The best time-lapse cameras capture a series of still images over hours, days, weeks, or even months, making it easy to condense the footage into a short video clip. In this article, we have compiled a list of time-lapse cameras for a variety of applications. Whether you’re documenting a cycling trip, shooting a rare flower, or documenting the construction of a new building, you’ll find the perfect model for every occasion.
Most professional cameras (open in new tab) and some camera phones (open in new tab) have some sort of time-lapse feature that allows you to take a series of photos at set time intervals and later combine them into a video. If you use your iPhone for photography, you may have noticed (opens in a new tab) that the iPhone’s Camera app has a particularly useful time-lapse feature that makes it easy to get started with this creative process.
In time-lapse photography, the speed at which the film frames are captured (frame rate) is much lower than the speed at which the video is viewed.
When viewed at medium speed, the flow of time appears to speed up or slow down.
Best Time Lapse Camera Outdoor
To shoot good time-lapse video, you need a camera with the proper aperture, shutter speed, ISO range, focus, and time interval.
The frame rate of time-lapse video can be changed almost at will, from an almost average speed (24 to 30 frames per second) to one frame per day, week, or longer, depending on the subject.
With the right skills and equipment, any camera will work as a time-lapse camera. However, some cameras can easily capture spectacular time-compressed scenes. Time-lapse is the process of taking a series of several photos at regular intervals and compressing them to create a shorter image over a longer period of time.
This technique is useful for showing the progress of a long-term project, recording the movement of stars in the sky, or creating spectacular scenes that are far from reality.
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While the built-in time-lapse mode is great, there are many other considerations when looking for the best time-lapse camera. Here are some key specifications and features to consider when looking at the market
Traditionally, manual cameras required a stand-alone intervalometer to periodically shutter the camera. Today, many cameras have built-in time-lapse functionality, greatly simplifying the process and eliminating the need for additional equipment.
Some of the better built-in time-lapse modes include. It is best to choose a mode that offers flexibility in time-lapse format and the number of shots per minute.
Night photography can create truly astounding images, especially when the stars and their trails in the sky are captured before the shutter release. Shooting in the dark is another challenge, but choosing a camera body with strong low-light performance can be a big help.
It is not just a matter of finding a camera with a high maximum ISO. You want a camera that can produce clean images with low noise even at reasonably high ISO sensitivity. Full-size sensors generally work well in this regard but are not absolutely necessary. This list includes a mix of full-size, APS-C, micro four-thirds, and even smaller sensors.
Even cameras with built-in interval meters can have erratic, inconsistent, or flickering exposures. Some cameras have a feature called exposure smoothing that automatically adjusts the exposure for each frame, slowing the changes and making the result constant. For example, if you are shooting a sunrise, the exposure starts in the dark and ends in daylight.
This causes a large jump in an exposure. Unless you are constantly monitoring manually, you will want a camera that can automatically adjust to this change.
Shooting in real time puts a strain on the camera’s battery. It should be long enough to cover the entire shooting. Also, many cameras charge via USB-C, but you cannot rely on a portable power bank or another power source to charge in the field. Some may allow external power sources if they are powered directly from an outlet, but that is not very practical in the field.
Time-lapse video vs. traditional time-lapse
Some cameras offer a simple intervalometer that takes a representative picture at a certain rate as the scene unfolds before you. At the end of this process, you are left with a collection of ordinary (perhaps raw) photos that video editing software can turn into clips. Some cameras skip the traditional photo step and stitch the photos together into a video clip.
This saves you the trouble of creating your own clips later in the software. If you need maximum control, a single photo method may be preferable. It is also useful when you want to express the movement that occurs within a frame by stacking multiple identical files, as in exposure stacking; this technique is often used to capture the light trails of stars that would be impossible with a single long exposure; it can also be used to create a single exposure of a single star, which is not possible with a long exposure of a single star.
Maximum number of shots
The camera usually sets a maximum number of shots when it is in time-lapse mode. This is often less than 1,000 pictures. If you want to do more than what is built into the camera, you will need additional equipment.
Time-lapse photography is often done outdoors, where wind and rain can be a problem. Even if it is not raining, sudden changes in temperature and humidity can damage equipment. Purchasing waterproof equipment can make a big difference in your time-lapse photography experience.
How to Choose a Time Lapse Camera
I have been in the photography business as a photographer and editor for nearly 20 years, and I have spent much of that time in this popular photography business. I have used and reviewed most of the major cameras released in the last few years.
I am a real geek when it comes to trying out all the features of a camera. This article is based on a combination of personal experience, industry knowledge, editorial reviews, user comments, and spec comparisons.
Although I focused on cameras with the most advanced built-in time-lapse features, I also made a comprehensive judgment of the camera’s performance. Time-lapse is usually only one part of what people do with their cameras.
We have broken it down by system because many people already have a lens and don’t want to change it. However, if you are looking to buy a system and want the best time-lapse capabilities, Nikon and Sony (in that order) do a great job.
What To Look For In A Time-Lapse Camera
Many cameras have time-lapse capabilities, but most are not capable of recording for long periods of time. There are several points to consider when selecting the best time-lapse construction camera.
Type Of Time-Lapse System
There are three types of time-lapse systems:
DIY systems, all-in-one systems, and large professional systems.
DIY systems help reduce costs but are not recommended unless you are a time-lapse camera expert.
All-in-one systems are small and compact, requiring much less installation space and time.
Larger systems for professional use are more expensive, but they are equipped with professional time-lapse systems that work well with professional cameras.
Both professional and DIY systems require a larger power supply, but professional systems can use solar power. Solar panels or batteries may need to be installed or AC power may need to be used.
All-in-one systems, which most often require dual-A batteries and can be used for up to 60 days, are suitable for short-term projects.
Cloud Services And Branding
The ability to upload and manage photos online is also important for time-lapse cameras.
Some brands offer status reports, photo uploads, and remote camera settings. Others allow you to manage galleries, compare photos, and search and find images online.
How much does a time-lapse camera cost?
Most modern cameras, including SLRs and mirrorless cameras, already have built-in time-lapse capabilities. Prices range from under $1,000 to over $5,000; GoPro is a great place to start with time-lapse, with the latest models starting at $399. Some dedicated time-lapse cameras are designed to follow a scene over a longer period of time, rather than for artistic productions. They are intended for commercial areas such as construction sites. Prices range from $200 to $600.
How do you shoot time-lapse?
Time-lapse photography is a technique that could be the subject of a whole book. But it is easy to get started by experimenting. Check your camera’s manual for instructions on how to activate the time-lapse feature. If reading the manual is too difficult, you may be able to find these features by digging through the menus. Experiment with different intervals.
If you are shooting slow-moving objects, increase the interval. For fast-moving scenes, shorter intervals are appropriate.
How long is the video recording time?
Some cameras limit the time-lapse function to 99 minutes or 99 seconds, while others limit it too much longer periods of time: hours, weeks, or days. Of course, recording all of these images requires a continuous power supply and sufficient memory card capacity. A dedicated time-lapse camera can be used for up to a year with sufficient batteries.
Purchasing a good all-in-one time-lapse camera will allow you to document construction in an attractive way. Choose a time-lapse camera with high video and photo resolution and advanced features that allow you to easily manage the images you capture.
In most cases, if the camera’s battery life is short, attaching a mini battery and a 5V solar panel will significantly extend battery life. To find the best camera, define your requirements and choose the right time-lapse camera for your project.