Night Photography/Canon TC-80N3
Ok, having now attempted some night photography, allow me to make two observations that seem obvious in retrospect:
- At night, it is dark. This makes it hard to see your camera and other gear.
- At night, it is colder. In the winter, especially when the sky is clear, this means it will be darn cold outside.
Now, these two observations, combined, led me to the inescapable conclusion that I might well want to set up the camera, set it all going, and then go inside where it’s warm and light, and leave the camera outside merrily doing its thing in the dark. The question then becomes “How do we arrange for the camera to stay busy while we are away?”
Enter the Canon TC-80N3, which Canon calls a Timer Remote Controller. It will happily instruct my EOS-5d to perform exposure gymnastics, including delay to the first exposure, intervals between exposure, hold the shutter open for long exposures (if the camera is set to ‘B’), and making a certain number of exposures. It’s cunningly designed, actually, to do all of these things at once.
So I can set the thing to make 99 exposures, each exposure 15 minutes long, with two minute delays between exposures, and start the first exposure in 30 seconds. Then I start it off, walk away, and hope the wind doesn’t blow my camera and tripod over. Or, perhaps, I go and set up the other camera. Whatever.
I got this thing last Friday, and although it’s pricey, I like the way it’s designed such that simple programming allows it to be so flexible. There’s a manual but once you get the general concept, you’re good to go, and you needn’t worry that you’re going to be trying to read the manual in the cold and dark using the little LED flashlight on your keyring. And, in fact, the LCD display has a backlight, so you can use it in the dark.
Other than the price, there’s only one flaw in the ointment, and here it is: when you’ve programmed the thing, you need to press the ‘start/stop’ button to start the sequence. A naive photographer might think that that big round grey button with the slide lock is the ‘start/stop’ button, but the naive photographer would be wrong, wrong, wrong. That big grey button with the sliding lock is actually an auxiliary shutter button, which lets you use the TC-80N3 as a simple cable release, much like its much cheaper brother the RS-80N3. The ‘start/stop’ button is actually a little recessed button (see photo above, button between the ‘mode’ button and the backlight button).
And the odds of you being able to hit the ‘mode’ button, the ‘start/stop’ button, and the backlight button while wearing gloves and in the dark are exactly zero. At this point, see the observations at the beginning of this post.
I don’t know why camera manufacturers insist on making gear that is really outstandingly good but suffers from A Fatal Flaw in real world use. But it really irritates me. I very much suspect that cameras would be much better designed if the designer of the gear was told (before designing anything) that they would be forced to use the gear to actually achieve the functionality goal in a real world situation under trying circumstances (e.g. cold stiff hands wearing gloves in the dark) and that if they failed to get it to work, they would be taken off and locked into a closet with 25,000 agitated, angry and hungry rabid weasels.