Since my earliest years as a photographer, I have been using accessories to trip the camera’s shutter without causing sharpness-robbing vibrations. In the film era, it was a threaded cable release, and in the digital camera age it has been a variety of electronic shutter releases that were compatible with the specific camera I was using. Today, I will review one of these electronic shutter releases – the Vello FreeWave Micro Wireless Remote – and see if it has enhanced my workflow effectiveness, and if it’s found a permanent place in my camera bag.
Table of Contents
The Vello FWM-N2 FreeWave Micro Wireless Remote Shutter Release is a miniaturized remote control set of receiver and transmitter that fits all Nikon cameras with a 10-pin port (including the Z9, D6, D5, D4S, D4, D3x, D3s, D3, D2Xs, D2X, D2Hs, D2H, D2, D1X, D1H, D1, D850, D810, D800, D800e, D700, D500, D300s, D300, and D200).
The system features 16 channels running on 2.4 GHz with a manufacturer rated distance up to 328 feet away. The transmitter uses one AAA battery for power, and the receiver attaches to the camera’s 10-pin port and draws power from the camera’s battery.
If you’ve set your camera to autofocus when half-pressing the shutter button, the Vello will also focus with a half-press of the transmitter, while a full press fires the camera shutter. Likewise, to disable the half-press option from the Vello, you need to disable shutter-button autofocus on your camera and switch to back-button focus instead.
Another important feature of the FreeWave Micro is that it can start and stop the camera’s Bulb mode. A red LED on the transmitter provides confirmation that an exposure was made.
The FreeWave Micro comes with a wrist strap and soft case, and can be purchased at B&H Photo for a current price of $72.50 with free shipping.
If you don’t use a Nikon camera, you’ll need to use another product like Vello’s own FreeWave Plus (for Canon and Fuji) that fits your particular camera. Likewise, the FreeWave Micro isn’t compatible with any Nikon cameras that lack a 10-pin connection port, including most of Nikon’s mirrorless bodies.
Why Use a Remote Shutter Release?
Before I describe my experience with the Vello FreeWave Micro, I want to look at the reasons for using a remote release in the first place.
Most photographers who do careful work from a tripod understand the need to maximize the sharpness of the image by avoiding camera movement and vibrations during slow shutter speeds. However, many are content to use the camera’s built-in self timer or exposure delay instead of an accessory remote, so they simply press the camera shutter button as usual. The exposure then begins 2 or 3 seconds later. This simple built-in solution works for some photographers, but it does not meet my own needs. Here’s why:
- I do a lot of forest photography in spring and autumn, and wind is a near-constant opponent. I can’t try to guess when I will get one of those vital but all-too-brief lulls and then successfully press the shutter 2 or 3 seconds beforehand. Waiting and watching the scene carefully, then pushing my remote shutter during that exact momentary stillness, is a must for me.
- Light is often changing moment by moment when there are clouds. One of my favorite lighting conditions is when the sun is right at the edge of coming out from behind a cloud and suddenly there is a gentle glow on my landscape scene, but not yet the full harsh contrast that will come about a second later – to capture that delicious light I need control of the exact instant the shutter is released.
- At times my tripod is set up awkwardly where I need it for the composition at hand, such as (carefully!) straddling rocks in the middle of a stream, and it is less physical strain and safer for me to step away from the camera to more stable ground and make the exposures remotely.
- With high subject magnification work such as macro, or working with a very long telephoto, I do not trust that all micro vibrations induced from touching the camera will have fully dissipated just 2-3 seconds later. Using the remote shutter removes that concern from my mind and maximizes my confidence that I am producing the sharpest image I can given the circumstances.
Using the Vello FreeWave Micro in the Field
The build quality of the Vello FWM-N2 FreeWave Micro Wireless Remote Shutter Release is fine. It’s not a high-end piece at this price level but solid enough plastic and rubber build, and all controls of the receiver and transmitter function with no issues.
Using the Vello is straightforward and simple. The transmitter screws into the Nikon’s 10-pin connector and turns on when you push the power button. What makes this tiny but mighty little accessory super sweet is that it’s so small and unobtrusive I am able to leave it screwed into my D850 or Z9 100% of the time. The camera still fits perfectly into my photo backpack with it on.
On busy photo shoots where I am stopping along the road or the hiking trail to set up for a dozen different compositions in a day, I don’t have to waste time screwing in the transmitter for each shot and removing it again after. Furthermore, I attached a lanyard of my own (longer than Vello’s supplied lanyard) to the transmitter, and it hangs around my neck during my all day shoots, always at the ready, never dropped or misplaced. These kinds of small improvements to my workflow are huge in helping me to better focus on seeing and making compositions with minimal distraction and hassle.
A long press of the Vello receiver’s power button turns it off. Though the FreeWave Micro draws its power from the camera, note that turning off the camera does not turn off the Vello, so you do need to remember to turn off the receiver to avoid unnecessary drain on the camera battery. This is one of the few drawbacks of the FreeWave Micro. Still, it’s hardly a dealbreaker. When the receiver is on, the front LED blinks regularly, so you always have a quick and easy visual indication of the on/off state.
Compared to Other Options
As mentioned above, if using the camera’s self timer or exposure delay works for your needs then you are already set. A wired remote shutter cord is another valid choice and a great budget option for those who don’t mind attaching and removing it repeatedly throughout the day and have no need to be more than a couple feet away from the tripod.
Vello makes other wireless shutter remotes where the receiver slides into the hot shoe and then a small cord connects that piece to the camera’s remote socket, but those are now way too bulky for me. However, some of them do have more features than the Vello, which is a very simple, single button shutter release and not a more complex intervalometer.
On some cameras, using a cellphone as wireless remote shutter with the camera manufacturer’s app is another choice you may enjoy. This can also come with the benefit of letting you change camera settings and see a live view of the image your camera is capturing. Still, this method isn’t for me. I need more time away from my phone!
Since the Vello FreeWave Micro is designed for Nikon 10-pin connections, you may also be wondering about Nikon’s own set, the WR-R11a/WR-T10 Remote Controller Set. Compared to the Vello, the Nikon set is notably more expensive at $276.95, does not have a strap or lanyard attachment on the transmitter, and has a shorter range of 66 feet. Considering that the Vello is $72.50 and works as well as it does, it’s my clear recommendation between the two.
After years of fumbling with a wired remote cord that has to be plugged into the camera several times per day, or a bulky and awkward hot shoe mounted receiver and connecting cord, I’m pleased that the Vello FWM-N2 FreeWave Micro Wireless Remote Shutter Release is working more effectively for me than any other remote option, and at a fair price. It has found a permanent place on my Nikon D850 (and now on my Z9 as well). If you have been looking for a wireless remote solution for your Nikon 10-pin camera, this one should be on your short list.
You can purchase the Vello FreeWave Micro at B&H here for $72.50.
If you have any questions or comments, please let me know below!
Vello FWM-N2 FreeWave Micro Wireless Remote Shutter Release
- Build Quality
- Size and Weight
- Ease of Use
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