Pentax (and others) DSLR cable shutter release from hands-free cell phone kit

Picture of Pentax (and others) DSLR cable shutter release from hands-free cell phone kit
I'm trying to get into HDR photography, which usually requires some very long exposure shots. The best way to do this is with a tripod and a shutter release. I got the tripod off Craigslist, but the shuuter release was too expensive for me, so I set off to make my own. This is inspired by this tutorial for a Canon DSLR.
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Step 1: Materials & tools

Picture of Materials & tools
To keep this on the cheap, I kept it minimal. The most expensive item was the hands-free phone kit; on sale for $10. Check the comments. One was found at a dollar store. $1!
(1) Hands-free cell phone kit
IMPORTANT: The DSLRs take a 3/32" stereo plug. See the picture for details.
(2) Momentary buttons (two colors)
(1) Mini micro switch
(1) Enclosure, for me a wonderfully ironic 35mm film canister
extra wire

Drill & bits
Soldering iron and solder
Wire stripping tools
Mad Skillz (which you have, because you're cool enough to find this)

Step 2: Break open the mic

Picture of Break open the mic
Be destructive, but gentle
You may not get the same model kit, so some experimentation is required.
Inside the microphone box was a tiny circuit board hooked to 4 wires. I plugged in the kit to my camera for testing. Don't worry, there' s no current in these wires. I took my knife and shorted various combinations and observed the results. I found that two are ground wires, and the other two have functions:
Red: focus
White: shutter
Copper: ground
Blue: ground
By connecting the Red to a ground, the camera focused. Wonderful news.

We will now make button to do this work for us.

Step 3: Solder up the connections

Picture of Solder up the connections
Using the diagram below from Roger Cline, Assemble and solder your buttons and switch. Test it often to avoid mistakes. When you're done, protect from short circuits with some tape.

Step 4: Make an enclosure

Picture of Make an enclosure
Here I used an empty 35mm film can from the girlfriend. I used the recycle symbol on the bottom to perfectly align my three controls and poked holes for drilling. Then using a similar bit to the one recommended on the button packaging, I drilled 3 holes.
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bertwert10 months ago

THis looks great...

I will make it - eventually.

huspomike11 months ago

eagleapex, nice instructable with cheaper parts.

I'd love it if you went from 'cheaper' parts, to totally 'cheap' parts or scavenged/free parts.

of stuff around the home, or in the free listings at
craigslist/freestuff will contain the momentary toggle switch. Saves
spending $4-9 at radio shack.

And you need to advise people to
look deeply into their attics or basement storage areas for old
electronics to recycle. A headset will not always get recycled into
another headset; but it is just as useful ! Phone extension cables will not always be recycled for phones; yet they are infinitely useful.

Thanks again for the instructable, and consider changing the title from "Pentax cable" to "Pentax & other camera cable".

eagleapex (author)  huspomike11 months ago

I'm glad you liked it! I'll change the title a bit.

Shadist6 years ago
Here is mine. For reasons unknown I am being told to not take it to the airport.
jdlee77 Shadist3 years ago
haha looks like a "clacker"
lol just remember to take off your shoes
eagleapex (author)  Shadist6 years ago
Nonsense. Enjoy your freedom while it lasts!
Shadist Shadist6 years ago
And, since I forgot to say, this was really rather easy and I think you for posting it. . . worked out beautifully.
btmnet4 years ago
Is it work with Canon D60?
DrGabriel5 years ago
 Thank You.  I couldn't use it because the Pentax k-x doesn't have a physical shutter release input.. but the instructable led me to search Ebay where I found a new infrared one for 4 dollars.
beshur5 years ago
Great tutor! :))

Thank you so much!

