Alley in Pisa, Italy

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I am planning to take a bunch of photos for time-lapse and it is easiest for me to setup with my XT; however, it will definitely require a bunch of shutter actuations which would ultimately kill my camera.

Is there anyway to disable mechanical actuations (ie. keep the shutter open for a set amount of time, but electronically turn it on/off?

Alternatively, what are some other good packages you recommend (point and shoot cameras, video cameras, etc.)? The cameras have to support a tripod mount and preferably, I'd like to just get a bunch of jpegs that I can stitch together myself as opposed to a video directly.

Walter

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How many actuations are you planning on? –  ysap Jan 12 '11 at 9:46
    
Good question, after doing my calculations, I think I want to do a 4 minute video at 30 fps (7200 frames). Does that mean I should shoot only 7200 frames, or take a bunch and let my stitcher 'blur' them? –  Walter White Jan 13 '11 at 13:53
    
I shot more sample time lapses with a 1/2 second exposure with a 2 second interval (1.5 seconds after accounting for the exposure) and I like the smoothness of the pictures / video produced. Taking pictures with an SLR and an intervalometer was more than a little distracting, the sound of the shutter opening and closing ... –  Walter White Jan 26 '11 at 19:51
    
I wrote an application for my camera phone and while it works, but it isn't stable. The drivers I based it off of are still beta and crash periodically. The good news with it though is, it is perfectly silent, you cannot tell pictures are being taken so it does not annoy people. I'm trying to get my point and shoot working with CHDK and have limited success with it so far. –  Walter White Jan 26 '11 at 19:52
    
What camera do you have? Does it support CHDK? –  tomm89 Feb 2 '11 at 6:06
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4 Answers 4

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Unfortunately there is no way to turn off the shutter mechanism on the 350D (without some serious hacking, which would probably render it useless as a DSLR).

A DSLR is probably overkill for timelapses and not really simply the right tool for starting to learn how to shoot them, mainly due to the mechanical shutter. But also the major advantages of a DSLR:

  • interchangable lenses
  • shallow depth of field
  • optical viewfinder

are not usually required for timelapses, except in rare circumstances. At the same time the disadvantages of P&S and bridge cameras:

  • poor low light performance
  • slow autofocus

are largely mitigated by shooting timelapses on a tripod. Other advantages are that a smaller camera is easier to position, you can get away with a lighter tripod or a GorillaPod. It's also less likely to get stolen, and if it does it will be cheaper to replace. You don't need the latest and greatest, HD video is only equivalent to two megapixels! You don't even need manual controls or an intervalometer if you can a camera for which a custom firmware is available (e.g. it supports CHDK).

Is this the only timelapse you'll ever shoot? Or will you be planning to do more if it goes well? If it's the later my advice would be to stump up the cost of a compact now and it'll save you money in the long run.

The manufacturer's shutter ratings are conservative, and empirical data on shutter failure (such as this link that Joey posted for the) is very useful, but beware of the small sample size! There are a total of 10 people (out of 427 respondents) who claim to have taken the camera past 150k actuations. The 427 figure is also not representative considering the millions of 350Ds that have been sold worldwide.

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I don't know if "of no consequence" is quite right (except for optical viewfinder, which I agree with). One might want those things in a time-lapse video for the same reason shooting video with SLRs is all the rage right now, and interchangeable lenses and shallow DoF are certainly part of that. –  mattdm Jan 12 '11 at 14:43
    
Thanks for your reply, the CHDK looks like it would be an ideal solution. I don't own any P & S cameras other than my smartphone which I won't use. I can probably get a decent P & S for around $100 so that would be a good bet. –  Walter White Jan 12 '11 at 15:09
    
I just got the Canon SD1300 IS - I plan to shoot more time lapse. I did a quick one with my SLR a few weeks back and it turned out pretty cool. My DSLR is about 5 / 6 years old (and I believe I am right at the 50k shutter mark, most of which are bad photos), so I'm planning to replace it with the 7d or t2i or equivalent depending on how much use I plan to get out of it. When I got the intervalometer, I totally forgot about 'actuations' even though I estimated how many it'd be. I guess sometimes you need to have something in your hand for it to sink in. –  Walter White Jan 12 '11 at 18:03
    
