Introduction: A Shutter Release That Will Outlive Your Camera

About: I am a British Graphic Designer and Photographer, when I am not working, I spend my time making an array of projects. I used to make a lot of props, but now I spend most my time building crazy cameras and shoo…

Even a super expensive nice camera is only rated for up to 250,000 'clicks' or photos. I have used a few shutter releases in the past, some I have been impressed with.

Others failed far quicker than I would have liked. I had recently moved to using a mechanical keyboard, which features independent switches opposed to a membrane. The key switches used in them are rated for several million presses.

So I thought, these would be great for a remote shutter. I was working on a stopmotion video a few weeks back and had quickly wired up a remote using one of the switches. It was a joy to use and you could easily activate the camera with the press of a foot too.

So I decided to make a better version using 3 switches, one to focus, one to shoot and a third locking switch to lock the focus. Using a headphone jack and a 3.5mm to 2.5mm audio cable means this is a pretty simple project.

This project involves some soldering, if you have ever thought ‘I would like to learn to solder’ then this is a great project to get you started. As for learning the basics of soldering, there is a great guide you can download here -

Step 1: Parts and Tools

First, lets collect together the parts we need. The key part is the 3.5mm to 2.5mm audio cable. My camera uses the smaller 2.5mm connector for the shutter. If your camera uses a propriety connector, you can get shutter cables that also have the audio connector on the other end. The advantage to using a separate cable is it makes it easy to replace an individual part, instead of the whole unit.

You need three switches, any switches will work. For the focus and the shutter you want to pick out some simple push button switches, push turns it on, release turns it off. For mine I used some mechanical key switches. These ones are made by a company called Cherry. They come with separate key caps, so you can pick and choose what size/colour/shape button to use. Here I have some lower profile square ones, using F or ON for focus, then S or YES to shoot.

Next we need a locking or sliding switch. This is a switch where you set to either on or off and the switch will remain in the desired position. I prefer to use a locking push button switch, when you press it the switch remains depressed, another press will release it up. However a simple toggle switch as pictured works too. Then you need a 3.5mm audio connector and some wire, you can use different colours, you don’t have to, but it can make it easier to see what you are doing.

Then we need the following tools,

  • Soldering Iron
  • Solder
  • Wire Cutters
  • Wire Strippers

Step 2: Find or Make an Enclosure

Finally, you need a case. You can buy all sorts of electronics plastic enclosures that you can easily cut with a
Stanley knife or box-cutter, or you can reuse something else. For mine I used a laser cutter at my local Hackspace to make a custom enclosure. For this tutorial though, I will be using an invisible case so you can see more easily what is going on.

Step 3: Check How Your Camera Connects.

Next we need to find out, or work out which part of the headphone cable does what. On Canon the base of the plug is the ground (this is used to connect a circuit back to the camera), then the middle section is focus and the tip is shoot.

If you are not sure, then you can use a bit of wire to test out which section does what. Most of the time the base of the plug will be the ground. So start with the wire on there and touch it to the other sections and see what it triggers on the camera. Depending on the connector you have to plug the audio cable into, it might not be clear which of those sections relate to which pin. So I recommend plugging it into the connector, then using a wire to work it out.

Step 4: Start Soldering

Now we have all our parts, we know which pin on the audio connector does what, so we can crack on with soldering. These photos are set out nice and clearly for you to follow, no need for circuit diagrams or anything too complicated.

The first bit of wire we want to solder on is the ground wire. Start by soldering this onto the ground pin of your audio connector. You then want to solder it onto one side of every switch. Make sure you insert your switches into the enclosure first if they need to be. These Cherry mechanical keyboard switches DO need to be insert through first.

Step 5: Connect the First Switch

There we go, that wasn’t that hard. If you struggle to hold the items when soldering you can always put them into your enclosure first. Blu-tac is great for holding things in place while soldering too. You can leave the wire covering off this wire if you like. Just make sure to cover the others. I left it on mainly for clarity.

Next you want to solder a wire between your ‘Shoot’ pin on the audio connector and which ever switch you want to use to shoot. For me, its the second switch up.

Step 6: Connect Your Second Switch and the Toggle Switch

The nal wire to put on needs to run from the ‘Focus’ pin connect with the push button you want to use for focus, then connect to the focus locking switch.

Step 7: Circuit Finished

Here you can see the finished example circuit, plus the inside of the original example. You can see there is slight variances just between the parts I used. The wiring can be kept a lot more compact, you can see I left my ground wire un-covered as long as its not touching anything it shouldn’t cause any issues.

The main positive about this project for me, is that if anything ever breaks on the shutter, because I made it from scratch, I am perfectly qualified to fix it. So rather than buying a whole new shutter release, I can put in a new bit of wire or replace a switch.

Step 8: Final Pointers

Also, with making your own, you can tailor it to t your experience perfectly. On mine I used a cable tie to add a hoop onto my shutter, this is great to hang it o the end of my tripod, or to clip it to a belt loop. Coupled with an audio extension cable its really handy when working with a project like stop motion, or with product photography. I can have the camera set up, move a few bits around, then just reach down and quickly fire off the camera before progressing.

Basically make it your own and have fun making it, hopefully learning a few skills along the way too.

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