I have had so much fun yesterday ))

Just have a look at it:
eagleapex (author)  beshur5 years ago
Thanks for the build. I hope it works well for you.
oppizzippo5 years ago
Excellent! Will be working on this over the July 4th weekend.
Bloody brilliant. Those things are ridiculously overpriced...I can think of many uses for this--setting up auto-triggers and such.
rhiro19266 years ago
I just finished mine in time for a Christmas present for my girlfriend. I tried it out on her Pentax K10D, and it works as advertised. I wasn't willing to shell out $30+ for the commercial one. I had all the parts on hand in my junk box, and mounted these in an empty Oral-B "Satin Floss" dental floss container that I thought several months ago was too cute to throw away. The ergonomics of the dental floss case by itself felt a little uncomfortable, so I grafted on a smaller matching dental floss container that I got as a freebie from my dentist. The 3/32" cable assembly is from a broken set of headphones, and is a generous 4+ ft long. I decided to connect this to the case via a standard 1/8" stereo plug and jack. This allows the cable to be replaceable as well as allows the use of a standard stereo headphone extension cable. Plus I can use the cable assembly with a time lapse shuttle release gizmo (also on Instructables), which is probably my next project. Nice Instructable. Thanks!
wingman3587 years ago
Unfortunately, my Pentax IST *dL does not support manual shutter release, even with a remote. It does, however, support autofocusing and timed shutter release with remote. I was hoping I would be able to gain the ability to leave the shutter open indefinitely with this remote, however, that is not the case. Oh well. Thanks for the cool instructable that saved me $30 and will improve my photography!
I just made one for my *ist DL and it works fine on the bulb setting for me (open shutter indefinitely). I don't know if it eventually times out but it works just like the shutter button on mine. One button for half press, the other button for full press. Thanks for the instructable.
Wow.... Wingman, I also run a Pentax *IST DL and have built several of these for myself and a few friends who also run Pentax *IST DL and Pentax K10D cameras. I can verify that this will work with the camera. The circuit works an absolute treat. I normally buy the parts from Jaycar here is AU and build them from scratch.. On the camera, opposite side to where you put the memory card, there is another door. Open the door and there inside are three sockets. The top one is for the external cable release. Also if you ever need a replacement IR remote you can get one of those programmable television ones and set it to a sharp television. (I think. Been a long time since I programmed mine) This will also control the camera through the IR port.
The key tidbit that I needed to know was that the camera must be on "bulb" mode. Once I figured that out, my cable shutter release worked perfectly.
Okedoke... Yep would definitely need bulb mode to use the toggle switch in the circuit properly.
silvernotes7 years ago
haha, mine is not nearly as pretty or crafty as y'all's models. but this is the first time I've ever done anything like this. I can control the shutter, but whenever I flip the switch, the camera auto-focuses and takes whenever it's ready. IE the black switch has NO function whatsoever :-) Pero, Gracias para tu buena idea!!
silvernotes7 years ago
H'okay, so: 1) The colors of the wires inside my 2.5mm cable are different from the listed ones. Green and Blue wires were connected to the speaker, and the large covered red one (with a copper and red wires inside) were connected to the microphone. ...After testing, the bulb switch worked by switching on and off (this was the green cable w/ the big red ones as ground). The Auto Focus was also connected to the green one and worked whenever the bulb switch was on. The blue cable does nothing. ????????? 2) I'm using 3 switches, instead of one switch and 2 buttons btw anyone know what went wrong?
eagleapex (author)  silvernotes7 years ago
The colors of the wire vary from kit to kit, so don't stick to that. Basically you should have a ground wire or common wore, a shutter wire, and a focus wire. Test which is which and match it up to the diagram in step 3. Also switches will work fine, just remember some sort of standard for the on/off positions. For instance, all the switches face one direction when off.
tobrew7 years ago
It works great with my Pentax K100D. Thanks for the Instructable.
Nice job, this is great. I love small stuff like this, great job. (added to favorites)
easyrider17 years ago
made one for my canon rebel xti,it works great! i used some pvc pipe with a cap on each end and the switches on the side. took some haloween pictures with it. went to the cemetary the other night and set a flashlight up behind a headstone facing toward me with my scarey face on. i then had my wife switch on the camera (bulb exp. about f4 iso 100). after about 8-10 seconds i ducked down,turned off the light then ran out of the frame of the camera,went back around behind the camera and shined the flashlight briefly on the headstones to make them show up and look a little creepy. total exposure time about 2-2.25 minutes.also took ones of my wife too. these made real cool haloween pictures. and to think i was afraid of the dark when i was a kid. thanks for the instructable.a+++
theyangster7 years ago
I have an rebel xti, which uses the same plug and wiring.

