Time-lapses are incredibly interesting ways to show a scene or scenario. Finding the right time-lapse camera can be a challenge, especially if you have never tried it before. A scene that involves movement or a change over time is a great topic to photograph.
For example think of a scenario where one single image wouldn’t do it justice. You could create a video, but if the change is taking place over days, weeks, months or even years, you will have decades of editing.
A time-lapse works better than filming a scene as you can set up the camera to work without you needing to be around. Also, the still images can be a much higher resolution than the video file. You can work from RAW files and even stack long exposure images.
The end result of a time-lapse is, in fact, a video. But to get the same effect, you would need to speed up a video, which also affects the quality.
What to Look for in a Time-Lapse Camera
A time-lapse camera is going to be different to a camera that works well in sports photography. Sports photography needs a fast frame-per-second rate, super speedy auto-focus and even a tracking system. A time-lapse camera needs none of those things because speed isn’t important.
What is important is a high-resolution sensor, the ability to shoot in RAW and the ability to work well in subdued light conditions.
This will depend on what area of time-lapse photography you are photographing. Night-sky time-lapses for astrophotography will be different than capturing a street scene in broad daylight. Quality is key in both areas, and while you can photograph a timelapse with any camera, your project will look better with a higher resolution one.
On top of your time-lapse camera, you will need a tripod, an intervalometer and a fast and large capacity CF or SD card. It needs to be big, as you will be taking 400+ images, and fast, so that the camera doesn’t stop the process due to buffering rates.
Best Time-Lapse Camera
Time-lapse projects can be sen in two different areas; either short-term or long-term. Short term would be setting up your system, capturing a sunset and then packing up to go home. A long-term project would mean setting up a system and leaving it to capture for weeks or even months. A construction project over a period of time, for example.
The Canon 30D is a great choice for beginners and amateurs alike. The camera is very similar to the Canon 5D original model, which was ahead of its game about 13 years ago. The 30D doesn’t have all the bells and whistles of the 5D. It is missing the full-frame sensor, but it is lighter and takes a few extra photographs per second.
They both have a 2.5″ LCD screen, can reach ISO ratings of 3200 and the dynamic range is almost the same. Although the 30D doesn’t have a specific time-lapse tool built-in the camera, you can attach an intervalometer.
The most important area to consider is the price. The 30D is about half the price of the Canon 5D body, and that is with a kit lens. You are ready to go, capturing images of excellent quality, with an image size of 4,368 x 2,912 pixels.
We recommend this camera because it is a workhorse, and it goes to show you don’t need all the bells and whistles to capture amazing time-lapse videos.
Every camera has a shelf life, and the Canon 30D is no different. It will work perfectly until 40,000 shutter actuations. To give you an example, if you create time-lapse videos from 400 images, the 30D will give you a hundred projects before it goes haywire.
A more expensive camera such as the Canon 5D Mark III will give you 150,000 actuations (3.75x more projects) but will cost almost 15 times more money.
The Sony A7 is a mirrorless camera system, providing superb images in high-resolution. A mirrorless camera system has many benefits over the DSLR market, such as silent shooting and being lighter/compact cameras. They are becoming more and more advanced, quickly closing the gap that DSLRs have had for a fairly long time.
There is almost no difference in print quality. In some cases, the mirrorless siblings have less cases of blurriness due to the lack of a mirror flicking up and down.
What users like about this camera system is that it is relatively simple to use, especially if coming from a DSLR system. The Sony A7 range works very well in low light conditions, meaning it is great for nighttime time-lapses. The ISO reaches 6400, but can be extended to 25600.
Unlike most mirrorless systems, the Sony A7 has a 24.3 MP full frame CMOS sensor, giving you the best resolution possible. It shoots in RAW, allowing the post-editing of your images to go swimmingly.
The best part about this camera system is its WiFi connectivity. This means you can create time-lapses very easily just by using an app. Sleek, full-frame and works well in low light conditions, what else could you ask for?
The Brinno BCC200 is a dedicated time-lapse camera, designed for long-term projects. It comes from a Taiwanese Company that has a good stead in time-lapse cameras with other related products as well. This product is perfect for professionals as well as beginners. It is specifically created to be user-friendly.
The camera has a High Dynamic Range (HDR) image sensor. This is capable of producing those stunning 720p time lapse videos. They will even work well under any lighting conditions, so photographing during nighttime is also possible. The camera comes with the 19 mm f/2.0 glass lens, and there are extra CS mount lenses which allow you to expand your gear.
What is different here, is the BCC200 Pro has the ability to present you a ready-to-view video. This cuts out the need for hours on post-processing. Download the AVI video file and away you go.
It uses a 112° field of view, meaning compared to the kit lenses of the other camera systems, it captures a wider area. The preview screen is handy, letting you set up your scene quickly and effectively. If left capturing an image every 30 mins, it will capture 80 days of activity. Just don’t forget about it completely.
Unless you are creating a long-term time-lapse video of an ongoing project, leave the Brinno camera. Users reported that this isn’t a great camera to use for nighttime time-lapse of the sky as the sensor isn’t strong enough.
The Canon 30D will work perfectly as a stand-alone, secondary camera for time-lapse videos. It will allow you to keep your main camera for other projects. If you already have a Canon DSLR, then the lenses are interchangeable, saving you money.
The Sony A7 is a great camera through all disciplines, not just for time-lapse photography. It’s the most expensive option across all three proposals.
If you are looking for a secondary time-lapse camera, go for the 30D. The Sony mirrorless range is perfect if you are looking to take a few time-lapse videos and/or buy a new system entirely. They work well for everything. If your time-lapse passion is on the longer-term projects, the Brinno is the safest option for unattended usage.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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