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Oct 14, 2014

5 Accessories for Time-lapse Photography

It seems you can’t turn a corner today without seeing a time-lapse clip. From appearances in commercials, tourism ads, cutaway scenes in television shows (House of Cards), and even musicians using the films in the background during their performances…time-lapse photography is a huge market! This has sparked a huge growth in entire lines of equipment designed specifically for the time-lapser!

We’ve been dabbling in the Time-lapse world here at Phlearn, and have even had a few successful masters visit us this summer such as Shane Black, Michael Shainblum, and Joel Schat! Because of this we’ve decided to share with you some of our suggestions for gear & accessories based on what we’ve tried out, and their alternatives.

Time-Lapse Photography

Intervalometer (Professional)

Price: $130
Consumer Rating: 4.5/5
View on Amazon »

The main tool for all time-lapsing! You can enter pretty much any setting, duration, and interval for your shoot! Using the remote, instead of the system built in to your camera will give you more freedom and stability in your shot. The Canon/Nikon Branded remotes are built specifically for their cameras and you know will give you the best of the devices abilities.

Time-Lapse Photography

Intervalometer (Budget)

Price: $17
Consumer Rating: 2.5/5
View on Amazon »

“No-Name” Brands will get the job done, but often times they come with less features and capabilities. These “off market” brands are still a fantastic way to get started and your time-lapses looking great! Keep in mind, that often times the budget brands are not designed to withstand long term and harsh environment use like their professional level counterparts are. Regardless, knock-off or original, you’ll need an intervalometer to start shooting epic time-lapse films like Shane Black‘s Adventure is Calling!

Time-Lapse Photography

Kessler Ion Battery System (Professional)

Price: $499
Consumer Rating: 4.5/5
View on Kessler »

The one thing that seems to happen on every time-lapse or video project, is your camera runs out of power before you run out of shot opportunities! With the right accessories you can keep your camera & accessories charged during those long shots. The Kessler Ion Battery system is perfect for this. It’s a BEAST that just never seems to give up! Coupled with a fantastic weather-kit it’s great in any setting.

Time-Lapse Photography

Sanho Battery Pack
(Budget)

Price: $140
Consumer Rating: 4/5
View on Amazon »

Every mobile photographers secret weapon. Power and charge any of your USB enabled devices (or even charge your batteries with the right adapters). Great for keeping you and your accessories charged and rolling in critical moments! It’s not as powerful as a giant pack like the Kessler, but it’s far more compact and mobile.

Time-Lapse Photography

eMotimo TB3 Motion Controller (Professional)

Price: $990
Consumer Rating: 4/5
View on Amazon »

Capture motion like never before! The TB3 is one of the highest value motion control devices on the market! It offers repeatable 3-axis motion control that will give your time-lapses a compelling visual kick that you can’t get from a still shot! The video above features some of Michael Shainblum’s work created using this very motion controller!

Time-Lapse Photography

Flo-Mow Time-lapse Mount
(Budget)

Price: $40
Consumer Rating: 4/5
View on Amazon »

If you’re not ready to invest in a big motion/pan head for time-lapse and video, but you still want to incorporate some motion in your time-lapse, the Flow-Mow is a great place to start! With a single axis limit and rotation of counter clockwise only, it has a slow and consistent 2 hours of motion for you to shoot video or time lapse with!

Time-Lapse Photography

Stage Zero Motion Control Dolly (Professional)

Price: $920
Consumer Rating: 5/5
View on Amazon »

Combine the power of a motion head with a rock solid dolly/rail system that will let you get shots and angles you never thought possible!! The super powerful motor will let you capture controlled motion at insane angles! Check out the incredible Banff National Park video by Joel Schat of Roadtrippers using the Stage Zero Dolly!

Time-Lapse Photography

Motion Slider 36″ (Budget)

Price: $109
Consumer Rating: 4/5
View on Amazon »

A great entry point for a photo/video slider system! While this system doesn’t come with a motor it’s possible to DIY-rig this up with the Flo-Mow mentioned above to add a little extra flair to your time-lapse!

Time-Lapse Photography

CamRanger for iPad/Tablets (Professional)

Price: $302
Consumer Rating: 4.5/5
View on Amazon »

This is an amazing accessory for anyone who needs to monitor and/or make changes to your time-lapse but NOT interfere with the camera! With this device and app, you can control everything on your camera to get the most detailed shot without ever touching your setup!

Time-Lapse Photography

TriggerTrap Mobile Phone Adapter (Budget)

Price: $23.99
Consumer Rating: 4.5/5
View on Amazon »

This is in the budget category, but it’s still a fantastic app/addition for time lapse! This device does more than just Time lapse, It’ll do distance/hyper lapse, noise activation, tell you the sunset/sunrise hours, and much much more! It’s a versatile tool for the starting time-lapser or even the seasoned pro looking to explore in some other areas without having to invest heavily in gear!

31 Comments


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  • user image
    neBen

    Great behind the scene from Michael Schainblum, his work is a source of wonder. It’s nice you included two list for those of us on a budget (:

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      Phlearn

      Agreed neBen! 🙂 Be sure to check out Shane and Joel’s work linked in the write ups also!

      Let us know if there are other genres you’d like to see covered in future articles. We’re here to help! 🙂

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    Chris

    What camera did he use though? I got 5D M3 which does not have a continuous autofocus. Any thoughts on that?
    I’d love to do something like this here in NYC, plus on upcoming trip to west coast.

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      Keith Law

      I think that the focus is set on infinity and the aperture would be say at f11 and the shutter speed would set the light level to the sensor. and then set the interval of the exposure and time between each exposure with the shutter release.

