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Shutter Release Cables

Back to basics and the bread and butter essentials that should be in every camera bag with this one. The shutter release cable.

There are various ways to trigger the camera without directly touching it, the self timer is a quick and easy solution. But if you want a little more control a useful item to have in your camera bag is a shutter release cable (SRC). Here is a quick look at Nikons own MC-30 and why regardless of the camera brand you shoot with, owning a SRC is a must.

Nikon MC-30 shutter release cable

Nikon MC-30 shutter release cable

What do they do?
Put simply they allow you to fire the shutter without directly touching the camera, therefor avoiding any potential shake or unwanted vibrations which can lead to soft images. They also give you more control over exposure times than simply using the self timer. So it lends itself perfectly to macro and long exposure photography when used in conjunction with a sturdy tripod, and even telephoto shooting if you need a slow shutter speed at high magnification.

I used mine to take THIS LONG EXPOSURE of a Great Blue Heron at sunset in the Gulf of Mexico, and also THIS PANORAMIC on the Isle of Skye amongst other photos.

Do I really need one?
Well actually, in some situations you may not and there are many instances where simply using your camera’s self timer will be good enough. However with a SRC you will not only be able to fire the shutter exactly when you want, but, if you set your camera to BULB mode you can keep the shutter open for as long as you want too, which means exposures over 30 seconds long and for as long as you want.

Electronic or manual, what’s the difference?
An electronic SRC sends a signal down the cable to tell the camera to fire the shutter, where as a manual one will screw in to the top of the camera’s shutter button and will have a small pin pop out of the SRC when you push the plunger down. Which one you need will depend on your camera model but an easy way to check is if you still own a camera with a small threaded hole in the shutter release button, you need a manual one. More and more camera’s are doing things electronically these days though…although if your DSLR has no hole and no terminal then it more than likely only works via a IR or RC shutter release, which I’ll talk about another time.

MC-30 shutter lock on rear

MC-30 trigger lock on rear

MC-30 build quality and operation
The MC-30 is a pretty simple bit of kit, essentially just a small plastic box with a cable coming out the end. Operation is as easy as it gets really…plug the 10 pin terminal in to your camera, screw it securely in place, and then press the trigger on the ‘business end’ to fire the shutter. If you are shooting in BULB mode you can lock the shutter open by sliding the lock switch across whilst the trigger is pressed down. This then holds the trigger down for you, until you slide the lock back again…so you can go and make a cup of tea whilst doing those star trail shots! It’s comfortable enough to hold in the hand and operate and despite being plastic it’s built well…although if I could have one wish it would be for some form of weather sealing for those stormy/rough weather scenics. Despite being plastic I’ve dropped mine a few times now but it seems to have stood up to the impacts fine, although just how rubust it ‘really’ is I can’t say!

Alternatives
For what it is, the MC-30 isn’t very cheap. You’re essentially paying for a bit of plastic and some simple wiring and there are going to be those of you that don’t think it’s worth the money. Well, you may be right, it does cost more than it probably should and there are cheaper copies available. Although, the only copy I ever used didn’t work exactly as planned with the occasional firing of the shutter without me pressing anything! BUT, there are many people out there using the cheaper alternatives with no complaint, so the choice is yours…

MC-30 front

MC-30 front

Should you get one?
YES!! One of these should be an essential part of any photographers kit bag. They are small and light so there really is no excuse for not having one, as you never know when it might come in handy…!

Thinking of buying?
For official products UK readers can try Warehouse Express or AMAZON.CO.UK

For America readers, a good place to get them is B&H PHOTO.

If you want a 3rd party or after market cables, eBay is a great place to pick them up, wherever you live in the world.

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About the author

Richard Peters is a Surrey based professional wildlife photographer, Nikon Ambassador, and one of the few British photographers to receive the accolade of European Wildlife Photographer of the Year. He is known for a style that often favours dramatic use of light, runs wildlife photography workshops and, from camera clubs to big industry events, holds talks about his work.

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