A few photogs asked if I would write up a review of the Promote Control. I am not a professional by any means but I would be glad to give my opinions and impression of the Promote Control, and then, my reasoning on why I take so many brackets.
If you shoot with Canon, and some Nikon models, you are well aware that you can only bracket 3 exposures (AEB) without having to touch the camera. We all know what happens when you have to fumble around with knobs or dials in the middle of brackets, it works, I used to do it that way all the time, but there is a price you pay in sharpness with the slightest camera movement. The Promote Control from Promote Systems is a stand alone remote control that can solve the limited bracketing problems of the Canon shooters. The unit is a bit Pricey but I would not go shooting HDR without it.
The unit comes with a remote cable, a nice case and neck strap, and a USB cable for updating firmware. They offer a second shutter release cable, that I have, to speed up the exposure sequence, the extra cable is about 15 bucks and is required for the mirror lockup function.
The remote itself has four modes, One Shot, Time Lapse, manual Hold and the HDR mode. You can also use mirror lock-up through the remote control when in HDR mode. I have not used any of the other modes at this point.
The unit is pretty easy to program and start using right out of the box, a few initial setup items and your ready to bracket. I normally always shoot in 1ev steps, this is programmable on the remote as well and can be changed for each shot should you desire, but I normally leave it set to 1ev step brackets.
With cable(s) attached to your camera, setup and compose your shot as you normally would. After the scene is composed I will make sure focus is dead on(unlike the crappy hurried pics below lol), usually I will flip to manual focus and use my live view to make sure everything is nice and sharp. Next, meter your shot and get the exposure you will use to program the Promote. The promote calculates the brackets or total exposures based on your input of the 0-ev or mid exposure. If your 0-ev or mid exposure is 1/10 sec. you program that number into the remote and it will automatically calculate the brackets (total exposures) based on how many shots you want to take, for 13 the Promote will calculate 6 exposures above the mid exposure, and 6 below the mid exposure.
The number of shots or total exposures can also be changed, and sometimes needs to be changed depending on the scene you are shooting. Sometimes the range of brackets can exceed the camera capabilities for the current f stop you are shooting at, when this happens an invalid entry comes up on the remote in the total exposure setting on the remote, at this point you need to adjust the camera f stop or number of exposures to get the range back down to normal operating capabilities. Once you have all that set, hit the middle button on the remote, then press start and your brackets will rattle off. It’s a sweet tool for sure, but not without its bugs as I will go over as well. I have attached some pics of my normal setup, and screen shots of the actual remote in HDR mode to better describe the settings that were explained
The Promote Pro’s-
- If you shoot High Dynamic Range, and you like more than three brackets, the unit is AWESOME
- Easy setup out of the box
- powered by AA batteries and has a long life on a set of batteries(I am still on my first set, new in June)
- small size, easy to work with and backlit for easy use in the dark
- If your limited to 3 and want to shoot more, I highly recommend this unit
- Customer service is second to none (SEE CONS)
The Promote Cons-
- The unit is not cheap, and actually went up in price from when I , I mean my Empress, purchased the unit for my B-Day, currently $329, when you add the optional cable, add another $15-20 bucks it’s a pricey little unit to say the least, good thing the Empress spoils me!
- This unit has failed me twice while shooting, the first incident was a cable failure. I emailed Promote and they immediately contacted me and diagnosed the issue, within days I had a replacement cable, not just one, but they sent a spare as well, no charge. The second failure was on a cold morning in Gettysburg this last trip, I think it was another cable issue related to the cold temp. that morning, I was trying to get a set of shots and the unit would not fire, a few minutes into the warm car everything was working fine again with no other issues after that, so maybe it was a fluke, but I would go on to say that the cables could be touchy and should be handled with care. Even tough the cable failed it was the shutter cable, so in the first instance I was able to bracket, just not quite as fast with the optional cable.
- It’s a little longer to set up than just pulling out your Nikon that fires 9 brackets, so if your shooting with a Nikon photographer they might look at you funny and think your really slow at getting brackets( Dave D. did, course I might just be funny looking )
Overall I love mine and would not be without it, hopefully I covered everything in enough detail to give you a better understanding of the unit and how it operates.
Everyone asks me why I take 13 exposures, why so many? is it necessary?
My answer-maybe not all the time but the more exposures the better, and I have some examples to back that up.
More exposures means more Dynamic Range, I would say 13 may be excessive, yes, but if you have a fast car you drive fast every now and then right? Same with this, if you were limited to 3 brackets before, and all of a sudden you can have as many as you want, you tend to bracket as many as you can. More brackets mean more light and more Dynamic range captured, also and less noise and better color as I will demonstrate below.
Another big reason, if you are out shooting sometimes things look different in the LCD than they do when you get home and pull them up in Lightroom or your software of choice, ever capture a scene and wish you just had one more +ev exposure, or 1 more -ev exposure because something might be a bit blown out or your just missing some crucial details? Well, if you take more than you need your covered for this issue, and can actually move your mid exposure in your series to capture the frames you need, extra frames are a good thing and this has helped me several times. Also, the shots add up, so the camera wears out quicker and you can get that full frame sooner! It’s a Win Win!
Below are different crops from 2 sets of brackets of the same scene
- On Tripod
- Same Camera 7D
- same mid exposure and aperture 1/10 sec @ f10, taken minutes apart
- Both processed in Photomatix, exact same settings for both
- absolutely no noise reduction or post processing other than cropping parts of the image and Photomatix
The first set of brackets were taken with the 7D AEB 3 shots +/- 2ev
The second set of brackets, 13 with the same mid bracket, only +/-6 ev with the 13 exposures 1 ev step apart
- The 13 exposure merged shot had way less noise than the 3 exposure
- The 13 exposure merged shot had much better color rendition of the actual scene than the 3 exposure shot had
- The 3 exposure shot had color issues and some bad chromatic aberrations going on in spots-
Overall, both sets of brackets can be processed further and eliminate the issues, but less processing means more time to shoot, especially if you’re getting rid of bad things in a photo like noise and chromatic aberrations, so that’s why I bracket away like machine gun Kelly, it’s fun and I have a little evidence to back it up. Look at the colors, noise and colors outside the window. Much more natural with 13 exposures. Our walls are not orange toned, they are brown!
Now Look Closer, 3 exp noise and color issues
13 exp, much less noise and more natural colors overall
Same with the colors here, the first is the 3 exp.
and the 13 exp
Take away what you want from this, but rest assured, I will always be firing like machine gun Kelly, the more the merrier!until next time, Cheers! You can find more information and reviews on the Promote Website.