Crappy Cable Releases

Well, we’re back in the office doing admin after two back-to-back winter workshops.  I was happy to tag along on Darwin’s winter tours at Aurum Lodge and add to my image bank of frozen landscapes.  Here are some images I made on the last day of the tour:

As I mentioned earlier, it’s been pretty darn cold for these winter tours.  The participants have been great, suffering mostly in silence while Darwin and I whined and complained about the cold.  We did suffer one casualty though:  my cable release is not long for this world.  In fact, several Nikon shooters on the tour mentioned issues with Nikon’s cable releases breaking from being used in cold weather.  I think there is a serious design flaw in the Nikon cable release.  Just look at where it attaches to the camera in this image:

All the doctoring with the rubber band, electrical tape and rubber tape are my attempts to preserve the lifespan of this, my third cable release in a couple of years.  You can see that the release is designed to jut off the side of the camera face.  Unfortunately, the hard cap protecting the connecting pins ends right at a point where there will be maximum pressure put on the cable release as it is stuffed into a camera bag.  With every release I’ve had, this is the point where they’ve broken.  You can see the damage here:

Yikes!  The problem is especially prevalent in winter because the plastic coating over the wires becomes very brittle in cold weather.  So, stuff the camera in your bag a few times and craaaack — there goes the release at that weak spot in the neck of the device.  Which sucks.  These aren’t cheap.  It seems to be a problem particular to Nikon cameras as other cameras don’t have the cable release jutting off the front of the camera as prominently.  Anyone have any pull with Nikon?  It’d be nice to have a cable release that is designed to withstand cold weather!




~ by Samantha on March 8, 2011.

29 Responses to “Crappy Cable Releases”

  1. Yikes is right…nothin” like a D300s with a bit of tape around it.

  2. Go wireless.

  3. Until this post, it had never occurred to me to try to put my camera in my bag with the cable release still attached. I suppose it *would* save some time.

  4. Have had similar problems (not nikon branded but equally covered in electrical tape) and have resorted to buying cheap ebay cable releases. The build quality is lower but for $5, they last just as long as the $60 cables.

  5. As one poster said, it’s not in my work-method to put the camera in the bag with the cable release still attached for that exact reason, regardless of the weather or temperature. I also remove the level from the hot shoe to reduce the possibility of bending or breaking something. Leaving things attached may save a bit of time, but does not sound like the cost is worth it.

  6. Ooooh I love these helpful hints. Do you really think that I would not remove the cable release if it was easy to do so? Sorry, boys, but the Nikon cable release is a thing of beauty to behold, especially when trying to unscrew (or more accurately screw-in) the little silver sleeve into the front of my camera at -32C. Anyone who has shot at temperatures like this does not piddle with screwing and unscrewing such an unfriendly mount in subzero temperatures (if you think I over exaggerate, just ask the Brits who got serious frost bite on the first winter tour).

    Thanks for the advice, but not too helpful.

    BTW, a ‘cheap’ alternative does not always work very well. Experience has shown for me, anyway, that using cheaper cable releases interferes with the signal to the camera because the lock mechanism is very touchy on some knock off models.

    Good advice on wireless; looking into it, trust me! I’ve been investigating this for a few years.

  7. Hi Sam:

    I feel your pain as I am on my second cable release in as many years. The screw in function on the Niko cable releases drives me batty. It is fiddly in +20C temperatures never mind -30C temps. I have given up on trying to screw the lock ring in place. I just plug in the release, make sure it is seated properly and shoot away. So far I have had no connection or functionality issues.


  8. The Canon ones suck too. I’ve gone through several. (in my experience) on the Canon’s its not the plug side that breaks, but the side that’s attached to the button (invariably the cable gets folded up in the bag, and after a lot of that it eventually goes). On my latest cable release I put a big piece of shrink wrap over the brittle connector as soon as I got it, it’s worked so far (the shrink wrap is much more rigid than electrical tape).

  9. Even in warmer temperatures this thing is such a pain in the you know where. When I was on a salmon run workshop in Kamloops last October we also did some long exposure shots with dead salmon caught between rocks, so I thought it would be a good idea to put on the cable release to set the time for the exposures and let the cable release do the work.

    I fastened the silver ring as hard as I could and it seemed to be tight, couldn’t fasten it any further, so I thought I would be good to go. After wading through the creek for about five meters I heard this weird “splash” and new immediately it was not something cheap that I just dropped into the water. Guess what it was that I suddenly had swimming between my boots…

    @Adrian: The D300 does not support wireless like the cheaper models, so what wireless option is there? Is there any third party product that lets you program the shutter time, countdowns, intervals and is easy to attach with big chubby fingers?

