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Update 8/20/2016: The Brinno ABR100 is no longer available. I have sourced a similar product which works equally well. Micro USB OTG Card Reader for Android Phones
Every now and then I run across a great product which simplifies and improves my video work. The Brinno ABR100 Card Reader allows you to frame and focus your Brinno camera, with live view, using an Android phone screen. For Brinno TLC 200 Pro time lapse shooters the ABR100 Card Reader is a brilliant piece of must have simplicity.
Ever since I started shooting with the Brinno TLC200 Pro I have longed for a good way to accurately frame and focus the camera. The camera screen is adequate under most circumstances with the included lens, footnote below. However, often I place the camera in a corner, suction cup it to a window, use optional lenses or want a specific point in focus. I needed a solution for framing and focusing without being dependent on the camera's screen.
Until the ABR100 came along I would use a laptop and web cam software. This solution works very well but with the camera in a hard to reach location, a 3' USB cable with a laptop on a 10' ladder is not an ideal solution. However, a computer is great for studio or desktop type work and for those who want to try this route, see the second footnote below.
What makes the Brinno ABR100 reader special is the USB On-The-Go (OTG) specification which allows an Android phone or tablet to host a USB device, in this case the Brinno camera. Added benefits are the SD and Micro SD ports which allow you to read any SD card including all Brinno's on your Android phone or device.
How to use the ABR100
1) The ABR100 is no longer available from Brinno. I have sourced a similar product which is available on eBay.
2) Using your Android phone, visit the Google Play store and download the CameraFi app by Vault Micro.
3) Plug the reader into your phone and using an Micro USB to USB cable (many Android phone charging cables), plug the camera into the reader.
4) Turn the camera on and launch the CameraFi app. The camera's view should display on your phone and a large USB icon will show on the camera display.
This set-up works very well for accurate framing and focusing. Typically I adjust the camera settings before using the ABR100.
Footnote - previewing on a computer: I recommend using a standard Micro USB to USB cable (many Android phone charging cables will work well). My software of choice is Debut (PC/Mac). Connect the camera to your laptop, turn the camera on and launch Debut. Your camera should be recognized, if all you see is your face, your built in web cam is active. Within Debut go to Network and select the TLC 200 Pro. This will provide you with a full screen preview, frame and focus, unplug the camera and start recording.
Footnote - focusing using the camera screen: Using the Brinno Pro's focusing screen works very well if you have room to position yourself behind the camera. Detailed on page 20 of the manual, focusing becomes quite easy once you understand how it works.
Typically I frame the capture then select the focus screen window. By pressing "OK" what you see is a zoomed in center portion of your scene. By moving the lens focusing ring and possibly the camera slightly I look for a defined edge (building corner, window, roofline, etc.) once the edge looks sharp, focus has been accomplished. For distant captures you should not need to adjust the focus for every new shoot, however, it's a good idea to double check. Going from distant to close subjects will you need to consider focusing.
To be certain perfect focus is achieved I will sometimes make a short test movie and play it on a computer.
The screw which locks the focusing ring is very small. I move my cameras around and use them for everything from 3D printing to fire department training. On a few occasions I have wanted to change the focus but did not have a screwdriver. Now, I leave the screw snug, but not tight allowing me to make a change without locating a tiny screwdriver.
Feel free to contact me if you find something which needs clarification or if you have a specific Brinno situation you would like to discuss.