PetaPixel

Review: Nero Trigger Replaces Your Slow Shutter Finger for Creative Photography

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Bang. Pop. Zip. Zop. Welcome to the review of the Nero Trigger, a lightning, laser and sound sensor that will crank that shutter faster than you can. It also includes a timelapse, HDR and a DIY mode allowing utilization of external sources to trigger the Nero. As their ad copy claims, “Nero Trigger is built to help you shoot high speed photos for the occasions that your shutter finger would not be sufficient.”

Immediately I began thinking about uses for the Nero Trigger. The obvious things were balloons popping, eggs breaking, guns shooting and lightning — all things that happen too quick for our own eyes to process and send an impulse to crack the shutter.

But I wanted more. What can the Nero Trigger do that a photographer cannot? To start it off, figuring out alternate methods for anything that wasn’t balloons popping or bullets piercing objects was kind of easy. Lightning isn’t that hard to shoot and most do it using longer and repetitive exposures mixed with a dash of patience, never having a need for a Nero Trigger type device. When it got down to it, anything involving a flash of light became quite easy to capture without the Nero Trigger if you put your mind to it.

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I began wondering about how I could apply the abilities of the Nero Trigger to my work. One technique I use during wedding ceremonies is to mount a camera in a position I won’t be able to shoot from once it starts. Perhaps on the alter (if the church is more open to picture making) or on the side of a pew for a different angle on the bride’s entrance. To trigger the remote camera, I’ll manually fire it with a PocketWizard attached to both the remote and my camera in hand. I have to pre-focus the remote camera to an area where I want to frame up the bride as she walks past. It’s not exact and depending on the scenario not something that always works out. Maybe the Nero Trigger could do this for me.

This train of thought led me to attempt using the Nero Trigger as an optical sensor firing a camera when a flash would pop. A neat trick — if it would work — that I could use to poach flash pops from the crowd during the first dance, when all those point-n-shoots are snapping every which way. I’ve done it before on the fly but all the easier if I can just remote mount a body and let Nero Trigger do it for me.

Unfortunately, this didn’t work. The amount of time it takes to sense the light, send trigger signal and have the camera raise its mirror, do its curtain call and make a frame was simply too slow compared to the speed of the flash. Not necessarily the fault of the Nero Trigger but still, strike one for off label usages.

What this does

The biggest draw for a lot of people would be this triggers ability to fire when it senses light. Perfect for the lightning shots. Not so perfect for me, as I live in an area that sees fives lightning strikes a year. We just do not get the thunderstorms most regions do. We get rain, high humidity, rain and fog… did I say rain? It rains a lot, but no lightning.

Without the lightning I was left wondering how to properly test this for light triggering. Naturally I did the most logical thing and stuck a DVD in the microwave and interestingly, it worked perfectly as a lightning substitute. I had to follow many of the same steps you would to capture lightning properly. It was night, I dragged my shutter a little bit, finding just the right sensitivity against the ambient (IE: City) lights, which in this case were provided by the microwave light bulb.

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1/30, f/2.0 and ISO100.

It didn’t take long to pin down both my camera’s exposure values and sensitivity settings on the Nero to get the timing just right for the biggest flashes of light. I spent about ten minutes at this, it was more about proving the Nero Trigger worked than making an amazing picture of a DVD blowing up a microwave. And while no it isn’t lightning, it was probably more of a challenge than lightning would be and proved the Nero Trigger works perfectly for that application.

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I would like to claim these are all Justin Bieber CDs, but they’re not.

Another neat idea for the lighting sensor would be scaring the living piss out of your mates. I didn’t do this because, suffice to say I like it when my lady makes me supper and walks the dog while I’m off shooting weddings. I also enjoy her company and did not want to put this at risk by setting up a camera on a tripod, in a dark room, asking her to come into said room and having the Nero Trigger fire the camera as the lights come on and I scare the piss out of her.

But you might and I encourage you to do this.

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I would qualify balloons popping and eggs cracking as party tricks. Every so often a client may require work similar to this but those are few and far between. Yet, you just never know when your local marketing firm is going to come knocking, requesting that a balloon be exploded for the 50th anniversary of your local pizza shop.

Hoping to get into the laser triggering a little deeper, thoughts of wedding ceremony remote camera triggering were dashed. Worried I would burn some kid’s retina whilst firing the laser across the aisle to trigger a camera when the bride and her father passed through it, I nixed those plans, in lieu of a lawsuit.

However, the premise still works perfectly for sports related shooting, such as down hill mountain biking and putting a remote camera somewhere that you shouldn’t be during the race. Setting up the Nero Trigger in the trees, on the apex of a big jump to get the riders mid-air every time.