  10. Fiiiiiewwww. I thought I was going to be the only one! I broke mine at Abraham Lake too. Shooting the first day at -30 something. The cable froze up and shattered. That was the end of that. I wonder if the expensive Canon one any better. Your opinion?

    • Nope, the timer release is no better. The heat shrink is working out pretty well though!

      • The funny thing is that I NEVER had any issues with the old canon remote. Not the timer one. I shot multiple times in -insane temperatures and never did this little thing gave up. With the 5DmkII I had to upgrade. And that 3 pin connector. WTF! That is just crap. Redesign this canon please!

  11. Sam, if you can’t unscrew the connector in the cold, just step on the remote as you pick up your camera. All the pins easily rip out of that pesky connector in a split second with absolutely no resistance at all and voila! you don’t need to unscrew it in the cold……

    I also find throwing your MC-36 remote (the expensive one) at the ice helps. Well, it makes you feel better but ruins any chance of fixing it….

  12. Olivier, having shot both Canon and Nikon, I find the Canon cable releases are a bit easier to put on and off and do last longer. Although as Floris said, they tend to break down near the trigger instead of on the plug. Darwin has broken a few that way. They don’t make these things for cold weather and repeated use!!

  13. Stephane, I feel your pain, man! Abraham Lake claims another….

  14. Your problem is using a camera designed for sports and not landscape photography.

  15. I would just buy a cable release off ebay. The one I used lasted for quite some time and even in the cold. That is until it fell off a cliff….

  16. […] tour that resulted in frost-bite, a car accident and broken cable releases (be sure to check out Sam’s rant against Nikon on this latter point). Dan was a good sport and enthusiastic photographer in spite of the cold. […]

  17. There are some inexpensive Chinese versions available. They push in in lieu of the frustrating screw type some genius at Nikon was paid to design. With my large, arthritic hands, you do not screw these on a Nikon body in the cold weather. It is difficult in 20+ weather.
    Push on Chinese copy is the answer to my issue.

  18. Carry a spare from eBay. Even if they only last a couple of months in the cold, at least you can get the shot.

    There are also a few I have seen on eBay that go straight in so there might be less strain going in and out of the bag.

  19. It isn’t just the Nikon cable releases, the Canon ones are as bad, everyone I know that owns either a Nikon or Canon cable release complains about them. My solution was to buy an $8 Opteka version, it’s almost identical and at that price I’ll happily carry two with me and not be upset if I have to replace them once a year

  20. Sam, I just ordered 5, yes, I said 5 cable releases from ebay for 21.20 with free shipping. That way, next time I’m on a winter tour I can use 1 a day!

  21. yay, a place to finally complain about the Nikon cable release!

    this thing sucks. mine cracked in the first week. the little plastic bit that goes into the camera where the pins are. still goes in though. so hard to screw in and out when your hands are cold and wet. bah! usually i leave it in un-screwed, so it falls out occasionally, but that makes it easy to put in and out of my bag since it falls by itself before putting it in my bag.

    my other gripe with this thing is that it gets in the way of the qr-lever on my really right stuff bracket and ballhead. this is only when i’m in portrait mode. so i have to flip the bracket 180deg but that means the little bubble-level in the clamp is now at the front where i can’t see it!!!

    hmm, time to look into wireless.

  22. I hear ya!!!! I too am on my third cable release in less than 3 years. I am glad it is not just me abusing it. This is the first one that has frayed like yours did, whereas the other two just died. In the middle of the rockies in the winter and it died, twice. Yes I was shooting in the cold, yes I abuse them slightly and yes they get banged around a bit BUT when I had the little remote button for my D50 I never had these problems. I guess the lesson here is to have a back-up button, just in case. I have been left out in the cold waiting for the 2 second timer one too many times and now I need to purchase ANOTHER one – Got get ’em Sam!!

  23. As one of the Brits that got the frost-bite (the tips of my fingers still feel as though they’ve got little electric sparks in them as the numbness wears off) I can only say that my cable is a Canon. I pulled it out of my Canon 40D easily enough but it was quite a job to bend it to put in my pocket as it was frozen in a straight line! Eventually it relented…..without breaking.

  24. And it’s not 5:29am here at the moment – it’s 12:30pm!

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