What are they?
First and foremost camera remotes are remotes. They are the same as a remote for your TV or for any other device. The remotes are used to control the subject it is programmed for. There are three different types of camera remotes wired, wireless and the more advanced ones. The basic way that all of them work, no matter the price or wire situation, is that the remote becomes a second, or third, trigger.
A wired remote is perfect for a photographer who is not worried about camera blur and who can be near the camera when taking the picture. These remotes are used a lot for specifically timed shots, and for long exposure shots. Most wired remotes contain a shutter button and that is it. However, there are many benefits to a wired remote. For example, it is way less likely to be lost in a stressful situation. I was shooting pictures at a mountain, and I realized that the best shot would be at the top, for the picture of the sunset, only problem was that the sun was setting and I had about 5 minutes to go up about half a mile. So I grabbed my tripod, my camera and my camera bag, and started running. I cannot recommend this, but I was desperate. So when I got to the top of the hill I had just made it. I had enough time to set up my camera and take the picture. The only problem was that in the running, I had lost the wireless remote that was attached to the camera. Luckily I keep an extra wired remote in my bag at all times. However, in a similar instance, I was running through the woods with a friend, we were going to a lake view for the sunset, and I had the wired remote plugged in. When we got to the spot the remote was still hanging onto my camera. This was a great factor for the wired remotes.
The wired remotes, though much easier to keep track of, do have their flaws. For example, it is much easier to end up accidentally moving the camera while using the wired remote. Another flaw that some of them have is that there is only one function. A lot of the newer and Wireless remotes have multiple functions, such as a bulb feature where you can just press the trigger and leave the shutter open until you press the trigger again. This is a fairly necessary function for most remotes, especially if you want to do a long exposure shot.
Wireless remotes are more common in the world of photographers in the last few years. Wireless remotes are probably the most popular for sports photographers, but they are used widely throughout the field. The best part about these wireless remotes is definitely the ability to control it from far away. Some of the remotes have a distance ranging up to 20 yards. This means that as long as you have a clear shot to the camera, it will take the picture. The reason that this is used for sports is because photographers will use a camera in their hands and a “remote camera.” This means that they can take the pictures at the time they want from the place they want close to the action, and keep a remote for the camera that is in a touch to reach place. For example, Neil Leifer’s, one of the most famous Sports Illustrated photographers, took a picture of Cleveland Williams and Muhammad Ali in which he used a remote controlled camera. It is shot from high above the ring and captures the moment of Williams lying on the mat after being knocked out by Ali. This was shot at the same time as another shot that Leifer took with his in-hand camera. This is probably the main benefit of the wireless remotes; another of course being that the long exposure shots have no chance of shaking with the pushing of the trigger.
The only problems with the wireless remote are that they are easily lost and have a high sensor dependency. Many people, including myself, have lost a fair amount of losses when it comes to wireless remotes. The reason is simply that there are two things that you need to keep track of and they are not connected to anything. This becomes more of a problem when you are packing your stuff back up, forgetting to put the remote, or the sensor, back into the bag. The other problem is that the sensors can be very touchy. For example, if there is another person with the same remote, it is possible that you will trigger each others cameras. These two factors lessen in severity when shooting alone in non-pressure situations, such as long exposure shots.
The advanced forms of remotes are very new to the field. They are still working out some minor kinks but otherwise they seem to work great. You can even get camera remotes for your iTouch and iPhone. The main difference for these new remotes is that they actually control the brain of your camera, not just the trigger. It can tell you exactly what your viewfinder would. For example, the iTouch SLR remote app gives you a preview of the shot, the exposure, the ISO, aperture, white-balance and shutter speed itself. And not only does it tell you all of these things but it allows you to change them as well. The Professional Edition even has the ability to set intervals of the shot ranging anywhere from 1 second to 1 day. You can now literally control everything, except the actual movement of the camera, from a remote.
The main problem with this kind of remote is simply that it costs more. For example, the one above costs the amount of the iPhone/iTouch on top of the twenty dollars for the application itself. Another problem with these kinds of remote is that in order to get all of the bells and whistles you will also need a newer camera with newer technology. Though they are incredible applications, they are unable to work on the older platforms.