Which Camera is best suited for time-lapse photography?
Whether you’re a beginner photographer or an experienced professional, chances are you’ve asked this question at least a few times.
While there are many types of time-lapse cameras, your choice should be based on the kind of image result you want to get with the camera.
For example, if you’re looking to shoot astrophotography time-lapses of particular night activity, you should invest in a camera that can produce top-notch images in complete darkness.
A perfect choice for this is the Canon 80D. This DSLR camera produces impressive images under low light. It is also budget-friendly, portable, has the best build quality, and offers the best value for the money.
Best Camera for time lapse in 2020
1. Canon 80D
Best Overall (Auto Creates Time-Lapses – No Post-Production Editing Required)
Type: DSLR | Sensor size: 22.3 x 14.9mm | Resolution: 25.8MP | Lens: EF/EF-S mount | Viewfinder: Pentaprism | Screen type: Touch screen Vari angle 3.0″ (7.7cm) 3:2 Clear View II TFT, approx. 1040K | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 7fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Beginner/ Intermediate/expert
- Easy rotatable touchscreen display
- High resolution images up to ISO 3200
- New 45-point AF system for improved picture focus
- Best value for the money
- UHS-II memory cards not supported
- No GPS tracking
The Canon 80D is a semi-pro DSLR time-lapse camera and our top choice. Along with an effective AF system, Canon 80D features a Dual Pixel CMOS technology to create a live view and record videos. The Newly integrated 45-point viewfinder creates a better picture focus.
I’m also thrilled with the ergonomics nature of the camera, as it won’t take up a lot of space.
The Canon 80D stands out with its auto mode to create time-lapse footage in a blink of an eye, without the need for post-production editing on a computer.
You can modify the settings on the menu, and the Camera keeps the images unified once shooting is completed.
Its High-resolution images of up to ISO 3200 ensure that your time-lapse video comes out top-notch.
What’s more, all videos recorded on Canon 80D are saved in HD format and quality. It saves all the photos on the memory card one after another, which you can use separately or use to create a time-lapse video on your PC.
And it does not matter whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned professional; Canon 80D is easy for creating fantastic time-lapse videos.
The build quality is second to none. However, I noticed that the camera does not support UHS-II memory cards.
2. Sony a7R III
Best Full-Frame Mirrorless Functional Multifunctional Camera
Type: Mirrorless | Sensor size: full frame | Resolution: 43.6MP | Lens: Sony E-mount | Viewfinder: Pentaprism | Screen type: Tilt type 1.44m-Dot 2.95 inch (3.0-type) wide type TFT | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Movies: 4K | User level: Intermediate/expert
- Up to 12,800 Operable ISO
- Articulating touchscreen
- Excellent quality video recording
- High battery capacity
- A bit pricey for beginners
Sony a7R III is one of Sony’s top-of-the-line mirrorless multifunctional cameras with impressive time-lapse recording.
It has a continual 10fps shooting mode, undisrupted eye-tracking autofocus, and a mind-blowing buffer of eighty 42MP RAW images.
In terms of time-lapse shooting with Sony a7R III, I recommend using manual mode. Otherwise, a change in exposure may alter the settings of the Camera’s exposure meter. This could result in irritating flickering when each video frame comes with different exposures.
Moreover, with manual mode, I was able to control each photo aspect, including exposure length, depth of field, noise, and more. What’s more, you can reduce the burst shooting mode speed of this Camera to as low as one shot per second.
Along with having the Sony a7R III camera, you can also use it together with the Sony 24-105mm f/4 lens.
I was pleasantly amazed to see how well this combination was easy to use, and even while it is an f/4 lens, along with a (highly) low light-sensitive camera, the results were outstanding.
The larger camera body size is easy to use, and the newly-included higher power battery is impressive.
The super-35 and full-frame modes deliver excellent looking videos. I love this combination and how easy it was to switch between modes.
Whether it’s during the day or at night, the 43.6 MegaPixel Camera has always delivered incredible time-lapse videos.
