Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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I have two Nikon D7000 bodies and two 50mm f1.4 "D" lenses. I have both cameras mounted on one tripod and both in remote mode. A single remote is used to open both shutters. The problem I face is that the two cameras don't usually open the shutters at the exact same time.

Here is what I have tried to get the shutters to synchronize exactly. Basically, I'm trying to get the cameras to "just open the shutter NOW" when I hit the release.

  • Obsessively going through all the menus and setting all options identically in both cameras. Clearly important.
  • Upgrading firmware to the same version in both. Seemed to help a little. (For all I know, there could still be a hardware difference between them.)
  • Putting the cameras in full manual mode: manual focus, aperture, shutter speed, ISO. Significant improvement, especially with manual focus, but that means I'm either eyeballing focus or starting with auto and then flipping to manual before taking shots.
  • Turning off all auto-adjustments and effects: fixed white balance, noise reduction off, center spot metering. Some improvement here.
  • Capping the eyepieces so no light leaks into the bodies. This actually made a huge difference, leading me to believe there is a lot of mystery going on in that firmware.
  • Turning off LCD screens. This matters a lot too. So every shot has to be made blind, or at least, composed using the LCD before turning it off and opening shutter.

Having done all that, I have managed to get some shots I'm proud of, including some that are only hard because of this setup. My failure rate is frustratingly high because the sync still isn't perfect (at 1/250 and up I'm dependent on luck) and the overall burden on the photographer is much greater with these settings.

What else can be done? Are there easy things I haven't tried that have a good chance of synchronizing the shutters? Dare I hope, without sacrificing all those nice features? Most of what I can think of to try is laborious:

  • Updating lens correction firmware to make both cameras match. This is the "L" firmware shown in the menus. It shouldn't matter, but then again, most of the stuff I listed probably shouldn't matter but does.
  • Shooting raw - I guess I really should try this, and there are other benefits anyway, but exporting them all to JPG afterwards is a pain
  • Writing my own tethering software, or intercepting commands from one that already exists and duplicating them to the second camera
  • Using tethers and an Arduino board to leave one camera with desired settings and make the other to copycat the first with minimal delay
  • Trying to implement my own equivalents (auto-focus, -aperture, -shutter, -iso, noise reduction, white balance) of the Nikon features I'm disabling in software, to recover those features without losing the shutter sync

If it gives anyone a hint, I have noticed some subtle differences in behavior other than the shutter timings. The image preview on the LCD after taking a picture stays up longer on one camera than the other. Color palette seems different between them sometimes, way different, even though the cameras are only a few inches apart, even when focused on the same subject. A little different could be explained by subtle composition differences. I guess I could have missed a setting somewhere, or maybe there really is a difference in hardware or firmware that even the firmware update didn't rectify.

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The only possible problem I can see is the use of one wireless remotes to fire both cameras. I wonder if a wired remote, jerry rigged to have two outputs, might work better? I would also definitely try raw. Outputting to JPGs is an automatable process in any decent processor, so it's not that major an issue. Get Lightroom, and you can apply a preset on import, or copy one edit to all the files at once. –  ElendilTheTall Dec 4 '13 at 9:21
    
Interesting, go ahead and post that as an answer. I guess it's possible that wired vs wireless remote triggering is handled differently in the firmware. –  wberry Dec 4 '13 at 15:32

1 Answer 1

What are you photographing? if you're photographing something where you can use a flashgun, then try slower shutter speeds with the lights out and use a single flashgun. That way it doesn't matter if the camera shutters don't trigger exactly the same time, they will both only see anything when the one lightsource is lit

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I'm trying to use this 3D rig more or less like most people would use a point-and-shoot camera. Outdoors, family gatherings, portraits, the beach, kids at play. I briefly tried a top-mounted flash on one camera. The second camera had black images; even in full manual mode, it appeared to compensate exposure due to the flash, but when the shutter was actually open the flash was off, so black image. –  wberry Dec 4 '13 at 20:22
    
For planned, artistic shots this would be viable though, even without darkness if an ND was used to dampen the non-flash time period of exposure. –  wberry Dec 4 '13 at 20:46
    
@wberry as per your original question, perhaps the more you can slow down the shutter speed the more chance there is of the pics being at the same time, or at least of having a decent overlap. Is there any possibility of custom functions being set differently? It might be laborious and I imagine updating the firmware probably reset them but it may be worth going through the menus to ensure there are no difference in settings at all, eg custom functions etc –  laurencemadill Dec 5 '13 at 9:17
    
Unless I missed something, even the custom settings are the same in both. –  wberry Dec 5 '13 at 14:29

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