Don’t you love it when you buy something and find out you got a lot more than what you expected? I was looking for a wireless remote to use with my Canon bodies (Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 7D, and Canon 1D Mark III) that would be programmable for night exposures and star trails. When it comes to purchasing equipment, I have only found four sources that I generally trust when it comes to buying camera equipment and they are B & H Photo/Video (online), Precision Camera (local store in Austin, Texas), Photography on the Net website (for used and almost new equipment), and Amazon. I was perusing the wares at Precision Camera a few months back when a remote caught my eye and it was the Phottix Aion Wireless Timer & Shutter Release. I already had a simple wired remote that I had used on occasion for macro photography but it didn’t allow me to program a specific exposure time which I would need for night photography. Furthermore, although I had never tried star trails, I knew I would want that capability.
While many people prefer a wired remote for more reliability, I have had zero issues with the wireless remote. However, this remote can indeed be used wired since it comes with a cable for just such purposes. Just be sure to always have extra batteries (the Phottix uses AAA batteries) available in the event you need to replace.
Here are the features that I have really liked thus far:
1) Ease of programming in the dark. Let’s face it, when doing night photography, we really don’t want to lose our night vision. I have thick fingers and yet I have no trouble changing settings, time, or functions on the remote in the dark. The buttons are well spaced and the remote is a decent enough size that I don’t feel like I will lose it. It does have a light that can be turned on to see the screen but this little light is bright and can take night vision away. There is also a wrist strap which is perfect since I leave this remote always on my wrist so I don’t misplace in the dark.
2) Ability to customize everything you can imagine. This remote will work as a simple shutter release which I use extensively for landscape photography.
3) Ability to autobracket for low-light HDR photographs. This is a wonderful function!
4) Has the ability to operate in “S” or SHUTTER mode where pressing the button simply triggers the shutter for whatever length of time you (or camera) has selected depending upon exposure mode. “C” or CONTINUOUS mode will take 5 consecutive shots when the shutter is pressed. “b” or BULB mode is very handy in that you can press the shutter button on the remote and the camera’s shutter will open. A timer begins on the remote and you can simply press the shutter button again to close the shutter when you reach the appropriate time. Finally, the “2S” or TWO-SECOND DELAY mode is just like the 2 second delay on the camera. Pressing the shutter button on the remote will take a photo after a two-second delay.
5) The real star of the function show however is the TIMER function. This function has DELAY, LONG, INTVL, N, and BKLN settings. The first four (4) of these functions can be used separately or in conjunction with one another. The DELAY setting is used as a self-timer before a photo is taken. The LONG setting requires the camera to be in BULB mode and will stay open for as long as you have the timer programmed with a maximum time of 99 hours, 99 minutes and 99 seconds. I doubt you will run out of time! The INTVL setting (Interval) will take photos at the exact time intervals programmed into the timer. For instance, you can have the timer take 20 consecutive shots 30 seconds apart. The 30 seconds apart is controlled by the interval setting. The N (Number) setting controls the number of exposures the timer will shoot during the current program (– being unlimited, 199 being the maximum programmable). Finally, the BKLN (Bracketed Long Exposure) setting can be used for long exposure HDR.
This is a bit tricky as you don’t set the exposure to start for the right one, you need to calculate the darkest exposure based on the number of shots you plan to take and start there. Read the manual for more detail on how to properly use this feature.
6) Finally, at about $90 retail, this remote is a bargain compared to the price of normal wired remotes.
1) The dial used to tighten the receiver on the flash hot shoe is small enough where I have a tough time grasping to tighten or loosen. I suspect for people with narrow and/or longer fingers this might not be an issue.
2) In live view mode with the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 7D, it can be a bit tricky to get the shutter to trigger.
3) It can be tricky at first because you use the shutter button on the remote for S, C, B, and 2S functions. For the timer, you use the Play/Stop button. You will definitely want to take the manual with you on your first outing until you get everything nailed down.
Here are some photos I have taken using the Phottix Aion:
My normal lens for night photography is the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 lens.
Night Sky – Pagosa Springs, CO
Sunrise Over Dead Horse Mountains
Lightning Through the Window
Watching the Stars
To learn more about the functions of the Phottix Aion, you can download a user’s manual here and join me on one of my upcoming Big Bend National Park photography workshops coming in 2015!