Cable Release Woes

August 28, 2016  •  3 Comments

I almost always use a cable release while shooting. This allows me to capture pictures without touching the camera--therefore minimizing the risk of introducing camera shake. Of course, there are other ways to minimize that risk, such as activating a shutter and exposure delay.

But, there is no substitute for the cable release when it comes to very long exposures--more than 30 seconds. Once the shutter speed exceeds 30 seconds, it can't be selected in camera. Rather, the shutter speed must then be set to Bulb and triggered by pressing the shutter and holding it down until the exposure ends. The cable release allows you to press the shutter without touching the camera...then lock the shutter down through the mechanism on the release.

Years ago, I got burned when my cable release malfunctioned during a trip. I was quite far from the nearest city with a camera store--Moab, Utah. I headed right to the camera store when I arrived in Moab to buy the cable release. The sign on the door indicated that they were closed for the season and would reopen four months later in April! A man from a nearby general repair store said that he could perhaps try to repair the cable. The issue was that the labor would far exceed the $5 that I paid for that third party release!

Since then, I bought the genuine Nikon MC-30 cable release. It's more durable.

Not wanting to chance it, I brought a backup cable release (one of my leftover third party cheap ones) with me on this latest 32 day road trip as well.

My Nikon MC-30 served me well for nearly three years. But, three weeks into my trip it failed! Fortunately, I had the foresight to bring a backup. Unfortunately, the backup was dead right out of the box! Once again, I was without a cable release. And, I had some long exposure photo shoots on my itinerary.

The next day, I visited Samy's Camera store in Santa Barbara. They had a suitable cable release. It was a third party brand and they charged me $35--seven times what I would pay for a comparable one on eBay. I asked the sales person if he thought the release would hold up for the next two weeks until I got home. He said it it certainly should.

Naturally, I treated this third cable release with kid gloves. I was careful to never stress the cord. When activating the shutter, I made sure to press it down softly. With one day left on the trip, the cable stopped working!

Now that I'm home, I ordered another Nikon MC-30. Actually, it's a new and improved model...the MC-30A. Let's hope it lasts as long as my MC-30 did!


Your original story of the cable release failure has actually inspired me to today buy a WD Passport Wireless to backup my photos while I'm away, rather than just relying on my SD cards. No laptop on this trip - it would add too much bulk when flying. I won't empty the SD cards until I get home - 304 GB of cards should give me about 17,000 images and the WD is 1 TB. That much storage redundancy might even allow me to shoot RAW+JPEG for online sharing as I go.
Glenn Nagel Photography
I narrowly avoided a major equipment disaster. Of course, I rely on my laptop computer while taking such a long trip. Each night, I clear my cards by uploading the photos to my computer. I caption would be tough to remember thousands of shots. And, I back the pictures up on two external hard drives.

A week after I got home, my laptop failed to boot after an issue with a Windows update. It took a technician several hours to repair it. If that had happened on the road, it would have presented a major problem. Now I'm thankful that I was just out of a cable release for a few days!
I feel your pain. I'm about to head to Europe for 5 weeks and hoping that nothing breaks while I'm there. My Pentax K-30 has a known weakness in that the aperture actuator fails; I've already had it replaced once under warranty. At least I'll always be within close reach of a major city and its resources, though I am hoping to wait for the K-3 II's successor to come out before upgrading.

My Pentax K-30 has a function that allows you to use the IR remote once to open the shutter and then to press it again to close the shutter. Of course IR remotes can also fail, or just run out of batteries. But it's certainly less fiddly to set up than a cable release.
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