This post on time-lapse intervalometers is part of a larger table of contents style road-map outlining time-lapse photography. The guide attempts to weave together separately covered tutorials, tips, and resources into one location that can hopefully act as a launching pad for your own time-lapse experiments and productions. Time-lapse Photography How-to Guide
So you’ve just scoured your camera’s manual and sifted through the extensive menu system and alas, no built in intervalometer. That’s ok, an external timer remote for your camera is lot less expensive than you would think. Well, some of them are. That’s the purpose of this post. I’ll layout some of the options that exist when looking for an external intervalometer for DSLR time-lapse photography. Specific reviews and how to guides for some of the different models as well as computer tethered software based options will be covered in subsequent posts.
The Goal: It’s about accurate and reliable automatic shutter triggering, and there are several ways to achieve this.
I have broken the external intervalometer world down into 4 segments.
Advanced (expensive but sometimes offer more features)
Home-built and DIY (Some are hard to make and lack features and field reliability, but they are just downright cool)
Just a quick note: *Pay close attention to your specific camera model for compatibility and read product reviews before you buy from a reputable source.
Let start with the budget friendly 3rd party intervalometers:
3rd Party Intervalometers
Several 3rd party manufactures produce great DSLR compatible intervalometers (some even having the same form factor as the name brands) and sell them at a fraction of the cost. This is good news for you and I.
Here are a few (and there are many others) that I might recommend to get the job done.
This inexpensive model is a good choice. It does what we need it to do and has all the features you need. I haven’t used this exact model yet, but many timelapsers at timescapes.org as well as people chiming in on the Linkdelight website cite a positive experience, an acceptable quality level and great time-lapse performance. Note: You can take unlimited shots with this model, just set the FRAMES to 0 (zero).
This is a more expensive (but still around half the cost of name brand) option and is what I currently use (it was just the first one I bought about a year or so ago). I am happy with the quality and functionality, with no problems to report. It has the same features as the above Linkdelight model plus the added ability to set shots between 1-399 and infinity (instead of 1-99 and infinity). I will be testing the linkdelight version soon and will compare the build quality and begin a reliability/battery life test shortly.
There are many others out there and I encourage you to look around. Take your time and make sure the specific camera model is listed as compatible and there are some good reviews to lean on before you buy. (have a different intervalometer that you’ve found to work great, or maybe not so great? Please add it to the comments below and i’ll try to update the post)
I love name brand equipment, but the price…. ouch. With something relatively basic like an intervalometer you may want to save up any buy a professional/advanced one with extra features or buy 4 or 5 3rd party ones to have as backups: put one in the glove box, put one in your other camera bag, and put one in your back pocket. I jest, but my cat already chewed the wire and claimed my first Satechi (oops!). I don’t think he would have cared if it was name brand or not. As far as build quality and reliability, I would imagine (as I have not tested them) that these would be the best option. Here are a few examples:
Don’t forget to check ebay or craiglist too. You may be able to find some deals on used gear.
Advanced Time-lapse Intervalometers
This is just a quick overview of some of the more advanced remote camera shutter control devices that are available commercially. Realize there are constantly new innovations taking shape in this exciting field, with some being commercially available immediately while others being designed more for experimentation. Here are just a few implementations you might want to learn more about:
The Little Bramper
Little Bramper: Bulb ramping time-lapse intervalometer
A standard intervalometer simply fires the camera shutter according to a set interval. The Little Bramper adds an additional configuration and not only fires the cameras shutter but also varies the cameras exposure smoothly over time. By subtly varying the exposure, time-lapse footage of light varying scenes can be achieved. For example a brighter sunset (faster shutter speed and low ISO) might fade into a night scene (slower shutter speed and higher ISO).
I purchased a Little Bramper (pictured at left) and am learning the ropes now.
The Promote Control is marketed towards serious amateurs and pros (and for ~ $300 that’s probably about right). Mainly offering advanced HDR (High Dynamic Range) photographic options, the Promote does provides time-lapse functionality including Mirror-Up delay (an automatic wait for added photo sharpness) and HDR time-lapse multiple exposure options. Personally I would love to have this item but cannot justify the cost in the current budget.
Time-lapse photography is not necessarily a new phenomena, although I think it’s fair to say that it is really gaining in popularity ever since DSLR cameras were introduced into the market. Ever since then people have been hacking and programming their own destructions (I mean constructions).
An obvious tickle to the computer engineer inside me, the do-it-yourself creations by others are extremely fun and exciting. I will be challenging myself in the future to tinker with a few of these designs, but right now take a look at what these master tinkerers have built.