrorless EOS RP and the Rebel SL3 DSLR. You do need to pair up the camera and remote before you start, but this is a relatively painless process. There are separate aufofocus and release controls which can prove useful – plus zoom buttons if used with a compatible Canon compact.
Bypassing the usual need for multiple connector plugs to suit different camera models, the infrared RC-6 works with many recent Canon cameras, from the EOS 800D, Rebel T7i, EOS 80D, 5D Mark IV, and many older EOS M models. Since Canon DSLRs only tend to have an IR receiver at the front of the camera, built into the hand grip, you can’t operate the camera from behind. But the RC-6 is particularly useful for self-portraits, with a range of five metres and a two-second self-timer delay. The addition of a switch on the back panel also offers immediate shutter release. The main button is only a one-stage switch though, so you can’t activate autofocus and light metering in advance.
Small and simple to use, Canon’s RS-60E3 suits all Canon cameras with a mini-jack remote control terminal (that includes the EOS 500D/Rebel T1i and newer, EOS 60D and newer, plus many more). The 60cm cable wraps around the body of the controller for tidy stowage,and there’s a dummy socket for the plug to fit into. The unit requires no batteries, and the only moving part is the remote shutter button assembly. This has a good solid feel to it, with a precise two-stage mechanism for autofocus and metering with a light press, and shooting with a full press. Once fully pressed the button can slide forward to lock in place for bulb exposures or continuous shooting, without the need to keep the button manually pressed in.
A little larger than the Canon RS-60E3, this controller features a thicker, more business-like cable and plug that fi ts three-pin remote controller terminals as featured on the likes of Canon's 5D and 7D-series DSLRs. The cable itself is a bit longer at 80cm, and if you require greater reach Canon produces a 10m extension lead (ET-1000-N3) although it’s very expensive to buy. As with the RS-60E3 the build quality of the unit is impressive, and the two-stage operating button has a precise feel to it, complete with locking mechanism for bulb exposures and continuous shooting once the relevant drive mode has been selected.
Despite being a wired rather than wireless controller, the TC-80N3 still requires a single CR2032 battery to power its LCD display and all-round cleverness. Connecting to compatible cameras like the EOS 5D IV and 7D Mark II via a three pin plug, the unit’s features include a self-timer, long-exposure timer, interval timer and the option to set the number of shots in a sequence. It also works as a straightforward remote control, with the same basic functions as Canon's RS-80N3 camera remote, even with no battery fitted. It’s simple to use, with a switch that cycles between the four main operating modes, a start/stop button, LCD display illumination switch and jog control for altering the settings.
Nikon camera remotes
For wireless remote operation of cameras, the ML-L3 works with every consumer-level DSLR Nikon has ever made (although not the more recent Nikon D3500). However, it uses an infrared beam, so you need uninterrupted line of sight between the controller and the IR receiver in the camera. The maximum range is 5m. Nikon has never fitted IR receivers to any of its professional cameras, denying pro users access to this cheap, quick and easy remote. The tiny ML-L3 measures a mere 60 x 28 x 7mm and weighs just 10g. It has a one-stage trigger button that doesn’t allow for separate autofocus and shutter release. Even so, Bulb exposures are easy, requiring one press to open the shutter, and a subsequent press to close it again.
This Nikon controller fits pretty much every consumer Nikon body from the D90 and D3100 through to the Z6 and Z7. Partly due to its 1m cable, it’s rather heavier than the ML-L3 infrared controller but is still entirely manageable at 65g. One major advantage of the MC-DC1 over the ML-L3 infrared remote is that it features a two-stage trigger button, which replicates the shutter button on the camera. You can therefore use a half-press to activate autofocus and exposure metering, and a full press to take your shot when you’re ready
Nikon has designed this remote controller to match its highest-performing cameras like the D4s. As such, it boasts fully pro build quality, but is only compatible with pro Nikon DSLRs cameras that have 10-pin connectors. The controller unit feels rugged and robust, and the 80cm connection cable is heavy-duty. Meanwhile, the lockable two-stage shutter button has an excellent and precise feel to it, unlike that of the cheaper MC-DC2 controller. However, while performance and build quality are excellent, the price is very steep for what is, essentially, an extremely basic remote controller.
Sony camera remotes
Sony does its consumers a huge favor with this remote by supplying it with two different cables, so that it has plugs to fit the socket of most of the cameras it has ever made - including its mirrorless Alpha range, older SLT models, compact cameras and even camcorders. The cables are 80cm /31-inch long - but you get a decent set of controls for a basic remote. There is a lockable release socket, with a secondary stop/start button for video recording - plus zoom controls for compatible cameras with motorized zooms. A neat bonus, is that the remote comes with a cradle that allows you to stow the controller neatly onto a tripod leg.
