PTP 2.0 library function turns on Bulb mode on Nikon DSLR camera via USB

Bulb mode activation code screenshot

Bulb mode activation code screenshot

Last week my friend Hans and I spent some time in my lab exploring which features of his Nikon D300 are available via PTP protocol. Hans is working on extended range HDR-capable intervalometer and he needed to find out a way to switch his camera into bulb mode using Arduino board and USB Host shield. After we finished I realized that while bulb mode is not tricky to activate, it is not obvious either and no hints exist in the code and examples showing how to do this. This short article is intended to fill the void.

In PTP, shooting parameters, such as shutter speed, aperture, ISO, etc. are changed by setting certain device property. For each parameter there exists a list of allowed values of this property, each property value corresponding to a parameter value. For some parameters, property and parameter value lists are dynamic. For example, starting and ending aperture values are different for different lenses; additionally, the aperture step can be changed in camera settings. Stepping can also be changed for shutter speed and exposure compensation and this can also happen during PTP session if a photographer decides to switch modes – in this case a property may become unavailable, like shutter speed in aperture priority mode. Therefore, before changing a property value for one of these parameters it is necessary to somehow retrieve a list of available property values.

The property value list retrieval mechanism is slightly different for different cameras. On Canon DSLRs, a special event is generated by the camera and sent back to PTP host at the beginning of the session and also each time camera mode was changed, lens were swapped and so on. The application needs to track those events and constantly maintain current value list for each property. On Nikon DSLR, it is possible to simply get value list for a property any time it is needed. To save memory, the list is not stored but simply requested from the camera each time a property needs changing. It is combined with actual property change in two templates – StepUp and StepDown. If you need to increase, for example, shutter speed – call StepUp. If you need to decrease it, call StepDown.

If you “step up” shutter speed on Nikon DSLR manually, the last 2 values will be 30 seconds and bulb. If you step up shutter speed using StepUp method using Nkremote sketch it will stop at 30 seconds. This happens because bulb mode is not included in the list of available property values for shutter speed but simply defined as 0xffffffff. As a result, StepUp doesn’t know that another value is available. It is still possible, however, to set the property directly and I will show you how to do it.

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