QUICK LOOK : Hahnel CAPTUR Remote Triggers and Timer

For a number of years, my go to wireless remote system was a Hahnel Giga T Pro II.  It worked very well, but I was often perturbed because the user interface was not very intuitive and I always had to go back to the manual when some time had passed without me using it.  The Giga T Pro II has been superseded by the CAPTUR system.  Let's see if it improves on things.

What Hahnel has done with the CAPTUR is to build a modular system.  In the past if you wanted flash triggering or remote camera triggering that was one set of kit, and if you wanted timers and intervalometers, that was a different piece, the Giga T Pro II.  Now you start with the Transmitter / Receiver set and add modules as you need them.  Modules consist of the Module - Timer unit, the Module - Pro and the Module - IR.  To help avoid conflicts with other transmitters, the Hahnel system uses Digital Channel Matching so you can pair your devices on channels in the crowded 2.4GHz band different from other users.

CAPTUR Transmitter and Receiver

 Hahnel CAPTUR Transmitter and Receiver

Hahnel CAPTUR Transmitter and Receiver

The basic CAPTUR kit contains the CAPTUR Transmitter and CAPTUR Receiver.  It works like most transmitter receiver systems.  In the default configuration, the Transmitter goes on the camera in the hot shoe and when the shutter trips, the radio signal triggers the remote with a range of up to 100m.  The Receiver can host a hotshoe flash, and also be cabled to a remote camera.  This scenario is very popular with sports photographers who want to set a remote camera above the basketball net, or above the pool in a swim competition and trigger the camera from a safe distance so as not to interfere with the sport.  You purchase the CAPTUR kit according to your camera.  Hahnel has offerings for Canon, Nikon, Sony and Olympus/Panasonic.  Each kit comes with 4 AA batteries and the appropriate cables for your system.  Since some manufacturers use different connectors for different cameras, mostly to be annoying I think, it's good that Hahnel includes all the cable connections for a given manufacturer in the box.

This makes the system very easy to use and a good thing too because documentation is sparse.  There is a comprehensive PDF manual online which is good as the unit I received for testing had no documentation in it at all.  That said the system is quick to set up and it gets the job done with a minimum of pain and hassle.  When using the Transmitter to fire a remote camera, a half press engages the AF and metering and a full press trips the shutter.  Hahnel uses DCM (digital channel matching) so while there are multiple channels, you don't get to specify which channels you are using.  I found that the Transmitter and Receiver were paired out of the box, but you can force a pairing by using the buttons on the units.  The Transmitter / Receiver kit typically retails for about $139.99, less than any manufacturer's radio system, but expensive compared to other alternatives.  I do like that you can add additional receivers for $69.99 although I question the reasonability of that price structure.

While the receiver includes a hot shoe with multi pin connections, and LOOKS like it will transmit TTL signals, it does not.  This has confused some buyers.  So understand that if you are using the CAPTUR system for remote flash triggering, the flash units will need to be in manual and you will have to set your flash exposure manually.  Hahnel does have a very effective TTL flash remote in their TUFF lineup if you need that and want to stick with Hahnel.

Module - Timer

 CAPTUR Module - Timer

CAPTUR Module - Timer

Very often we want remote triggers because our cameras may not have a built in intervalometer, or delayed shoot option.  Even if they do, we may want something with a lot more flexibility.  Add the CAPTUR Module - Timer and you get those functions.  The Module-Timer functions as a handheld transmitter to the CAPTUR receiver, but you can also cable it directly to the camera using the cables that came with your CAPTUR kit.  It is easier to use than the old Giga Pro T, but documentation is also skint in the box and the best option is the online PDF if you want to get all the value out of the Module-Timer.  The Module-Timer allows for four options.  Delay lets you set a delay after press before the shutter is tripped.  Long let's you set a long exposure duration when the camera is in bulb mode.  It's so much easier to program a 10 minute exposure than to hold the camera in bulb mode according to your watch.  If you don't want to program the long exposure, hold the release button for just over 3 seconds and the bulb function will lock on, press the button again to release it.  You must of course have your camera set to Bulb mode for this to work.  Interval 1 lets you set the number of shots to take in each interval period and Interval 2 let's you set the time between Interval activations.  The timer supports explicit settings of HH:MM:SS for each of the timed settings so there is good precision.  A Lock button is provided to prevent accidental changes to the programming once set.  Settings are changed via a 4 way rocker switch as seen in the image, along with a centre set button.  The Timer was paired with the Receiver out of the box, but you can force pair using the Set button as noted in the documentation.  The Module-Timer sells for about $99.99  I think that this is expensive because you still have to buy a kit or at least a CAPTUR Receiver in addition to make the Module-Timer work and that ends up costing at least another $69.99 just for the receiver.

Module - Pro and Module - IR

 Hahnel CAPTUR Module IR and Module - Pro

Hahnel CAPTUR Module IR and Module - Pro

The CAPTUR Module - Pro is where things get REALLY interesting.  Some folks have been confused because the Module-Pro looks a LOT like the Module-Timer.  While the button layout and ergonomics are the same, the units are different.  The Module-Pro does everything that the Module-Timer does, plus a lot more. The idea in these modules is event based remote triggering.  The system allows for multiple trigger types, including change in light, audible signal, break in IR path, and laser trigger.  It also has an AUX port to connect third party devices such as pressure plates.  This makes this add-on to the CAPTUR system perfect for wildlife, fireworks and macro insect photography.  Don't forget it's an add-on kit and you MUST have a CAPTUR Receiver for this to be a functional system.  The system can work as a radio wireless remote of course, just like the Module-Timer, but can also detect a break in an IR signal from the Module-IR infrared sensor to cause the unit to fire.  There is an online PDF manual that does a decent job of explaining how the system works.  This add-on kit retails for about $199.99.  The docs say do not expose to strong direct sunlight or excessive heat but are unclear on weather sealing. That would be important for use in wildlife situations.  Not completely evident in the photographic image is that the Module IR and Module - Pro have rubber armour on everything but their decks.  This is similar to Hahnel's excellent TUFF TTL radio system.  Plainly they expect this stuff to get bumped around.

