Cable releases are a common film camera accessory that attach to the camera and allow photographers to take photos from a distance. In film photography, it is used to minimize camera shake and any resulting blur and allows the photographer to step away from the camera to take the photograph. The cable release essentially bypasses the cameras shutter button and sets off the shutter itself.
The camera must be mounted on a tripod, and the cable release is screwed into an area near the lens or shutter release button. The other end of the cable release has a button or air trigger, depending on the type you purchase. The most common cable releases are made of metal, where a long thread of metal is attached to the button. As the button is pushed down a smaller thread of metal is pushed into the shutter to release it. Another popular cable release is made of plastic, using an air bubble. When squeezed, the air bubble forces air to push the smaller thread of metal into the shutter. While the metal cable releases are generally built to last longer, the air cable releases cost less and typically offer longer sizes.
The distance the photographer can be from the camera is dependent on the size of the cable release. These camera accessories come in any size between 6 inches to 30 feet. The metal cable releases typically only go up to 40 inches in size, while the air cable releases can be much longer.
Cable releases are typically used for portrait photography, close-up stills, low lighting situations, and any other instance in which longer exposures are required. The slightest movements may be seen from pushing the shutter release, and this is eliminated by a cable release. In addition, when using the bulb (B) shutter speed setting, a photographer can hold the cable release without pushing down on the shutter attached to the camera. The cable release is also an ideal solution for self portrait photography. This will allow the photographer to step into place without worrying about the time constraints of the self timer. Of course, the cable will likely be seen in the photograph, but it still serves a purpose nonetheless.
The cable release is a great tool and every photographer should own one. The ability to minimize camera shake and step away from the camera can really be helpful during shoots. Read more about film camera accessories for other helpful tools.