I have been watching this thread with interest. I don't want to take away from the discussions but I have a few comments.
If you are trying to get "the force" to work just to get it to work then keep at it.
As Smooth said it is a lot of equipment and weight to be toting around and setting up. I can't see how this is cost effective when time is money. If you are shooting as a hobby then no worries but if you are shooting for paying customers time is money and the more time it takes to shoot the less money you make. Even if it did work there is still the pain in the ass factor.
Wide-Eyes mentions he does not want to touch the camera to change the exposure for fear of effecting the images. You can in fact touch the camera to change exposure without a problem. I know becuasue I do it all the time. If you don't beleive me I can show you proof
I have the coolpix 5000. I have the corded remote as well. But I don't use it that much. I checked out the coolpix 8700 and it has a command dial on the top just like the CP 5000. This command dial is how you change the shutter speed and apiture. It is quite possible to rotate the command dial to change shutter speed without moving the camera at all. I know becuase I do it all the time.
It is not necessary to shoot bracket sets with 2 ev steps. This is quite extreme. I have tried both 1 and 2 ev steps. 1 ev step is enough. I live on the coast and have to shoot interior shots on the beach. The light is just as bright as it gets. 1 ev step is enough if you take enough shots. The only reason to do 2 ev is to take less shots. But in this case you will not get as much dynamic range as you can when shooting 1 ev step with more exposures.
Between shutter speed of 2000 to 1" you can get a max of 6 images at 2 ev steps. In contrast shooting 1 ev step in this range you can get 12 images. If you have determined the correct midtone exposure then 3 above and 3 below at 1 step will produce a very good image.
I have to shoot a min of 7 exposures to get the dynamic range needed. I have shot as many as 10 exposures. This can not be done using the bracketing program so it is necessary to manually rotate the command dial to change the exposure when shooting this many exposures. In fact I don't even use the timer most of the time. I am just VERY careful when pressing the shutter. When shooting a 7 to 10 image bracket set using the timer is just a pain in the ass. Especially when shooting a 10 scene project. Time ....Time Time is money.
We are splitting hairs here with the issue of touching the camera. If you have a shaking problem with your hands or are handicapped in some way then this makes sense but if you are a normal individual with normal use of your hands then you can touch the camera to change exposure and even manually press the shutter button without effecting the qualityof your images.
This project was shot with the cp 5000. It consists of 30 panos that took 3 days to shoot ( I actually shot 40 scenes but only used 30). At first I was using the timer and manually changing the exposure. All the scenes were shot using 1 step for 10 exposures. On the second day I got tired of waiting on the timer for 10 shots so I just started hitting the shutter manually. You can not tell which ones were timed and which ones were not.
There is no way I could have used a laptop setup to do this project. The time necessary to setup this kind of rig would have been enormous and not cost effective at all.
This is a large project and most are not that big but it illustrates my point.
The LCD on the camera has enough quality to judge your test shots. I can see using the laptop to pr