The best timelapse cameras make it easy to capture a series of stills – over hours, days, weeks or even months – and then condense that footage into a short video clip. And in this article, we've brought together the best timelapse cameras for a variety of purposes. So whether you want to document a bike ride, capture the unfurling of a rare flower, or record the construction of a new building, you'll find the perfect model below.
Most of the best professional cameras (opens in new tab) and even some camera phones (opens in new tab) have some sort of timelapse function, letting you set an interval timer to capture a series of photos, which you can combine into a video later. If you're using an iPhone for photography (opens in new tab) you'll have noticed that they have a particularly useful timelapse function in the native camera app, so it’s easy to get a taste for this form of creativity.
However, there's one big problem with using your camera or phone in this way. Timelapse videos are captured over weeks, or even months – and having your day-to-day tech tied up for that length of time just isn't practical.
Buying a dedicated timelapse camera can also bring other benefits. These devices last much longer than traditional cameras (although you may have to rely on old-fashioned batteries instead). They take weatherproofing and mounting seriously. Plus, many will automatically process your stills straight into a video clip for you, saving you having to mess around with software.
The best timelapse cameras in 2022(opens in new tab)
The ultimate action camera, the GoPro Hero10 Black (opens in new tab) can shoot about 70 minutes of 5.3K video at a luxurious 100Mbp. Timelapse is just an extra feature here, but still offers the choice of 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10, 30 and 60-second intervals between frames (though, oddly, JPEG only for 0.5, 1 and 2-second intervals).
The battery is bigger than the Hero8, so you can get longer timelapses than you might remember, though the processor in the Hero 10 does draw more power because of recognised usability flaws with its predecessor which, thankfully, have been resolved.
While recording action, a fun way to play with time is TimeWarp’s real speed option. Briefly hold a button and the timelapse will slow to real speed and add audio. Other features when being used as an action camera include swappable lenses and in-built “HyperSmooth” image stabilisation and horizon levelling. This works a lot like a gimbal-without-a-gimbal, even in timelapse. And the results are striking; if you go for a walk your footage will be free of the footstep bounce.
Like all recent GoPros, the Hero10 Black will also make micro-adjustments to exposure for a smooth light-to-dark timelapse; no awkward 1/3rd stop jumps, and there's a dedicated Night Lapse mode with auto interval. Handy.
Read our GoPro Hero 10 Black Review (opens in new tab)(opens in new tab)
We can’t mention GoPro in a list without noting the possibilities DJI's Action 2 offers as a timelapse device. Not least the option to be worn very discretely with the new Magnetic Lanyard so the camera is nothing more than a lens on the chest (it’s about half the size of the GoPro).
The OLED touchscreen makes choosing interval and shooting duration painless, while continually being provided with a calculated Video Duration. So, dial 10s Interval and 1h Duration and you’ll see a 00:12 Video Duration (assuming 60fps). Okay, this is not entirely unique, but what does stand out on this screen is the variety of intervals you can use to get the perfect shot length; 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 13, 15, 20, 30, 40 seconds.
All these are available at 4K, 2.7K and 1080p. And, of course, there is a built-in microphone and, like the GoPro, it's waterproof.
Read our DJI Action 2 review (opens in new tab)
The TLC130 is a compact camera, designed to be even more portable than the GoPro Hero, but still operate in a familiar way; using a rechargeable battery and microSD card. The TLC130’s power, however, is optimized around timelapse shooting, so it can expect to manage six days at a five-minute interval despite the tiny form factor. That's long enough to track some vacation events but perhaps not to follow the construction of a skyscraper. Power is also saved by eliminating a display; there are just two buttons and an LED, though the power button doubles up as shutter for step videos.
The real flexibility comes via the Brinno App, with features from edits and sharing to changing settings, all managed over Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and the resulting file is 1080p video. While some form of image stabilization (IS) would have been nice, the ability to capture a series of clips – step videos – is a nice option for action fans. And this is an interesting alternative to an action cam for distance cyclists, despite the timelapse focus.
If you're new to timelapse photography, here's our recommendation. While Brinno offer devices with higher resolutions, the TLC200 and TLC200 Pro mark a more accessible starting point into timelapse photography while retaining the significant benefit of compatibility with Brinno’s lens system. You could buy one of these, add a compatible tele lens later, then use that lens with a more powerful camera (like the Empower TLC2020) when the job demanded it. (The waterproof housing is probably more essential than a new lens.)
In exchange for the cheaper entry price, you get a smaller preview screen, just 1.4” (though that is enough to do the job) and – if you skip the ‘Pro’ model – you also miss out on HDR. The latter is an essential feature if lighting conditions will shift during your shoot. That’ll be worthwhile since (with either model) you’ll be able to get 40 day’s worth on camera capturing one shot every five minutes.
