Keeps Time — But Can You Dance To It?


I’m always on the lookout for gadgets that can make my photography easier or more productive. On my October 2001Great Smoky Workshopone of the members was using theCanon TC-80N3timer / remote. I’d never seen one before, though I knew it existed.

While I religiously use theRS-80N3electric release whenever my Canon is tripod mounted, the idea of having a sophisticated timer-release fascinated me. So, as soon as I returned home I picked one up. At about USD $200 this is not inexpensive, but when you realize the functionality that it provides it’s cheap at twice the price.(The TC-80N3 will work with the EOS-3, EOS-1V, EOS-D30 , EOS-D60, EPS-10D, EOS 1D and EOS 1Ds ).

Star Trails — Grand Canyon — May, 2000


Little larger than a standard electronic remote release the TC-80N3 has quite a few more controls. But before looking at what they do let’s understand what functions this unit is capable of and under what shooting situations you would use them.

The four primary functions areSelf Timer,Interval Timer,Long Exposureand theExposure Count Setting.

Self Timer

Just like the self timer on your camera. Except where most Canon bodies offer either a 2 second delay or a 10 second delay, the TC-80N3 allows you to set any delay (in 1 second increments) up to 99 hours, 99 minutes and 99 seconds. Let’s call it 100 hours. That’s just over 4 days!

Interval Timer

The Interval Timer can be set to any time period up to 100 hours as well. If you set it to 10 minutes, for example, one exposure will be taken every 10 minutes until either the film runs out or theExposure Countlimit has been reached. 

Long Exposure

This one is easy. It allows you to take time exposures up to (you guessed it) 100 hours in length.

Exposure Count

This fourth and final setting permits you to set the number of exposures that will be taken, up to a total 99. If you set it to 3 exposures you can combine it with an EOS body’s auto-bracketing capability.

Blue Ridge Skyscape — 2001

For example, if you were about to shoot a rapidly changing sunset you could set the camera to take a three frame bracketed exposure every 2 minutes for the next 20 minutes. That would give you 30 frames, almost a full roll. While one camera was doing this by itself you could use a second camera to try alternative compositions and to explore lens variations. (Seebelowfor specific details on how to accomplish this).

In The Field

Each of these capabilities is pretty useful in and of themselves. The real strength of the TC-80N3 though lies though in its ability combine them in useful ways as described in the example above.

Aurora — Muskoka Ontario, Canada — October, 2000

Some other real-world applications include when doing astronomical photography. Star trails, meteor showers, northern lights — all of these require long exposure, sequential exposures and variable timing and counts. For example during a meteor shower you might want to set the camera up with a TC-80N3 set so that a new 5 minute-long exposure is taken every 15 minutes for the next 4 hours. The possibilities are endless.

What canyouuse it for?


In addition to what’s been described above, the TC-80N3 also function as a straightforward remote shutter release. A slight press on the release activates the camera’s metering and autofocus and then a further press releases the shutter. There is also a lock position that permits manually setting a long exposure time. 

A built-in light illuminates the LCD screen for 6 seconds each time it’s pressed, and there is a lock capability that ensures that a pre-set combination of functions are not accidentally disturbed. Finally, there is a reset function to quickly put all settings back to zero. 

A Special Technique

You would think that setting the TC-80N3 to be able to do a series of automated bracketed exposures would be straightforward, but it isn’t. The trick is to set the camera itself to self timer mode (2 second is preferred to 10 second, if your camera model has it), and of course to auto bracketing. Then set theIntervalon the TC-80N3 to how long you’d like the pauses to be between sets of exposures (say, 5 minutes). Next setFramesto the number of times that you’d like the series of bracketed exposures to be taken.

Note that mirror lock up can’t be used if you use this method.