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Last February I was standing on an observation deck overlooking Peña Falcon, a famous vulture and raptor roosting site in Monfragüe National Park in Extremadura, Spain. Taking advantage of the swirling air currents were 300 Griffon Vultures, Black Vultures, Egyptian Vultures, a single Peregrine Falcon, Black Kites, as well as Rock Bunting and Short-toed Treecreeper. It was an incredible site, and when the Peregrine Falcon landed on the top of Peña Falcon, I thought this was a great chance to get a crisp, clear photograph.
I trained my spotting scope on the falcon and attached my trusty PhoneSkope adaptor to the scope so I could digiscope – or in this case, iPhonescope, the bird. It was a windy, cold day, so keeping the scope steady was a challenge. Add to that, dozens of birdwatchers were walking up and down the boardwalk, making it rumble with every footstep. The situation was hopeless, save for a few brief moments when the wind paused and people stood still.
During one of those moments I pressed my index finger down on the iPhone shutter button. Snap! I captured a photo of the falcon. But the iPhone practically rattled as I removed my finger and the photo was shite. For all of two weeks, during this once-in-a-lifetime trip to Spain, this shutter button shake followed me everywhere. Poor conditions and/or too much wobble in the device made for a lot of blurry images.
Gee, wouldn’t it be nice to have a remote shutter button to eliminate this shake? I thought. The volume control (+/-) button on Apple earbuds can be used as a shutter button but this requires them to be plugged into your iPhone. While this is suitable for some, it has never worked for me. It creates a chaos of cords that is hard to manage when one is also carrying around bins, scope, notepad, phone, pen, etc. In more than one case, an accidental tug on the cord has caused the phone to fall down.
Well, someone was on top of the need for a cordless remote and by mid-summer 2014 the makers of PhoneSkope released a Bluetooth Shutter Remote device that removes instabilities caused by manual pressure on the shutter button.
I tried it out in the backyard today and it was easy to connect and use. I removed the remote from its plastic shipping bag, turned it from “off” to “on,” then went to my iPhone settings to turn on Bluetooth. I waited for my iPhone to “find” the device and after a full minute or two, it found “Quick Flash.” Bam! I navigated to the phone camera and pressed the remote. Snap! Oh, this could be brilliant… I then went outside and focused on an apple (there are more apples than birds in my yard at the moment). I lined up the image until it was crisp in the scope, clear on the iPhone, and snapped a photo with the remote. Bam! Done. When viewing the full size images of the apples, I could see those that were taken with the manual shutter press (the second image, below) were less in focus than the ones taken with the remote shutter. (Again, the difference was more notable at large scale.)
I also tried it on some flowers, where again, I saw a difference between the images. I’ve been disappointed with my iPhoneskoping images over the last few years, mostly owing to user error and difficult conditions, but I’m VERY excited by the potential for this remote shutter to remove one layer of interference.
The bluetooth shutter remote is powered by a rechargeable battery that can recharge in one hour with the included USB cord. It also comes with a handy neck strap. The instructions are terrible so it’s a good thing you don’t need them. They were poorly translated from Chinese to English, but seem to suggest the remote range is 10 feet. Considering birdwatchers need to make many on the fly adjustments, I doubt the range will be an issue. Check out PhoneSkope’s video for the remote here.
If you’re looking for a cordless remote solution, the bluetooth shutter remote retails for $24.99 and you can find it online at the PhoneSkope store. I think it is a valuable device that should be used by anyone who uses the PhoneSkope adapter.