Sony has released a beta version of a new PlayMemories app for E-mount cameras with electronic viewfinders. The 'Touchless Shutter' app effectively converts the camera's eyepiece sensor as a shutter release mechanism. It brings all the advantages of a traditional cable release without needing any extra camera gear. All that is needed is a hand wave near the eyepiece and the shutter will release.

The Touchless Shutter app is available now in its beta state for free download from Sony's PlayMemories app store (click here for a list of compatible cameras). We wasted no time downloading it and giving it a try. Here's what we found...

We don't love the PlayMemories app store

Obviously, before you can try the app you have to download it. For the purposes of this walk-through let's assume that you own a compatible Sony camera and at some point you created a PlayMemories account.

If you can remember the e-mail and password you used for the store then good for you, but if you're out in the field and can't get your password right, then good luck to you, buddy. Typing in an e-mail and password on the back of a camera just feels silly anyway and can be downright frustrating.

It is nice that the apps are available anywhere with free Wi-Fi, but downloading anything through PlayMemories onto the camera is a frustrating experience. It would be nice to have the option to download the app to an SD card via a PC or Mac, then install it on the camera the same way firmware updates are installed on a number of cameras. 

It gets better after that

Once the app is installed, the cleverness of this new shutter release method starts to reveal itself. First, it works in extremely low light. With all the lights off and windows shut our studio is nearly lightproof. Even in the darkness, the eyepiece sensor detects a hand waving by. It works brilliantly in bulb mode, with one hand wave releasing the shutter, and another closing it. Bulb mode makes the most sense for this new shutter release method, as a 2 sec. timer still requires a touch to close the shutter, possibly blurring the image.

Since TouchShutter is an app, not a normal camera feature, it needs to be launched before you can use it. The problem with this is that all image settings and other camera settings are reset as soon as you do it. For example, our Sony Alpha 7 II has the focus magnifier set as the center, or OK, button. Enter the Touchless Shutter app, and suddenly this button is disabled and the focus magnifier has to be selected through the menu. 

All in all, we like the idea, and we think that this method of releasing the shutter should just be offered as an additional drive mode or custom option in future a7 models, or in future a7 firmware updates. That's assuming of course that Sony isn't intending to charge for the final (non-beta) version.