I borrowed a friend’s Nikon D80 for a recent photo project. The D80 had a few features that my six-year-old (I bought it new in 2006) Nikon D40 does not. The D40 — now replaced by the D3200 — was Nikon’s beginner’s DSLR. Nikon removed a few features that I now wish I had; auto-bracketing and a cable shutter release. This has always presented a challenge for me when doing HDR photography. Adjusting the exposure value manually for each shot risked moving the camera, adding blur to the final HDR. The D80 makes this easy, since it supports auto-bracketing. Set the bracket value, the range and shoot using the ML-30 wireless remote.
It was now time to return the D80 to it’s owner but I did not want to return to my manual method. After a few weeks searching the web I found a project called DSLR.bot. The creator wrote an iPhone/iPad (iOS) app that could trigger an IR LED to send the correct binary sequence to trigger the IR on the Nikon. The creator sells a pre-built IR remote but was kind enough to give plans on how to build one myself. All that was required was a few parts and some soldering experience. Off I ran to the Radio Shack.
I followed the instructions I found on Instructables with one slight change. Instead of using a 3.5 mm stereo headphone mini jack cable I used a 3.5 mm stereo headphone mini plug. I wanted something that was more compact. I couldn’t find my soldering iron or solder so I picked up a Radio Shack battery operated soldering iron and some solder. If the instructions on Instructables are too hard to follow you can use this video I found online.
Putting things together was easy despite the fact that I haven’t solder anything since college (about 20 years ago). I did have a slight problem holding (and seeing) the tiny pars but the edge of a Patron box solved the first and reading glasses helped with the second.
Once the solder dried, I downloaded the app, snapped my DIY IR remote into the headphone jack of my iPhone, and setup my tripod. You can read all about the DSLR.bot app on the web site. I switched it to the HDR more, tweak a few settings on my camera and fired away. I am happy to say it works and I am beaming from ear to easy. My wife watched as I hopped around like a school boy. It was just very excited that I could still build stuff. The parts cost half as much as I would have paid to buy a pre-built IR from the creator. Even if the parts had cost more I would still build my own. I got a great sense of accomplishment outing of this (very small) project and I no longer feel as though I’ve lost my “maker” skills. I just need more practice. Time to get my Arduino dusted off and doing something useful.
There is still one hitch in my plans to use my DIY IR remote for HDR. The author of the app limited the minimum shutter speed to 3⁄10 second. That is just too slow for daylight HDR. Most of my test shots are completely blown out in the highlights. One possible way around this is to reduce the aperture or use a neutral density (ND) filter to reduce the light entering the lens. I don’t have a ND filter so for now, I may restrict my HDR photography to the evening.
- 2 x 940 nm IR LED — Radio Shack Part No. 276-0143
- 3.5 mm stereo headphone mini-plug — Radio Shack Part No. 274-0869