Here’s a nice bit of kit that I wanted to point out to folks – The Canon TC-80N3 Timer Remote Controller.

At its most basic it’s a remote shutter controller – something you can use to trigger your shutter without actually touching the camera (and running the risk of shaking it if you’re shooting something that requires absolute stability). But it’s a lot more than that too – it allows you to control the timing and duration of your exposures to a much greater extent than a standard Canon body gives you. For example, with just about every modern Canon the longest exposure you can take without holding down the button in ‘b’ (bulb) mode is 30 seconds. This timer lets you take arbitrarily-long exposures, if you’re trying to get one of those cool night-sky pictures, for instance.

But the other fun thing I find myself using it for is to do timelapse photography – a series of images shot at regular intervals that you can then string together into a short movie. Here’s one I just did of an ice-cube melting.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Go to YouTube for a sample of what this can yield.

Which mostly just proves that watching ice melt is perhaps slightly more interesting than watching paint dry but probably not quite as exciting as watching grass grow.

I’ll leave the actual assembly of still-images into moving footage up to you – Quicktime can do it (hmm, might require Quicktime Pro now that I think about it) but there are several other ways to accomplish this.

So in spite of the rather outrageous price-tag for this device ($131 at Amazon… whereas the components for this thing would cost about 25¢ on the open market), and ignoring the fact that many lower-cost cameras (as well as the newer Nikon DSLR’s I believe) have this sort of capability built-in, I’d still recommend it as something a Canon shooter should think about picking up.

It only works on certain models of Canon DSLR’s – I can attest to it working fine with 20D, 40D and 5D – so double-check before you buy. And did I mention the rather outrageous price-tag? (I suspect there’s a good Chinese knockoff out there somewhere that costs a fraction as much and does just as good a job… anybody know if this is the case?)

Me, I’m off to watch grass grow.

Join the conversation! 20 Comments

  1. Fully and wholly agree with you, both about the must have as the price tag. I bought one only last friday… and it is great, but expensive

  2. I have no affiliation with them, but check out I have one of their timers and LOVE it. It’s how I make all my time-lapse shots and it’s something like $130. I’m certain that it’s flexible enough for 99% of people who need a timer.

    BTW: the youtube link is broken.

  3. Try it again Joe – it’s working for me.

  4. I tried some night shots recently… however – my problem was not the vibration or Bulb limitations. Even with a 30 second exposure, the damn earth (so the stars) move quite a bit! So even with a 1.4 lens, I had a hard time getting a nice star shot. Not to mention sensor burn in the corners too (yes, I forgot to remove the lens cap a few times and all I could see was sensor burn in).

  5. Richard, you should look into building a barn door tracker. It will help with your short duration star field shots and it is dirt cheap to build. An example can be found here:
    You can Google for other examples.

  6. For the DIYers who are looking to save some money, check out these instructables for similar results.

    I actually built the first, which has worked greatl as a remote trigger for my XTi. The second I haven’t though. It’s much more similar to what Ron posted as you can program a graphing calculator to automatically take shots whenever you want.

    Oh, and those who are having trouble with the video, don’t click the “Play” button; instead, click the picture which will bring you to the actual Youtube video page.

    …or just click here:

  7. I bought one last Summer and have loved it. Used it to make some star circle shots, plus often use it for bracketing really long exposures for HDR at night, and just plain for no-touch exposures.

    And as of now (5PM PST Saturday), your YouTube link says “this video is no longer available.”

  8. Update on the Youtube.

    Jason’s link works fine, though the direct link Scott initially supplied does not.

  9. Weird the link (which was supplied by Ron) works for me. Thanks for the updates.

  10. Ron here – I should note that after writing that last post I actually did do a bit of searching around the web and you CAN find some significantly-less-expensive alternatives on Ebay. Can’t personally vouch for their reliability (and TWIP makes no guarantees, warrantees, blah blah blah) but there have been some positive reviews posted. There are even some cool radio-controlled wireless options that I may check out at some point…

  11. With a remote trigger, you can do things like this:

    Driving down Rt. 9 in Shrewsbury

    I got my tripod mounted in the car and headed out to take pictures and after a few minutes realized that it was really dangerous to be reaching for the shutter button on the camera while driving. So I went back home and grabbed my Canon TC-80N3.

    I also find it to be very necessary for taking good tripod photos. The pushing of the shutter button on the camera is enough to disturb the camera and even for longish exposures can result in a fuzzy image.


  12. I’m currently in the market for a shutter release, so i’ll definitely consider this one. Thanks!

  13. If you are looking for the same item in Nikon, you can get the Nikon MC-30 ($55 at B&H), which is just a remote shutter release, or the MC-36 ($130 at B&H) which also has all the programmable shutter release functions. You can also find the MC-20 for about $90 on eBay which was replaced by the MC-36.

  14. its worth a note, Nikon has a very similar product (for a very similar price tag), the Nikon MC-36 Multi-Function Remote for Nikon Pro SLR Cameras.

  15. I also have a Canon TC-80N3 and my one major complaint is that it doesn’t have an on/off switch!

    The only way to turn it off is to remove the battery.

    The good news is that the Canon TC-80N3 will work as a shutter release without the battery – which is great as I use it a lot for macro work.

  16. I’ve had mine for at least 2 years now and have never replaced the battery so I guess the automatic shutoff or battery-save mode that it goes into is reasonably effective.

  17. For those of you who want to use this remote shutter with any of the Digital Rebel cameras, 300d, 350d, 400d, etc… it is a simple solder job with $10 in parts from radio shack.

    Or this guy makes a converter cable for the N3 connector the Digital Rebel along with most Olympus, Sony Alpha, Minolta, Panasonic and Nikon DSLR.

  18. There are some movies made with that trigger in . There is also a howto video.

  19. I’ve been using one of these for a couple of years now. I use it to make HD timelapse movies that I sell as stock footage. You can see some of the timelapse shots here (these were all shot with both a 10d and a 20d). I started out with it not really sure what it could do and I very quickly realized that the remote timer added so much more versatility to my camera. I have always been pretty enamored by timelapse shots and being able to shoot them has changed how i think about photography.

  20. Thank you for your little review! You asked about any chinese knock-offs – I found this one, but i dont know if it is any good? Looks similar. Might give it a try…


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