Pulse Camera Remote [review]

The Pulse Camera Remote is my favorite camera gadget of this holiday season.  (Yes, I bought myself one for Christmas and already opened it.  I'm a bad boy.)

Price it or Buy it on Amazon

Or get it direct from Alpine Labs  (my readers seem to have sold out Amazon's stock)

Here's what I like about it:

  • It's inexpensive (by camera gear standards, anyway)
  • It solves several photography problems
  • It's fun to play with
  • It can be used with any Canon or Nikon DSLR

What more could you want?  I'm currently obsessed with this thing.

Here are a couple of videos showing its basic features.

Setting aside for now the Time-Lapse feature (which we'll get to in a moment), I'm already enjoying the Pulse simply as a remote trigger for stills and video.

Unlike my older "dumb" radio shutter-triggers and even older cable release, the Pulse has a huge advantage: it allows me to change the camera's Aperture, Shutter, and ISO remotely from my iPhone or Android phone.  

So I never have to touch the camera (possibly shaking it or moving it) while using the Pulse as a shutter release, even if I need to change my exposure settings.  This is huge!

Even better, for me, is the way the Pulse works as a video remote trigger. I already have the pathetic little RC-6 shutter remote made by Canon.  I hate this thing for recording myself on video (which I do a lot of).  The problem with the Canon remote is that it just toggles the video recording on or off each time you press the button.  But there is no feedback to let you know when the camera is actually recording.  So if one of your clicks fails (which happens often) you get out of phase with the camera, and then you're talking to the camera when it's turned off, and vice versa.  I've done this countless times.  It's infuriating.

With the Pulse, I don't have this problem because it shows me a running counter on my iPhone when the camera is recording.  I know when the camera is on.  It seems like a trivial thing, yet Canon botched it completely, and the Pulse solves this problem.

When you are shooting still photos, after each photo the Pulse shows you a thumbnail and histogram on your phone, so you can tell if your shot worked and double check that the exposure looks right, and adjust it from your phone if needed.  

I wish the thumbnail was bigger, but Bluetooth is a low-bandwidth connection, so I guess they decided to keep it small and fast instead of large and slow.

Note: Don't be fooled by the fact that the Pulse is shown sitting in the camera hot-shoe. It connects via the camera's mini-USB port, and the hot shoe is just a place to rest it.  If you want to have an on-camera flash, or an off-camera flash triggered by a radio trigger in the shoe, you can simply let the Pulse dangle by its cable.  I tested this by taking a selfie with my Odin TTL radio trigger in the hot shoe triggering an off-camera flash, and it worked great.

Of course, the sexiest feature offered by the Pulse is Time-Lapse.  I know next to nothing about Time-Lapse photography, but just for fun I shot a quick time-lapse on the roof of my building, just to try it.  Here it is:

The quality is pretty bad, but if I could do that with the Pulse right out of the box, with no knowledge of time-lapse techniques, then I'm sure I could do better with a little practice.

(By the way, I compiled the photos into the time-lapse movie in Lightroom, something I didn't even know LR could do. I learned how to do this in Lightroom from this video. )

The biggest drawback of the Pulse so far is the annoying tendency to lose the Bluetooth connection, which then requires fiddling around with the device and the smartphone app to get it to reconnect.  The Pulse developers have released some firmware updates (which you simply download using the app on your phone), to improve the connectivity problems, but it still needs some work.

Overall, in terms of bang-for-the-buck, the Pulse is one of the more rewarding camera gadget purchases I've made this year.  It solves a whole bunch of problems for a relatively small price.

Pros

  • Small and light

  • Triggers both still photos and video

  • Control Aperture, Shutter, ISO remotely

  • USB Rechargeable: 24 hour battery life on one charge

  • Uses Bluetooth (very low power consumption)

  • Full control of Time Lapse and HDR settings

  • Exposure ramping in Time Lapse mode

  • Continues time lapse even if your phone is asleep or off.

Cons

  • Bluetooth disconnects annoyingly often

  • Takes 4-5 hours to recharge by USB

  • Photo thumbnail is very small

  • No live view on phone

  • Tiny On/Off switch is easy to forget and leave on

Price it or Buy it on Amazon

Or get it direct from Alpine Labs  (since I seem to have sold out Amazon's stock)

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