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I'm looking to take time-lapse photography (likely one shot per hour over the course of a year) from a fixed position (indoors). I'm wondering what equipment would help with this to overcome challenges of image transfer, battery, etc?

I'd probably use an old Canon 10D but would be open to an upgrade if it made things substantially easier. Is it possible to directly connect the camera to power (so I don't have to replace batteries)? Transfer images automatically over wireless (so I don't have to replace cards)?

Any other things to be wary of in long-term time-lapse photography?

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There are 8766 hours in a year, so a large memory card could hold all of the stills. –  tyblu Jan 5 '13 at 2:39

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Well sounds like the two main challenges for you are power and storage.

For power, looks like the Canon ACK-E2 AC Adapter is what you're after. Its a 'pseduo battery' that just puts the dc current at the right contacts. Or roll your own from an answer here, its just appropriate dc current on the correct contacts, I recommend buying though TBH. If its paramount to keep taking pictures, you may consider an UPS unit that will provide power if there is a power outage of some kind.

For storage, an option is probably an Eye-Fi SD card (transfers images over wireless) and a SD to CF card adapter. I don't have any experience with that kind of adapter, but anecdotally, there seems to be some hiccups for some people, but lots have it working. I don't imagine tethering is a valid option here because it would require the computer to stay there for a year. But if it is, you may be able to transfer simply over USB to a computer (somebody else with more Canon specific knowledge will need to weigh in on whether the picture can be deleted while tethering).

Other things to worry about:

  • Stability - over that time period, I would make sure that thing is bolted down and probably on some anti-vibration pads since you won't know what kind of conditions may happen.

  • Flicker in general, like normal timelapse photography.

  • Its about 9k shutter releases, so unless your already at the end of your camera life, you're probably ok.

  • Possibly, but not likely, heat from your camera being on that long starting to cause significant sensor noise. This is just a big unknown to me, but your camera manufacturer certainly didn't design it to be on for a year.

  • If your 10D has a power saving mode that turns the camera off after a period of inactivity, you will need to disable this.

As far as a intervalometer goes, many support infinite shutters, so your problem here again is power. Look around for a model in your price range and make sure it does the interval you want, but there's nothing real complicated there. If it runs on AAA or AA batteries, its probably not going to last a year. I see basically two (maybe three) options (apart from changing the batteries, and if they run out and you miss it - there goes a year):

  • Another hack of an existing remote to support a 'pseudo-battery' like mentioned above.

  • If you're a rather DIY type of person, using an Arduino as a intervalometer is rather trivial. Arduino, optocoupler, a few resistors, and you're in business. You can run an Arduino off of a normal wall wart.

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I'm assuming you already have an intervalometer. –  rfusca Jun 22 '11 at 20:13
1  
Might want to consider plugging the AC adapter into a UPS so that it can keep taking pictures if the power goes out... –  Billy ONeal Jun 22 '11 at 20:24
    
@Billy a good point. –  rfusca Jun 22 '11 at 20:26
1  
For the intervalometer, there are many inexpensive options. I personally use one from a manufacturer called JJC (jjc.cc). I purchased it through dealextreme at the time. My camera is a pentax, so yours would have a different jack (model number TM-A). I liked the JJC model because it used AAA batteries and lasts a long time with no upper limit on shots fired. –  smigol Jun 22 '11 at 22:45
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@JamesTauber - It may be specifically settable to 399 or something, but most also have an infinity mark past that where it just keeps going till you tell it to stop. –  rfusca Jul 4 '11 at 3:34

Have you considered using a webcam? There are tools available to grab a frame at a periodic time to get a shot.

Otherwise, an inexpensive intervalometer could be added to your camera using the shutter plug (much like you'd use for Bulb timer). You could set the interval to give a time of 60 minutes between each shot. I'd like to suggest that you set your shutter to do the self-timer countdown shutter setting so that it wakes up the camera from standby. You should confirm that setting will wake your camera without losing shots. With the amount of time between shots you could keep using batteries or make a battery hack (replacing the battery with a dummy that goes to a powersupply). This also goes for storage -- with the amount of time between shots and that this will be indoors and likely easy to reach, sneakernet is hard to beat.

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I have an old Nikon D90 that's turned out to be really good for timelapse. Other Nikon cameras are probably similar.

In Aperture Priority mode it will adjust the shutter between 1/4000 and 4s, and the ISO between 200 and 3200, so it can get the exposure right as the light changes from dawn, through midday to dusk.

You can adjust the settings to reduce power consumption to a tiny amount:

  • Turn off the auto review so it doesn't light up the LCD screen

  • Turn off autofocus and stability control

  • Set the metering timeout to 1 second

With these settings the battery will last for nearly a week doing an exposure every 5 minutes, and the CCD and electronics are only on for the second or so it takes to do the shot, so there are no heat build up issues.

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