3. Brinno TLC200 Pro
Best Weatherproof Camera
Type: HDR | Sensor size: 1/3″ HDR sensor | Resolution: 1.3 Megapixel | Lens: Sony E-mount | Viewfinder: Pentaprism | Screen type: 1.44″ TFT LCD | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Movies: AVI | User level: Intermediate/expert
- Easy to set up and use
- Flexible shooting settings
- Limited video quality of 720p HD
I was impressed with the battery life of The Brinno TLC200 Pro. Powered by 4AAA batteries, this time-lapse camera can last for several days. The exposure length and set interval will also determine battery life.
For instance, Brinno TLC200 Pro can last for up to 5 days of daytime shooting with two-second intervals and short exposure. The battery life will be reduced more when used in night mode.
However, when it comes to night photography, the ability of the camera sensor to capture high-quality images is most important.
Much the quality of pictures taken at night is not always up to the mark since they are always noisy and less-detailed. That’s why I prefer taking photographs with Brinno TLC200 Pro during the day, evening, or morning.
You can use it as a garden watch camera to monitor animals moving around the forest. Furthermore, Brinno TLC200 Pro is a perfect option for landscape time-lapses.
You’re also allowed to pick from four different shooting modes or switch to the white balance settings.
This Brinno model automatically produces AVI videos in 1280×720 resolutions. Although this resolution can be considered as decent, it’s not decent enough to be the best camera for a time-lapse video.
4. Sony A6500
Best Sony Time-Lapse Camera
Type: HDR | Sensor size: 23.5 x 15.6 mm | Resolution: 24 Megapixel | Lens: Sony E-mount | Viewfinder: EVF/LCD, 921,600 dots | Screen type: 1.44″ TFT LCD | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 11fps | Movies: MPEG-4, AVCHD, XAVC S | User level: Intermediate/expert
- An Amazing video recording feature
- Best Sony time-lapse camera
- Supports USB charging
- Impressive image quality at maximum ISO settings
- Difficult-to-understand menu layout
- Has no headphone input
Whenever I decide to record a time-lapse video with a Sony Camera, I choose this street-style Camera.
While it is expensive, the Camera delivers expanded settings and functionality that simplifies the video recording process of a time-lapse camera.
Note that you’re only a couple of clicks away from setting up the Camera, and the results are breathtaking.
Sadly, Sony limited this Camera to 990 frames per shoot. Irrespective of your shooting goal, I suggest setting the shooting speed to a maximum. This way, the video quality won’t experience shot changes.
I also love that you can decide what result you want to get: separated video and image, finished video, or photographs only. The pictures shot do not require post-production editing.
Finally, I’d like to add that the Sony A6500 features a 24MP matrix, meaning the footage is high quality at daytime and also highly-detailed at nighttime.
5. Canon EOS 7D Mark II
Best Time-Lapse Cameras For Action And Sports Photography
Type: HDR | Sensor size: 22.4 x 15.0mm | Resolution: 20.9 Mega pixel | Lens: Sony E-mount | Viewfinder: Pentaprism | Screen type: EF, EF-S, TS-E, MP-E | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Movies: MP4/MOV | User level: Beginner/Intermediate/expert
- Shooting speed up to 10fps
- Excellent quality images of over ISO 3200
- Complete HD shooting
- Higher battery capacity
- Has no 4K video
- Expensive for beginners
Because of its speed and flexibility, the Canon EOS 7D Mark II is considered an ideal time-lapse camera for action, street, and sports photography.
Its ability to deliver high-quality videos in poor light conditions and its integrated GPS receiver makes the Camera most in-demand among photographers.
Like the previous Cannon models, the 7D Mark II provides time-lapse recording and doesn’t require purchasing the expensive Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3.
In fact, many people doubted the time-lapse capacity of this model. Many documentation claimed that the 7D Mark 11 could take up to 1~99 frames. But, this Camera can be programmed to shoot as many videos as you want, which is why it can be considered as an affordable time-lapse camera.
I also love how it supports two different memory card types, extra settings, long battery life, and GPS receiver.
6. Canon 30D
Best Budget Friendly Camera
Type: SLR | Sensor size: 22.5 x 15 mm | Resolution: 8 Megapixel | Lens: Canon EF/EF-S | Viewfinder: Pentaprism | Screen type: EF, EF-S, TS-E, MP-E | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 5fps | Movies: no | User level: Beginner/intermediate/expert
- High resolution up to 3200 ISO
- Quiet and impressive shots
- Not the best quality
The Canon 30D is a budget-friendly choice for both beginners and seasoned professionals.
