blueSLR Wireless Camera Control in Review – Gotta have it iDevice camera trigger

While certain Canadian icons such as RIM and maple syrup slide in popularity, Sonomax’s unique custom earphone, and XEquals’ BlueSLR, a gotta-have-it dongle that turns your iPod touch/iPad/iPhone into a remote shutter release for your camera, are hoisting the Canadian flag to new technological heights. For me, the latter rocks simple reason that: I always have my iPod touch with me, and that I’ve been looking for an integrated wireless shutter release for my camera for a long time. Considering that the BlueSLR also does GPS and a host of other things, I think that many photographers will agree that this is a revolutionary product.

-remote shutter release
-manual control of shutter delay and actuation count
-GPS pass-through
-up to 100 metre working distance
-works with all iDevices from 2nd gen on

Build Quality
This 149$ dongle isn’t bulletproof, but it’s made to accept the rigours of use. Its 10-pin Nikon D200+ mount fits solidly into its coupling unit and is zigg-zagged with ample stress reliefs. Since nothing else hangs off the dongle, there is very little stress put on at the neck or the coupler. I expect the BlueSLR to take drops, tosses, and backpack-mashing with style. But, it isn’t water proof, nor does it like to be pried apart. Treat it like you treat your camera, and it will last a long time.

BlueSLR’s design has one somewhat serious drawback, however. The 10-pin wireless release port on Nikon cameras is threaded much like the front of your lens is. Unfortunately, the BlueSLR mount isn’t threaded. It is pressed into place. While not unstable, it could to the ground during use. A twist-mount would be a great addition in future BlueSLR models. Adding to that, it sits in a semi-awkward place, blocking the input/output doors of the camera, and precluding the use of mounting the camera in portrait orientation with certain tripod mounts.

There are smaller, more robust bluetooth units out there, but they both cost a lot more and require the use of an extra trigger. The reason the BlueSLR is amazing is that it uses your already much-used iDevice to trigger your camera. In my case, my iPad always sits in my camera bag. It offloads pictures from my card, sorts my photos, and in the odd case that I have internet connection, post processes and uploads photos to my flickr account. (Items tagged BlueSLR are taken with the BlueSLR module.)

Expanding the usefulness of what has become the second most used gadget in my camera bag is wonderful. Of course, I can re-sync my iPod touch with the BlueSLR for even more portable/discreet use. Considering, too, that there are amazing cases and accessories that both protect your iDevice and expand its usefulness, the BlueSLR/iDevice combination is one of the most robust accessory packs in the wild.

The App
BlueSLR is free at the App Store, but does nothing without the dongle. That, of course, is your 149$ responsibility. Its most basic function is to remotely control your camera’s shutter. You get full control over GPS accuracy, update speed, autofocus, and a handful of shutter options.

To get it working, you have to enable Bluetooth and location services from the settings menu. In previous builds, achieving good connection took some work and more than a little prayer. Since version 1,1-1,2, connection has been easier to achieve, and from version 1,3, achieving connection is sure and quick.

The GPS portion of BlueSLR simply feeds information from your iPhone/iPad/iPod touch, to your camera, so as long as you are connected to a network, your pictures will be GPS tagged and timestamped. In Korea, foreigners aren’t allowed to sign up for smartphone contracts, so the only time I’ve been able to use the GPS portion of the BlueSLR is when I’m in cafes that have free internet. Even my home rejects the use of iDevices. In any case, BlueSLR will feed timestamp and GPS information to your camera and print that information into the exinfo of each photo.

BlueSLR has received a number of visual tweaks. As mentioned before, connection issues have been addressed. The working distance is an incredible 100 metres. I’ve used a number of Bluetooth devices over the years and one thing that sticks in my mind when the word Bluetooth is mentioned is ‘weak’. Even with my favourite Cy-Fi Wireless Sports Speaker, the working distance is only up to 8 metres, but often, connection is cut at much less than that. The BlueSLR really achieves miracles. In crowded areas, I can achieve wireless connectivity at up to 80 metres in a straight line.

The thing to look out for is lag. There is a minimum delay of 200ms from the time you press the virtual shutter release on your iDevice till the camera fires. In other words, while you can shoot burst photos, you won’t be able to fire immediately. I don’t know if this can be addressed with future versions of the hardware, or software.

