The story behind the Micron and Radian is a bit complex but interesting. As anyone who reads GeekBeat.TV knows, the world of Kickstarter is rich and varied. It’s the largest source for crowdsourcing, hosting projects of all kinds from books on adventure role-playing games to software to unique gadgets and everything in between.
A couple of the success stories from of Kickstarter is that of two startups: Alpine Labs and Vivo Labs, who merged to transform the two complementary products in a single solution for motion-lapse video. Radian allows photographers to create professional motion time-lapses easily. Michron is designed for photography enthusiasts and professionals who want to try to do something in the world of time-lapse photography but lack the tools to do so. Since I’ve been in the process of downsizing my photo and video gear this year, moving from Canon to Fujifilm cameras, I was intrigued and decided to review both these products simultaneously.
The Michron connects to your camera to enable it to take time-lapse photos programmatically. To take a time-lapse, you simply program Michron from your phone, connect it to your camera, and sit back while Michron takes the images that will create your time-lapse. You can follow one of Alpine Labs’ video tutorials to see how to turn your still images into a time-lapse using free or paid software.
The Radian is a device that allows you to take stunning motion time-lapses without the cost and hassle inherent in linear slider systems. Designed with DSLRs in mind but also compatible with many mirrorless cameras, Radian is compact, easy to use, and powerful.
Both devices are manufactured by the merged Alpine Labs and compatable with an impressive list of pro and semi-pro DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Both are programmed using an app on your iOS or Android phone and they work robotically in an automated fashion.
I wanted to try them with either my Fujifilm X100T or X-T1 cameras but alas, while the list of supported cameras is long and impressive, neither of mine were on the list. So instead, I dusted off one of my old Canon T3i’s and went to work. The prices of the two devices might be a bit on the high-end for the average consumer. But for professional photographers, the cost is more than reasonable considering the power you gain by using these devices – especially in tandem. Add a Cinetics CineMoco slider to the setup and now we’re getting totes cray-cray. The Radian will set you back $250 and the Michron comes in at just under $60. You can buy both from the Alpine Labs website or on Amazon.
There is a bit of a learning curve when starting to use these, especially since there are cables and wires and other subtleties to deal with. A novice user will find the lack of clear instructions like the ones that are usually supplied by large tech manufacturers a hindrance. Alpine Labs does provide a pdf manual and tutorials. These along with the instructional stamps on the boxes, it is not too hard to understand how the two devices work. Mastering them does take some time though. You will be well served to expect to spend some time testing and experimenting with these by themselves and in coordination with each other.
The Michron attaches to the hot shoe of the camera flash and is programmed with the previously mentioned app on your phone. The apps are downloaded from the Apple Store or Google Play, depending on the platform you are using. Next, you connect the camera to the Michron using the supplied cable. On a side note, I must say the little bubble adhesive is magnificent and very useful. You can set the length of exposure, duration and distance of the sequences of the shots. I found the Michron worked perfectly, was functional, easy to understand, and more advanced than the functionality built into settings of any cameras I’ve used for this kind of work. Most manufacturers still do not have these features programmed in the camera firmware which opens the door for innovative companies like Alpine Labs. Impressive as the Michron and its accompanying app are, this is pretty much where the time lapse photo party stops with it and the Radian picks up.
The Radian compliments the Michron perfectly by offering a motorized base that is once again programmed via an iOS or Android app. The app allows you to add controlled circular or semi-circular movements on a horizontal, vertical or diagonal plane with the supplied extendible arm. The Radian adds real complexity to the setup. Patience and earned expertise is required on the part of those who want to use this solution. It reminded me when I started working with off camera flash. Since I didn’t know how to use off-camera flash, it was useless for me to even attempt to use it on real shoots. That’s when I claimed to own the skill of “natural light” photographer. Once I put the time into understand how to do strobe well, it paid off with better result and more flexibility in the photos I produced.
