Hands-On Review: The Promote Control

Hands-On Review: The Promote Control

Summary: Earlier this summer I wrote that Promote Systems released the Promote Control, a remote device for digital SLR cameras. Well, I've managed to get my hands on one and see what this accessory is really like.

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TOPICS: Hardware
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Earlier this summer I wrote that Promote Systems released the Promote Control, a remote device for digital SLR cameras. Well, I've managed to get my hands on one and see what this accessory is really like.

Out of the box, there's the control, two AA alkaline batteries, a camera connection USB cable, carrying case and neck strap. The device is compatible with any digital cameras supporting an industry standard PTP/MTP protocol for controlling camera functions over USB interface. So I tested it with my Canon EOS 1000D via a USB cable.

Overall, the Promote Control is fairly easy to use. There are four modes: One Shot, Time-Lapse, High Dynamic Range and Manual Shutter Hold (which you need an optional shutter cable to use). Most likely, the photographer would use One Shot the most. Through this feature, you can either have the aperture and shutter speed already set on your camera and just click "Start" to take the photo, or you can adjust the exposure directly from the control. The best aspect of this product is being able to remotely shoot a photo, preventing camera shake in low-light settings.

Another mode I really enjoyed was High Dynamic Range, which is basically a fancy version of bracketing. But you can set the mid-range exposure time and how many shots you want total. So if you set the mid-range at 1/40 at seven exposures, it would take the photo at 1/40 and then three additional photos descending (1/20, 1/10 and 1/5) and ascending (1/80, 1/160 and 1/320). See the following three example photos:

High Dynamic Range: 1/40 at f/8.0

High Dynamic Range: 1/40 at f/8.0

High Dynamic Range: 1/80 at f/8.0

High Dynamic Range: 1/80 at f/8.0

High Dynamic Range: 1/160 at f/8.0

High Dynamic Range: 1/160 at f/8.0

The trick here is knowing where you should start your exposure level, but that can be achieved with practice.

The only real trouble I found was trying to get the Control out of Time-Lapse mode (an advanced version of a timer) once it had already started on a five minute progression of 20 frames. I ended up just turning the camera itself on and off to stop the Control. 

But it's not the cheapest camera accessory, with a price tag of $299 (excluding tax). A tripod would obviously be cheaper if you're just looking for something to reduce camera shake, but the Control is certainly lighter and easier to carry anywhere you go. Measuring in at 4.9 x 2.6 x 1.1 in. (125 x 65 x 27 mm) and only weighing 5.5 oz, it is easy to fit in almost any bag. I'd recommend it for advanced, and maybe serious intermediate photographers. But beginners should hold off and learn the basics of shutter speed and aperture directly from their cameras first, or else they won't fully appreciate or understand the product.

Are you interested in this product? Or do you already have anything similar?  How much would you be willing to pay for such a device?

Topic: Hardware

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  • Great for HDR photography.

    I am not sure that "one shot" would be the most used setting for this accessory. It looks great for HDR photography, which is multi-shot. (to get an idea of what HDR can fo for oyur pictures, go to http://www.m0ukd.com/flickr/HDR/).

    A lot of cameras only bracket three shots, but to do really good HDR photography, five shots, or more, are generally recommended. My Canon EOS XSi won't do that on its own. That's where this gizmo comes in. It prevents me from having to touch the camera between shots in the HDR sequence, which reduces camera shake and produces a better picture. It also has a pause setting, which also reduces shake.

    I do agree that novices should spend time learning digital photography before buying a gadget like this. But once you know how to do HDR, this thing is great! BTW, get the second cable--a shutter-release cable specific to your camera. It adds significant new capabilities to the unit.
    davidv@...