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Trying to time the exact moment an egg breaks is actually a royal pain in the you know what. Despite keeping the height from which I dropped the egg the same, I burned through almost a dozen eggs trying to get it just right and it was always either too early or too late. I adjusted my variables trying to find the sweet spot but eventually, after finding my office covered in egg goo and the fridge having evacuated itself of any and all eggs, I called it a night.

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There’s a lot of variables at play here. Yes, the Nero Trigger works wonderfully, but it doesn’t perform magic. A lot of experimentation will be required to get things just right. One suggestion would be to practice first with a foam landing surface to get your timing perfect before switching to the hard stuff and having omelets for breakfast, lunch and supper.

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The DIY mode allows for external input. I imagine uses as remote pressure plates for wild animal photography or sports, embedding a weight sensor in the ground to trigger when stepped or landed upon. The possibilities for usage via the DIY mode are somewhat endless.

The HDR and time lapse functions were wasted on me and pretty much anyone with a Nikon as most include an intervalometer to punch out long term time lapsing photographs and do a similar number of frames per bracket as the Nero Trigger.  I won’t waste much time on these features as they’re pretty self explanatory. Both features function properly and will be a nice bonus for those buying this mostly as a fast motion triggering device, to use on their bracket or intervalometer lacking camera (looking at you Canon and Sony). More on that later.

The finer details

The body feels pretty sturdy, again if you’re familiar with the PocketWizard radio triggers, it’s the same feel as those. It should stand up to a large amount of abuse if my experiences are anything to go by.

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The Nero Trigger side by side with one of my slightly used Pocketwizard Plus IIIs.

Its face features a constantly red ‘everything’s OK’ light, winking at you whenever the Nero Trigger is, well, triggering. A good troubleshooter for those “WTF” moments when nothing wants to work. In the least, you’ll know if the Nero is receiving and activating.

Any time there’s a tiny cryptic screen expectations are there’s going to be a battle when one year down the road, I have to remember how to use it. The screens on modern devices to be so small and the abilities of the device so great, inevitably there’s going to be some sacrifice of clarity to make way for option visibility.

One of the things I was curious about with the Nero Trigger was if I could take it right out of the box, plunk two of the included AAAs in the arse of it and make it work. I was pleasantly surprised and it’s entirely possible to forgo the humongous twelve page manual.

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The menu’s graphical user interface is almost too simple. Advanced users may wish for more options, such as the ability to fire continuously, setting total frames (you can do this in laser mode only it appears), upon triggering the camera, keeping the shutter clocking 9 frames per second when that balloon pops.

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Speaking of taking it right out of the box, upon removal the plastic faceplate fell off. It must be said was shipped from the middle of Europe to middle of North America over the course of a few weeks in what must of been some immensely hot containers and cargo holds. The glue probably just gave way because of the high temps in transit…

Is what I would of said if this was actually the problem.

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Nope, the darn screen continuously falls off and it’s so prone to not wanting to be included in of the fun I had with the Nero Trigger that eventually it was put it back in the box for good. Maybe mine was a one off but given that it’s only held on with tape, this might prove to be a long term issue for some when you begin to think on the advertised uses: lightning striking and balloons popping both bring humidity and water into mind.

I’d suggest a couple small plastic rivets in the corners to keep it firmly in place for its lifespan is all that is required. This issue is minor and not something to empty your shopping cart over. Like I said, mine stays in the box — there are three buttons — the faceplate is not required for usage.

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Its LCD screen is crisp and color. Yep, color and the (removable) faceplate itself comes in 7 colors: black, red, blue, orange, green and pink. Perfect for that one person out there who bought pink Alien Bees and want to keep their colors in check. If your favorite color is brown, get lost.

The build quality is quite nice but it did leave me just the tiny bit wanting. The Nero Trigger’s weight is about the same as the new PocketWizards or RadioPopper trigger with batteries. Both of those take bigger and heavier batteries, where as this uses the lighter AAAs. For weight, I given it an A+. At 90 grams, it’s about 30g less than the PW Plus III. Barely noticeable atop your camera, it shouldn’t fall down from gravity alone if you had to gaffer tape it to a Magic Arm in a pinch.

The hot shoe holds its place by friction alone. Its dimensions jam themselves into your hot shoe mount with no locking mechanism. The primary use of this is going to be somewhat stationary, so it shouldn’t be a problem for most but I expect after a few years of squeezing its foot into your shoe, its plastic will trim and eventually loosen up to a point where it may fall out without much effort.

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On the topic of power, there is no external power port I’m afraid and the manual states it won’t operate with rechargeable batteries. Which could become bothersome for those planning to time lapse an entire year season to season or — more realistically — using laser mode on a backwoods wildlife camera aiming to snap a portrait of El Chupacabra. It will put itself into battery saving mode by disabling the one by one inch LCD screen when it enters receiving mode.

At least the good folks at Nero Trigger have given it some thought it seems. And it does have the expected but not often included battery meter top right of the display screen.

