Introduction: How to Build a Shutter Release Cable for the Canon EOS Rebel T3i

About: Builder, Programmer, Electronics Enthusiast, DIYer


One of the things that plague photography, particularly long exposure photography is unintentional blurring of the image, often caused by knocking of the camera.

The best defense against blurred pictures is to use a tripod and follow the rule "hands off the camera". But how do you take a photo with your hands off the camera?

IR Remote Control
An IR remote control works pretty much the same as the remote you use to turn your TV on and off, except instead of turning the tele on and off the IR Remote Control for your camera allows you to take photos, and in some cases control basic attributes of the camera.

Problem with an IR remote control is that it doesn't work to well in bright conditions and it requires batteries as well as requires you to be roughly in front of the camera.

Shutter Release Cable
A shutter release cable is basically a device that connects to the camera and either electronically or mechanically manipulates the camera shutter button.

On the Canon EOS Rebel T3i it is an electronic remote that often has an intervalometer and other smarts built in.

These range from about $40 on ebay (some have a timer, others are just a button) all the way up to $70+ for the smarty pants ones that are wireless.

The funny thing is though, there isn't all that much to building your own and it doesn't cost all that much in both time and money.

Step 1: Disclaimer

Legal Crap

I claim no responsibility if you break your camera building this accessory, some how electrocute yourself with the flash capacitor or kill a kitten or inflict or receive any harm or misfortune.

By undertaking this instructable you do so at your own risk.

Whilst I have made every best effort to insure this instructable is accurate given the fact I am not a professional there may be errors. If you find any please let me know either by PM or by posting on the instructable.

Now that we got the legal crap out of the way, lets get onto the building :)

Step 2: Shutter Release Pinout

The shutter release plug for the Canon EOS Rebel T3i is a 2.5mm Stereo plug aka TRS Plug.

The pin out is as shown in the picture.

To take a photo one must ground the AF/Shutter wire and then whilst the AF/Shutter wire is grounded you ground the shutter release wire which results in a photo being taken.

Step 3: Bill of Materials

I bought all of my bits from Jaycar, a leading electronics retailer in Australia. You should be able to find the respective parts from places like Farnell, Digikey or Radioshack

Catalog Numbers and prices are listed for Jaycar Australia as of 18th of April 2012 and are in Australian Dollars

Required Parts/Components (Description - Cat Number - Price Each - Sub Total)
  • 1x 2.5mm stereo plug to 3.5mm stereo socket adapter - PA-3532 - $3.95 - $3.95
  • 1x 3.5mm Stereo panel mount socket - PS-0132 - $2.45 - $2.45
  • 2x Buttons (SPST, Momentary, Normally Open) - SP-0710 - $1.65 - $3.30
  • Some solid core wire (e.g. prototyping wire)
  • 1x UB5 Jiffybox (iMac blue) - HB-6004 - $3.45 - $3.45
  • 1.5m (4ft 11 1/16 inches) 3.5mm Stereo Audio Lead - WA-7008 - $4.95 - $4.95

Total: $18.10 AUD

Required Tools
  • Soldering Station
  • Solder (I used 60/40 tin lead, you can use lead free if you wish)
  • Cordless Drill
  • Safety Glasses
  • 2mm drill bit
  • 2.5mm drill bit
  • 3.3mm drill bit
  • 4.0mm drill bit
  • 5.5mm drill bit
  • 6.5mm drill bit
  • Electricians Tape
  • Scissors
  • Multi-meter (optional but handy)

Step 4: Solder the Two Ground Wires to the Sleeve Lug

Get two of the wires and loop them through the sleeve lug (if unsure refer to picture)

Step 5: Solder a Wire to the Ring Lug

Solder a wire to the ring lug, this wire will end up being the AF/Half press button

Step 6: Solder the Last Free Wire to the Tip Lug

Solder the last wire to the tip lug, this will be the wire that goes to the shutter release button.

Step 7: Solder the Buttons to the Wire Loom

Take one of your button and solder the ground wire and the tip wire to the button

Then take the remaining button and solder the remaining wires to it.

(In the picture the yellow wire is the shutter release/half and the blue/black wires are ground)

This step concludes the soldering :)

Step 8: Test It

Before you go and start building the enclosure, it's best to test your wiring to make sure it works.

Use the 2.5mm - 3.5mm stereo plug adapter to connect your 3.5mm stereo lead to your camera.

Then connect your wiring loom.

Turn on the camera and press one of the buttons. It's easiest to do this with live view on.

Check to see if the focus rectangle has gone green. If so the button you have pressed is the AF/Half Shutter. Note that with the shutter button it will also change colours but in my experience it usually changes to orange instead of green.

While still holding the AF button, press the shutter button. The camera should take a photo, if not, try the procedure again but the other way around.

Mark the wire with some tape or permanent marker so you know which one is which.

Step 9: Build the Enclosure - Installing the Hardware

When building the enclosure you need to bare in mind that the jiffy boxes are made of reasonably fragile plastic so thus care must be taken when drilling holes.

Get some of the sparkie tape (electrician's tape) and use it to tape the closure shut (this will reduce the risk of cracking the enclosure)

Installing the buttons
  1. Get the 2.5mm drill bit and drill your first hole in the side of the enclosure
  2. Next, enlarge the hole with a 3.3mm drill bit
  3. Then 4.0mm
  4. Then 5.5mm
  5. And finally the 6.5mm bit.
  6. Test the side of the hole with the button, if it doesn't fit, gently use the scissors to enlarge the hole.
  7. Install the button
  8. Rinse and repeat the above (1-7) for the second button
  9. Label the buttons with their function

Installing the 3.5mm stereo socket
  1. Drill a 2.5mm hole in the bottom of the enclosure
  2. Use the same pattern above as shown in steps 1-4
  3. Test the hole, if its too small for the socket then use the scissors again to enlarge the hole until it fits
Attaching the lid
The jiffy boxes have a nasty tenancy for the screws to get stuck and then you end up stripping the head. To avoid this I drill out the stand offs to make the hole a little larger.

NOTE:Only follow these instructions if you got your Jiffybox from Jaycar, other jiffy boxes may use smaller/larger fasteners and may even work without requiring this drilling
  1. Drill out the standout posts with a 2.5mm drill bit, do this slowly to avoid damaging the plastic
  2. Attach the lid to the enclosure
  3. SLOWLY screw in the lid, if you screw it in too fast the plastic could cease up and cause you to strip the head off the screw

Step 10: Finished Product

Here it is the finished product.

Hope you all have enjoyed my first proper instructable and I hope it makes your life in photography easier :)

Step 11: How to Use

  • 1x shutter release remote
  • 1x 2.5mm plug to 3.5mm socket (stereo) *
  • 1x 3.5mm plug to 3.5mm 1.5m long stereo audio lead *
* Can be substituted with a 2.5mm plug to 3.5mm plug lead if the 2.5mm plug isn't too big.

  1. Connect the adapter to your lead
  2. Connect the adapter to your camera
  3. Connect the other end of the lead to the remote
  4. Depress the AF/Half Shutter button to "arm" the camera
  5. Press the shutter button to take a photo.