REVIEW : Phottix Aion Radio Remote Shutter Release and Timer

phottix aion

You might wonder how anyone could get excited about this kind of gear.  If so, you probably have never realized how freeing a remote release and timer can be.Some cameras have intervalometers built in.  Pretty much all of them have self timers and bulb mode.  You can control cameras remotely with a cabled release, although the advanced ones from the manufacturers can be obscenely expensive (hello Canon). I am very impressed by the line of products from Phottix.  From the Strato TTL flash triggers, to the Odin system to the Mitros+ flashes this is top of line gear and works with great consistency.  The Aion is a 2.4GHz radio trigger for your camera that incorporates an intervalometer, exposure counter, single and continuous trigger and exposure bracketing tool.  The receiver sits in the hot shoe or on a local ¼-20 post and is connected to the remote connection on the camera via a curly cable.  The transmitter is similar in size to a small TV remote, not so small that you will misplace it and not so large that it becomes a burden.

For many years I have used a similar system from Hahnel.  It works very well but the user interface is complicated and unintuitive, mostly to keep the size small.  It also uses more expensive batteries and tends to consume them at a high rate.  Without these two issues, I would never look elsewhere.

The Aion runs on two sets of 2 AAA batteries, a cheap and readily available power source.

So what makes the Aion so good and a "Photo Video Guy Recommended" piece of kit?

Let's look at the receiver first.  It's simple and has one button.  It is a protected button to turn the receiver on, so powering up is a deliberate action.  There is a plastic foot with locking ring that has a ¼-20 socket to mount on light stands, spuds and tripods.  There is a larger LED to indicate signal receipt and power on.  There is a single cable jack that allows connection of cables for Canon, Nikon, Olympus and Sony.  When you purchase an Aion for your particular camera, you get ALL the possible cables in the box, unlike having to make a specific purchase for a specific camera connector (hello Canon).  This makes for a better customer experience.  You may also find that the receiver will plug into other cameras and work just fine. I use the Canon cable for the Txi series with my Hasselblad H4D-40 because the camera connector is the same.  So you might get even more functionality than you expected.  Remember that the programmatic functionality is in the transmitter.  The only thing that the receiver does is send the signal to trip the shutter, and maybe issue the half-press command to engage focus and exposure lock.

Aion graphic
Aion graphic

Moving to the transmitter is where the magic lies.  You can see the transmitter and the functions above.  The modes are where the unit shines.  S means Single Shot.  C means Continuous and the execution is that one press takes 5 frames.  B means bulb mode, and this is done quite nicely.  Press the button to open the shutter, press it again to end the bulb exposure - no need to hold or lock the button.  The 2S mode initiates a focus/exposure lock followed by a shutter release in 2 seconds.  The last mode is Timer mode and this takes things to the next level.

Timer mode really creates increased functionality.  The DELAY option allows you to set a delay in seconds from when you press the button and when the camera releases.  Think of this as a variable self timer.  LONG mode is like bulb, but you set the duration and don't have to watch the clock.  So for example, you could set a 15 minute exposure in LONG mode and trigger it once without having to end a bulb mode exposure.  INTVL allows you to set the interval between automated photo capture.  N defines the number of exposures made separated by the interval time setting.    So for example, you could set an INTVL of 10 minutes, a LONG of 1 minute and an N of 10.  This would result in 10 exposures each one minute in duration, 10 minutes apart.  Pretty much fire and forget once programmed.  If you are doing time lapse or astrophotography, or even night skies this can be hugely advantageous.  The Start/Stop button is used to activate or end the program.

Another very useful option is the BKLN option that stands for bracketed long exposure.  Once in this mode, you select the number of images to take (N) and the duration of the first exposure (LONG).  Your camera must be, obviously, in bulb mode, and then the timer will take the first shot, double the exposure time and take the second, then double and shoot for up to a maximum of seven shots set under the N setting.  Now let's make an example of an HDR you want to capture where the base exposure is 10 seconds and you want a 5 shot bracket.  You would set N = 5.  Your middle exposure will be 10 seconds, so you would divide it by 4 (each faster exposure is ½ the time) to get your LONG setting of 2.5 seconds.  Then when you press START/STOP the camera will make 5 exposures with times of 2.5s, then 5s, then 10s, then 20s, then 40s  Tada!  A simple 5 shot long exposure bracket!

To be fair, other remotes can do this, but this is so darn simple, and unlike many others you don't have to carry a manual with 3pt type into the field in the dark to try to make this work.

The unit retails for about $120 Canadian and comes with all the cables for your camera, as well as 4AAA alkaline batteries.  It's ready to go out of the box.  Phottix says not to crush it or immerse it, so if you are responsible it should last a long time.   In summary, I like the simple ease of use, I like the control layout, I like that it comes complete, and I like that it does exactly what it says it does.  Mark this device as The Photo Video Guy - RECOMMENDED