Just like learning how to use flash correctly, you need to read the instructions for these devices and then experiment. The watch the tutorial videos and experiment a bit more. Then I suggest to read the instructions again and experiment. The go watch some trashy reality tv, drink a TopoChico and experiment some more. …then… well I hope you’re beginning to see a pattern.
Like any time-lapse movie making, introducing motorized motion to the process requires that you understand how to make a video like this, practice, and think about how to realize your vision. No-one who does motorized time-lapse well figured it out on the first day or first week. This is not to dissuade you from trying these products. They’ll freaking rock your sock off! I’m just saying that you’re accepting a challenge when diving into this but the hard work is worth it.
The results can be mesmerizing.
Once you get the hang of using a single Michron and single Radian together, think about how you might use two Radians connected in series in order to have more complex movements. Once you figure out the basics of setting sequence duration and frequency of the shots in order to make a video which has a fluid feel, your next task will be to design camera movements which make sense when telling your story. You don’t need to be the Ansel Adams of motorized time-lapse photography, but there needs to be purpose behind how you choreograph your shots.
I will say that after having the units for a couple months, I am still working on the dance and I love it! Have a look at the possibilities with these magical, perfectly paired devices:
Both devices have proven to be very good. They work well but are meant to solve very different needs when telling a story in a time-lapse movie. The Radian is for professional and advanced-enthusiast photographers who already have an idea how make their vision into a reality and just need a tool to help them get there. The Radian has a rechargeable battery with a long life and is suitable for use outdoors. Full specs are listed below for you photo-nerds.
If you want to start small then it’s fine to start experimenting with the Michron. It’s light and small, easy to use, is the perfect accessory for those who have a good DSLR or mirrorless camera and want to start working with time-lapse sequences.
- Programming Compatibility: Michron can be programmed from any iOS or Android device, as well as your PC
- Camera Compatibility: Most DSLR cameras, but please check our list
- Battery Life: 2000+ hours of time-lapse with the included, replaceable, battery
- Weight: At under 1 oz, you will hardly notice Michron your bag.
- Dimensions: 1.2″ short, 1.2″ narrow, .75″ thin, and designed to sit in your camera’s hotshoe
Michron can be programmed to take photos at a regular interval (for instance 1 photo every 5 seconds) or you can take advantage of it’s advanced features to capture some fantastic effects such as :
- Bulb Ramping: The exposure is altered during the time-lapse to capture changing light conditions
- Interval Ramping: The interval with which photos are taken is smoothly changed throughout the time-lapse
- HDR: Take multiple images at different exposure levels for each frame to take HDR time lapses
- Compatibility: Compatible with any camera that has a wired, remote shutter port. See here for a compatibility list.
- Dimensions: 4.57 x 1.77″ (116mm x 45mm)
- Weight: 15 oz (425g)
- Thread Size: Standard 1/4-20 thread is used in the top and bottom of Radian
- Panning Load: 15lbs (7kg)
- Tilt load: 4+ lbs – Tested with the following setup: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 LII, and Heavy Duty L-bracket
- Table Top load: Tested with Canon Rebel with 18-55 kit lens (Note: a heavy off-axis moment, caused by a large lens, will not allow Radian to balance on a table top unless an off-axis mount is used to shift the camera back)
- Angular Resolution: 0.0173°
- Over 20,000 discrete positions per 360°. This allows for a shot every 3 seconds for a full revolution over 24hrs with actual movement between each shot
- Power Source: Internal Li-ion rechargeable battery gets 100+ hours in pan mode
- Expandable battery life via external USB power packs through USB charging port
- Max timelapse speed: 1 degree/second
- Max continuous drive speed: 4.3 degrees/second
- Ports: 2.5mm (to camera), 3.5mm audio (smartphone, PC port syncing for Bramping), micro USB (charging, firmware)
- Indicators: Red/Green LED for battery/charging, Red/Green LED – on/off, shooting