Time-lapse Intervalometers and Remote Timers: How to Choose the Right One

Gear and reviews

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. 

This post on Time-lapse Intervalometers: How to Choose the Right One is part of a larger road-map outlining timelapse photography called The Massive Time-lapse Photography How to Guide

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 6 segments.

    1. 3rd Party Manufacturers (Good: some are perfectly good and cheap)
    2. Name brands (Good, but more expensive)
    3. In Camera and Magic Lantern (Darn good, but some lack features and require DIY work) [writeup in the works]
    4. Advanced (Better: expensive but offer more features)
    5. Advanced Exposure Ramping (Best: The ultimate solution for day-to-night or night-to-day transitions) [writeup in the works]
    6. Home-built and DIY (Maker: Some are hard to make and lack features and field reliability, but they are just downright cool to come from your brain and hard work)
Let start with the budget friendly 3rd party intervalometers:

1. Off-brand Intervalometers and timer remotes

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. View the master list of camera models and intervalometer cable types here
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.

Linkdelight (ultra-cheap)

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).

Cost: ~ $25

Where to read more reviews and get it: Linkdelight.com

 

linkdelight time-lapse intervalometer timer remote DSLR

Linkdelight: time-lapse intervalometer

Satechi (a little more but worth it)

This is a slightly more expensive (but still around half the cost of name brand) option and is what I currently use.  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).  If you are going to choose a budget model I’d recommend this one. It’s higher quality and takes normal AAA batteries.

Cost: ~ $60

Where to read more reviews and get it: Amazon

Satechi time-lapse intervalometer timer remote DSLR

Satechi: time-lapse intervalometer

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)

Vello ShutterBoss Timed Remote
Pearstone Shutterboss Timed Remote and the Wireless version
Aputure Intervalometer

2. Name Brand Intervalometers

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:

Nikon and Canon Remote Timers

Canon TC-80N3 time-lapse intervalometer

Canon TC-80N3 time-lapse intervalometer

Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3

Cost: ~ $168 from Canon
           ~  $129 from Amazon

 

 

 

Nikon-MC-36-time-lapse-timer-remote

Nikon MC-36 time-lapse intervalometer

Nikon MC-36 Multi-Function Timer Remote

Cost: ~ $180 from Nikon
~ $67 from Amazon

Don’t forget to check ebay or craiglist too. You may be able to find some deals on used gear.

 

3. In-camera timelapse features and Magic Lantern

Writeup currently in the works. I am installing Magic Lantern on my Canon 7d and reviewing the built-in timelapse functionality of the Sony Alpha A7S.

4. 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:

Promote HDR and timelapse controller

Promote Control: HDR Time-lapse Intervalometer

Promote Control: HDR Time-lapse Intervalometer

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.

Take a look at all the options and advanced features at the Promote Control website.

Cost: ~$329 from Promote
~ $298 from Amazon

Trigger Trap smartphone timelapse controller

Learn more here
Review video and writeup currently in the works.

 

5. Advanced bulb and exposure ramping timelapse controllers

These controllers do more than just control the timing of shutter firing. Advanced exposure ramping controllers connect to your camera in multiple ways allowing the device to vary each exposure ever so slightly as the light changes in our environment. The super gradual change (much more gradual than our camera can do by itself) produces beautiful flicker free timelapse sequences when we are filming a day-to-night or night-to-day composition (aka: the timelapse holy grail).

Now there is more than one way to achieve those smooth transitions, both in camera at the time of exposure and in post production. We cover all the ways on this website and in the timelapse book.

The Little Bramper (oh the classic original, no longer in production)

little-bramper-time-lapse-photography

Little Bramper: Bulb ramping time-lapse intervalometer

A standard intervalometer simply fires the camera shutter according to a set interval. The Little Bramper added 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.

Head out to the Little Bramper website to learn more.

Cost: ~ $85 from Little Bramper

Timelapse+

Learn more here
Review video and writeup currently in the works.

Ramper Pro from Elysia Visuals

Learn more here
Review video and writeup currently in the works.

6. DIY Time-lapse Intervalometers

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.

If you are really up for the challenge, ignore all this electronic whirlagizardry and just stick to the basics:

What is your experience?

Have you found an time-lapse intervalometer that meets your needs?

Return to The Massive Time-lapse Photography Tutorial:

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How to Shoot Timelapse Photography: The Massive Updated Tutorial

Ideas and resources to set the stage and unleash our creativity.

Learn Time-lapse From Shooting to Processing: Get the First Chapter Free

Free 36 page chapter download! Learn time-lapse with easy to understand examples, workflows, walkthroughs and diagrams covering basic and advanced topics. Start shooting today!

...or download the full 146 page eBook here.

There are 6 chapters and here's what's covered in Chapter 1:

  • Time-lapse gear from basic to advanced:
  • Cameras, tripods, intervalometers
  • ND filters, lenses, accessories
  • Time-lapse motion control devices (motorized sliders, panning, tilting)

Learn Time-lapse From Shooting to Processing: Get the First Chapter Free

Free 36 page chapter download! Learn time-lapse with easy to understand examples, workflows, walkthroughs and diagrams covering basic and advanced topics. Start shooting today!

...or download the full 146 page eBook here.

There are 6 chapters and here's what's covered in Chapter 1:

  • Time-lapse gear from basic to advanced:
  • Cameras, tripods, intervalometers
  • ND filters, lenses, accessories
  • Time-lapse motion control devices (motorized sliders, panning, tilting)