Time lapse photography is a technique where the frequency at which images are captured, over time, is lower than used to view the sequence. When played at speed, the recorded time progresses fast.
Why do you need a time lapse camera? Quite simply, to speed up time. From rolling clouds and 3D printing to a construction project, car restoration, family trip, research and more. The applications for time lapse are limited only by your imagination.
Choosing a Camera
DLSRs, action cameras, point and shoot cameras and smart phones are all capable of creating time lapse videos.
Smartphones are very limited, battery life and storage capacity are generally the biggest factor. Plus, we don't know about you, but we have other things we need to do with our phones. In a pinch a smartphone will work, but we wouldn't want to take the time to catch even a sunset with ours.
Action cams and point and shoot cameras will work, but limited to about two hours of battery life.
DSLRs are great for stunning time lapse projects. However, battery life is also limiting. Every frame is a shutter actuation which causes wear on the camera. Weatherproofing is problematic and you probably don't want to leave a $1,000+ camera set-up unattended. After you are done you will have hundreds or thousands of images to join to make your movie.
UPDATE: The most versatile long term time lapse camera is the new award winning Afidus ATL-200. See all of the amazing details at AfidusCam.com.
Below this line contains some outdated content. The Brinno TLC200 Pro camera remains a great low cost long term camera solution. Brinno also has a new camera the TLC2000 or Empower found in the Brinno BCC2000 bundle. For various reasons we have chosen to not carry the TLC2000 camera.
The Brinno camera line offers unprecedented battery life, weatherproof housings, low cost and ease of use. Think beyond sunsets, to projects which last hours, days, weeks, months and even years. Let's take a quick look at each of the Brinno time lapse cameras and we will give you our opinions and link to product information.
Brinno TLC200 Pro
This too is a great camera, with slightly better image quality than the TLC200 f/1.2. The battery life, although still amazing is not as long as the camera above. This is the camera we use for all short term projects (three months or less) anything creative, northern lights, 3D printing, driving time lapse, sunrise, etc. It is an excellent choice if accessible, or you don't mind checking it every two-three months. We have no problem recommending this for longer projects too with a battery change every three months. The Pro offers an interchangeable lens, additional advanced setting options and a high dynamic range (HDR) sensor which handles high contrast lighting well.
Brinno TLC200 f/1.2 (Discontinued)
This is a great all around camera perfect for long term exterior construction work. This is the one camera we choose if we don't want to check on it for four months or more. It is a reliable workhorse and will withstand extreme winter cold and scorching summer heat.
Brinno TLC120 (Discontinued)
This is Brinno's newest camera and a glimpse into the future product line. With Bluetooth app control and Wi-Fi preview/file transfer to a device running the app, the camera has some appealing features. This is a great travel camera, it takes up little room in a camera bag or backpack and easily fits into a pocket. We love this little camera for what it is, however, we often choose the TLC200 Pro for ease of use and reliability. The two cameras are comparable regarding video quality, however the TLC200 Pro shines at night, we don't recommend the 120 for night shooting as the video appears noisier than the TLC200 Pro. Connecting multiple cameras via the app may not work well and the lack of replaceable batteries make this camera our last choice for long term work.