Marketed as the "Smart Camera Assistant", the relatively new Arsenal remote camera controller is an interesting little device. It is the brainchild of software developer and amateur landscape photographer Ryan Stout. While its primary market appears to be for point-and-shoot photographers, our initial interest was in the manual and time-lapse modes. The new company had a very successful Kickstarter campaign having raised $2,650,310. We were intrigued so we bought one to try it out. We received ours earlier this month and are just now starting to test it out. In the near future we may post a deeper dive into its capabilities and offer a fuller evaluation. For now, this is a brief introduction to it and our first impression.

The hardware part of the Arsenal controller sits atop your camera in the hotshoe and is connected to the camera's USB port. When you order the device you specify your camera so they can include the proper cable. They support many DSLR and mirror-less cameras. The software part is an app for your smart phone. The two connect via bluetooth. Getting up and running only took a few minutes. That was a nice surprise because many of the new devices we have purchased have not been so easy to initially set-up and try out. The unit itself is small and light with a hard plastic cover. It appears nicely finished. I do wish it had a thumbscrew or spring clip to tighten it just a little more securely to the hotshoe. It is not waterproof.

Our plan is to use this controller in manual mode for various photographic situations. 

  • High or very low camera positions (still photography and video)
  • Focus stacking
  • Exposure stacking
  • Time-lapses (standard and holy grail)

Our initial tests went very well. If you set your camera to Live View the image is displayed on the app. All of the basic settings can be controlled from the phone like ISO, shutter speed, aperture, focusing, etc. We particularly like the live histogram feature allowing us to evaluate the histogram while we are adjusting the exposure. And of course, you can fire the camera from the phone. This all went well in our initial testing. The lag time from the camera to the phone was minimal.

We really look forward to using the device for focus and exposure stacking.

A remote controller like this, particularly since it includes remote focusing  (both single and multi-point depending on the camera) is optimum for us because there are situations where we just don't want to touch the camera to refocus. The Arsenal allows you to do a focus stack without ever touching the camera. A real advantage if you're a bit clumsly like me.

Exposure stacking is great with a remote because you do not need to remain near to the camera as you do with some intervalometers or cable releases. The Arsenal advertises up to 100 feet coverage but we have not tried that far yet. While you can do an exposure stack manually, the built in intervalometer allows you to set your exposure stack via time-lapse control. 

Those of you that know us, know we're very fond of time-lapse photography. We have more intervalometers than we care to admit. We certainly don't need another one. However, having this built into the Arsenal with a control distance of up to 100 feet is a real plus for us. Holy grail time-lapses (e.g. daytime > sunset > night) are very difficult to do. We have several devices that work, one being quite expensive. But they are just too difficult in my opinion. So, I am always on the search for something better. They currently plan to release the holy grail feature in March or April.

We haven't tried it yet, but there is a "night focus" feature where the Arsenal will take test shots at different focal positions, calculate the correct focus, and then set the lens for you. For those of us that shoot a lot at night this could be a pretty cool feature ... if it really works. We'll let you know after we have tried it.

Be prepared to wait when purchasing an Arsenal. Ours took several months but we knew that going in. No surprise there. They are currently taking pre-orders on the next batch of 70,000 units of which 866 slots (as this writing) remain available. They say those will have a February 2019 delivery.The current price is $175. That will increase to $250 in March. 

Please note that while we are very encouraged by our first impression, we are not yet endorsing the unit because we haven't taken it through all its paces. Plus we really really want to see the holy grail mode be released. 

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All in all we are favorably impressed with the Arsenal. Starting a new company is not easy so we expect they will experience some growing pains and bumps in the road. But so far, they appear to be managing their growth well and wish them continued success.

We look forward to using the Arsenal in the field very soon.