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.
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
Photography Life Overall Rating
I recently picked up the SMDV and it appears to be the same thing. While a cabled intervalometer certainly has more options, it’s larger, and well, cabled. Same for tethering to a computer. Really I wanted something with little/no special setup that could just be in the bag. Nikon has always been weird, having their more-consumer cameras work with the infrared ML-L3 remote while making their more professional cameras require more. But still, infrared can be hit-and-miss whereas this unit is immediately responsive and has decent range.
Like you I am pleased with the size and it being able to ride on the camera, but I have found some minor issue with some lenses requiring me to remove the unit when swapping. This may be because I’m using a D850 and the wider f-mount lenses vs a Z system
That product basically is a rebadge rfn 4 s . I gave on that product. It did not last long.
Tell me about the Smallrig L bracket. What are your thoughts regarding quality? I bought one for the Z9, but found the landscape and portrait orientation mounting surfaces are not at 90 to each other. Mine was off of 1.5 to 2 degrees. This means releveling each time you change position. I also think the bracket flexess to easily.
Hi Will. I am not pleased with the Smallrig L-plate for the Z9. There is far too much flex, no matter how much I tighten it. I stopped using it and for now have a ProMediaGear bottom plate attached, and have preordered the RRS L-plate (and I’m also watching to see what Kirk releases).
I was searching for a proper remote control when I tried out SnapBridge on the Nikon Z6 ii: works wonders. I can select photo or video, can select and edit settings and switch to manual or aperture or shutter speed etc etc. The potential drawback is that you cant use your phone while its connected to the camera.
But I don’t use my phone, I use my ipad to control the camera. The advantage is that you will get a life view full screen on the ipad which is great for certain shoots. The wifi range of the camera is pretty good; I sometimes set up the camera on tripod in the back of the garden aimed at a particular tree thats popular with shy birds, then go inside, look at the ipad screen and shoot whenever a bird is in view.
The beauty of it all is: no investment required.
The drawback of this setup is:
* a (minimal) lag between pressing the shutter at the ipad and the real release on the camera.
So in the end I still need a remote shutter release and this option described sounds great. Just wanted to share an alternative as well
I always use a remote hand release whenever my D810 is on a tripod. I leave the 10 pin Nikon release attached throughout the shooting day, the MC30A cord velcroed to a convenient spot on my Optech strap. Most of the cord is coiled out of the way, held by a rubber band. I use the hand button shutter release when not on the tripod. I don’t know why you would write that the cord is attached and removed several times during the day. Why bother? I also have a remote radio release as you do, but the cord is more out of the way and is always ready. Like he Boy Scouts:Be Prepared!
Stan, thanks for reading and commenting. Almost everything involving photography gear is about personal preferences, and I’m glad you have found what works for you. For me, as mentioned in the article there are times I cannot stand close to the camera during release so I must have wireless. In addition, I don’t use camera straps so have nowhere to coil and attach an MC-30A as you do, and I will not tolerate a 2-foot long cord with substantial trigger banging around as it comes in and out of my pack dozens of times per day, so yes I have to attach and reattach an MC-30A for each setup.
Love mine on the D850. I do have the battery grip. Works wonderful
I have the older Vello 10-pin wireless remote (9/2015). When the remote works, I love it but when it doesn’t, I hate it. When doing a bracketed series, both my D700 ad D850 get stuck before finishing the series of photos which requires me to turn off the camera, remove the battery, reinsert the battery, turn on the camera and the series starts all over again from the beginning or it will get stuck shooting and not stop. I am not using the battery grip with the larger battery EN-EL15. Does the larger battery solve the problem by providing more power to the remote? It’s very frustrating and a waste of time when it jams.
Hi Cheryl. Lately I am having a an issue using the Vello on my Z9 which has the large battery – at times during a shoot I am unable to get Playback to work to review an image, until I first turn off the Vello. I have wondered if it’s interference from the default channel the Vello is set to and I need to try a different channel. In any case, for the current Vello I have not heard of others having the camera stop shooting. It might be worth trying the latest model of Vello from a vendor like B&H that has a good return policy.
Glad this solution works but it sure seems primitive. Why is Nikon still using the prehistoric 10-pin connector? I’m grateful that on Sony cameras I can use a Bluetooth remote with this functionality built in. Im happy to see Nikon is making some great mirrorless cameras but they should do something similar in future bodies by including Bluetooth remote features.
Scott, I agree emphatically that Nikon has missed the boat on this, especially given that modern Nikon bodies (such as Z6/7 Mk I and II) do have built-in Bluetooth (BT) but cannot even connect via BT with software like Nikon’s pitiful SnapBridge (SnapBridge works through its own wi-fi LAN configuration, not BT) which is painfully kludgy to use and NOT full-featured whatsoever, and the wi-fi incurs substantial battery power as well. No BT remote shutter releases exist * (to my knowledge), including Nikon-branded, that will work directly with the built-in BT in these bodies. Absurd and frustrating!
* Below I mentioned a BT approach that does work with Z6/7 — the “Foolography Unleashed” — but it includes its own BT transceiver which then in turn plugs into the MC-DC2 port. Thus it too is kludgy but ostensibly designed this way (or so I speculate) to overcome omission or inability of the Nikon firmware (and/or hardware) to handle a full control set through its own native BT transceiver.
Summary: I totally agree with your concluding sentence: Nikon really should catch up (with Sony, etc.) in deploying BT remotes!
Hi Scott, thanks for joining the conversation. Nikon has a wireless bluetooth remote for their Z50 and Zfc mirrorless APS-C cameras, but not their fullframe models. I too wish for this!
I remember being able to trigger my old Nikons with just a cheap wireless transmitter costing $10. Seems like Nikon has been going backwards in the last 10 years.
This looks very similar with my smdv control since D4s
I got the RFN-4 version of the same (so a 3rd version, same look), shipped from & made in Korea, they do work great, except they do not have the Fn button. You can have the cable with 10pin socket (D#,D8##,D700,D300?) or also the cable for simpler models (D600,D750,Z6,Z7). I mixed them to have a nearly synchronous shots in redundant 3D vision test for research (see doi.org/10.10…021.107742), when I set-up the photographic arrangement. But with different cameras you might have small delays due to their inner electronics.
Edit: the RFN-4 are also from SMDV (Korea). Sorry if I made a bit of confusion, so just 2 versions [Vello+SMDV], but on the case I checked the brand name is very small and I did not notice it. The “s” version is with 10 pins, the RF-903 needs an extra cable for the on-camera receiver, which can be again 10 pins for Nikon MC-30 (RC-903) or compact plug for Nikon MC-DC2 (RC-908). The remote remains the same and can drive many cameras together, once fixed on the same frequency combination.