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Q&A with enlight photo's James Madelin about ioShutter (updated)  
Wednesday, January 25, 2012 | by Rob Galbraith
Next month, photography accessories maker enlight photo will release ioShutter, a cable and an app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch that enables these devices to fire a connected camera. The 35.4in/90cm ioShutter cable runs from the headphone jack to the camera's remote input. At launch, one cable will be available for Canon, Pentax and Hasselblad models with a 2.5mm remote port, and a second cable will support N3-socket Canons. A Nikon 10-pin cable is planned.

The app is in two flavours, Lite and Pro, with the latter providing the broadest range of control for shooting time lapse sequences, Bulb exposures, sound triggered photos and more, plus the various app functions can be used individually or together.

Trigger Happy: The ioShutter system. Click to enlarge (Graphic courtesy enlight photo)

Below, enlight photo CEO James Madelin answers our questions about ioShutter, focusing mainly on the features of the Pro version of the app. The Lite version is too limited to be useful for much more than straight triggering of the camera, since its timelapse and other modes are restricted to a small handful of timing presets. The Pro version is where the real ioShutter action is going to be. Since, as you'll read below, it's configurability and extensibility make it vastly more useful.

Q. What are the differences between the Lite and Pro versions of the ioShutter app?

The basic functionality of ioShutter remains the same for Lite and Pro versions in that you can use it as a manual shutter release cable. It's in the functions drawer where things change when photographers upgrade to Pro:

Timer
  • Lite is selectable between 20 and 60 seconds.
  • Pro has two modes; one is a normal timer where the amount of time is fully customisable, but an extra cool feature is that you can also set the timer using calendar functionality. Great, for example, if you want to start your timelapse tomorrow morning just before dawn, you don't have to work out how many hours ahead that is, you can just set it to start at, say, 5:21 tomorrow morning.
Bulb
  • Lite is selectable between 60, 90 and 120 seconds.
  • Pro is fully customisable from 1 second to 24 hours and remains in operation even when the iPhone, iPod touch or iPad screen is off.
Timelapse
  • Lite is selectable between three programmes: a frame every 5 secs for 5 minutes; a frame every 5 seconds for 10 minutes; or, a frame every 30 seconds for 10 minutes. Needless to say, photographers can replay these functions back-to-back to shoot longer timelapses in the Lite version of the app.
  • Pro features fully customisable intervals and duration of the timelapse programme.
Sound
  • Lite has the innovative ClapToSnap function, which is either on or off. When on, it triggers your camera (or another function like the Timer) when you clap your hands or the device hears any other loud noise.
  • Pro features a customisable sound level threshold, the amount of time it needs to hear the sound before triggering (this is called "Sound Duration" in the app), the delay until triggering and also the amount of time before the app resumes listening for new sounds (this is set using the "No Repeat For" slider).
Shake
  • Lite features the innovative ShakeToTake function, which is either on or off. When on, if you give the iPhone, iPod touch or iPad a firm shake then your camera, or another ioShutter function like Timer that you've set, is triggered.
  • Pro is fully customisable; the photographer can select which of the six directions cause triggering, plus the movement threshold is selectable, as is the amount of time it needs to sense movement before triggering (called "Movement Duration" in the app), as is the delay until triggering, as is the amount of time before the app resumes monitoring for new shake movements (this is set using the "No Repeat For" slider).
The ioShutter Pro app will also feature the capability of in-app upgrades via plugins we're planning. Plugins may include extra features like:
  • sunrise/ sunset calculator
  • extra skins to customise the app
  • ability to set preferred values
The ioShutter app features an in-app feedback tab so that photographers can update us on what they want or need and alert us to any issues. The development of the app will be guided strongly by the feedback we get, so some of the plugins mentioned in the list above may not appear or may be prioritised or even replaced by others that we garner from feedback. Some may simply be upgrades to the Pro app.

Also, a wireless plugin is targeted for release in mid-to-late 2012 that will link two iOS devices running ioShutter, one of which is plugged into the camera.

Q. The free Lite version of the ioShutter app is already on the App Store. When will the Pro version be out and how much will it cost?

The Pro version is slated for release in time for the launch of the ioShutter cable and will cost US$9.99.

Q. Is the Pro version in fact a separate app from the Lite version, or will it be one app and the end user pays within it for Pro's additional features?

The Pro version is its own, separate iPhone/iPod touch/iPad app that will enable further in-app plugin upgrades when they become available early this year.

Q. What is the minimum level of iOS and device that will be supported?

We've tested iOS4 and iOS5 on the iPhone 3GS/4/4S, iPod touch (fourth generation) and both the iPad 1 and iPad 2. It has been built to run on any iOS version from 3.2 onwards, although we haven't yet had a chance to test 3.2 running on a device. And, some devices not mentioned above, although they can run iOS 3.2 onwards, work differently internally and so aren't compatible.

As you can see, the ioShutter cable plugs into the headphone jack, so for long assignments your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad can still be plugged into a power supply.

Q. If a photographer already has a remote trigger cable that can plug into an iOS device's headphone jack, such as those that are designed to link PocketWizards to a camera, can those be used instead of an ioShutter cable?

The ioShutter cable is specific to ioShutter, so another cable that has the same connections would not work with the ioShutter app. Our patent-pending circuitry in the cable turns the signals that an iOS device emits into the signals necessary to control the camera's shutter.

[This description is undoubtedly correct. As photographer Ron Scheffler pointed out in an email, if you connect speakers (or headphones) to the iOS device, fire up the ioShutter app and then try some of its functions, different sounds are emitted. So, the ioShutter cable is able to distinguish between the sounds and then convert them to a corresponding camera trigger action. - Rob Galbraith]

Q. How much will ioShutter cables cost when purchased direct from enlight?

They'll cost US$69.95 and are already available for pre-order from some of the larger stores.

Q. When will the cables be available to order direct from enlight?

In February 2012 from ioShutter.com, and from leading photo retailers around the world.

Q. When will the cables start to ship?

Also in February 2012.

Revision History
January 26, 2012: Added a question and answer regarding the use of cables other than the ioShutter cable.

Related articles  
Related coverage of this topic includes:
  • ioShutter cable now to ship "by February 2012" (updated) (January 13, 2012)
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