The humble on-off switch

The humble on-off switch

The humble on-off switch is one of the human interfaces with the camera. For the wildlife cameraman it is a very important one. Most of us prefer to have a switch on the tripod handle.  There is a simple reason for this. The right hand will be glued to the tripod handle.  The left will be on the focus ring of the lens. Even scratching your ear, or other parts of your anatomy, can demand huge inner psychological trauma: dare I risk taking my hands off the rig?  Well, you know what I mean. There is a very limited range of tripod handle switches for cameras, and all of them are expensive for what they are.

The humble on-off switch

The picture above is a simple LanParte on-off switch.  Well, let me revise that.  The original seller has vanished, but you can get this better system (that I haven’t tried) here. The information that accompanies the unit states that it works with Blackmagic and Sony cameras using the LANC protocol. It’s a very nice little unit, and comes with a sturdy clamp that slips over a tripod handle.  It might fit some handles well, but the inner diameter is about 3 cm, which is very ‘fat’.

LanParte lanc protocol

The switch comes apart with four Phillips head screws. The body construction is a solid aluminium alloy, anodised. So is the red on-off switch.  Those are the two main non electronic parts of the switch.  Why did I take it apart? Because it does not work with a Panasonic AG AF101. It won’t work on any Panasonic because Panasonic has its own protocols. If you connect this unit to the S/S of a Panasonic with a 2.5 mm stereo lead nothing will happen when you press the button. If you adapt the 2.5 mm up to 3.5 mm and plug it into the zoom-focus-iris connector of the Panasonic it will have some effect, but not what you want.  For an on-off switch this starts to sound ridiculously complicated.

LanParte switch exposed

Inside the unit has a momentary switch, a circuit board and a female 2.5 mm jack. For my Panasonic the circuit board is redundant: it is designed to communicate with Sony cameras (and Blackmagic). The Panasonic s/s (start stop) terminal works like this: close the circuit momentarily and the camera will start; close it again momentarily and the camera will stop.  That’s all I want it to do. I could pay £160.00 for a ZC9 Pro but there is little point, as the lenses I have for the AG AF101 do not have motorised zooms. I really do only want the humble on-off switch. From a wildlife cameraman point of view, the simpler the better.

Switch rewired

It seemed a shame to destroy the insides of the LanParte, but it had to be done. I removed the circuit board entirely. A new momentary switch sat very nicely on a pedestal within the body of switch. A 2.5 mm jack also fitted very neatly.  It only remained to solder the correct terminals of the jack to the switch and screw it back together. There are probably easier and cheaper ways of doing this, but the switch is aesthetically very ‘sweet’, and doesn’t look like it’ll fall to bits in use. It should stay on the handle of the tripod for the duration of shoots without too much trouble. That said, watch this space.