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I'm planning to set up a long-running timelapse system to capture the view from my new office building. The problem is, other people work near me, and I don't want to disturb them with camera sounds every 30/60 minutes.

I'm setting this up on a budget, so I would love to use the old D70 I have lying around. Is there a way to lock the mirror and still take pictures? After framing the shot initially, I have no need for the mirror. With the mirror locked, the camera should be very quiet.

If that won't work, is there an affordable camera that accepts F mount lenses? I already have a good lens for this task. If I get a new camera, a good bracketing mode is needed. The camera doesn't need to be a Nikon as long as there is a mount adapter available.

Side note: I'd rather not use a sound-proofing blimp since space is also an issue.

Thanks for any input!

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Have you considered using a Nikon J1 with an adapter? The J1 has an electronic (rather than mechanical) shutter and is totally silent.

The J1 can be had for a song these days, as it's one or two generations behind the current model, and it even has a time-lapse function (something most older DSLRs will lack).

However, Nikon's adapter (called FT-1) is unfortunately as expensive as the camera. So depending on the focal length needed, you might be better off buying a used J1 with a kit lens, which doesn't add much to the price, rather than using the F-mount lens you had in mind.

If you're fine with losing all automatic functions (metering, focusing), you can also substitute a cheap mechanical adapter for the FT-1. See for instance here: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3389573

In the event that compact camera quality is sufficient, you might consider using a Canon compact with the CHDK firmware, which essentially makes the camera programmable, so time-lapses are no problem, and since compacts are silent, that requirement is fulfilled too.

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Good that you mentioned compact cameras. A timelapse is usually made to a video, and quite likely not larger than the normal HD resolution, and any compact cam is good enough for that.. Maybe DSLR is wanted for better low-light performance. –  Esa Paulasto Apr 27 '13 at 3:11
    
Great advice, thanks! My timelapse setup will be long-running (months, maybe years), so memory card size is a concern. I'll have a netbook attached to the camera, running gphoto2 to capture the photos and sync them to dropbox. gphoto2 sadly doesn't support the J1 yet. Compacts are totally fine. I only want to spend as little money as possible on this, and I already have a D70 and Nikon lens collection. –  mwc Apr 28 '13 at 5:25
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Most 5-year-old compacts were already SDHC compatible, allowing card sizes of up to 32GB. With image sizes at 1MB tops (more doesn't make sense in a compact camera), you get around a year's worth of images on a 16GB card, and 2 years with a 32GB card. So I wouldn't worry about card sizes. Besides, you'll certainly check on the system from time to time, and a card swap should only take a few seconds, no? Also, gphoto2 seems to offer delete options (--delete-file and --delete-all-files) which if they work would obviate any card size concerns. –  Endre Both Apr 28 '13 at 8:39
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Re. gphoto2 support for the J1: gphoto's camera support page says "Cameras capable of MTP, PTP or PictBridge are supported without needing to be specifically listed here." I would be surprised if the J1 didn't support MTP, so maybe it would work with gphoto2 without camera-specific support (at least as far as downloading and deleting images goes, which would be enough for you if you use the built-in time-lapse function)? –  Endre Both Apr 28 '13 at 8:41

The D70 AFAIK does not have mirror lockup. The D200 does, and can be had cheap used. It's a workhorse.
I'm not sure you can keep it locked up permanently without modifying the camera, you might need a D1 or D2 series for that functionality.

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