This might even be the start of a new creative avenue for the kids. Indeed, with optional triggers for stop-motion amongst the available accessories it could even promote patience.(opens in new tab)
This piece of German product design has a very specific purpose in mind; long duration timelapse. That's evidenced by the 12 spaces for AA cells: four beneath the electronics, and another eight in the door.
The unit is IP66-weather sealed when closed, so it can be mounted in harsh environments. Just like some German car brands, while the engineering feels firm, the menu system could be easier to navigate, though there is a real manual in the box alongside several mounting options and proportionally you won’t be spending that long with the menu.
We appreciated the inclusion of a tree rope as well as a drillable wall bracket with ball joint with screws. The 2.4-inch LCD makes directing the camera simple, and there is also an LED flash to light the night mode with an 18m (60ft) range. It’s also very handy that the system allows microSD cards (opens in new tab) up to 512GB.
The TLC2020 is not Brinno’s first timelapse camera, and this model does offer more than some of its predecessors while using the same interchangeable CS mount lenses, which some might already have in their collections.
It can capture up to 82 days worth of footage (at one frame every five minutes) thanks to the option to add two extra batteries. And manufacturer Brinno offers a range of optional accessories including its jib-like BARD monopod/clamp, a waterproof housing and a smooth-moving motorized turntable.
Setup is merciful to those not inclined to algebra, clearly indicating how many seconds of footage per hour will be shot in plain English on the rear-mounted monitor. If you want more guidance, mode names like “indoor event” and “detailed craftwork” help you choose the right speed. The produced video, however, is in .avi format, which means Mac users will need a conversion tool, although these are fairly easily found online.(opens in new tab)
If you’ve been caught by the timelapse bug on social but don’t want to tie up your phone, the EON is built with you in mind. You might think the option of a white case verges on the condescending (if so, choose the more traditional black), but in truth it is features like the Time Slice that stand out. This is a single photo generated from strips of a timelapse to show a day in a single still – very striking.
And that’s not all. The camera is presented more as a set including a UV filter, case, lens hood and mini tripod. It is app-controlled, so you’ll need your phone to get things going, but the app offers more than mere interval settings. You can tap to zoom on an area as you adjust the manual focus, check a live preview even as a shoot is in progress, or switch to an infrared mode.
You can also switch to power-saving mode. In this case, the battery is measured in days, not minutes, and the 2μm pixels and up to 1.4-sec shutter speed can help in low light.(opens in new tab)
This is the timelapse version of a Wingscapes camera which is triggered – like the best trail cameras (opens in new tab) – by close-up action. Supplied with a mounting bracket for poles and a strap for trees, it's very much designed to live in the outdoors.
The intention is that it should be focused on a specific location, such as a bird feeder or a growing flower. This is hammered home by the fact the box also includes a tape measure for discovering the focusing distance. Yes, it’s a manual focus, but the lens grip has been surrounded by markings, so setting the distance isn’t too challenging. And the fewer expensive features, the easier it feels to leave it outdoors for extended periods! That said, it has a powerful LED flash and the option to have two different timelapse programs per day (perhaps a lower frame rate at night); both are nice extras.
There is also ‘managed memory,’ which deletes the oldest images on the memory card if space runs out, rather than stopping altogether. If you’re always organized, you should never need this feature. You might want it disabled (which you can do). However, writing as someone more likely to copy images off than to remember to delete them after, I found it very useful.
Aerial timelapse: Drones that can capture timelapse
If you’re interested in capturing a timelapse effect from an aerial perspective, that’s not a problem. Most of the best camera drones (opens in new tab) have some additional support for the effect. Clearly a battery-powered craft will not be able to maintain a position above ground longer than the drone can fly, but newer drones – like the DJI Mavic 3 (opens in new tab) – have around 40 minutes of useable flight time, making a visibly accelerated real world feasible.
In addition, since Mavic 2 (opens in new tab), DJI’s drones have been able to use what is called their Hyperlapse feature to orbit a certain point – or even a series of waypoints – and smoothly move the aircraft slowly enough for the timelapse effect to work, while keeping the lens on target.
Hyperlapse is not unique to DJI either; it’s now seen on Autel aircraft, including the recent Autel EVO Nano+.
What we look for in timelapse cameras
The best timeplase cameras have to be robust and stable to be able to leave wherever you desire to capture a vast array of visuals from cityscape timelapses that we often see in movies to great moving vistas of the landscape.
Battery life with these things is also a big consideration when picking out which one is best for you. Some will be able to capture hours of footage, where others can capture days, weeks or even months in one clip.
Many timeplase cameras have a multitude of features and within the above guide you will find timelapse cameras for all budgets and abilities.
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