If you’re stacking for star trail or Milky Way images, having a great timer is crucial. And if it’s easy to use at night is even better. Enter the Phottix Aion Universal Wireless Timer and Shutter Release (intervalometer and timer) with radio remote control.
An intervalometer is a timer that controls your camera. It controls how often and how long your shots are taken. And for that matter, how many shots are taken and the time between shots. They also do basic remote shutter release, Bulb Mode, a delayed shutter release, and more. If you want to learn how to use an intervalometer, look no further!
Some cameras come with them built in. Some intervalometers are external, and connect to your camera with a wire or wirelessly.
- The Aion is easier to use in the dark than any other intervalometer I have used
- One device can work with multiple cameras
- The design, including the separate cables, is more robust
- Radio frequency seems to be more reliable than bluetooth-controlled devices
- The device connects to your camera wired or wirelessly
- The light stays on if you are continually adjusting the controls
- The controller offers confirmation beeps.
- The controller tells how much time is left on each exposure instead of how much time has elapsed
- Expensive compared to other intervalometers
- The LED indicator lights indicating focusing and completing a photo are red and green which are hard to differentiate for people who are red-green colorblind.
The Phottix Aion — Technical specifications
- Item Type — Wireless: RF (Radio Frequency)
- Camera Connection: Canon 2.5mm Sub-mini, Canon 3-pin (N3), Nikon 10-pin, Nikon DC-2, Sony Multi-Terminal
- Channels: None
- Wireless Frequency: 2.4 GHz
- Interval Timer/Programmable: Yes
- Live View: No
- Mobile Device/App-enabled: No
- Shutter Modes: Continuous, Single Shot, 2-Second Delay
- Wireless Range: 196.85′ / 60 m
- Receiver Dimensions: 3.3 x 1.5 x 1.2″ / 85.0 x 37.5 x 31.0 mm
- Receiver Power Source: Battery
- Receiver Battery Requirements: 2 x AAA
- Receiver Weight: 1.32 oz / 37.5 g
- Transmitter Power Source: Battery
- Transmitter Battery Requirements: 2 x AAA
- Transmitter Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.8 x 0.9″ / 130.0 x 46.0 x 22.0 mm
- Transmitter Weight: 2 oz / 57 g
The Phottix Aion — First impressions
The Aion is a 2.4GHz radio trigger that does all of what intervalometers do plus exposure bracketing. There are two main devices.
One of the devices is a receiver. This can sit on the hot shoe on top of your camera and connects to the camera via a cable.
The other device is a transmitter. This communicates with the receiver so you may control your camera remotely. This is what you would use to input controls and activate the camera, much like a TV remote control. This transmitter may also be wired directly to the camera instead, bypassing the receiver.
OK, the Aion is more expensive than other intervalometers … so why should I buy this?
Your camera might have a built-in intervalometer. Or you can get a wired intervalometer for a third of the price. However, here’s some things to consider.
Phottix includes shutter release cables for most major models
Just this alone might be worth the price of admission. If you have several different camera models but only use one at a time, why buy several intervalometers? The Aion includes shutter release cables for Canon, Nikon, Sony, and more. By default, this also means that they may control other cameras that use the same connectors, such as Pentax, Hasselblad, and more.
You may use it wired or wirelessly
This is not a feature that is unique to Aion. However, it’s still nice to have.
The Aion (and probably most intervalometers) are likely more flexible than your camera’s internal intervalometer
For instance, many cameras may have an internal intervalometer that only opens the shutter for up to 30 seconds at a time. Additionally, some internal intervalometers are notoriously difficult to figure out. External intervalometers such as the Aion tend to be easier to use from my experience.
The controls are less frustrating and more ergonomic than most other external intervalometers
One of the things that frustrates me about my intervalometers is the single control for all functions. It is really easy to mistakenly change to the next setting inadvertently. I use an intervalometer all the time and still manage to do this regularly. However, the Aion has separate buttons for Set, Up, Down, Left and Right. Ahhhhhh … …
All the cables disconnect
One of the main issues with wired intervalometers most people experience is that cables are permanently connected. During photography or storage, they can bend back and forth and eventually break or become unreliable. My friend Tim Little, who has taught hundreds of people via night photography workshops, notes that much of people’s frustrations occur from malfunctioning external intervalometers. Damaged or stressed cables surely cause much of these issues.
Runs on radio frequency, not Bluetooth
I’ve used remote devices via Bluetooth. Maybe my experience is different. However, I’ve used two different phones with two different Bluetooth devices, and they’ve all become unreliable after a while.
The 2.4 GHz radio frequency appears to have a longer range and greater reliability than Bluetooth. Phottix claims a range of almost 200 feet/60 meters. I was able to trigger the camera successfully several times from distances up to 100 feet through three to four house walls when the camera was either inside or outside of the house.
It doesn’t require an app from your phone
Speaking of phones, I don’t like to wear down my phone or tie it up when I am photographing at night. I also don’t like blowing out my vision by using my phone. While I do turn the brightness of my phone down and enable the reddish-looking blue-block filter, I still would rather not engage my phone for photography if I can at all help it.
When the controller has acquired a signal, it shows a tower and three bars as its connection icon. If I turn off the receiver on the top of the hot shoe, the transmitter doesn’t show it for as long as a minute or more. However, if you press the start/stop button to begin the sequence, the icon will immediately disappear. From my experience, it appears to either show the tower and three bars or nothing at all. In other words, it seems to be a discrete icon, and does not show a range of connectivity like your phone where it shows one to five bars.
The lights stay on when you need them on
After you turn on the backlight for the backlit readout, it will stay on while you continue to change the settings. This alone is almost worth the price of admission. Most intervalometers seem to turn the light off prematurely, which is annoying. This will also stay on for 10 seconds if you do nothing.
The controller offers confirmation beeps
The controller beeps twice when you activate the intervalometer. Then it beeps once every time it cycles.
The controller tells how much time is left
Rather than tell how much time has elapsed, the controller tells how much time is left for each exposure. I find this easier to understand.
The remote turns on if you press firmly. It then continues blinking while on, which is a generally nice feature. In practice when it is very dark with no moon out, the light can be distracting or annoying. However, I really love the idea of knowing that the device is on. I would probably tape something over it to dull the light.
The Phottix Aion appears to be solidly built. And as I mentioned before, all the cables disconnect. Cables are less likely to break. But if they do break, you can just replace a cable and keep going. The Aion was easy to use, especially in the dark due to its ergonomic keypad nature. I could actually feel the separate buttons in the dark far better than the single-button control of my other intervalometers.
The LED light on the timer will turn green when focusing and turn red when a photo is taken. This is perhaps a small quibble, but approximately 8% of males are red-green colorblind. I am one of them. It’s difficult to determine what it’s doing with these colors. I would prefer if they used different colors such as blue instead of red.