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A History of my Photography

Remote Control



The basic camera release. This one has an adapter for Leica/Nikon cameras.

    The item most photographers would buy after buying a tripod was a cable release. To take full advantage of the tripod it is necessary to keep your hands off the camera when taking the picture. Nearly every camera used the same type of cable release with a conical tapered thread. Leica had adopted a different arrangement and when Nikon started making cameras they copied the Leica design. This type of release used a bell shaped fitting to go over the release button.

Cable release user end. This my favorite type of release with a locking collar that allow one hand operation.

    My favorite type of cable release has a locking collar at the grip. With the collar screwed down the release is a simple push to expose release to release operation. Loosen the collar and the release will remain pressed for time exposures. Press on the collar and the release button is released. Simple and easy to use one handed.

Cable release with a Leica/Nikon adapter.

    Nikon used the Leica type cable release on all their rangefinder cameras and the F and F2. All other cameras that had a cable release used the standard tapered thread type.

Pneumatic long release with the release end, the tubing spool and the air bulb. This unit came with a Leica/Nikon adapter which is removable.

    Cable release are good for short distance but if you want to stand back and shoot a different system is needed. The most common and cheapest solution is the pneumatic release. This has an air cylinder at the camera with a long air hose and an air bulb at the end. It's simple, cheap and relatively fragile. With my older medium format gear it's the only way to go.

    When I got my first camera with a motor drive - an old Nikon F with the F36 back and cordless battery pack- I found that the battery pack had a household type jack for release accessories. It took me a whole five minutes to make a remote release cord from an extension cord, a film can and a push button. Works well and lasts a long time.

    After I traded the F in on a motor drive for my F2 I found that there was no household socket for my remote release. It did have an interesting feature - The release button would unplug from the motor drive and a special cable was available that would connect the two remotely. The motor drive has a two pin connector but I just ignored that.

    The two pin remote connector lived on and is found on the MD-1, MD-2, MD-4, MD-11, MD-12, and MD-15. I had sold my MD-2 and didn't have a motor drive camera until my N2000. My N2000 had a motor drive built in and didn't use the standard cable release but had a two pin connector. I never needed a remote release while using the N2000, the self timer was a working substitute.

    When I started doing astronomy I ran into a situation where a remote release was desirable. I had a N8008 with a MB-21 back on it. I would set the MB-21 to perform long exposure of five minutes. I needed a remote release to avoid shaking the camera and the telescope it was mounted on. At this point I purchase and MC-12B remote cord and used that.

MC-12B remote release cord.

    The MC-12B worked for every thing, my motor drives, motorized cameras, It had a two step release with a partial press switching a resistor into the circuit and powering up the meter on cameras that worked that way, and pressing it all the way was a dead short and fired the camera. All was Good.

    Along comes the Nikon N90 and thing have changed. With the introduction of the N90 there was a new 10 pin remote connector. It didn't bother me - I was using my N2000 still. Later when I bought an F5 and an F100 they both had the 10 pin connector. The ten pin connector was used on the D1, D1x, D1h, D2x, D2h,D2xs, D2hs, D100 with the battery pack and the D200 as well.

MC-36 Remote control with 10 pin connector.

    Nikon latest remote control for all the 10 pin cameras is the MC-36. It has a two stage release button with a lock, but a whole lot more. The unit functions as an intervelometer  and timer for long exposures as well, It has an illuminator for the LCD and the ability to lock the controls as well. With my two pin cameras I had bought multifunction backs to acquire these features but here they are by just plugging in this device. All this and the unit uses two AAA cells for power.

MC-21 ten pin extension cord.

    The MC-36 has a cord that is too short for some uses. If you need greater distance between yourself and the camera the MC-21 extension cord provides 3 meter of extra reach.

MC-26 ten pin to two pin adapter.

    So this is all great but what about my old two pin cameras and motor drives? The MC-26 adapter allows you to use ten pin devices with two pin cameras.

    If you want a longer reach or cordless operation there are several choices. Nikon made radio remotes but they are large and bulky and are rare and expensive today. They also make infrared remotes the Modulite system, with the current model for ten pin cameras is the ML-3 which is very hard to come buy. I have seen used ML-3 units selling for more than list price for new ones on eBay. Pocket wizard supports remote camera operation and costs an arm and both legs to do so.

Chinese made remote release for Nikon ten pin cameras.

    Lately a number of Chinese made remote releases are appearing in camera stores for various digital cameras. They have different plugs to fit different model cameras.

    All the units I have seen have a 1/8 in jack on them. If you wonder what the jack is for read on.

Ten pin remote release showing the jack

    I bought my unit direct from China and for about $50 with shipping I received the three units below. The left hand unit is a radio transmitter, the right hand unit is a radio receiver that plugs into the remote and makes it a wireless unit.

Complete set of transmitter, remote control and receiver.

    The receiver shown below is simple to operate. you set one of sixteen channels on the 4 dip switches then pres the red button. the LED will pulse on once every several seconds showing the unit is on. If a half press signal is received the LED will glow green for the duration and will glow red for shutter release. The unit uses a lithium battery. Pressing and holding the button for a second or two turns the unit off.

Receiver unit with the DIP switches, LED, and On/Off button

    The transmitter is even smaller with similar controls, but here the red button is the shutter release with two positions. Press lightly and the LED will glow green to indicate the half press/meter on position. Press all the way and the LED will change to red showing shutter release. The transmitter only uses power when the button is pressed and uses the tiny 12V batteries used in doorbells and car fobs.

The transmitter unit.

    I showed my setup to one of my local camera stores and six months later they had them in stock. I have also seen them at some of the big camera stores in New York. Whereas my unit was $50 with shipping from China, the units sold in this country sell for $100-$120.

Transmitter with the antenna extended fully.