Sept. 16, 2009: A remote shutter release should be considered a necessary photographic accessory, particularly if of you are working with a tripod. A remote release allows you to trigger the shutter without jarring the camera, vastly increasing your chances of capturing crisp, sharp images.
In the old days, we used simple mechanical cable releases, but digital SLRs use electronic triggers. Electronic releases work great, but they cost a whole more than the old cable push buttons.
I have a excellent Minolta RC-1000S electronic shutter release that works just fine on the Sony Alpha. The nice thing about this release is that the cable is nearly sixteen feet long, so you don’t have to be standing near the camera to fire the shutter.
The bad thing about the Minolta release is that the cable is sixteen feet long. This leaves a puddle of cord coiled on the floor when you are working with the optical viewfinder. The cord wraps around tripod legs and light stands, as well as your feet. If you don’t trip and fall, there is a real possibility of knocking the tripod and camera over. For this reason, I want a second, shorter release for when I am working up close with the camera.
I considered buying a short release, but the idea of custom making my own remote cable release has caught my attention. I like DIY projects, and I could create just the length and style I want.
UPDATE: Consult the Sony Alpha Shutter Release Compatibility Chart to see which Alpha Cameras support wired cable releases
Sony Alpha shutter release on Instructables.com
I found a nice Instructable showing you how to create a wired remote shutter release for Sony Alpha cameras.
I may try to cobble up a short release using this idea. The only thing that bothers me is the rather skimpy wiring diagram includes a warning to the effect that you “cannot activate the shutter without auto-focus on.”
I’m not sure what that is all about, my Minolta release has no trouble triggering my Sony Alpha in the manual focus mode. It has a two position switch that acts just like the camera itself. You press the switch part way and it arms the camera and triggers AF. (If you have AF turned on.) Then you press the button all the way down to take the image.
I use manual focus quite often when shooting in the studio. It is almost mandatory for macro closeups. It is also a necessity when you are creating special effects like HDR images where you don’t want the camera to refocus between shots. If this release won’t allow you to use manual focus, it won’t be very useful.
Despite that, I may try to hack together one of these, and try to figure out just how to make it work with manual focus. If nothing else, I can toss it into my camera bag, so I’ll always have a release handy, while my 16 foot Minolta release is safety stored away in the studio.
Second Option: Photoblogs DIY Sony Alpha release
I found an second online design for a Sony Alpha wired remote. Check out the Photoblog DIY shutter release cable for Sony’s Alpha dSLRs. It is a similar concept to the Instructable above, but it the author doesn’t say anything about not being able to use manual focus. If I decide to go this route, I may use elements from both designs to create my own custom release.
Sony Alpha release: the wireless option
The ultimate option would be a wireless version. I like the idea of having no cable to get tangled and I can trigger the camera from anywhere without worrying about wires. You will find the details on how to build a Wireless camera remote for Minolta 5D. It is a little more involved, but it’s probably the superior way to go. I expect that the same device should work for any Sony Alpha, since the wired release Minolta sold for the Maxxum 5D will also trigger any Sony Alpha.
Hopefully this will “trigger” your own creative DIY impulses and give you some ideas on how to build the perfect Alpha remote release. If you do try to tackle one of these designs, why not take a photo and send it to me. I’ll start a gallery showing al the different ways Alphatracks readers approach building a hand made shutter release.