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DIY Tutorial: Push Button-PW cable

August 17th, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

For readers who aren’t photographers, or interested in the technical workings on photography this blog post might not be as interesting till the end. This is a tutorial on how to make your own Pocket Wizard to Button trigger Cable.

I have been interested in doing more self portrait photography, specifically in the sports I love. Previous to now i have been using a self timer and guessing, or the intervalometer and racking up my shutter actuation count, neither are precise or good ways to be doing this. I bought some PW-10 cords which connect a pocket wizard to the camera while keeping it ‘awake’ to trigger the camera wirelessly. Click for Flash zebra Nikon-PW pre-trigger cables. I purchased these as there would be much more technical workings, and I’m not a tremendously competent electrician.

I tried shooting some self portraits on my mountain bike with a PW ziptied to the handle bar, however it made triggering with my thumb really awkward while riding, as well as hiding the antenna behind my handlebar getting tons of misfires. The solution was making a button which I could use to trigger the PW more comfortably and consistently.

What you need
Soldering Gun
Electrical Soldering Wire
Electrical tape
MONO Miniphone jack with it’s wire (length specific to your own use)
Push Button Switches
Time: Took me about 30 min, i’ve soldered twice before (faster or slower depending on your skill level)

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The cord once finished will be a button, length of cord, and miniphone jack which goes into the ‘camera flash’ port on you PW II. In pocket wizards the electrical pulse required to trigger the flash is supplied by the PW and waiting to be connected, so all we need to be doing is ‘closing the switch’ which lets the electrical pulse finish the circuit and trigger your PW. This is great cause it makes our job easy, we just have to close the switch.

When you go to purchase the stuff you need pay attention to which type of button you get. I bought my supplies from the Source (used to be Radio Shack) many other stores should have the things you need. I bought ‘Momentary Push Button Switches’ which means that when the button is pushed the circuit is only complete for a fraction of a second, and after that (even if the button is still depressed) the circuit will not be complete and the camera will only fire the initial time triggered. This works well if your looking for a single exposure and thats it.
If you are going to be shooting sequences and want for camera to be continually triggering you are going to be looking for a button which connects the circuit connected as long as the button is depressed. Your choice depending on your purposes

Step by Step

1: Cut the Miniphone cable at the length you want (again this is Mono, not stereo). Mine is about a foot and a half long. Then cut back the rubber/plastic around the outside of the cord about an inch revealing the internals of the cord (shown below, shot these pictures doing the ‘turn the lens backwards and shoot’ method which gives you the idea, but they aren’t purdy)

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When you open the cable you will see a whole bunch of free wire wrapped around an insulated internal wire. Collect the wire from the outside and twist it into a single wire, then cut away the internal insulation exposing the second wire. It is important to keep the two wires separated from each other, because if they are in contact they will complete the circuit and your PW/camera will be firing continually.

2: Connect one wire to each side respectively. Once each side is on, tack with solder. Again keeping the sides from joining to prevent your PW/camera from continually firing. It is not important which side of the wire is connected to which side of the button, we will be simply completing the circuit so which way the button is oriented is irrelevant.

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3: Once the sides are connected and tacked nice and securely use the electrical tape to cover and isolate the exposed metal bits, I made a point of wrapping one of the wires completely before closing everything to ensure it was isolated and couldn’t cause misfires or continuos connections.

090809marda-loop-9821

And thats it, plug the jack into the ‘camera flash’ port on your PW II (I assume anyone using Multimax can figure out how to use something like this), make sure the PW is set to ‘both’ or ‘camera flash’ and trigger away.

The resulting images are below, taken on a trip to Glacier National Park in the US. Both shot using said button-cable, d300, tripod.

Self Portrait MTB -Glacier National Park 1

Self Portrait MTB -Glacier National Park 1

** a little side note i’ve been looking at doing this for a while, however seeing some work a photographer Chad Spector put up of his MTB self portraits got me off my butt to put my plans into action.

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  1. Ragga
    August 18th, 2009 at 17:42 | #1

    I kinda like the photos of the “trigger making” : ) I am not quit sure how this works but I assume it is pretty cool ;) The self portraits are fine, just like they need something to pop it up…. I don’t know. But I guess you were just trying out your new triggers anyway ;)

  2. October 6th, 2009 at 21:20 | #2

    Very nice! Great idea. I especially like the second photo. Really beautiful and inspiring. Thanks!

  1. August 17th, 2009 at 13:26 | #1
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  5. March 23rd, 2010 at 20:16 | #5