Harbortronics DigiSnap 1000
Harbortronics DigiSnap 1000
Reviewer: Bret McKee
(First Reviewed: May 20, 2000)
What it is:
The DigiSnap 1000 is a device which allows electronic picture taking with a large number of digital cameras. I tested it with a Nikon E950, and it worked as advertised. The DigiSnap is programmed by connecting it to the serial port of your computer (using the included cable), and connecting to it with an terminal emulator. I used the Hyper-Terminal application which is included with Microsoft Windows 95/98. When connected, you are presented with the following menu:
To use the DigiSnap, you simply tell it how many pictures you wish to take and how much time you wish between exposures. It is possible to program a single exposure, which allows you to use the DigiSnap as an electronic shutter release. It is also possible to request infinite exposures, which causes the DigiSnap to keep taking pictures until it encounters an error, usually indicating either your camera's memory is full or the batteries have died. If the time between pictures is set to 0, the DigiSnap will take pictures as fast as the camera will cycle. Because the DigiSnap uses standard RS-232 cables and a low data rate to control the camera it is possible to use a very long extension cable (hundreds of feet). While I have not tested this configuration I have seen other RS-232 applications work over those distances and have no reason to doubt that the DigiSnap can do it.
I was initially excited about using the DigiSnap as an electronic shutter release to help eliminate vibration in some of the astrophotographs I take with my telescope. Because of the level of magnification involved, these pictures are extremely sensitive to vibration. But as I had the DigiSnap in house for testing I began to think of many more applications for it. My son had planted some seeds for a school project, and I programmed the DigiSnap to take an exposure every 15 minutes and let it run for two days while the seeds sprouted. There was an intense nighttime lighting storm here recently and I wanted to try to get a picture of it. Setting the DigiSnap to a 0 second delay and setting the camera to take 8 second exposures would have allowed the DigiSnap to basically hold the camera lens open during the storm. Unfortunately I didn't think of this until after the storm had passed, but I'll be ready for the next one.
I believe that with some thought the DigiSnap can allow a digital camera to do many things that it could not do before. The only thing even remotely resembling a catch is the price, which is $144.95 + shipping ($9.30 in the US). This includes the DigiSnap 1000, a serial cable to connect to cameras, a single AAA battery, and the instruction manual (there's a picture of all these items to the right, except of the battery). I'm not blaming Harbortronics for the price - it is a limited quantity, high quality custom circuit and it just isn't cheap to manufacture them.
When I first received my evaluation unit my first impression was that it was more than I was willing to spend for a remote release. Now that I've had the unit to play with for a while I think that I'm going to end up buying one because it can do too many just plain fun things to not have one around.
The bottom line - if you think you have a need for any of the functions the
DigiSnap provides you won't go wrong getting one, and if you don't think you
need any of the functions it provides, you haven't thought enough about it.
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For More Info:
Visit the Harbortronics DigiSnap 1000 page.
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