I've been tasked (as the "techie" for a non-profit) with devising a system to take time-lapse photos of a house our foundation is building for charity.

I have toyed with hooking up a raspberry pi with a decent-sized memory card to a cheap USB webcam and sticking it in a birdhouse on site-- but that seems to have some decent likelihood of failure. The project is expected to go for several months, at least.

I can't be sure of wifi, though I'm pretty certain I'll have reliable power-- and while I'd prefer to do it as a webcam, I think it might be smarter to rely on physical storage.

Is there any off-the-shelf solution that won't break the bank that can offer this type of functionality? Or can anyone recommend a simple rig I can piece together from spare parts?

NOTE: I did read the post that is marked as a duplicate, but that clearly says it's for indoor use in a house where (presumably) there's easily obtainable power and wifi.


With a raspberry pi you can use a picam (dedicated camera board). I've used one for a timelapse over several days, and in my reading for that found people who are doing much longer timelapses. The picam quite a decent fixed/manual focus cane and you can fix the exposure, use auto exposure, or take one photo with each mode, storing in separate folders. The pi will run indefinitely for such a simple task. You could use a USB webcam instead but may not have so much control (you could even use both). In my case I also used the pi to trigger an old dSLR.

It will of course crash if you fill the (boot) SD card with photos. So you should reckon on using the main storage as a buffer unless you know the whole series will fit with some headroom. But as it runs Linux you can make use of even a patchy WiFi connection to shift photos onto networked storage (rsync perhaps) which would be good for a progress website. Syncing onto a USB stick and periodically swapping out the stick is another possibility but you'd have to check how well it remounts.

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One alternative is a trail or wildlife camera. They are designed for outdoor use; often have an interval mode; and are relatively inexpensive -- probably cheaper than an equivalently weatherized Raspberry Pi. Construction photos are a common use.

For example, the Bushnell Trophy Cam series: http://bushnell.com/hunting/trail-cameras

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You just need any camera that can accept a wired remote and an intervalometer. They run about $25 on Amazon. If you have an older camera you're not using, that should do just fine. Just be sure that the intervalometer has the type of connection for the camera you're going to use and, as mentioned in the comments, you have a power supply for both. And of course you'll need a memory card big enough to hold all the photos, or be able to change it periodically.

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  • 2
    And a suitable power supply. These can be surprising expensive for old SLRs – Chris H Apr 5 '17 at 7:23
  • Great point! I've updated to add that. – user1118321 Apr 6 '17 at 2:18

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