The Camera has features that are similar to the Canon 5D original model. However, don’t expect all the bells and whistles of the best time-lapse cameras with this model.
It has a 2.5″ LCD screen and can take up to 3200 ISO ratings.
Although the Camera has no specific time-lapse built-in tool, feel free to connect an intervalometer.
When it comes to price, the 30D is about half of the Canon 70D.
I recommend this time-lapse Camera because, even though it does not have all the bells and whistles of other time-lapse cameras, you can still shoot impressive time-lapse videos.
Like every other Camera, Canon 3D has a shelf life. It will continue to shoot until 40,000 shutter actuations.
For example, if you use the 30D to create a 400-image time-lapse video, you can expect to get a hundred projects before the Camera goes haywire.
7. Olympus OM-D E-M1
Best Time-Lapse Camera For Beginner
Type: SLR | Sensor size: 17.3 x 13 mm | Resolution: 16.3 Megapixel | Lens: CMOS | Viewfinder: electronic | Screen type: LCD | Maximum continuous shooting speed: 10fps | Movies: H.264, Motion JPEG | User level: Beginner
- Quick and accurate AF
- Amazing built-in WiFi
- Dustproof and waterproof
- Video mode is best for beginner shooting
- Video requires post-production editing
The Olympus OM-D E-M1 produces excellent quality videos and photos. This Camera has a built-in-5, axis tilting touch screen, impressive VF, VF4- and can take up to 10 frames in a second.
The diverse settings and smooth operation of Olympus OM-D E-M1 make it a perfect option for beginners.
I was able to shoot short videos, even without any additional equipment, as the built-in stabilizers were impressive in their operation. However, for best results, I had to edit the videos on my computer.
Time-Lapse Camera Buyers guide
Time-lapse Cameras – How do they work?
The time-lapse Camera takes single images and combines them to create a video that shows a movement of a certain landscape or an event around us over a specific period of time.
This could be the moon traveling through the sky, cloud movements, star movements, or night traffic from a busy city.
The goal is to show how certain scenes change drastically over a period of time, say, between daytime and nighttime (holy grail time-lapse) or from one type of weather to another. See our time lapse shooting guide to learn how to create an awesome time lapse.
A time-lapse camera can explain certain events or tell a story in our environment that a single image cannot tell.
To understand the principle of time-lapse photography, you must understand how a typical video is made. In the Television and cinema world, the motions we see are actually a series of single images displayed one after another at a specific frame rate.
These frame rates range from 24 frames per second to 30 frames per second. Therefore, for 10-second footage, what it means is 240-300 single images show at a faster rate to create motion.
Now, let’s apply the same idea to time-lapse photography. What you should do is to take a certain number of shots and play it at, let’s say, 30 frames per second. And that’s a time-lapse video.
In a nutshell,
General videos and time-lapse videos generate a single image one after another, at a higher speed. Video works for events that occur at ‘normal speed,’ while time-lapse videos are best for activities that may take a more extended time period.
Where is the Time-lapse camera Applicable?
When you carefully plan your shoot and choose an interesting subject that changes with time (the milky way traveling through the night sky, a weather change or sunrise and sunset), you get a more interesting result. That’s the beauty of time-lapse photography.
While I personally capture time-lapse scenes for night landscape scenes, there are some other uses of a time-lapse camera that include:
Monitoring technique for construction sites
This camera can be used to monitor construction site activities.
Since time-lapse camera capture images at a per-second interval, users can visibly see any changes, alteration, progress, and work done at each level of construction.
Keep tracks of Landscape variations
These cameras can be used to monitor stars and clouds movement. Time-lapse cameras can also capture dramatic changes in nature, such as variational changes from one season to another.
It can also record sports, adventures, and other action-related activities.
Because they are easily transported around, they are used to keep track of activities like mountain biking, snowboarding, surfing, and more.
Types of Camera that are suitable for time-lapse videos
Digital Camera SLR (DSLR)
When it comes to cost/benefit, DSLR is clearly the best option. It delivers impressive results, high-quality images, and you can find them at a reasonable price.
Mirrorless cameras have a ton of benefits over its DSLR counterparts, such as producing noiseless shooting and being a compact camera.
