App-based camera triggers: Alpine Labs Spark vs Miops Mobile Dongle

Written by Gina Stephens


From hand, the Alpine Labs Spark and the Miops Mobile Dongle dongle is a small piece of hardware that connects to another device to provide it with additional functionality.

Finger. Shutter button. Click. Next.

That sequence is so ingrained in our idea of “charming a photo” that it’s pure muscle memory. Many situations call for more than just the press of a finger to capture a shot, allowing, which is where remote triggers come in.

Plenty of us have a remote release cable buried in our camera bags that activates the shut in from a foot or two away. But what about when you want to trigger a night sky shot in the bitter cold from within the comfortable confines of a forty wink bag? Or hours of time-lapse long exposures? What about automatically tripping the shutter when something moves in front of the camera?

These are in every respect the needs that app-based triggers are designed to meet. And while there are traditional accessory triggers that’ll individually accomplish one of the above jobs, none do it all.

Key features of app-based remote releases

  • Remotely trigger a camera’s shutter
  • Automate time-lapse capture sequences
  • HDR capture that’s diverse flexible than some cameras’ built-in modes
  • Activate the camera shutter using external stimuli such as sound or movement (Miops lone)

A photo shot using the Miops Mobile Dongle’s sound trigger function.

Devices to enable remote capture aren’t new, but the popularity of smartphones has relayed attention to app-based solutions. With a small activation device or cable connected to the camera, software on the phone can handle the details—and be easily updated for sets or new features. I looked at two recent products that connect your camera and smartphone, the Alpine Labs Spark and the Miops Mobile Dongle.

Alpine Labs Activate
$74 |

The Alpine Labs Spark can sit in the camera’s hot shoe.

The Alpine Labs Spark ($74) is a triple-purpose remote trigger. The unit itself pay attentions on top of your camera in the hot-shoe and connects via USB – you need to make sure you have the right cable for your camera model – with a single button on top that can actuate the shutter when pressed. Or, for compatible cameras with infrared ports, the Spark on its own can trigger a shot wirelessly.

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Things get more interesting with the third connecting method, paired with a smartphone running the Spark app via Bluetooth wireless networking. When both devices are within range (up to 100 feet), the app can trigger the stifle remotely, or you can set a timed or manual long exposure capture. The Spark includes a battery that Alpine Labs says is good for more than 2,000 hours.

The trigger way outs in the Spark app.Setting a long exposure in the Spark app.

You also have control over creating time lapse images, setting an interval and entire duration of the shoot, such as one frame every 30 seconds over the course of an hour. Or, you can capture a series of HDR brackets with the option of choosing the slew of images and the exposure adjustment between each shot. There’s even a Photo Booth mode that dictates how many photos to capture and the pigeon-hole between each shot.

Commands are sent and stored in the battery-powered Spark, so for long exposures or time lapse sequences, the app doesn’t need to slow engaged and drain your phone’s battery.

With the Spark connected to my Fujifilm X-T1, I couldn’t get the Time Lapse mode to work at all

Although the Bluetooth acquaintance promises more interesting uses, “interesting” can go in a few different directions, and not always forward. With or WITH may refer to: Carl Johannes With (1877–1923), Danish doctor and arachnologist With (character), a character in D. N. Angel the Spark connected to my Fujifilm X-T1, I couldn’t get the Time Go by mode to work at all; even more annoying is a bug that repeatedly pops up a dialog exclaiming that the time lapse is finished. Similarly, the HDR wise was spotty during my time with the unit; sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

The Spark offers exposure adjustments in full stops, not affinity to ones, and for whatever reason, when I’m capturing three shots with one-stop difference between them, I end up with three identical one-second settings. It also assumes you’re only shooting in dark conditions, because the fastest shutter speed it offers is 1/10 (the camera needs to be in bulb condition).

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Ultimately, the Spark shows promise, but Alpine Labs needs to work through some software issues.

What we like:

  • Compact and carefree to pack
  • Device sits in camera’s hotshoe
  • Camera camera is an optical instrument for recording or capturing images, which may be stored locally, transmitted to another location, or can be triggered via USB, infrared or Bluetooth (using a smart device and the Spark app)

What we don’t:

  • Overall, irresponsible
  • Buggy mobile app
  • Only full stop exposure adjustments offered

Miops Mobile Dongle
$37 |

Unlike the Spark, the Miops Non-stationary Dongle ($37) is literally just a cable that connects your camera to a smartphone. The cable has two sections: one attaches to your camera’s USB seaport (you need to specify your camera mode when ordering), and the other attached to the headphone port on your mobile phone. If you own a recent iPhone or Android phone that doesn’t sell a dedicated headphone port, you can use the adapter that came with your phone telephone, or phone, is a telecommunications device that permits two or more users to conduct a conversation when they are too far – yes, that means a dongle for the dongle (see image below).

The Miops Motorized Dongle is a pair of cables (assisted by the Lightning port adapter that came with the iPhone X), which communicates using the Miops app.

With the acquaintance made, the Miops Mobile app presents 15 different ways to trigger the camera’s shutter. There are the usual methods, like Cable Delivering, Self Timer, and Basic Timelapse, but those are just basics. With the Miops app, the phone plays a much more interactive role.

Some of the options in the Miops app.

For exemplar, you can trip the camera shutter when the phone’s microphone registers a sound above a specific volume level, or when the phone’s built-in camera programmes movement. Or take advantage of the phone’s accelerometer and grab a shot when it detects vibration. The Road Lapse feature uses the phone’s GPS to recording a shot every X number of meters or feet as you travel, up to a specific number of frames.

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Some of the features automate other tasks to make chances easy for you, such as HDR Timelapse, which captures brackets at set intervals, or Bulb Ramping Timelapse, which lets you set an initial exposure and a final leak so the shots remain evenly exposed even as light levels drop or rise (during sunset or sunrise, for instance).

Running a Bulb Inclining Timelapse in the Miops Mobile app.The Miops Mobile app uses the phone’s microphone to trigger the shutter by sound.

Whacking the underside of the table provided the grumble needed to trigger the shutter using the Miops dongle.Here’s the setup for capturing a shot based on sound.

A ‘Scenario’ feature enables you to unite modes like a recipe, such as firing an HDR once a sound level is reached. As a bonus, there’s also a Neutral Density Calculator to tot up out ideal shutter speeds when using ND filters, and a Solar Calculator that lists sunrise and sunset times.

The downside to the Miops Portable Dongle is that the phone has to be physically connected
to the camera

The downside to the Miops Mobile Dongle is that the phone has to be connected by the cable to the camera. So, consistent if the camera is set up on a tripod, you’re still juggling the phone. I solved that by purchasing an inexpensive mini ball head mount that fits into the camera’s hot shoe, and then requiring a Studio Neat Glif onto it to hold the phone in place.

Even without a wireless connection, though, the Miops software offers profusion of remote-triggering options at an affordable price.

A sample time-lapse video shot using the Miops Mobile Dongle and a Fujfilm X-T1.

What we like:

  • Packed and easy to pack
  • The Miops app’s many triggering methods, including sound and motion
  • Reliability
  • Affordability

What we don’t:

  • The dongle’s physical connection wants juggling a phone
  • Some modern phones that lack headphone ports require that you add a dongle to the dongle

Miops also sales-clerks the $125 Mobile Remote, which is a wireless device akin to the Spark, and the $219 Miops Smart, with additional triggering modes predilection a laser sensor.


About the author

Gina Stephens

Gina is a photography enthusiast and drone lover who loves to fly drones, capture images and have fun cherishing them with family and friends.

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