Universal TriggerTrap camera trigger enters pre-production phase
By Paul Ridden
December 11, 2011
After attracting more than three times its funding target on the Kickstarter crowd-sourcing portal, the TriggerTrap universal camera trigger is now speeding towards production. The battery-operated, pocket-sized device has five built-in trigger modes - including firing the flash or shutter release in response to light or sound input - and is compatible with a growing list of camera models. It has a touch-sensitive user interface and an LCD display to help take the guesswork out of choosing settings, and can control hundreds of different cameras via wired or IR trigger systems. It has also been built to allow (if not actively encourage) hacking.
"Part of the excitement about the TriggerTrap is that I have no idea what people are going to use it for," says inventor Haje Jan Kamps. "It's an incredibly versatile piece of photography kit, and because it is so easy to hack, I'm expecting creativity to go off the charts."
Out of the box, TriggerTrap can be set to fire in response to light, laser, sound, or auxiliary input but also features a useful time-lapse mode. The ambient light and sound sensors are positioned to the right of the device and can be used to capture events less than 1.6 milliseconds after they happen. Inventive uses for the ambient sensor include grabbing a sunrise without even getting out of bed, capturing a scene when the outdoor security lighting is activated, or taking a photo when someone switches on the lights in a room.
Likewise, the built-in microphone can trigger the camera when the sound of a door opening is detected, or a baseball hitting a bat, or a droplet of water hitting the surface of a pond. The microphone is housed within the casing, but is said to be sensitive enough for audio triggers. The audio sensor circuit can also turn your camera into a hands-free activator for studio photography, triggering the shutter release when you whistle, shout or clap your hands.
The TriggerTrap has a second light sensor in the form of a laser trigger (which is located at the top of the device, along with the IR transmitter), which has been specially adapted for use with a laser beam - users can, for instance, point a laser at the sensor from across the room, and the connected camera will take photos whenever the beam is broken.
The built-in timer allows for flexible control of time-lapse photography, and the auxiliary port situated on the bottom edge can be connected to anything that gives off an electrical signal - from a cat flap to motion detectors to temperature sensors.
The upper face has four touch-sensitive buttons below a simple grayscale LCD display, with an LED indicator to its right. In addition to the auxiliary port, the bottom edge is also home to a micro-USB port (for external power and firmware updates), a 3.5mm camera jack, an on/off switch and a program start button.
The unit is powered by three AA-sized batteries and benefits from an included power-saving feature that puts the unit into sleep mode for long haul photo shoots on battery power, disabling the display and panel buttons. When connected to an external battery source via the micro-USB port, the sleep mode is disabled by default.
It hasn't been possible to weather-seal TriggerTrap as originally intended, but it is optically isolated from a cable-connected camera.
"This means that there is no copper wires physically connecting the TriggerTrap to the camera," explains Kamps. "So if you do something unspeakably stupid (such as connecting your TriggerTrap to a lightning rod to try to photograph lightning), there's a fighting chance that your camera will survive the encounter."
As if all that wasn't useful enough, TriggerTrap also caters for users to get under the hood to control, program or expand its functionality to suit individual technical needs. The team - consisting of Kamps, Michael Grant, Noah Shibley, and Ziah Fogel - is planning to release both the software and hardware under open-source licenses, allowing users to create new functions, alter existing features, modify firmware and tweak the hardware. If the folks at TriggerTrap haven't already come up with and explained your proposed novel way of interacting with the unit, other users may be able to assist via the online community.
The unit's creator has also penned some instructions on how to connect cameras and flashes with non-compatible connections, for those models that are not currently supported.
At the time of writing, the final prototypes have been assembled and tested, and the components are being ordered - including more than 11,000 ceramic caps, 4,000 electro caps and some 19,000 resistors - to manufacture the first batch of devices for a shipping target of February 2012 (revised from an initial pre-Christmas estimate). The company does say that it's trying to get devices shipped out as soon as they come off the production, so backers might get theirs a little earlier.
The TriggerTrap programmable camera trigger (which at face value doesn't appear to be a million miles away from the already available Camera Axe - now in its fifth version), will be available in two versions - the full model for US$125 and a DIY Shield version for US$75. Users will be able to follow the soon-to-be-released build instructions for the latter, or fly solo and get creative to build a unique custom flavor of TriggerTrap.
For a taste of what will shortly be available, have a look at the following quick video tour: