Camera enthusiasts have for long restricted themselves to the twin domains of still photography and videography. However, advances in technology have helped us bridge this gap with the evolution of time-lapse photography.
Time-lapse is simply a large bunch of photographs, clicked at regular intervals, stitched together to create a video. The final result is a quick video, seemingly played back at higher than usual speeds, that captures the entire sequence of events. Whether it be a cloudy day outside your window or a trip to one of the most popular tourist destinations, a time-lapse camera can create some very special memories.
The current camera market is flooded with products that claim to enhance your photography experience while providing the best quality of time-lapse video there is. This guide will help you understand the basics of time-lapse photography and select the best camera for you.
|Image||Product Name||Features||Check Price|
|Canon EOS Rebel SL2 DSLR Camera||Check Price|
|Canon EOS 80D 24.2MP Digital SLR Camera||Check Price|
|Canon EOS Rebel T7i 24.2MP Digital SLR Camera||Check Price|
|Nikon D5600||Check Price|
|Nikon D7500 20.9 MP Digital SLR Camera||Check Price|
|Nikon D850 FX-Format Digital SLR||Check Price|
|Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II||Check Price|
|Panasonic Lumix G7 4K Mirrorless Camera||Check Price|
|GoPro Hero 5||Check Price|
|GoPro Hero7 Black||Check Price|
- Best Time-lapse Camera Models
- 1. Canon EOS Rebel SL2 Digital SLR Camera
- 2. Canon EOS 80D 24.2MP Digital SLR Camera
- 3. Canon Rebel T7i 24.2MP Digital SLR Camera
- 4. Nikon D5600 Digital SLR Camera
- 5. Nikon D7500 24.2 MP Digital SLR Camera
- 6. Nikon D850 Digital SLR Camera
- 7. Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Mirrorless Camera
- 8. Panasonic Lumix G7 4K Mirrorless Camera
- 9. GoPro Hero 5 Action Camera
- 10. GoPro Hero 7 Black Action Camera
- Time-Lapse Camera Buying Guide – 2021
- 1. Is a tripod necessary?
- 2. Should I look for a special time-lapse camera?
- 3. Are wide-angle lenses better?
- 4. What is barrel lens distortion?
- 5. How to fix or avoid barrel lens distortion?
- 6. What is ISO sensitivity?
- 7. What is the difference between shooting RAW and in JPEG?
- 8. Is in-camera stabilization better than lens stabilization?
Best Time-lapse Camera Models
To come up with the models for this article, I personally looked into the variants that are currently available in the market. I also took a help of 17 experts who use time-lapse feature for their projects so as to make sure the list I prepare is relevant in current scenario as well future proof. I rented all the camera discussed here to test them and see how they perform. Hence, you can pick any of the DSLRs that fit your requirements and budget:
The Rebel SL2 is one of its kind. The effort Canon has put into this product is visible in the results. The top of the line 24.2 MP sensor captures a lot of information, which allows you to shoot comfortably indoors and at night. This is helped further by the ability of the sensor to push the ISO levels up to 25600.
Canon’s user interface is clean and has a simple learning curve for new users. The modes are all sorted in order. A guided interface explains the various modes through graphical illustrations and makes it very easy for beginners to pick this camera up and use it to their satisfaction. The 3 inch LCD touchscreen is well calibrated and is very responsive. Focussing on your subject is very easy thanks to this screen.
The CMOS sensor allows you to shoot at 1080p full HD resolutions at 60 or 50 frames per second. This high frame rate allows you to capture smooth video of moving objects without motion blur.
- 9 Point autofocus works very well
- User Interface is optimized
- Very good screen
- Lack of stabilization
The Auto-focus on this model is truly remarkable. A 45 point focusing system of the Canon 80D allows precise and responsive focusing irrespective of the lighting conditions.
The sensor used is a 24.2 MP CMOS sensor. It is a high-resolution sensor that is very sensitive to light and performs very well through the brightest of days to the most dimly lit indoor environs due to high ISO levels expandable to over 25000.
The 3-inch touchscreen provided with the product is very useful. It helps with focussing your shot and the flexibility of use it provides makes it a pleasure to use this camera. Moreover, a rich library of Canon 80D accessories like lens hood, tripod, etc is available in the market for this camera owners.
- Great video quality
- Good build quality
- Very expensive
- Dynamic range isn’t the best
The Canon Rebel T7i comes in a weather-sealed body that feels sturdy and premium and gives you the confidence to freely use it outdoors. A well-designed unit, it comes with a 24.2 MP sensor with Canon’s trademark Dual Pixel autofocus technology.
Time-lapse videos are a joy to record on this model. The special 45 point AF allows for subject-specific tracking. While setting up the camera on time-lapse mode, this feature ensures that the output is always sharp and in focus.
The time-lapse quality is further improved by the in-camera Image Stabilisation function which is specific to this camera and works irrespective of whether the lenses you use have stabilization features. The footage is recorded at full HD (1980 x 1080) and is very sharp with no motion blur and unnecessary camera shake.
- Very good stabilization
- Great focusing
- Good design and build quality
- UI can be confusing for beginners
Time-lapse videos are of very good quality and impressed us during testing. Nikon uses its image processing technology called EXPEED which allows it to shoot good quality footage across all lighting situations. An ISO sensitivity that ranges as high as 25,600 and a super-fast 39 point autofocus system makes for a great experience.
Nikon’s very own snap bridge application makes time-lapse videos easier to shoot as you can control all aspects of the footage from your cell phone after you have set up the camera to record.
- Great quality sensor
- Durable carbon fiber body
- Very light and portable
- Lack of stabilization
The Nikon D7500 is built to survive. It has a small footprint but is very sturdy thanks to its magnesium alloy body that Nikon claims is shockproof. The camera has a water-sealed body thus further prolonging its life.
The D7500 has an extended buffer size that allows you to shoot time-lapse videos for longer. Long exposure time-lapses capturing a light trail or the overnight movement of stars can be captured comfortably through this continuous shooting mode.
The in-built NFC and Wi-Fi make sharing footage easy and enjoyable. The wide-angle 3.2 inch LCD is of very good quality and makes it easier to compose shots before capturing them.
- Very well built
- Light and portable
- Great under low light
- Very expensive
- Stabilization isn’t the best
The Nikon D850 is a unique product. Well designed and good to look at, it is a niche product strictly for professionals who know their way around a camera. This high-end camera from Nikon checks almost all boxes.
The level of image controls provided by Nikon in this model is unparalleled. The richness of the data collected by the sensor allows you a lot of legroom while editing and removes any chances of extra saturation or poor dynamic range. Everything can be tweaked to perfection.
The 51 point autofocus makes this the best in class focusing system. The camera maintains focus throughout your time-lapse video even when there is a lot of movement and subject – background separation.
It can shoot jaw-dropping timelapse footage in 4K resolution and a silent mode option helps improve battery performance by bypassing mechanical shutter movements thus allowing you to capture longer and better time-lapse footage.
- Very good sensor
- Well built
- Great stabilization
The Live MOS sensors can shoot at 60 frames per second and have an ISO sensitivity up to 25600. This in combination with a 5 axis internal stabilization system helps capture sharp and efficient time-lapse videos that are rich in texture and detail levels and show absolutely no shake or motion blur due to camera movement.
Another amazing feature is the class-leading Touch-based Fast Auto Focus system which keeps the images sharp even with a moving subject and a shaking camera.
- Very good sensor
- Good stabilization
- Good design
- Very heavy
The Lumix G7 is well built and feel s very good in the hand. It is a premium product and the performance shows you why. The 16-megapixel sensor is very good at capturing raw data which you can then edit to your preferred quality. It allows for great details in the captured images and works very well under low light.
A special low light autofocus mode helps focus clearly even in the lack of any artificial lighting. This helps with night videography and is a useful addition to the great daytime time-lapse experience this camera offers.
Time-lapse videos are crisp and detailed thanks to Panasonic’s Depth from Defocus (DFD) technology which continuously tracks subjects in the frame and adjusts the focus accordingly providing clean and detailed images.
- Great low light performance
- Can record at 4K
- Good design and build quality
- No in-camera stabilization
GoPro is the market leader in action cameras and it shows. The Hero 5 is a polished product. It is small, comfortable to hold and is quite durable. The extra case is waterproof and with that attached, this is a very portable device.
The advanced sensor allows you to capture great footage with little to no shaking due to GoPro’s special stabilization features. Time-lapse is a prominent feature of GoPro’s action cameras and this device is no different. The quality of the footage we recorded during our testing was great and we were very satisfied with what this tiny product could do.
The Hero 5 shines, particularly in lower light scenarios. Special software tweaks allow the camera to automatically sense ambient lighting conditions and adjust ISO and EV accordingly to help you get the best possible shot.
- Great stabilization
- Very portable
- Good build quality
- Picture quality could have been better
The Hero 7 is the latest offering from GoPro and it promises to be the best at everything but in a pocket-sized body. Action cameras are usually very small and the Hero 7 is no different weighing just about 118 grams.
GoPro prides itself on its stabilization technology and claims that the Hero 7 can emulate the performance of stabilizing gimbals independently. In our testing we found this claim to be rather true. The Hypersmooth feature does, in fact, make the footage extremely stable and removes any evidence of jerky and shaky camera handling.
The capacity to record footage at 4K resolutions at high framerates meant that we were thoroughly impressed by the Time-lapse video we shot with the Hero 7. It was detailed and looked gorgeous.
GoPro’s time tested user interface makes it a joy to use and navigating the menus is simple. The touchscreen provided, while not the best in terms of visual quality, has great touch response and suffices in its task.
- Well built and durable
- Great software and UI
- Very good stabilization
- Not the best sensor
Time-Lapse Camera Buying Guide – 2021
- Time Lapse
- DSLR Cameras
- Mirror-less Cameras
- Action Camera
- Shot Interval
- Shot count
1. Is a tripod necessary?
A tripod will help stabilize your footage and prevent any camera shake. This makes the end product better to look at and gives it a professional vibe. Most cameras with the time-lapse feature already come with a lens or in-camera stabilization so tripods aren’t necessary but still help create some very pleasing smooth time-lapse videos.
2. Should I look for a special time-lapse camera?
Not unless you only wish to capture time-lapse footage and nothing else at all. Most cameras have a special time-lapse mode. The sensor quality, the lens used and the user experience should be the priority
3. Are wide-angle lenses better?
Wide-angle lenses have a greater curvature and increase your field of view to around 120-degrees. They help you capture more in a frame and make for good quality and scenic landscape footage. If framed correctly, they can also capture some great looking Point of View footage.
4. What is barrel lens distortion?
Wide-angle lenses have a far higher curvature than regular lenses. This increased curvature leads to a distortion effect at the corners of the frame. The image reflects the greater curvature of the lens and becomes curved, appearing wrapped around the lens and losing all straight lines. This distortion is called barrel lens distortion.
5. How to fix or avoid barrel lens distortion?
The most obvious barrel lens distortion comes from images that contain straight lines – such as buildings. Keep such lines in the middle of your image to avoid the distortion that happens at the edges of the frame. Most barrel lens distortions can be fixed in editing programs that usually have a filter to correct lens distortion.
6. What is ISO sensitivity?
The ISO sensitivity of a camera is simply a figure or a setting that determines the amount of light a camera sensor can capture at a particular point of time. The ISO setting brightens or darkens your image to help capture greater detail or to prevent noise or grain in the image. Higher ISO will lead to brighter images but they may contain more noise while a lower ISO setting will have the sharper image, albeit darker. ISO settings should be kept to a minimum when shooting in bright daylight while in low light scenarios it can be adjusted upwards to capture more details.
7. What is the difference between shooting RAW and in JPEG?
Raw footage utilizes the full capacity of the sensor to capture all the data it can while JPEG is limited to the software processing abilities of the camera. Raw footage captures greater details and allows a lot of flexibility to make adjustments and edits afterward.
8. Is in-camera stabilization better than lens stabilization?
In-camera stabilization tries to reduce motion blur by stabilizing the movement of the entire camera while lens stabilization simply places the lens on a small gimbal to compensate for the movements of the camera body. Very useful for any moving photography, lens stabilization is far superior to the in-camera variant. It is superior in low light and wide-angle shots and can stabilize motions as violent as a rocking boat.
If you’re looking for cameras for this purpose, I assume you have a proper use-case where you really need it. Whether it is for professional assignments or personal endeavors, the following models are going to be your best bet:
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If you are looking to travel a lot when making time-lapse videos, we wouldn’t suggest the bulkier DSLRs and an action camera would do just fine. But in case you are seeking the absolute best in terms of picture quality, the action cameras just won’t quite make the cut.
If you are a professional, a DSLR would suit you best. It provides the greatest amount of control and captures the best footage as they have full-frame sensors. They are pretty bulky though and not the best for extended outdoors usage.
For beginners who want DSLR like quality but aren’t willing to pay the premium price that demands, mirrorless cameras are the best bet. They are almost noise-free and also far lighter and more compact than DSLRs while not compromising too much on the image quality. They are also quite a bit cheaper than DSLRs.
For the travelers who want small portable cameras that provide good looking footage and are simple to use, the action cameras with their high dynamic range and wide-angle lenses should be the preferred choice.
For those who are seeking a DSLR, the Canon EOS Rebel SL2 DSLR Camera is the best you can get. Those who do not wish to compromise on image quality but find the DSLRs too bulky or expensive should be happy with the mirrorless Panasonic Lumix. And for those who are looking to travel a lot and are looking for a simple yet effective time-lapse experience should go for the GoPro Hero 7.