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      Phlearn

      Typically, you’d set your fstop like Keith said at about f11 and set your focus manually depending on what you want. I know some timelapsers will even (do this at your own risk!) slightly disconnect their lens from the camera (freelensing) to reduce flicker in their timelapses with the newer “digital” lenses. Leaving your camera on autofocus during a timelapse can lead to some frustrating results and we’d highly recommend against it.

      If you’re referring to Michael in the video above, He’s had Canon 5DMkII and i THINK a 5DMkIII but i’m not sure exactly.

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    Dragos

    Cheaper than CameRanger is to flash a custom firmware on TP-LINK TL-MR3040 Wireless Router (approx. 40USD) and use it with dashboard on IOS or android devices. Actually, I think CamRanger uses the same tp-link router.

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      Chris

      That seems a very interesting thought. Do you know of such a custom firmware which could be used with the TP-LINK, or were you just conjecturing? I use a Nexus 7 in conjunction with DSLR Controller app now to control my Canon t4i, tethered by a USB2GO cable, but it would be very nice to do so wirelessly (similarly to the CamRanger) as you are suggesting with the custom firmware and the TP-LINK. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

      Chris

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        Adam

        Do a web search for diy cam ranger. I just used mine today. Worked like a charm. I even saw the tp-link 3040 being sold at wal-mart the other day. Very easy to flash the firmware and get working. Runs with dslr dashboard. Make sure everything is updated though I had trouble at first because i was using an older firmware and a newer dslr dashboard.

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          Chris

          Thanks a lot, Dragos and Adam. I ordered the TP3040, downloaded the updated firmware, and have just today tested the router with a Canon t4i and a Nexus 7 tablet. Worked perfectly. I appreciate the ‘inspiration’. A $300 CamRanger for $38! Adam, you quote the DSLR Dashboard app, but I have been using the DSLR Controller app. Do you know the differences, how they compare? Again, any input will be much appreciated.

          Chris

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    Chris

    I remain unclear on the difference between taking still images at short intervals, stitching them together, creating a video depicting movement (traditional timelapse), vs. just recording video over the same length of time and then speeding it up in Premier Pro or After Effects. I realize the individual images would be larger than 1080p video, but most timelapse videos seem to be fairly short and quick moving, often used as transitions between other video shots. Any thoughts on this would be much appreciated.

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      justin

      You get 4k Raw if you shoot stills… With video (on most DSLRs) you get 1080p compressed as hell, wrapped in a h.264 file that is terrible for grading… It just depends on what you’re shooting, but I would strongly lean towards shooting still images for the best quality.

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      Nick

      There’s quite a few differences actually. If you want to capture a timelapse that in real-life takes 8 hours, can you’re camera stay running for 8 hours with its battery and memory? Another advantage is exposure control, especially in darker environments. On a still, you can have a long exposure like 10 seconds, or even 5 minutes to let in enough light to capture say the stars or to blur out moving objects like rivers, lakes or cars.

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        Chris

        Thanks very much, Justin and Nick, and Phlearn Admin. You all make very good points. Nick, are you saying that battery and memory are less used over an 8 hr. time lapse shooting stills with a typical DSLR, and therefore last longer? Again, any input will be much appreciated. And much thanks to Phlearn for making this forum available to us for this kind of sharing.

        Chris

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          Rich

          I have a Canon T1i (soon to buy a 70D) with a battery grip that holds 2 batteries and I got an overnight timelapse easily. Had I shot video, the batteries probably wouldn’t have lasted 2 1/2 hours, and even then, card space gets crucial. Actually, shooting video that long would have shut down the camera because of heat….

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    Brad

    Take a look at the Promote Control to help with the “Holy Grail” night/day or day/night transition.

    A Canon camera with the 16-35 workhorse also seem to be the way to go since you can accomplish the “lens twist” trick to minimize flicker. (Not possible with Nikon.)

    Finally, LRTimelapse is great for initial processing and is free for image sequences below 400.

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    Holt

    I’ve been dabbling around with a little firmware for the camera called Magic Lantern. It seems to have a lot of the features that intervalometers and other controllers offer, but it’s accessed from a menu within the camera. It isn’t a motor, so it won’t move the camera, but it will control timelapse and rack focus (just to name a couple). Has anyone here used this?

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      Phlearn

      I’ve actually worked with a few photographers who’ve used this firmware to do Hyper-lapse work. It’s complicated, but pretty freaking amazing when done right!

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      Fragi Pen

      I am huge fan off magic lantern and last summer i used it a lot. I have made a timelapse using the magic lanterns’s intervalometer and i didn’t have any problem at all. You are programming how many stills do you want and how often do you want to take a pic. In my situation it was a little more complicated because it was a night timelapse, so i had to think of the exposure time on every still. So i was taking a still every 20sec, i was leaving the shutter open for 15sec and i have asked for 300 stills. After that batch convert in photoshop for the raw files and import to premiere (i was letting every still for 3 or 4 frames and i had the result that i wanted). I hope you like it… (there are some gopro timelapses in it too)

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    andredesignz

    I think I would rather use my GoPro for this. Thanks for sharing Phlearn.

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      Phlearn

      Very true! There are some incredible tools out there for helping with that also! Maybe that’ll be the next article 😉

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    Thor Arne Thorkildsen

    The original Canon intervalometer will freeze up your camara for some time, and if you dont have enough time between shots, it will be difficult to adjust shutterspeed, aperture or iso settings while shooting. The same is for Nikon built in intervalometer.For post prosessing Lightroom and LR timelapse one very good option. Easy to use and gives great timelapse, even in changing light.

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    Jon

    My very 1st camera to do Time Lapsing is the lumix Ts25 for about 2yrs, focusing on sunsets. Now, I’ve upgraded to Ts6.. I would probably use one of those budget accessories till I could afford a more powerful camera. Thanks for the guide, I can’t wait to try it