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I have 10 Canon 5DmkII cameras which I want to fire simultaneously... How can I accomplish this task repeatedly and reliably?

NOTE: Although I mention 10 cameras, it will be a 'super bonus' if the solution is scalable to n cameras...

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It's pretty common for movies to do this actually, well, they usually will have a slight delay in-between, but... –  PearsonArtPhoto Mar 1 '11 at 3:04
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But actually my real first response was: hey, that seems really cool. I hope you will share the results with us. –  mattdm Mar 1 '11 at 3:14
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Can't you just use a standard remote trigger cable? It works by shorting two pins, right? So, what you are looking for is a way to simultaneously short 10 (or n) cables. Maybe a monster switch (or a series of cascading switches) connected to 10 (actually 16, since you'll probably need a 2^n number) cables (probably all the same lengths so you don't have to think about propagation delays) that plug in to your cameras. You might get good results from Electronics and Robotics Stack Exchange! –  drewbenn Mar 1 '11 at 3:15
    
If you are only looking for an off-the-shelf solution, it would help to specify that in the question (and let someone else ask the DIY version of the question, or ask it yourself next time when you do a similar project "off the clock"). I don't mind seeing both types of answers (and I think this sounds like a cool project, if not something I'll likely ever try) but I suspect from the comments I've seen that you're only going to accept an answer that links to an off-the-shelf solution. –  drewbenn Mar 1 '11 at 5:11
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10 5D mkIIs? I'm not jealous. No sireee... –  AJ Finch Mar 1 '11 at 9:43

9 Answers 9

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Pocket Wizards (as well as several other brands of remote triggers) can also be used to trigger remote cameras as well.

http://www.pocketwizard.com/inspirations/tutorials/remote_camera_trigger/

Are you renting all of this equipment?

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I own and operate 2 5DmkIIs of my own and I'm callin' in favors from a few folks in the biz that owe me, and I've conned... errr... convinced... Canon to loan me a few bodies/lenses in exchange for some sort of mutually beneficial promo stuff at some point. At this point (crossed fingers) it seems likely that I won't have to rent anything at all... –  Jay Lance Photography Mar 1 '11 at 2:36
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I hadn't thought of the cross promo thing, you might see about something similar with Pocket Wizard. Sounds like a cool project. –  Rob McCready Mar 1 '11 at 2:45
    
+1 for pocket wizards. additionally, interesting youtube video: youtube.com/watch?v=_AuyVz89AXg [USA today - 30fps Canon EOS-1D Mark III] - are you going to do bullet time shots? that's pretty awesome :) –  JoséNunoFerreira Mar 1 '11 at 23:47

There is an extremely easy to do this. Simply use an IR trigger with both cameras facing the same way.

I've used this to trigger two Pentax K-7 for 3D photography (and once a K-5 and K-7). The 5D Mark II seems to support an IR trigger as well.

EDIT: For some reason, I read you had 2 cameras or maybe I thought you just wrote in binary ;) but you can actually scale this by buying IR Repeaters to repeat the signal for your remote to multiple cameras. You'll need to do a lot of assembling, but I suppose you have to do that to point 10 5D Mark IIs in the right direction anyways.

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Might depend some on how the cameras are arranged for the shot. Unlike with Pentax, the 5D Mark II seems to only have an IR receiver in the front. –  mattdm Mar 1 '11 at 3:13
    
Not to go all Pentax partisan or anything. :) –  mattdm Mar 1 '11 at 3:14
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And of course IR triggers are usually programmed to a specific pattern, exactly to prevent a single remote from triggering multiple cameras at the same time. You'd have to reprogram the receivers to all except the same signal somehow. –  jwenting Mar 1 '11 at 7:06
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@jwenting - That information is false. How do you think we can buy a camera and remote separately and they simply work? My Pentax Remote-Control F worked with all 5 Pentax DSLRs I have owned. I did not need to reprogram it or the camera, each time I upgraded the camera. –  Itai Mar 1 '11 at 14:16

There are 3 ways that I can think of to achieve this.