@mattdm That's true about DOF. Most of the DLSR videos I've seen have been of people whereas most of the limlapses I've seen have been landscapes/cityscapes but there may be circumstances where you want shallow DOF. As for interchangable lenses with compacts offering silly X zooms you're only really going to suffer at the wide end, and for this there are usually wide angle adaptors available. –  Matt Grum Jan 12 '11 at 18:40
    
Actually, I should have read the article, although there was a link to the SD1300 on the site, it is NOT supported yet by CHDK. CHDK supports older cameras, most of which are not available locally. –  Walter White Jan 13 '11 at 1:12
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An expired shutter will likely not kill the whole camera. Shutters can be replaced independently, and don't cost terribly much...maybe $150 or around there. A decent point and shoot, or a camera with an actual electronic shutter, are likely to be far more expensive, to the tune of several hundred dollars to possibly a thousand or more.

The XT's shutter is rated to last 50,000 shots. If you think it is already near that limit, I would replace it now. Unless you plan to actually make 50,000 shots for your time lapse project, the new shutter should survive fine. It should also be noted that those are fairly conservative estimates. Real-world usage statistics indicate that shutters have a high rate of survival past their rated lifetime...sometimes well past. The 400D (XTi, next model after yours, same shutter) still has a 72% survival rate at up to 300,000 actuations. Many shutters fail before their time due to extreme usage, such as extremely cold weather, use in dusty or sandy environments without care, etc.

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Link to the 350D (you can just adjust the URI). Doesn't look much worse than the 400D. –  Joey Jan 12 '11 at 8:22
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Where have you seen that does shutter replacements for $150? The estimates I've seen were at least double that, and that was a while ago so they may have gone up! –  Matt Grum Jan 12 '11 at 8:35
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Even with $250/$300, it's still not a bad thought — a good digicam will cost that much, and the SLR will give more flexibility and better IQ. –  mattdm Jan 12 '11 at 16:05
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Again I'm not sure you need a good camera, certainly not a new one! When you're downsizing the stills to screen resolution, compressing the video and sticking it on YouTube IQ isn't really going to matter. Even if you're working with full HD that's only two megapixels and you're going to have compression artefacts on top of that which will kill fine details. –  Matt Grum Jan 12 '11 at 18:43
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Sure, a used camera will do as well, and in such a case, cost would be less. As for downsizing and YouTube IQ, the OP never mentioned anything like that. He mentioned stitching JPEG's together, and I don't automatically assume crappy YouTube IQ when I read that...JPEG output from cameras these days is really good. I would assume the OP wants as much quality as he can get...especially since he specifically mentioned "Alternative good packages", not "The cheapest alternative possible". –  jrista Jan 12 '11 at 19:46
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If you don't need DSLR quality or features, get a Canon P&S that can run CHDK. Depending on what you're doing, that might be a lot easier to use than your XT, since CHDK gives you the ability to write and execute scripts (like, take a picture every x seconds or every time it detects movement).

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+1 for CHD. I've used it with a Canon A420 to produce jpegs for stitching into a timelapse (I used a free open-source command-line tool called FFMPEG to do the stitching). –  Conor Boyd Jan 12 '11 at 19:23
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Most dSLR cameras may be tethered to a computer. This would allow the computer when to fire. You would need to find software for your camera and computer but it is very possible. Then you just leave your camera on with an external power connection and you should be good to go for your timelapse photos.

As a note, I have done this with my Nikon (D50 and D60) Camera using Windows XP, Vista and 7. (I did this with custom software tha I developed that I am not able to provide at this time.)

As another note I have used my camera for over 10k photos each and have had no issues with my shutters. If you are really using delayed timelapse photos I really don't think you will have an issue with shutter wear.

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Not entirely sure why this has been downvoted... The technique described (tethering the camera to a computer and using the computer as both an intervalometer and a storage device and running the whole thing off deep-cycle marine batteries) is actually quite common in the timelapse community... –  Jay Lance Photography Jan 13 '11 at 1:52
    
Probably becasue I'm a Nikon shooter talking about a Canon question :o) –  Matthew Whited Jan 13 '11 at 2:29
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