I have both the Pluto trigger and the Arsenal AI and have seen people asking questions about the differences between the devices. I have seen some people also suggest that these devices do the same things and can therefore be interchanged and in reality that is not the case. With that in mind I wanted to write a quick post about the two devices, what they do and how they differ.
Pluto Trigger; Smart Trigger
I will start off with the Pluto Trigger, it should be noted this is similar to the MIOPS Remote Plus however, there may be some different features. The Pluto Trigger is what I call a smart trigger or smart intervalometer, it connects to the external shutter port of your compatible camera (in my Nikon D610 it uses a DC2 cable) and sends a trigger to the camera to focus and/or fire the shutter. There are a number of different modes that can be used to trigger the camera;
- Motion is detected, or a laser beam is broken
- Lightning / Fireworks are detected (based on change in light intensity)
- Light is detected, and triggers the camera if it exceeds the set sensitivity
- Sound is detected, and triggers the camera if it exceeds the set sensitivity
There are other modes, and also other combinations of sensors but at its heart the Pluto Trigger is about capturing an image by triggering the camera. It does not typically change the settings of the camera (as it can only fire the shutter) however, it does have the ability to capture HDR images but it does this in a slightly different way. In order to capture HDR images the camera needs to be in Bulb mode, and the Pluto Trigger then adjusts the exposure time to achieve the bracketed shots. Because the trigger only controls the firing of the shutter it has no way to know if the exposure is ‘correct' and relies on the user setting the correct middle exposure, which it then calculates the shutter exposure times for each of the other captures in the bracket.
Arsenal AI; Smart Camera Assistant
Arsenal AI is a very different device, this connects through the USB connection to your compatible camera and ‘speaks' to the camera using its understanding of the camera's communications protocol. In many ways Arsenal AI is like connecting a computer to the camera and moving all of the controls over to the computer. Because Arsenal AI is connected directly to the camera and is usually able to communicate with the camera, it can change the shutter settings directly in the camera (rather than trying to set manual shutter speeds to reach specific exposures), it can also analyse the image captured to work out how it should change the settings to get a better image (e.g. longer or slower shutter speed, increased or decreased aperture). Coupling this with the sensors in the Arsenal allows the device to fine tune the settings to achieve the best image based on the machine learning and training the Arsenal AI has been provided.
When would I use Pluto, and When would I use Arsenal AI?
I personally use both, I tend to use the Pluto Trigger when I want to capture rapid and dynamic shots but I know the shutter speed and settings don't need to change much, for example:
- When a bolt of lightning lights up the sky
- When fireworks light up the night sky
- When I burst a balloon and want to trigger my camera and/or flash
- When a bird flies near my camera trap and I want to capture an image
With the above, all of these can have fairly well defined settings, night time is probably going to be fairly wide with a longer shutter speed whilst a bird flying is going to be fairly fast shutter speed. The main thing is that I don't need to change the settings and only really need the device to handle triggering the camera.
The Arsenal AI device I tend to use more for time-lapses when the shutter speed or ISO needs to change, for focus stacking where I want to change the focus points, or when I want to capture exposure brackets without messing with too many settings. Its not to say that the Arsenal is perfect, and in many cases the Pluto Trigger may also be able to replicate some of the functions, just without the ability to adjust the settings or respond to dynamically changing conditions.
Which should I get?
As always, this depends on your budget. I have both, but I tend to use the Pluto Trigger more often than I do the Arsenal AI device, and the AI device is not without its current limitations (I am hoping that the Arsenal AI 2 is improved) but in many cases I think the Arsenal AI also offers some unique benefits to users in terms of focus stacking and time-lapses and so on.
If you are a full on professional photographer I suspect you won't enjoy the Arsenal AI as IMHO this is more designed for beginner photographers, and with some understanding of the exposure triangle you could likely get almost as good, if not better shots setting it manually. In reality, this is not a device designed for you, as the market for this device is for (beginner) photographers who just want to focus on capturing the best image and not worrying about what the best settings are.
If you are trying to capture lightning, fireworks, motion shots and the likes then I suspect the Pluto would be a valuable tool. It can function as an Intervalometer as well as a smart trigger helping make it easier to capture balloon burst images, lightning, sound trigger, fireworks and much more.