Using the CAPTUR Module - Pro requires some time reading the aforementioned documentation.  It's a powerful piece of kit and not completely intuitive.  I tested each of the different triggering mechanisms.  To set a trigger mode, tap the rocker switch to get to the sensor mode you want.  First up is Sound.  You can adjust the sensitivity of the sensor as you would expect.  Other settings options include number of activations allowed by the sensor, delay before firing when the sensor is tripped, and duration in bulb or number of bursts depending on camera setup.  The same parameters apply to each of the sensor options.  Once you have made the settings you want, press the Start/Stop button to activate.  For the Sound trigger test, at first I just smacked my hand on the desktop near the Module - Pro.  The ready light went from green to red and the remote Canon 7D with the CAPTUR receiver fired.  Then I figured out that I could just yell at it.  So I had some silly fun sitting at the desk in the studio yelling at the Module - Pro and watching the 7D fire off.  Dumb I know but cool nonetheless.  In Infrared (IR) mode, you need the Module - IR.  In this scenario you set the Module - IR and the Module - Pro in line of sight pointing at each other.  The Module - IR is the infrared beam emitter.  The Module - Pro only has the IR sensor.  Whenever the IR beam is broken, the trigger signal is sent.  This could be very effective if you could mount the units near something like a hummingbird feeder.  When the bird comes to the feeder it breaks the IR beam and the camera goes off.  I set it to fire the 7D when someone walked through the studio door and trip a big 1000ws head.  Worked great.  Guest not so impressed.  Both modules have 1/4-20 female mounts so you can attach them to light stands, tripods, clamps, anything that can deliver a 1/4-20 male stud.  The next setting is light.  In this mode, when you press Start/Stop the unit measures the light hitting the sensor on the front of the Module - Pro.  If that light level drops, it sends the trigger signal.  This mode requires no separate receiver, but I found it less consistent than the IR mode.  Next mode up is Laser.  You need a separate Laser emitter for this to work.  Basically you aim your laser pen or similar device at the sensor on the front of the Module - Pro and then if the beam gets broken, the trigger is fired.  The advantage of the laser of course is that it has greater range than the IR remote.  I had an alternate piece of apparatus handy with a laser mounted on ti and once locked in to the sensor it was a very accurate way to trip the shutter with some distance between the laser and the sensor.  The final trigger position is AUX, and for this you connect any trigger mechanism that sends a standard signal into a Tip-Shield 1/8" plug.  Those could be pressure plates, tap plates, whatever sensor that you have that can act as a trigger.  Perhaps the combination lock on the garbage can could send a signal when the local raccoon opens it.

I like the intent of making a modular system, but am less impressed by the incrementing expense rather than just getting something that is completely comprehensive in a single case.  I note that Hahnel still offers the Giga Pro T II for sale so if you just need wireless camera triggering with timers, that's a better bet or go with an alternative like the Phottix Aion system.  

Improvements include positive ON/OFF switches (the original Giga Pro T receiver was notorious for turning on if you looked at it sideways and draining the expensive battery in no time.  By choosing AA batteries as the power source, Hahnel is making life easier on customers.  As I already own very effective radio remote releases with timers, including the original Hahnel Giga Pro T system, what makes this system attractive is the CAPTUR Module - Pro.  I've looked at other event based trigger systems and so far have found them wanting.  The Hahnel units are easy to hold on to and the display is actually large enough and bright enough for aging eyes to be able to see it.  The display itself is a huge improvment over the transmitter in the Hahnel Giga T Pro II.  For my money, I would forego the kit and just buy a receiver with the Module - IR and Module - Pro because I'm more looking for remote triggering than remote flash firing.  I have radio receivers in all my flashes already and don't need yet another one.  For others, the full kit may be a good choice, although I personally will always recommend TTL capable radio systems, because TTL works perfectly well most of the time, saves time and aggravation and it's built in to pretty much everything these days.

Conclusions

While I am not nuts about the pricing model, I have found uses for the Module - Pro, the Receiver and the Module - IR.  I found the construction to be of good quality, I like that this family uses standard AA batteries instead of expensive proprietary photographic batteries and I like that all the cables for your brand come in the box, so unlike other trigger systems you aren't spending another $20 per proprietary cable such as with Pocket Wizard.  In fact, I would probably still buy the Transmitter / Receiver kit because if I don't need the timer or sensors, the simple transmitter fits my hand well and has positive button action, and in worse case scenarios can still fire off a flash in manual mode.  I all I needed was a remote release with a timer, I'd still look first at the Phottix Aion system because of lower cost but if I wanted flexibility in triggering, the Hahnel is the clear winner.  Now in fairness, the a in Hahnel should have an umlaut (diaresis) and be spelled Hähnel to properly represent the markings.  But typing that character into the Squarespace editor is a pain in the butt, and I have not figured out how to do Search and Replace in the editor so we will all have to cope.  The ä spelling creates the impression that we are dealing with kit from Germany.  We are dealing with kit from China that is marketed to look like it comes from Germany.  Fact is, it's good solid kit, but it's not German made.