The most reliable way would be to rig all of the cameras remote shutters together, and trigger them off. This should work in any condition, but it would require some kind of custom gear, which knowing Jay, probably isn't what he wants to do.

The IR solution proposed could work, but it would likely take a lot of work, and probably wouldn't work well outdoors.

The third way would be to connect all of the cameras to a computer, and use a USB control program. Of course, I don't know of many computers that have 10 USB ports, but I imagine that one could get a few hubs and probably get a manageable solution. You'll need some software, there appears to be a program called Cam2Com that'll do the trick. Up to 127 USB devices could be hooked up together, but you'll probably have to count mouses and such, but over 100 is possible. This requires a lot of USB cables, but it shouldn't be too bad.

Good luck, let us know how it turns out!

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Actually, my understanding is that Jay doesn't mind being handy but will pay for it if it saves significant time in long run. –  rfusca Mar 1 '11 at 3:33
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My general rule of thumb boils down to: personal projects = handy. Professional projects = off-the-shelf. :-) –  Jay Lance Photography Mar 1 '11 at 3:36

I was in a friend's studio a few weeks back and he was firing a setup of 12 1Ds and 5Ds using Pearstone FreeWave Wireless Remote Shutter Release to trigger them all at once from 1 transmitter. He was doing still product shots where he set the cameras at various angles to the products and would get a bunch of angles at once with different length lenses so he could make it look like he did individual/varied setups for each product for his client. He said he had a working range of about 90 meters outside without the need for line of sight so cameras could be mounted behind sets, walls, etc.

Being in a building with old freight elevators and 70 yr old unshielded wiring he had to tinker with several frequency settings before he got the setup to work without interference but it seems to work well for him and he was adamant about not lending the kit to me anytime soon.

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Looks like a nifty little piece of kit. Only thing I miss at BH is separate receivers, looks like you have to buy transmitter+receiver kits for every camera, so he'd end up with 9 more transmitters than he needs. –  jwenting Mar 1 '11 at 7:11

Take a look at this video, they synced 3 cameras with 1/3 sec delay, but you can fire them all at once with the same type of setup.

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Along the same lines, this video/article was linked to from Strobist –  Evan Krall Mar 1 '11 at 7:13

I'm not going to rehash a few ways of triggering multiple shutters:

  • Radio frequency
  • IR remote with repeaters
  • Split electrical wire

But if it need be exact, disregard the shutter speed because the mechanics of the multiple cameras could easily be slightly different. You could treat it as a high speed photo gig and set up long shutters triggered by any of the above methods and light the subject entirely by flash. By doing this you're sure that all the pictures will have the exact same moment.

I could see something like this being used with 2 cameras to capture 3D waterdrops or such. I don't know your exact requirements because of the NDA, but its an idea.

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Are you talking about something like this?

http://www.breezesys.com/MultiCamera/index.htm

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CHDK http://chdk.wikia.com/wiki/CHDK and SDM (Stereo Data Maker, an off-shoot of the CHDK project) can sync all cameras with 1/10,000th second accuracy between them all, as many cameras as you want, using simple USB cables and a button switch. This of course is not useful info to anyone using DSLRs, but important to anyone wanting an inexpensive and dependable way to accomplish the same.

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Since I'm using Canon 5DmkIIs (as called out in the question) this won't do me a lot of good. Thanks, though! –  Jay Lance Photography Apr 7 '11 at 4:50

A possible solution would be to physically wire the remote shutter switches each to a digital output of a controller. If you are unable to DIY, you will have to look for (third party) commercial solutions.

USB, IR or wireless can not give the precise control (< 50mSec) and calibration needed. A physical pair of wires to the remote shutter switch of each camera will enable precise adjustment ( to within 1mSec) of the relative timing. Each camera can be calibrated for shutter speeds, to give exact simultaneous triggering, or any adjustable triggering sequence. The controller is connected via a single USB cable and programmable from a PC.

As far as I know, commercial solutions exists which allow up to 40 outputs.

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