These cameras are getting more and more advanced, bridging the vast gap with DSLR.
The print quality is almost the same as the DSLR. In some instances, mirrorless cameras experience limited cases of blurriness because of the mirror not flipping up and down.
This is a camera solely dedicated to time-lapse recording. An example is the Brinno TLC200 Pro.
What is the Best Interval for a Time-Lapse Camera?
As a photographer, you must understand how to set intervals for your footage. You cannot afford to set just about any interval.
Different subjects and scenes require specific intervals. To record fast-moving clouds or busy traffic, go for a 1-second interval. To shoot sunrises, sunsets, or places with crowds, you can go as high as 3 seconds interval.
Finally, 15-30 second intervals are suitable for moving shadows, stars, and construction projects.
What To Look For In A Camera For Time-Lapse Photography
You don’t have to break the bank to buy the best Camera for time-lapse photography. Below are some important features and capabilities that you should pay attention to when looking for one.
1. Ability to shoot in RAW
The ability to capture RAW format images and perform under low light conditions are important criteria when looking for a time-lapse camera.
RAW format saves all image data that the sensor records whenever you take a shot. Especially crucial for night shoots as you’ll need to post-process your time-lapse to extract the brightness in each scene.
When you shoot in JPEG format, the information may be compressed and lost. Because RAW file format does not compress information, you can be sure of retaining higher image quality. That’s a good reason you should consider a time-lapse camera that shoots RAW.
The Canon 80D is a good example of a camera that shoots RAW. Along with an impressive AF system, Canon 80D features a Dual Pixel CMOS technology and a RAW file shooting to create a live view, and record videos at the highest quality.
2. Capable of producing great images at night
Whether you’re planning to shoot the galactic core of the milky way, or you’re creating a time-lapse of the night stars, only an excellent camera can help you produce the best images at night. Again, I’ll give it to Canon 80D here.
3. Battery Life
Consider how much time it will take you to complete a single photo session. If you are shooting for long periods, I’d recommend going for time-lapse cameras with high battery capacity or a model that can connect with a power bank or third party battery.
I was impressed with the battery life of The Brinno TLC200 Pro. Powered by 4AAA batteries, this time-lapse camera can last for long. Note: the Brinnon isn’t really recommended for night landscape, it’s more a day time-lapse camera. For night scenes, the Canon 80D and Sony a7R III also come with high capacity batteries.
You should consider a camera offering as much memory as you need since you’re going to be taking lots of images. Moreover, the Camera must be fast enough to avoid disrupting the shooting process due to buffering speed.
I would personally recommend time-lapse cameras that support multiple card connectivity.
Here, Canon 80D also saves the day.
5. Great Construction
If you’re planning to shoot on a hot sunny day, any camera is fine. But if you intend to do a time-lapse shoot when you’re far from your Camera (for example, in a building), you should buy a device like Brinno TLC200 Pro that is weatherproof.
Have you set your budget?
How much can you comfortably part with for a time-lapse camera?
While it is challenging to balance needs with budgets, you also must remember that having an expensive camera does not automatically translate to taking the best shots or creating epic time-lapse videos.
While selecting the right gear is important, it only makes a little difference in the photography world. Hence, you don’t have to empty your wallet to buy a flagship camera.
With a bit of practice and the right technique, your result should come out impressive with most cameras.
However, with that being said, if you do have the budget set aside and can afford a high-end camera, try to get one, such as a full-frame camera.
As the larger sensor and higher ISO setting tolerance will make your night shots and videos have a head start when you start to stitch the timelapse video together in post-production.
Quick Recap Of The Best 7 Time Lapse Cameras For 2020
Hopefully, you can now make an informed decision on the best time-lapse camera to buy.
But if you’re looking to get the best value for your money, I suggest going for our overall winner- Canon 80D.
The Canon 80D is budget-friendly, most portable, has the best build quality, and offers the best value.
The Canon 80D produces higher image quality by taking shots in the RAW file. Its higher battery capacity, improved memory, higher resolution, and ability to take impressive shots in complete darkness make it an excellent option for both daytime and astrophotography.
However, all the time-lapse cameras on our list are the best in each of their categories. The choice will be based on your preference.