Accidental Discovery: A New Use for an Old Tool

Switronix video remote for 5D Mark II and 7D
Switronix video remote for 5D Mark II and 7D - Photo copyright Switronix


Yesterday, while browsing through my e-mail, I came across as ad that highlighted the use of the Switronix FLEX DSLR remote to trigger the recording of video on either the Canon 5D Mark II or the Canon 7D.  I was puzzled, at first, by why such a device was even necessary, before realizing that it clamps onto some of the shoulder and waist-mount rigs for video cameras that make reaching for the “video start” button on the camera awkward.

The FLEX remote uses a semi-rigid cable to go in front of either camera’s infrared sensor that was designed for use with Canon’s own infrared remote, but those are just for still photos, right?



I still have my trusty Canon RC-1, recently discontinued after close to two decades of production.  It was introduced by Canon in 1991 with the EOS Elan (EOS 100 outside of North America), and became a feature of the Elan series (the Elan II and the Elan 7 also used this remote) and some bodies in the Rebel series.

The remote works just like a cable release, but without the cable.  What made it particularly slick was that it gave the photographer the choice of tripping the shutter immediately, or after a two-second delay.  The Elan, like many cameras in its class, didn’t have a built-in two-second delay, only a ten-second count-down timer.  The remote, in effect, added a feature to the camera.  Suddenly, the only reason to have a cable release was for locking the shutter open in a bulb exposure.

Canon RC-1 Infrared Remote Control
Canon RC-1 Infrared Remote Control

I can recall John Shaw commenting incredulously at a seminar held in Milwaukee  in the mid-90’s that Canon made a cool remote control, but for some reason only made it available on one or two consumer cameras, but not on their professional bodies.

When digital cameras came along, in typical Canon fashion, they made this useful tool only available for the lower-end Rebel series.  Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Canon?

While it’s still not compatible with the 1D series cameras, Canon finally made the remote control work with the 5D Mark II and the 7D, and incorporated an interesting trick.

A Remote for Video as well as Stills

The RC-1, and its replacement, the RC-6, can be used with either camera for still photography.  Switch the drive mode to the countdown/remote mode (either 10 seconds or two seconds) and click the button on the remote.  But, if you switch to movie mode (Live View with video enabled on the 5D Mark II), its functionality changes.

The standard photo mode trips the shutter for a photo during video recording.  Setting the remote control to the “2” mark (for a two-second delay) activates (or deactivates) video recording. Cool.

If you don’t own a remote control but have a 5D Mark II or a 7D, I would suggest owning a remote; the video functionality is just the icing on the cake to a versatile and convenient accessory. And don’t worry about the batteries: I’m still in my first set. From 1991.

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