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Canon Bluetooth Remote BR-E1
With the launch of the EOS 800D and 77D in February 2017 a brand new type of remote controller was announced for the EOS system – the BR-E1. Like the two new Canon cameras this remote has Bluetooth built-in and offers near-range communication with compatible models.
We take a first look at this diminutive device to see how it connects to your EOS camera and what controls it provides.
A few years ago when walking around the vast halls at Photokina– Europe's biggest photography exhibition – we came across a handful of remote devices which utilised Bluetooth to transmit a signal to take a picture. At the time, these remotes were made to work with smartphones – devices which were already harnessing the capabilities of Bluetooth and its near-range benefits.
The remotes were neat, pocketable little devices, quite desirable in their tactility. However, at the time, none of Canon's EOS range featured Bluetooth, so we moved onto other stands.
Then, in September 2016, the EOS M5 was announced. It featured a range of connectivity options – Wi-Fi, NFC (Near Field Communication) and, for the first time in an EOS camera, Bluetooth. Canon reported that the inclusion of Bluetooth "enables constant connection between a smart device and the camera, for easy activation of a full Wi-Fi connection." When used in combination with the Canon Camera Connect app, the Bluetooth connection also enabled use of a smart device "as a wireless remote for scenes that demand a faster shutter release such as wildlife."
Roll forward a few months into 2017 and three new EOS cameras were launched, all of which featured Bluetooth – the EOS 77D, EOS 800D and mirrorless EOS M6. Announced alongside the two DSLR cameras was this new Bluetooth Remote BR-E1, which finally realised the potential of those early devices we'd seen at Photokina in 2014.
Which cameras are compatible with the BR-E1?
DSLR: EOS 6D Mark II, 77D, 200D, 250D, 800D
Mirrorless: EOS R, RP, M50, M6 Mark II, M200
Pairing the BR-E1 with your EOS camera
Given the previous experiences we've had with connecting EOS cameras over Wi-Fi or with Canon's Wireless File Transmitters such as the WFT-E4, we'd braced ourselves for an arduous task. Rather pleasingly, we'd paired our 77D with the BR-E1 within seconds, and are confident others' experience will be the same. Here's how we did it.
(Note that, for cameras released from 2019 onwards, there's now a dedicated NETWORK menu where you can control all of your camera's connectivity.)
Press the MENU button and navigate to the SETUP tabs. Select 'Wireless communication settings' (usually in SETUP1 menu, but varies by camera), then press SET.
Scroll down to 'Bluetooth function' and press SET. On the Bluetooth function screen, select 'Bluetooth function' again and press SET.
Next, select 'Remote' on the Bluetooth function screen. A message will appear which says that other remotes cannot be used. Press SET to confirm.
Once the remote function has been selected, scroll down to 'Pairing'. Press SET. A message should now appear that says 'Pairing in progress. Start pairing on the Wireless Remote'.
Now, hold down the 'W' and 'T' buttons on the BR-E1 simultaneously for at least three seconds. The camera and remote need to be in close proximity of one another.
That's it – you're done!
When successful, you'll see a 'Paired with' message, confirming that you've paired the camera and remote.
Finish the set-up
First, you'll need to put your camera into the correct drive mode to enable remote operation. To do this, navigate to the drive mode settings (via your Q screen or relevant button). Then scroll across to one of the self-timer/remote options and select that drive mode.
Now choose the desired release method on your BR-E1 remote – there's a slider switch on the side of the BR-E1 with three options: '•' solid circle for immediate release, '2' for two-second delay, or a video camera icon for movie mode.
Using the BR-E1 remote
The functionality of the remote is straightforward. You can focus and you can release the camera shutter from up to five metres away (we tested up to around seven or eight metres without issue). These operations are performed by two buttons – one smaller button for autofocus, marked 'AF', and the second larger button for releasing the camera shutter.
When recording video, pressing the shutter button once will start the recording; pressing it again will stop the recording. However, pressing the shutter release button will also force the camera to focus. In fact, you won't be able to release the button if the camera can't achieve focus. So why the AF button?
We tested the feature using the EOS 77D. With our two Kokeshi dolls paired together and camera mounted on a tripod, we used Live View to set up our shoot. To switch focus between the two dolls, we moved the focus area to the other doll using the LCD touchscreen on the camera, pressed the AF button, checked composition and pressed the shutter release button on the BR-E1.
Whilst achievable without the need for the AF button for stills photography, this feature would come into its own when shooting a movie, to be able to switch focus mid-shoot. And that's why we think there's an autofocus button on the BR-E1. It may also relate to the operation of the PZ-E1, but until there's a compatible camera for both the lens adapter and remote, we can't test this concept.
Benefits of the BR-E1
Always connected – a Bluetooth connection is always on. Regardless of the settings on your camera, it won't go to sleep whilst the BR-E1 is connected. With the RC-6, for example, where you have to disable the Auto power off setting.
From any angle – Bluetooth works on a near field signal, meaning that, so long as the remote is near to the camera (rated at up to five metres), you will be able to operate the camera with the BR-E1. This is unlike the Canon RC-6 remote controller, which requires line-of-sight.
One-to-one relationship – once paired, the camera and remote can only talk to each other. There's no interference from other Bluetooth devices or competing remote/camera pairings.
Simple, small, light – it's easy to connect, easy to use and weighing in at only 23g will add hardly any weight to your kitbag.
We're excited to see the technology move on, particularly from the limitations of infrared, as deployed by the RC-6. And, because it's small, affordable and rather tactile, we like it! What we're most looking forward to however is seeing how the BR-E1 interacts with another of Canon's recent innovations – the Power Zoom Adapter PZ-E1. All we need now is a compatible camera with which to pair it – watch this space.