If you follow my work, you know I’m a big fan of capturing storms and lightning. Well, the folks over at Nero Trigger noticed it as well and asked me if I would give their product a try and give you guys an impartial review. The Nero Trigger is a multi-function device that triggers your camera’s shutter via stimuli such as light, sound, or laser, along with options to set intervals for timelapses, bracketing exposures for HDR photography, and a DIY function for more custom applications. Based on the light trigger alone I jumped at the chance. I’ve always wanted to try out one of these gadgets but never pulled the trigger – see what I did there?
The Product: Weighing in at a minuscule 89 grams, this deck-of-cards sized device retails for $199 and is available in 6 colors. Sporting a big, bright color LCD screen with easy to use buttons, Nero Trigger fits snugly onto your camera’s hotshoe. On the left side of the unit are connections for the flash and camera cable while the right side houses the on/off switch and an ‘Ext’ connection. The light & laser sensor protrudes from the front of the unit, while the battery door and microphone resides on the bottom of the unit.
The Nero Trigger has 6 main triggering functions; Lightning, Sound, Timelapse, Laser, HDR, and DIY.
The box contains 2 AAA batteries, a camera cord, a flash cord, instruction manual, and the unit itself.
Initial thoughts: Upon first inspection I was extremely surprised at how lightweight the unit was. Granted, when you’re shooting with your camera on a tripod the weight doesn’t matter all that much, but its lightness makes me more likely to give it a dedicated space in my gear pack. Despite being so light, it feels solid enough for regular use, though I think I’d cover it up as much I could if shooting in inclement weather. Before I even read the manual, I flipped through the various menus and found the interface to be quite intuitive. For all that this thing can do, it doesn’t require that much input on the user’s part. To put another way, this is easier to set than a digital watch or the clock in your car.
Putting it to the test:
As I stated above, the Nero Trigger can be used in a multitude of ways. After first receiving it, I messed around with the sound and laser functions, which all worked admirably I might add, but the true test for me was to see how it would work during a lightning storm. By the time October rolls around most of the midwest’s thunderstorm activity has exponentially decreased, but lucky for me, there was still a bit of life left in the storm season.
Despite now having a lightning trigger at my disposal, a successful lighting photo requires the right mix of settings and photographic knowledge – which the Nero Trigger can’t do for you. If you haven’t read my Lightning Photography Tutorial yet, you should check it out before continuing on as I’ll be referencing many of those ideas and concepts in the following sections.
Experiment 1 (10/3/13): On the night of October 3rd, a line of thunderstorms moved into the Chicago area. I set-up on my balcony as usual, the one difference being I now had a lighting trigger. Now, when I shoot lighting at night, I repeatedly shoot 10-30 second exposures fired manually. This time, I decided to let the lightning trigger do most of the work for me. When I could see lightning on the horizon I activated the lighting function of the Nero Trigger. The only variable you need to input when using this function is the sensitivity (see above photo). I started around 95, but cars and construction equipment in the distance was triggering the unit (a good sign). I knocked the sensitivity down to 85 and the ‘false triggers’ seemed to stop.
Eventually the lighting was close and defined enough to start making for good photos and the Nero Trigger fired when needed. However, there were a few instances where the unit would continue firing the shutter in quick succession without any discernible change in light level after the first trigger ‘event’. The only way to stop it was to quickly turn the unit off and back on. Quite possibly a glitch and definitely a minor annoyance, but I was happy it was firing when needed and then some, rather than not firing at all or firing too slow to catch a good bolt.
At one point I turned the sensitivity down to about 70 to see if it would eliminate some unnecessary frames. There were plenty of cloud-to-cloud flashes that triggered the system that didn’t make for good photos. My hope was that I would only catch the closer brighter strikes, and to a degree it worked.
I was extremely pleased with the performance of the Nero Trigger after this first experiment. It worked when needed, and most importantly, I felt confident that if a beautiful, photogenic bolt stuck nearby, I wouldn’t miss it. That said, the true test of the Nero Trigger would come during a daytime storm. Truth be told, when you’re shooting at night and leaving the shutter open for 20-30 seconds at a time, it’s relatively easy be to catch lighting without the Nero Trigger.
Experiment 2 (10/5/13): Two days after trying the Nero Trigger during a nighttime storm, another round of inclement weather was moving into Chicago during the day. This was my chance to really test the value of the Nero Trigger. It’s much more difficult to manually capture lighting during the day because you can’t use extra long shutter speeds to increase your chances of success. Even with your lens stopped all the way down to f/22, and the ISO cranked to low, you’d be lucky to get more than a one or two second exposure, and that could turn into quite a lot of wasted frames if you’re continually shooting in hopes of catching one bolt.
For this test I set-up the same as any other storm, but with the lighting trigger set around 85. This storm was very similar to the one two nights prior. It came from the SW and the lightning gradually increased as it came closer. There were a lot of non-photogenic cloud-to-cloud flashes that triggered the unit, and just a few nice cloud-to-ground bolts; but the few that did hit were caught by the Nero Trigger. Success.
In conclusion, I feel the Nero Trigger is an invaluable tool for a photographer to have in their arsenal. You probably won’t need to use every function everyday, but knowing you have different options opens up a whole new world of creative possibilities. Speaking to the lightning trigger alone, this piece of equipment will easily help me get shots I had an extremely hard time getting before (daytime lightning) – and that’s something most photography accessories don’t do. The repeated shutter opening/closing problem after the initial firing was a bit annoying, but the guys over at Nero Trigger said it wasn’t an issue that has been reported before, so I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that this was an isolated issue. Additionally, I only scratched the surface of the multitude of creative uses the Nero Trigger has to offer. This one lightweight box can do the job of a handful of gadgets for a relatively low cost. So if you’ve ever wanted to give a lighting trigger a try, get yourself a Nero Trigger.
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