Pluto Trigger adds intelligence to your DSLR

Pluto Trigger. Photo©2016 Steven Sande

Pluto Trigger. Photo©2016 Steven Sande

Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras get smarter every year, but that doesn't mean that most photographers run out and buy the latest update to their favorite model. For those of us who use DSLRs for personal photography, it's just not practical to spend a big hunk of money on a new camera body each year. Fortunately, there's a new app-enabled product called Pluto Trigger (US$119.00) that makes it possible to do some incredibly powerful things with your DSLR, even if that camera is a few years old.

So, what is Pluto Trigger? It's a high-speed smart camera trigger that's controlled by a free iPhone app over Bluetooth that can be used for remote shooting, timelapse, High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, video recording and lightning photography. Your DSLR can be triggered by sound, by light, or by something breaking a laser beam aimed at the Pluto Trigger (the laser is included). Want to have pictures taken when something like an animal stumbles into the field of view? Pluto Trigger can detect the heat of the animal's body and take photos. It can also wait until a person is smiling to shoot a photo, or take pictures triggered by motion or vibration. You know those fancy photos of water droplets colliding in mid-air? There's a mode for that -- 24 modes in all.

You need to know your camera model in order to get the correct cable to connect the Pluto Trigger to your DSLR; in some cases, the Pluto Trigger uses infrared rather than the cable to send signals from the device to your camera. Hundreds of cameras are supported, but be sure to check the compatibility list on the Pluto Trigger home page. 

The device comes packed in a box with all necessary cables, the laser (which has a tripod mount for convenience), a drawstring bag to put all of the bits into, and the actual Pluto Trigger device. What's missing is a user manual, but there's a reason for that -- this device does so much that the manufacturer created a very complete manual that's available for free online. Anyone confused by the description of some of the Pluto Trigger's functions should download the manual to see if it's able to do what they want. The manual is also accessible from within the app itself; as noted in an FAQ, you'll want to read it in landscape mode because of the size of the lettering.

The app is pretty impressive, offering controls for all of the various modes as well as the ability to perform calculations. For example, photographers sometimes like to use neutral density (ND) filters in order to slow down exposure times in order to create certain effects. The calculator takes the original (non-filtered) exposure, the type of ND filter being used, and then uses the camera's bulb mode to take a photo with a calculated shutter speed. Other calculators are available for depth of field, sun position at any location, and for taking non-startrail images at night.

There are some inconsistencies and oddities in the app that I am hoping will be resolved. For example, although my Canon camera is listed as being compatible with the device, the specific model (Canon EOS Rebel T4i) doesn't appear in the list of cameras for the starscape and depth of field calculators, so I'm not sure which model to use as a substitute. I'd like to see the camera model be one of the settings in the app (rather than just the camera brand), and then have it automatically applied in each calculator and trigger.

The HDR settings are very impressive and for many cameras go well beyond what the built-in capabilities will allow. For example, many cameras will take only three bracketed exposures, while Pluto Trigger can take up to 19 shots. This is perfect for anyone who wants to get into HDR photography and use an app such as Aurora HDR to perform photographic magic. 

One thing I can't wait to try with Pluto Trigger is lightning photography. We get some very impressive lightning storms here in Colorado, and it's rare when one can take a photo with lightning in it. What the Lightning trigger part of Pluto Trigger does is "watch" for the flash of lightning and then trigger the camera about 2ms (milliseconds, 1/1000th of a second!) later. That just about insures that the camera will pick up a picture of a lightning bolt since a typical stroke lasts from 10 to 50 microseconds. 

I've been testing the Pluto Trigger for just two days, and I'm just scratching the surface of its abilities. For professional photographers with iPhones, the Pluto Trigger is a reasonably-priced and incredibly powerful tool. For advanced amateurs with DSLRs who want to do more with their photography, Pluto Trigger is just the tool to jump to that next level. 

Apple World Today Rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★★