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I was planning to do some timelapses in the near future, until I realised that if I leave my camera taking pictures for a week or 2, I will soon reach the max number of shutter count and my camera would break.

Then I read from an unverified source that during timelapse the shutter doesn't move, so there is no way to break it. I am confused.

Is it possible to take timelapses without physically destroying the shutter in a month? In particular, I am interested in Canon 80D model.

  • oops, you are correct. – sanjihan Jul 29 '16 at 12:11
  • What is the rated shutter count, and what is the number of images you intend to take? If the latter is too big, will you get the image sequence desired at half the sampling rate? – Carl Witthoft Jul 29 '16 at 12:36
  • Related: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/79078/… – Michael C Jul 29 '16 at 13:05
  • Well, a lot is the most accurate answer I can give and halfing it is not an option unfortunately. – sanjihan Jul 29 '16 at 13:41
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To the best of my understanding it depends on your DSLR.

1. Least wear and tear.

I believe that some DSLRs have the ability to flip the mirror and open the shutter throughout the timelapse. The images are then captured by activating and deactivating the sensor. If this is the case with your camera, then there shouldn't be any mechanical wear and tear. These cameras probably have modes / overrides specifically for timelapses. I've never seen/used one of these.

2. Moderate wear and tear.

Other cameras can either flip the mirror or open the shutter for a period, reducing the wear on these parts. My 7D will flip the mirror during bracketing, but I haven't managed to get it remain up during continuous shooting.

3. Maximum wear and tear.

Lastly are cameras that aren't able to flip the mirror or open the shutter during continuous shooting. Each image requires both to be activated and this will lead to wear and tear. My Canon 7D and it is in this third category. In my experience the movement also causes camera shake, which isn't very nice, particularly if you use a log lens for your timelapse.

If you are unsure, set up a short test and listen. If you hear the mirror or shutter, and you can't find a way to override them, then I suppose you're in category 3.

Workarounds that I have tried with varying success:

1. Movie mode

This works reasonable well, actually. Shutter and mirror are still (except if the camera adjusts exposure during). Then, use something like ffmpeg to strip your movie down to individual frames, and hey presto, an image sequence to play with. You're limited by things like your camera's movie resolution and degree of compression, and probably some other movie aspects I'm not aware of. Here's an example with this technique https://vimeo.com/103661603

2. Magic Lantern

If your DSLR is a Canon, Magic Lantern (http://www.magiclantern.fm/) may have a version for you. This opens up your camera to all kinds of fun things, including, in some cases, timelapse modes — careful not to brick your camera though :). I haven't run a timelaspe with ML yet, but I have played with it and it is awesome.

  • "The images are then captured by activating and deactivating the sensor." — this is called "electronic shutter". We actually have a question about that: Do DSLRs allow use of electronic shutter for photography for stop-motion? (Short answer: very few if any on the market today. However, some mirrorless cameras, like my Fujifulm, have the option to toggle between electronic and mechanical shutter.) – mattdm Jul 29 '16 at 12:03
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    Also, just as an anecdote: I have a friend who wore out the shutter on an early Canon DSLR by doing many timelapses. – mattdm Jul 29 '16 at 12:03
  • All Canon DSLRs of which I am aware will (when running the OEM firmware) flip the mirror down after 30 seconds of inactivity when in mirror lockup mode. In Live view the time is longer, but the same thing happens eventually. If you're not recording video or taking stills the camera will time out, close the shutter curtain, and drop the mirror. For some possible reasons why, please see photo.stackexchange.com/questions/79078/… – Michael C Jul 29 '16 at 13:07
  • Thanks for clarifying things out to me. I realised that the question I must ask myself, is "Which camera uses electronic shutter?" and than use that one for timelapses. – sanjihan Jul 29 '16 at 13:44
  • Thanks for the edits and clarifications @mattdm. Interesting stuff. I have wondered if 4k or 8k video modes might be a good alternative to wearing out my dslr... – pmassie Aug 1 '16 at 13:42

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