I modified mine a bit to make it "nicer", though at the same time, I've made it look more "deadly".

I used:
1 2.5mm/ 3/32in headphone jack from mobile phone headset
2 radioshack momentary switches $4
1 Radioshack blinky led module ~$4 (comes with intergrated OFF/On switch which we can use to our advantage ;) )
1 screw in terminal (or you can just solder them all together)
random wires

Solder iron
precision screwdrivers
boxcutter/ exacto knife

Basic instructions
take blinky led module, rip out all metal inside, though carefully remove the OFF/ON swtich (top is held by "melted" pegs, just chop off top of peg, keep that cover), you'll need it later

Also cut off center divider in box, you'll need some room...

You'll need to make some room for the momentary switches, so you'll need to cut into where the "metal terminals" used to be, to get a flush mount.

and follow the wiring diagram in this instructable
I wired mine as:
red is autofocus
black is shutter release + bulb (ON/OFF switch)

Bulb exposure is under the "M" mode and you'll need to scroll to "BULB"
if you flick switch to ON in any other mode, it'll just do burst until buffer fills

I swear, be careful when you use this in public, it looks like a um....yeah..remote detonator?

Here's the pics

ruzter7 years ago
Thanks for the info! I build one for a friend but couldn't decide how long to make the cable so I wired it with 4 wire phone jacks and he can use whatever length he wants!
amateur67 years ago
This is the first instructable I've followed -- easy to understand and cheap! I didn't need a long cable, just wanted to keep from holding the button down on the IR remote for long exposures. I also wanted something other than the film canister (ironic though it is), so I hacked together two bic lighter bottoms as shown below. I couldn't be happier! Thanks for the confidence-builder.
eagleapex (author)  amateur67 years ago
Looking good. It's a confidence builder on this end to see people really dig on the project. Thanks for making one!
gpaterson7 years ago
I finally got around to making one of these for myself as taking long exposures with my <a href="">ir remote</a> was an exercise in finger cramp.

I cannibalised an old PC headset/microphone for a nice 2.5m length of cable, combined it with the requisite switches in a tiny plastic project box I had and bob's your uncle!

Thanks for the great instructable.
jesusali8 years ago
I've made two of these for my Canon Rebel XT. They work great. I go to the thrift store and get old "Airplane" style joysticks though. They usually have a "trigger finger" switch and a top thumb switch. You can play, using one or the other to be your FOCUS button and the SHUTTER RELEASE. You can also drill a hole to add a toggle, but this is only necessary is you want long Bulb exposures, (for twirly pictures of stars and stuff).
If you want to get rid of the "twirly" part of your star photos, have a look into "barn door tracker". If you can't find a link I have one saved somewhere.....
Hi I have a Canon Rebel XT and would like to build one, do you have instructions to make one? thanks Oscar
You can get the jack here (at Mouser) for $1.35. They are also known as 2.5mm plugs in case you want to go searching.
quicumque8 years ago
Good instructable. I was planning to make one of these a little while back for my Pentax. One note: if you use the cable release you are going to want to have a viewfinder cover. My K100D came with one, but pretty much anything black over the viewfinder will do the trick.
eagleapex (author)  quicumque8 years ago
Stupid question: why do you need to cover the viewfinder?
Not too stupid. The viwfinder lets light in from the back of the camera and can throw the automatic exposure off. Covering the eyepiece prevents this. A inch of black electrical tape or gaffers tape will prevent this. This applies to any make/model of camera.
most SLR's come with a little black bit of plastic that slides into place
hernanai8 years ago
I like the fact that he has iTunes playing in the background while he's doing this... Note: the second picture (the one where he shows the hands free headset.)
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