Author Topic: Seeking opinions: What camera to use for indoor time lapse photography  (Read 605 times)

iDropEpicLoot

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Hello there! Hopefully this is appropriate for General Help A&A. This is my first post here.

I've been doing some googling and lots of videos on youtube later and I've decided that a canon DSLR with magic lantern on it for the time lapse functionality is probably my best bet.
I know literally nothing about photography, soo i'm diving in blind.

My main use for this camera would be time lapses taken from 2-5 feet away, indoors, under significant lighting (LED grow lights--big ones.)

Right now, i'm currently watching a couple Canon EOS Rebel T2i's on ebay, but I honestly have no idea if this model camera is the best option or not. If anyone has any input on the matter and can steer me in the right direction, I would very much appreciate the assistance!

Walter Schulz

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Re: Seeking opinions: What camera to use for indoor time lapse photography
« Reply #1 on: November 18, 2022, 11:39:44 AM »
Steep learning curve ahead ...

There are at least 4 methods for time-lapse in controlled environment supported by ML:

1. "Native" movie recording in Canon style (MOV/H.264) but frame rate cranked down by ML. 550D/T2i lower limit is around 0.2 fps.
Resolution is limited to 1920x1080 and video quality is not that great.
Almost no wear out for mirror and shutter.

2. RAW/MLV recording with low fps. Frankly, 550D is not the most supported RAW recording camera out there. Resolution in crop mode is limited to around 2500 pixel horizontally. Quality is far better than 1). 14 bit raw data like CR2 and aliasing is not a big concern most of the time (as in CR2).
Wear and tear: as 1)

3. Silent picture. Same as "normal" RAW picture but without shutter/mirror actuation. Electronic shutter. There are some limits with this method. One is shutter speed but this should not an issue for you (controlled lighting).
Another is capture/processing time. Silent pic in full-resolution is slow. Expect a frame every 5-6 seconds for upper limit.

4. Shooting time-lapse by intervalometer. Same as shooting pictures but with a timer inside. Takes a toll - and a serious one - on mirror and shutter. Lowest frame rate is determined by write rate to card. Or intervalometer setting (down to 1 shot/sec).


550D is not the most versatile ML camera for time-lapse. If you want to go "2": Other cameras offer better resolution.

Maybe a word or two about your ideas: Duration, frame rate, resolution, bit depth?

iDropEpicLoot

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Re: Seeking opinions: What camera to use for indoor time lapse photography
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2022, 05:09:01 PM »
Yeah, photography is one of those things where even 10 years in, i'm sure photographers are learning something new every day about their trade.

My main intention is to take simple time lapses of indoor garden plants, from seed to harvest time, under different lights to indicate how those plants grow under those specific lights.

I've dabbled with the time lapse function in my wyze v3 security camera, and I've found that I like setting it to take a picture every 10 minutes, and I'll usually set it to run for 80 hours at a stretch. If i do my math, that's 6 pictures an hour--144 pictures a day--480 pictures per time lapse. At 24fps (which i understand is 'cinematic' fps?) that'd be a 20 second video.

Of the 4 methods you mention, i think the closest to what i'm currently doing is #4, which is ideally what i'd like to do; many photos strung together to form smooth stop-motion.

Ideal duration of these time lapses: 20-30 seconds, which I could later edit together to form one long cohesive time lapse. Frame rate: 24-30fps seems ideal for this, without breaking my budget.

Resolution:  I only know enough about cameras to know that picture resolution varies from camera to camera, even if you're shooting in the same given resolution, because lenses and sensors and whatnot. And I'm sure thats only a half-right assertion, i'm sure there's way more to it or less to it, i dont know. The only camera i have experience with is on my cellphone. 🤷‍♂️

Ideally i'd like it to be high enough resolution for me to see the movement of the bugs and mites on the soil, while the plant in still in focus.

 I can share a youtube link to a video that is basically exactly what i'm trying to do. I'm sure there are other cameras with better resolution, but again--My budget is small, ideally i'd like to find a used camera on ebay with just one lens so I can gently dip my toes into this extraordinarily expensive hobby. My only other option is just buy a cheapo camera off amazon.

Walter Schulz

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Re: Seeking opinions: What camera to use for indoor time lapse photography
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2022, 07:38:21 PM »
550D/T2i will do the job. Number of pictures is lower than I expected and method 4 is what I would do.

If I would be asked to do it I would use some Arduino (microcomputer) to power up lights and camera every 10 minutes (cam powered by dummy battery). But that is just me.

iDropEpicLoot

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Re: Seeking opinions: What camera to use for indoor time lapse photography
« Reply #4 on: November 19, 2022, 03:49:27 PM »
Well, the lights are on an 18hr on / 6hr off cycle. I should only need the Magic Lantern software's intervalometer feature to take the picture every 10m, that's my current understanding of how this feature of the software works, right? You just set it and leave the camera alone while it does its thing?

And I can keep the camera charged by just having it plugged into a usb outlet, can't I? or are canon cameras battery only?

If you have any recommendations beyond the t2i, i'd love to hear them. Thank you for your input, Walter!

Walter Schulz

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Re: Seeking opinions: What camera to use for indoor time lapse photography
« Reply #5 on: November 19, 2022, 05:21:16 PM »
Intervalometer: Yes, that's all. Battery won't last that long, I suppose. I would suggest to use an external supply.

Recommendations: 550D/T2i will do that job, no doubt. I have no idea what other uses you have in mind and recommendation would depend on that + budget.
This cam is quite dated and not my camera of choice when it comes to low light, sports/action or video/streaming. But still able to capture stills with decent results. Personally I would miss an articulating display for macro work.