camera triggers for small bird photography - a warning and a question

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Wigelii Contributing Member • Posts: 519
camera triggers for small bird photography - a warning and a question

In the past months I have bought 2 different systems for triggering my camera when detecting a bird at a specific spot.

The systems are:

1. Hahnel Captur Module PRO - price 100 Euro

2. Cognisys Sabre + extention cable of 4m - price 530 Euro

After spending 630 Euros, my conclusion is that I am disappointed with both systems.

Hahnel Captur Module Pro.

I already used Hahnel triggers and receivers for triggering multiple cameras remotely during concerts and I was happy with them.

That is why I decided to buy de Captur Module Pro for photographing small birds.

The Module Pro has multiple functions. It can be triggered by  sound, light, IR and a laser pen (not included). It can also be programmed for time lapse, etc.

It consists of the Module Pro trigger and an IR receiver. The receiver to be mounted on, and trigger, the camera is not included,. You have to buy it separately (but I already had some receivers).

I used the module PRO's IR function for photographing birds.

This is my experience:

I use 2 light stands to mount both modules.

The IR sender and IR receiver need to be perfectly aligned. According to Hahnel, the IR beam is not extremely narrow but they don't give any indication of the beam size.

Nevertheless, it as very difficult to align the IR sender and receiver perfectly. If they are not well aligned, your camera can be triggered when there is the slightest movement by the wind. Aligning them perfectly takes ages.

Furthermore this system apparently can't cope with changes of the light intensity (e.g. caused by sun - clouds or light falling through foliage). The camera is triggered continuously when light intensity changes.

I could have tried using a laser beam but a laser beam is extremely narrow. Therefore, looking at my experience above, I didn't even bother to try.

Cognisys SABRE

I decided to buy something else and, after reading lots of webpages and some comments on multiple forums, I bought the Cognisys SABRE system.

It is a LIDAR system that doesn't need a second module, so I wouldn't be struggling with the alignment of 2 different modules.

As a plus, it is not influenced by changes in light intensity and it is also weather resistant.

A disadvantage is that it needs to connect to your camera with a cable. The system comes with a cable of 2,5m but I need more length, so I needed to buy an extension cable. I bought the 4m extension cable.

There is also an app to program the system. You need to buy that separately. I bought the app. cost = 10 Euro.

Total cost for this sytem = 540 Euro.

That is pretty expensive but if it works well, for me, it is worth the money.

I started using this system and this my experience:

The system works better than the Hahnel system. It can cope well with the changes in light intensity.

Pointing the system should be easier because you don't need to align 2 modules but still It is a real disaster to get this system pointed exactly where you want it (I photograph small birds, It needs to pointed exactly where I want it).

You can't see the beam, so you have no idea what you are pointing it at.

The beam is very narrow but I knew that because it is clearly mentioned in the manual. The further away you put the Sabre, the larger the beam becomes (from a 1 centimeter when you put it close, up to +- 10 centimeters when you put it further away).

Of course, you can test what it is pointing at but since I have to put it further away to have the larger size beam, I need to test with a very, very long stick, adjust the Sabre, test again, adjust again, and again, and again, ... until I finally have it pointing where I want it. And still then, you have to wait and watch the birds getting in to see if it is positioned perfectly for the photos or if you have to move it still a tiny little bit.

I already bought a small and cheap, Chinese, remotely controlled motorized pan/tilt head that can carry 270 grams. I mount the sabre on that device and on a tripod, and this enables me to use the remote control of that motorized pan/tilt head to make small adjustments with the pan/ tilt head for fine tuning the position of the Sabre.

It is still too difficult, so I am now exploring how I can mount a dot sight on the Sabre and calibrate it, so that I can SEE where the Sabre's beam points.

I also experienced that the 4 meter extension cable is not long enough, so, I decided to buy an additional 8m extension cable.

To my surprise, I couldn't find ANY extension cable (4m or 8m) in the whole of Europe.

I contacted the manufacturer of the Sabre (it is a US based company) and apparently there is only 1 distribution partner in Europe (and it looks like these don't keep stock).

If I want an extension cable, I have to buy it in the US, wait weeks for it to pass European customs and pay import duties that are much higher than the price of the extension cable.

It is really disappointing to see that for such an expensive product, there is no better service.

So, in the end I have to conclude that these systems are not user friendly and not good for the purpose the where designed for.

My warning is:

If you consider buying such a system, try to find somebody who owns it and test it to verify if it is suited for the purpose you intend to use it for.

If you live in Europe, verify if it can be decently serviced.

My question is:

Does anybody know a better system?

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