Third-party camera remotes
Lightweight, simple and disarmingly inexpensive, the Phottix XS is nevertheless well made and comes in a number of different versions to fit various manufacturer's connections sockets. But do be careful to pick the right one, as there are, for example two Canon models available.. All versions have a fixed one-metre cable, which does feel a little thin and fragile when you handle it.
The textured finger grip on the rear surface of the control unit that you hold in your hand provides a steady grip, and the damped button has a pleasant action for both light-press autofocus and metering and full-press shutter release. A sliding button-lock mechanism is useful for bulb exposures, as it means you don’t have to keep pressing the button.
This is one of the cheaper programmable remotes on the market, but as it is wired remote its versatility is limited. However, this needn’t be a deal-breaker as the Taimi can be pre-programmed with a timelapse sequence, so once you’ve dialed in your preferred parameters, you can leave the device to do its thing. The wired link also keeps power consumption down, resulting in a huge 300-hour battery life from two AAAs. Five cables are included, so you can connect to most Canon and Nikon DSLRs, along with some Sony cameras.
Phottix’s button layout and menu interface aren't the most intuitive though, so don’t discard the manual in over exuberance, as it will be required to decipher the various timelapse and shutter release options. You can program sequences up to 100 hours long and repeat them. It’s a pity there’s no exposure ramping options for changing lighting conditions, but it’s an understandable omission at this price. You do at least get a bulb mode and conventional remote release function with burst shooting capability, along with a display backlight and optional button beep feedback.
Hama’s entry is designed with compatibility in mind, as this wired remote can be hooked up to various Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Panasonic, Olympus and Fujifilm cameras, plus other more minor brands. The slight catch is you’ll have to purchase your required cable separately, for an additional $10/£10. Once connected, the remote can be used to program a timelapse sequence, with customizable start time, total number of shots, exposure time and interval duration. Hama’s display interface and control layout aren’t overly intuitive, but it doesn’t take long to get the hang of things.
In addition to its time lapse capabilities, the remote can also double as a conventional remote shutter release for both single-shot and continuous shooting.
This convenient remote is all about long exposure and time lapse shooting. You can shoot a sequence up to 100 hours long, split down to 1-second increments, and there’s a secondary timer that’ll repeat the first sequence, also with controllable frequency. Alternatively, the Captur can be used as a straightforward remote release, with the 2.4GHz wireless connection giving a range up to 100m, while Digital Channel Matching guards against unwanted signal interference.
The wireless remote communicates with your camera via a separate hot-shoe mounted receiver unit which in turn connects via a sync cable. It’s a slightly bulky combo, but no other device like a phone or tablet is required, and the simple radio frequency connection works instantly with no prior setup.
You will however need to spend some time studying the instructions, as the pared-down controls and basic info screen info result in a cryptic interface that takes practice to master. It’s also a pity there aren’t exposure ramping features for day-night timelapse transitions.
The original CamRanger was a clever box of tricks that connected via USB to almost all Canon and Nikon DSLRs, emitting a Wi-Fi signal so you could wirelessly connect an Android or Apple smart device to use as a remote camera control.
This new Mini version does exactly the same (though it’s no longer capable of Windows and Mac connectivity), and is around half the size of the original. Remote range is increased to 120m, however battery life is slightly reduced at 3-4 hours.
Once you’ve downloaded the accompanying app you can then wirelessly stream your camera’s Live View preview, then tap to focus and capture a still image with almost no perceptible lag. There’s a 1-2 second delay before the image is viewable on your smart device, but it’s no longer than Canon or Nikon’s proprietary wireless control systems. All typical camera settings can be adjusted remotely.
But it’s the extra shooting features that really add value. Use the intervalometer to program timelapses that can last up to 12 hours, thanks to the low power consumption in this mode. Multi-shot bracketed HDR sequences can be shot independently or within a time lapse, and there’s an automatic focus stacking mode.
The Digital Director doesn’t resemble a typical remote, as it’s designed as a form-fitting case that holds an iPad which you use as the remote control. Powerful processing hardware is built into the base of the Digital Director, and here you’ll also find space for four AA batteries, though a mains adaptor is also included.
This isn’t a wireless remote, so your iPad docks with the Digital Director’s Lightning connector, and this in turn connects to your camera via a USB lead. Download the Digital Director iOS app and you’re good to go.
Though you’re physically tethered to your camera, the benefit is instantaneous response. A superbly designed app interface displays a plethora of manual camera controls. Extra features like auto exposure bracketing, intervalometer, time lapse and video modes are just as simple to use. You can even use the Digital Director to remotely control up to 13 select Manfrotto light panels.
Drawbacks? It’s only compatible with an iPad, though various models are supported, and the tethered connection means it’s best mounted to a tripod accessory arm rather than being hand-held.