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Harbortronics
DigiSnap 1000



DigiSnap 1000

(Note: Current DigiSnap owners please read the 7/18/00 update for important news about a free firmware upgrade. Your DigiSnap will now be able to use the LCD on the Nikon 950!)

Also see our DigiSnap 2000 review



The DigiSnap 1000 by Harbortronics is a wired remote control for digital cameras. It works via the camera's serial port and can be used to take single pictures or a sequence of timelapse shots.

The DigiSnap 1000 is connected to your camera using the same serial port cable that you use for image downloading to the computer. Instead of plugging it into your computer's serial port you plug it into the DB-9 connector on the top of the DigiSnap. The only user control on the DigiSnap is a single pushbutton switch that activates the unit. A blinking LED lets you know it is communicating with the camera or waiting to do a timelapse sequence.

By default it is set to communicate with the camera and send it a signal to take a single picture. In this mode it acts like an electronic cable release, allowing you to trip the shutter without touching the camera. Because it is all electronic there is no movement of the camera when tripping the shutter.

By hooking the DigiSnap up to your computer you can program it to take a series of shots with any time delay required. You can easily capture timelapse images of things or even use the camera as a surveillance device, capturing images automatically at preset intervals. It "wakes up" the camera, takes the shot and then puts the camera back to sleep again. Camera settings are saved between exposures.

The frame below shows the configuration menu of the DigiSnap. This is accessed by using any PC terminal program you want. I used the HyperTerminal program that comes standard with the Windows OS to "talk" to the DigiSnap.


*****       www.Harbortronics.com           *****
  DigiSnap 1000, Firmware Version 1.0, 4/8/2000
Remote Shutter Release / Time Lapse Configuration

Current Settings
Number of Pictures to Take : 001
Time Between Pictures   Hours : 000
                      Minutes : 001
                      Seconds : 015

Commands (enter a single letter)

N - Change the Number of Pictures to Take
H - Change the Hours between Pictures
M - Change the Minutes between Pictures
S - Change the Seconds between Pictures
R - Reset to single Picture (No time lapse)
I - Set to Infinite Pictures (time lapse forever)
L - Display Results of Last Time Lapse operation
D - Display Serial Number of DigiSnap
Q - Quit (Save Changes, Shut DigiSnap off)

>


The serial communications are carried out at 19,200 baudrate so you can use a very long cable run between the DigiSnap and the camera. Tha manufacturer has tested it with a cable as long as 700 feet!



DigiSnap 1000

Here's the DigiSnap connected to a Nikon Coolpix 950 camera. This camera has been extensively tested with the DigiSnap 1000 and there's a complete page of Nikon 950 information at Harbortronic's site. The Coolpix 950 is very well suited for remote control with the DigiSnap 1000, with all features and settings are completely supported except the internal flash.

The DigiSnap 1000 uses a command protocol shared by many cameras and camera control programs available through the internet. If your camera can be controlled by CamerAid (Mac), PhotoPC (Unix, Windows), CAME (DOS), etc., then it should be compatible with the DigiSnap.

Want to know if the DigiSnap will work with your camera?  The folks at Harbortronics have a test program that runs on PCs and was written in QuickBasic. It may or may not work on some newer computers. You can download it and try it for yourself.

DigiSnap.exe

The DigiSnap manual may be downloaded, it requires the Adobe Acrobat reader:

DigiSnap.pdf


Steve's Conclusion

The only negative to using the DigiSnap 1000 with the Nikon 950 is that the color LCD is turned off once the serial cable is plugged in. The camera must be pre-aimed at the subject or area to be photographed before plugging in the DigiSnap. This does rule it out as a simple electronic shutter release if you need to use the LCD.

The flip side of that equation is the relatively low power drain on the camera while being controlled via the serial port. One set of freshly charged batteries will go a long way. When doing timelapse sequences the camera is put to sleep and awakened just before the next shot is taken and then put back to sleep again. No color LCD useage and no internal flash charging means very long battery life.

If you need the ability to trigger the camera from a distance or wish to do timelapse photography, the DigiSnap performs beautifully. I can't say that I tested it with a 700 foot cable but it worked as advertised on a 12 foot serial cable for me. I had no trouble programming the timelapse settings with my PC laptop and it caused no harm to my Coolpix 950 in actual use. The DigiSnap 1000 has earned its place as another valuable tool in my arsenal of Coolpix gadgets!


Important Update!

I recv'd the following email on 7/18/2000:
    Nikon has recently honored Harbortronics by releasing to us, under a non-disclosure agreement the full serial protocol specification for the Coolpix 950!

    Having access to this specification will allow us to refine our product's firmware to better comply with the camera's protocol, as well as provide other feature of which we were previously unaware. Since the protocol is common to other camera makes, we anticipate most of the future enhancements will also be applicable to cameras beyond the Nikon Coolpix series

    Since receiving the protocol we have already improved the support for the Coolpix 990! When using the 990 with the modified serial cable, the camera will sometimes fail to recognize the attempts made by the DigiSnap to communicate with the camera, which obviously tests the patience of the photographer! We have developed a workaround to this problem, making the process much more reliable. All units shipped starting from July 10, 2000 will incorporate this workaround. This firmware is now available as Version 1.3, and is available to all DigiSnap 1000 owners. They simply need to return the unit to Harbortronics, where we will re-program the unit and return the following working day. The only cost to the owner will be the shipping and handling charges!

    We have also determined that it IS possible to use the LCD on the Coolpix 950 when controlling the camera via it's serial port! This is a VERY exciting development, tremendously increasing the functionality of the DigiSnap 1000 for use as a simple remote release, in addition to it's excellent performance as a time lapse controller. This feature improvement will be available in Version 2.0.

    We anticipate a general release of firmware Version 2.0 in mid August, which will incorporate all of the above changes, plus enhanced features for time lapse photography, and possibly other goodies! This firmware release will again be free to all owners. Another exciting feature of the 2.0 firmware is that it will provide a much easier upgrade path to further feature improvements, allowing the owner to upgrade the DigiSnap firmware via a PC! The upgrade to Version 2.0 will be the last time the owner would need to return the unit to Harbortronics for feature improvements!

    Harbortronics has plans to continue supporting the DigiSnap 1000 product, adding features and enhancements. The comments by the owners have been a great source of inspiration to enhance the product, and we encourage feedback!

    We have already begun development of an accessory board for the DigiSnap 1000 (the entire package will be released as the DigiSnap 1500), adding external I/O all within the same small package. The DigiSnap 1500 will incorporate relay outputs which could be use for external lighting (i.e. charging a flash, illuminating a time lapse scene at night), as well as Infrared signaling for wireless control of the DigiSnap and camera! No other information is yet available about this product, but feel free to email Mark@Harbortronics.com if you have specific I/O requirements.

    Keep checking the website at www.Harbortronics.com/digimain.htm for further announcements!

    To mail your DigiSnap 1000 back for an upgrade, please send to:

    Harbortronics
    P O Box 2663
    Gig Harbor, WA 98335

    (Please send it through the Post Office with insurance and delivery confirmation. This makes the package traceable!)

    Thanks,

    Deborah Roberts
    www.Harbortronics.com





DigiSnap 1000



The DigiSnap 1000 is available now from Harbortronics for $144.95, email  Deborah@Harbortronics.com to place your order.










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