Expect Tankslapper to be full of “that shit ain’t even about moorsickles!” for the next couple issues after this one, but if there’s anything motorcyclists love (more than riding?) it’s taking pictures of their motorcycles—everywhere, all the goddamn time. This was a big part of the reason we added pro photography along the route for the 2016 Ride Friday Give Back—everyone loves photos, but instead of sweet motion shots they usually get poorly shot pics of their bike outside some restaurant or coffee shop. Yes, you, Ducati Bike Nights.
Here’s another thing—a big part of what we do here at CityBike, right behind the “pissing off the readership” is photography. And since a lot of what we write about is what we’re up to on and around bikes—think Pit Stops, for example—sometimes that “what would a motojournalist, or at least someone from CityBike do?” stuff sneaks into things like product reviews, breaking the fourth wall or whatever that’d be called with print media.
Since we’re a low-dough operation and not one of the mainstream mags, where presumably rider/writer types are followed by Sprinter-loads of photographers and support staff wherever they may ride, we often end up out and about alone. Yes, it’s terribly sad, but it also means we must get creative with photography outside of the “real”—and real bitchin’—shoots we do with Bob, Max and Angelica.
So I was pretty excited when I received this lightweight Bluetooth gadget. In my mind, I’d figure out a way to be a self-contained solo-moto-journo-photo maniac, which would actually be kind of a game changer for us. Is the Pulse that magical device? Well… yes and no. But it’s still pretty cool.
Photos: Angelica Rubalcaba
More on that yes/no in just a moment. First, what’s this thing do? It’s basically a camera remote, but with a lot more capabilities. If you’re a serious photographer—or fancy yourself to be one—you likely have a remote trigger, which is helpful for all kinds of things, from getting shots of yourself, to avoiding shaky photos 17 hours into a well-caffeinated SaddleSore 1000. But remote triggers are often simple go buttons—the Pulse gives you access to your camera’s basic settings: shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. In addition to a “smart” remote trigger mode, it has modes for controlling video, time lapse photos, long exposures, HDR shots and a “photo booth” mode that lets you act like an ass while the Pulse fires shots every few seconds. All of these modes have settings that can be controlled from the app—intervals, etc. In regular shooting mode, you can also review a thumbnail of the shot you just took, complete with histogram and shutter speed/aperture/ISO data.
The Pulse sits in the hot shoe of your camera, although that’s really just a mounting point—control happens via a cute little curly-cable connecting the device to your camera’s USB port. There are Canon and Nikon versions, and it apparently works with some other brands too—Alpine says to contact them first to find out.
So back to the question of whether the Pulse can turn a lone rider into a self-sufficient photo-journo machine, which I should mention is not what Alpine Labs designed the device to be, nor do they sell it as such. Classic CityBike bastardized product review, right?
Anyway, as a remote, the Pulse is pretty killer, and since I always have my phone I no longer need to carry a remote trigger which makes my camera bag weigh something like 41.7 pounds instead of 42. But the holy grail would be the ability to get motion shots somehow, and try as I might with photo booth mode, it was just too haphazard to be reliable. And since long exposures and other such artsé fartsé pursuits are well above the low brows here at CityBike, those features are lost on the likes of me.
It’s not perfect—at $99, it’s expensive if you just want a remote. And I had issues with it disconnecting now and then, although a firmware update seemed to help it reconnect quickly.
But like I said, it’s still pretty cool, and for a normal photographer it’s a nice addition to the standard kit, more than a just a remote. And if you have one of the many pro-level cameras that doesn’t have wifi, it’ll give you wireless control.