Another thing to look out for is battery life. With all the bells and whistles enabled, BlueSLR really drains the battery of your device. My iPod touch loses about 20% after just about 10 minutes of use, maybe less. I can get a lot of photos fired off in that time, but much less than I wold hope. Turning off GPS from the app helps, but then, it also limits some of the best functionality of the BlueSLR itself.

On the camera, the battery drain isn’t as severe, but it is noticeable. Of course, the D200 is a noted battery hog, so the difference between 300-400 RAW shots and 200-300 RAW shots per charge isn’t that noticeable. It’s something to keep in mind though.

I hope that in later iterations of the hardware or software, location services can be set to off as I would like to use more and worry less about battery.

Why is BlueSLR good?
If you religiously read TouchMyApps, you probably have an iDevice of some sort. if that device is anything but the very first generation of iPod touch or iPhone, you’ll be able to use BlueSLR with your camera. It is the perfect companion to photographer that subscribes to Apple’s marketing brainwash.

Think of the possibilities.

Stacked photography, fixed-angle sports shots, remotely trigger flashes, remote nature observation and photography, HDR (note: bracketing has to be set manually, from the camera), family “let me just set the timer, hunn” shots, and many more.

As mentioned before, there is a minimum 200ms delay. That will limit the usefulness of this app to control remote cameras for flash triggering, especially at sporting events where timing is essential. But apart from that, and the ability to trigger more than one device at a time, the imagination is the limit.

You can also wirelessly autofocus, so as long as you’ve got the camera pointed in the right direction, and aren’t training on fast-moving objects, you can set your camera to take incredible staged shots. I’ve been using the BlueSLR to trigger remote flashes, for stacked photography, for snooping, and for HDR tripod shots.

Again, the working distance is stated as 100 metres, which I think is a good, best-case scenario. If you live in a city where people carry one phone for every lover they have, you’ll get less. Again in Seoul, I get about 80 metres line of site working distance. At home, that distance drops as I the signal has to travel through doors and walls, but remains respectable. I’ve had my camera firing through three doors before I had to reconnect. BlueSLR hasn’t conquered my steel front door, though, and even if it did, I’d be more worried that my ‘steel’ door is another lie that EG The 1 (Cr)Apartments have laid on us.

Points to Ponder

If you are in love with the GPS functions of BlueSLR, you’ll have to be careful. As soon as you lose connection because of dead battery, or distance, or software instability, you lose GPS functionality. You can use your camera as you usually would when plugged into the BlueSLR and app. Make sure the two are connected, and then raise the camera to your eye and shoot. GPS information will be embedded into your files. Yay.

Funnily enough, I’ve gotten the BlueSLR to pair with my iPad while really wanting to use my iPod touch. The reason is that Bluetooth was turned off in my iPod touch general settings, but on in my iPad. The result? I hijacked my camera. Bluetooth is rudimentary enough to allow only one device to connect at a time, but if that device isn’t switched on, and in the case of another compatible device being around, your BlueSLR and camera, could be hijacked. Of course, another photographer would have to have the BlueSLR app handy to hijack your camera, a feat I don’t think likely.

Overall, BlueSLR is the perfect companion for the iDevice-toting photographer. If you don’t have an iDevice, don’t rush out to get one and the BlueSLR – it sort of cuts out the cost advantages of the system. Currently, there is no cheaper way to fire your camera via Bluetooth and no better way to sync it than with an iDevice. Pass-through GPS information is an added, and exciting bonus to the BlueSLR that easily makes it worth the price of entry.

149$ sounds like a lot on paper, but after utilising the GPS, remote firing, and triggering functions of the BlueSLR, it is a pittance. XEquals – if you can bump battery life and secure the BlueSLR with a threaded mount, you’ll have a perfect accessory for the iDevice-toting photographer.

App Summary
Title: blueSLR Developer: XEquals
Reviewed Ver: 1.3 Min OS Req: OS 3.1.3 or later
Price: FREE (app) 149$ (blueSLR dongle) App Size: 2.2 MB
  • GPS pass-thru
  • Great wireless range
  • good build quality
  • opens doors for extreme creativity
  • possible wireless security
  • battery drain


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