I left it in my living room area on sound triggering mode — meaning it would be set off somewhat regularly during the days and be relaxed for 8 hours overnight — it lasted about 29 hours. Curiously, the “everything is OK” light failed me. It was still showing as “OK” at 29 hours. Yet, when I grabbed the Nero Trigger to kick it out of its sensor mode and see the battery life it didn’t do anything. Cycling power didn’t work for several tries until finally it flashed to life and the battery meter was on red/low. It died completely two seconds later.

This is kind of bothersome to me. If you have this mounted somewhere out of arms reach you’ll want that red light to work, telling you it is no longer triggering and it’s worth the effort to get the ladder out to swap batteries. Powering itself to the bitter end the red light serves only to sap the final bits of juice from the AAAs. Perhaps it need be vice versa, wherein the light appears when it’s triggering and shuts off when it’s in sensor mode.

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Still, 29 hours isn’t bad with regular triggering. I would think that with a wildlife camera or anything that might require a longer power cycle you’d likely get away with setting it up and returning 24 hours later to check in, chimp your camera and swap batteries.

Triggering of either flash or camera is done via the two side port mini jacks, a 3.5mm and 2.5mm. Why they wouldn’t just do two 3.5mm jacks, I don’t know. That camera trigger cable being 2.5mm to 10 pin and not the standard 3.5mm to 10pin that I use for remotely triggering cameras via Pocketwizard to me is an oversight. It’s just one more cable to have and to lose.

Conclusion

This is a very specific tool for a specific application and for the most part it does what it is supposed to. If you’re the type who spends his Saturdays popping water balloons, then the Nero Trigger is for you. Except that, well, most of that stuff was easily captured before, without this trigger. It’s not as though we’ve been unable to properly capture a picture of lightning and this is the key to unlock that ability.

Mind you, I feel like there’s going to be a lot of people for whom the DIY function will get their attention. To be fair, the sound and lighting sensors do indeed have their applications no matter how offbeat they may be, requiring a certain amount of outside the box thinking to realize their full potential.

Ironically for those photographers that have cameras without time lapse or expanded bracketing functionality, these features might just be the biggest draw for many. What I’m saying is contrary to the majority of Nero’s marketing, the biggest and most appealing feature is something they’ve likely tacked on because they were bored one day in the lab. Yes, the fun stuff — capturing the precise instant your girlfriend wets her pants while you literally scare the piss right out of her — is great but 99.99% of the time utterly useless.

Yes, this does lightning, sound, blah blah blah… but it also — for a $199 plus S/H — does two things which are quite hard to do otherwise, or in the least very annoying. So look at it the other way round. For $199 you get HDR and time lapse abilities, PLUS you get the neat features of a lightning, sound and laser sensor plus a DIY port where only your imagination is the limit.

How many times have you needed to do time lapse photography or needed to shoot varied and properly measured exposure values for an HDR or layered composition. More often than you’ve had clients asking you to pop water filled balloons no doubt.


Full disclosure: We were provided with a sample Nero Trigger unit for the purpose of conducting this review


 
  • arkhunter

    Or you could get a TriggerTrap v1 which sounds like the exact same thing. (currently on sale for about $80-90 shipped) This Nero looks nice because it has an LCD and a bit neater case, but other wise they seem to do about the same thing. TTv1 is openly “hackable” as well. TTv1 was a Kickstarter project to begin with if I’m not mistaken.

  • spangborn

    The Timelapse+ (open source) does all of this as well at $199, albeit some of the triggers require use of the AUX port. Light, motion, and Bluetooth triggering are all built in. It was a Kickstarter project that eventually branched out to pre-orders (where I jumped in).

    The firmware has been receiving regular updates, due to the nature of awesome OSS projects. I’ve even committed a few fixes myself. The developer is really responsive to support inquiries.

    I prefer the TL+ because of the Open Source firmware and bluetooth functionality – the iOS app shows timelapse status, battery percentage, allows you to trigger the unit, and tells you when there are new firmware updates available for the unit. Pretty awesome, if you ask me.

    It looks like the Timelapse+ is backordered right now, so I think they’ve hit a point where it’s popular enough that the developer can afford to properly support it. Even if he can’t at some point, someone can pick up the torch and continue to update the firmware. The latest firmware has started to add support for USB for Nikon cameras (Canon is already supported).

    https://timelapseplus.com
    https://github.com/timelapseplus

  • Renato Murakami

    Got mine past week and am looking forward to pull some interesting projects out of it… :D Came here to see if I’d have to regret the purchase, but it seems I won’t….

  • Josh Wallace

    Can’t you do a lot of this with a Rasberry Pi?

  • BrokenToyShop

    Looks and sounds like a knock off of the TTv1.
    It does look nice though and it looks like it is well designed.

    Inbuilt flash trigger would be handy.